Saturday, 17 October 2015

Archaeology studies at Fairlynch get a boost

One of the fine panels in the Priscilla Carter Room at Fairlynch produced by local artist and designer Neil Rogers  

A rare set of volumes of the Devon Archaeological Society has been offered to Fairlynch, enriching the Museum’s resources in the Priscilla Carter Room.

Local resident Jack Major, who has donated the volumes, is delighted that the set will remain together rather than be split up, especially as it includes the much earlier Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploration Society beginning with volume 1 from 1929.

Amateur archaeologist George Carter, right, with friends

The collection is of considerable interest to Fairlynch as it contains two volumes dating from 1935 and 1936 in which articles by Budleigh Salterton amateur archaeologist George Carter about the pebble mounds of Woodbury Common were published.

Professor Chris Tilley, seen here explaining the significance of the Bronze Age Jacob's Well site a few miles north of Budleigh Salterton 

Chris Tilley, Professor of Anthropology & Archaeology at UCL, has helped to re-evaluate George Carter’s research in the light of current investigation into the Woodbury Common sites. “He did not have much time or patience with establishment archaeological ideas and positions and fell out with some of the leading archaeologists of his day who did not appreciate the value of his work,” comments Professor Tilley. “Sadly he is now a forgotten figure in British archaeology. He was a man with ideas and interpretative approaches well ahead of his time.”

Professor Tilley’s commentary on the East Devon Pebblebeds Project at has given Carter his rightful place in local Bronze Age archaeological studies. “His work is central to the Pebblebeds Project because nobody else has ever excavated a pebble cairn before or since or tried to interpret their meaning and significance. Spurned by the archaeological establishment, Carter may well have the last laugh from his grave! Eighty years later most of what we know about the prehistory of the Pebblebed heathlands is due solely to his efforts.”

It was George Carter’s daughter Priscilla who co-founded Fairlynch Museum in 1967. Long before then, George Carter had gathered together a collection of locally-found items of geological and archaeological interest, most of which found their way into the present Priscilla Carter Room.

Cared for by Fairlynch volunteers and archaeology enthusiasts Angela and Tony Colmer the collection was properly catalogued and attractively displayed. Angela's death in 2007 followed by that of her husband four years later was a major blow for the Museum. 

Since its refurbishment the Priscilla Carter Room has been much admired, but Nicky Hewitt, seen above, who took over responsibility for the collection earlier this year, would welcome help from another enthusiast. “I am much more au fait with the geology side than the archaeology,” she says. “It’s fun learning about people like Carter’s discoveries but it would be great to work with someone who has more expertise in that kind of area.”  

If you would like to be involved with the Priscilla Carter Room’s archaeological collection please contact Nicky (Tel: 01392 874535 Mobile:  07967 909967 or

Details of the periodicals which have been offered to Fairlynch are as follows:

Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploration Society 1929-38; 1946-58. (Total of 23 volumes)
Transactions of the Devon Archaeological Exploration Society 1963-64; (Total of 2 volumes)
Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society 1966-83; 1985-2005; 2007-12. (Total of 45 volumes) 

Published articles in the collection which relate to the Lower Otter Valley include the following:

Carter, G. Unreported mounds on Woodbury Common   (1936)
Carter, G. The pebble mounds of Aylesbeare Common  (1938)
Smith, E.   Notes on a series of flints from Woodbury Common  (1956)
Pollard, S.  Neolithic and Dark Age settlements on High Peak, Sidmouth,
Devon  (1965/1966)
Pollard, S.   Radiocarbon dating, Neolithic and Dark Age settlements on High Peak, Sidmouth, Devon  (1967)
Miles, H. Excavations at Woodbury Castle, East Devon, 1971  (1975)
Brown, S. & Holbrook, N. A Roman site at Otterton Point  (1989)
Joy, B. & Quinnell, H. A Beaker wrist-guard from Woodbury Common  (1993)
Taylor, J.  - The Colaton Raleigh gold bracelet hoard and its significance to the interpretation of the later Bronze Age (1999)
Tilley, Chris - Jacob’s Well, Black Hill: a Bronze Age Water Shrine on Woodbury Common (2009)


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