Page 10 - John Barber's Oakham Castle and its archaeology
P. 10

That notice, slightly adapted, follows here and is likewise also based on that which first appeared in the
            Annual  Report:  Proceedings  1997  of  the  Society  of  Antiquaries  of  London  (1998),  of  which  he  was  a
            Fellow, and places his life and work in a wider context. We are grateful to the Society of Antiquaries for
            readily agreeing to its reproduction.
               John Barber was born on 23rd May 1914, the eldest son of the Reverend John Barber, then chaplain to
            Lord  William  Cecil  at  Hatfield  House.  He  was  educated  at  Oakham  School  and  in  1933  won  a  Warren
            scholarship to St Catherine’s College, Cambridge, where he read Classics, played soccer for his college, and
            won an oar for rowing and a prize for reading lessons in chapel. After graduation he spent a fruitful year at
            the British School in Athens as the recipient of a travelling scholarship and then, back in England in 1937,
            began his teaching career. He taught in preparatory schools until the outbreak of war, which he spent as a
            captain in signals and intelligence, mainly with the Eighth Army in the Libyan Desert. In September 1946 he
            returned to his old school, Oakham, first as master in charge of the junior school and subsequently, from
            1959 to 1974, as housemaster of Wharflands (his old house), and finally as second master for his last two
            years before retirement.
               Barber’s enthusiasm for archaeology was passed on to his pupils, with highly rewarding results. Soon
            after his arrival at Oakham, in collaboration with E G Bolton, headmaster of Casterton Secondary School,
            Barber organised an excavation at the Roman town of Great Casterton in Rutland, about two miles north of
            Stamford, the excavators being boys from both schools.
               In  their  first  season  a  complex  of  buildings  was  exposed,  part  of  which  had  a  tessellated  floor.  Such
            widespread interest was aroused by the dig, especially at the University of Nottingham, that members of its
            Department of Adult Education arranged a summer school to take over the excavation for its third season in
            1950. This phase of the excavation was directed by Dr Philip Corder FSA, with the assistance of Fellows
            Graham  Webster,  John  Gillam  and  Maurice  Barley.  The  villa  site  discovered  by  Barber  and  Bolton  was
            placed at the disposal of the professional archaeologists, who continued their investigations until Corder’s
            death in 1960. Several site reports were published, and John Barber was elected FSA on 12th January 1956
            for his original contribution to this important research; he had already been instrumental, with E T Leeds, in
            facilitating rescue work on an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Glaston (Leeds & Barber 1950).
               In the 1960s he took his family for a fortnight every year in August to participate in the excavation of
            another Roman town, Ancaster in Lincolnshire, directed successively by Maurice Barley, Jeffrey May and
            Malcolm Todd, again under the auspices of the University of Nottingham.
               Publication of John Barber’s The Story of Oakham School in 1984 marked the quartercentenary of the
            school’s  foundation  and,  on  his  eightieth  birthday  in  1994,  the  Barber  Archive  Room  in  the  new school
            library was named in his honour. In addition, he published several articles in the Rutland Record, the journal
            of the Rutland Local History & Record Society, details of which are included in the Bibliography at the end
            of this publication.
               John Barber’s commitment to the county of Rutland, its natural history, antiquarian remains and ancient
            buildings, was as great as his devotion to Oakham School. A dozen silver birch trees were planted on the
            south  shore  of  Rutland Water  in  1995  in  recognition  of  his  fundraising  activities for  the  Council  for the
            Protection of Rural England. When the Rutland County Museum was established in 1967 he masterminded
            the transfer of Oakham School’s collection, of which he was curator, to the new museum. He was a member
            of  the  special  committee  set  up  in  1965  when  the  riding  school  became  available  for  conversion  to  the
            museum, and was elected Chairman of the Friends’ Executive Committee in 1969, an office which he held
            until  1986,  when  he  was appointed  to  the  honorary  position  of Vice-President.  He  died  on  8th  February
            1997, following a fall on black ice.
                                                                                    Elaine Jones & Tim Clough

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