Page 9 - John Barber's Oakham Castle and its archaeology
P. 9

Introduction and Obituary

            In October 1994, nearly three years before his death, John Barber made available his manuscript memoir to
            read and copy. The main body was on Oakham Castle and contained his personal reminiscences spanning
            nearly seventy years. These included hitherto unpublished notes on his excavation on the Castle kitchens in
            1956  and  1957,  which,  with  the  exception  of  short  articles  in  The  Oakhamian  (Barber  1955-1958)  and
            Medieval Archaeology (Wilson & Hurst 1957, 1958 & 1959) – all transcribed in Appendix D below, have
            remained unrecorded until now, although the finds and excavation archive were deposited in the Rutland
            County Museum. Consequently the Rutland Local History & Record Society has felt that the publication of
            these memoirs would be a fitting tribute to his memory, best published as they stand since they reflect his
            own personality, this despite advances in our knowledge since then. To this memoir the editors have added
            illustrations and footnotes, as well as a description of the pottery from the excavation, completed in 1999 and
            updated  in  2011  by  Deborah  Sawday,  a  freelance  specialist  in  post-Roman  pottery  found  in  the  East
            Midlands area.
               John Barber would have been fascinated and delighted by recent research on the Castle, including the
            Time Team investigations of 2012 (Good & Mepham 2013), various detailed surveys of the site (eg Shepherd
            & Walker 2011), and Nick Hill’s recent perceptive analysis of the Great Hall incorporating the results of
            tree-ring dating of its timbers (Hill 2013; Arnold & Howard 2013); he would also have been a keen supporter
            of Rutland County Council’s bid for an award from the Heritage Lottery Fund for work on Oakham Castle.
               Many  scholars  have  expressed  their  views  about  the  original  form  of  the  Great  Hall  and  its  possible
            ancillary buildings, often disagreeing one with another. John Barber was not afraid to take issue with them
            where he did not agree, but at the same time he would have respected their reasoned arguments. In the same
            way we may think that his interpretation of the building and of the traces of the lost buildings revealed by his
            excavations was not necessarily always correct, but we readily acknowledge that what he wrote still has a
            bearing on current thought.

                            Fig. 4. John Barber presenting a copy of his book The Story of Oakham School to
                            HM Queen Elizabeth II during the school’s Quatercentenary celebrations in 1984
                                                 (Oakham School Archives).
            John Lewis Barber, MA, FSA (1914-1997), often known as Jack, was a household name in Rutland in all
            matters to do with the history and archaeology of the county and with its museum, and much more besides.
            His death in February 1997 left both the Rutland Local History & Record Society and the Friends of the
            Rutland County Museum much the poorer, as was noted in an obituary in Rutland Record 18 (1998), 326.

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