Categories for 2021
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News 2021

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Ben Whitwell (1936-2021)
Passing of eminent Roman archaeologist

Ben Whitwell, former Keeper of the City and County Museum (1963-69) and author of Roman Lincolnshire, died on 21 September. His funeral took place near to Lincoln on 16 October.
After reading Classics at Cambridge, Ben became a Museum Assistant at Chester, before following his predecessor Dennis Petch into the job at Lincoln. As Field Secretary for the Lincoln Archaeological Research Committee, he oversaw excavations on the Roman defences in East Bight and on the north tower of the Roman and medieval East Gate, whose 3rd-centurey tower was preserved on display. This second project was published in a substantial article jointly written with another former Keeper, Hugh Thompson, as "The Gates of Roman Lincoln", in Archaeologia volume 104 (1973). A report on the East Bight dig was incorporated into a monograph on the upper defences published by the then Lincoln Archaeological Trust (1980).
There was other fieldwork on the pottery kilns at Swanpool, as well as investigations during the late 1960s in Bailgate, Flaxengate, and Spring Hill, all of them disappointing to Ben in terms of the survival of Roman deposits. He had better luck at The Park in 1968, where house clearance in advance of the construction of new municipal offices revealed a late Roman gate. The pace of redevelopment in the city was increasing and the Society's efforts were increasingly turning to rescue sites, a trend that ultimately resulted in the formation of the Lincoln Trust in 1972.
Ben also undertook some work in the county, including a medieval moated site near Saxilby, later published in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association. The job had, however, become increasingly demanding: he was also responsible for the museum's display work and the annual compilation of the "Archaeological Notes". The appointment of Catherine Wilson as his assistant helped to share the burden.
Following Ben's departure, the roles of Museum Keeper and Field Director were split, with Nicholas Moore taking over as Keeper, while work at The Park  resumed in 1970, supported by the then Ministry, directed by Christina Colyer. Ben visited those excavations and was delighted to see how much was being revealed. He also left a legacy in terms of training local volunteers, including, notably, Ken Wood, who continued the work on the East Bight Roman water-tank and the associated aqueduct.
Ben's last major achievement as Keeper was to produce Roman Lincolnshire, published in 1970 as the first volume to appear in the History of Lincolnshire series. A revised version, with a new Introduction, appeared in 1992.  Meanwhile Ben had moved initially to be Keeper of Antiquities at Leicester Museum, which made him well placed to extend the geographical scope of the book as part of a doctoral thesis on the East Midlands in the Roman period. It was published as a monograph in 1982 as The Coritani: some aspects of the Iron Age Tribe and the Roman Civitas.
Ben left Leicester for work again in the field with the York Archaeological Trust, and then went on to become the first Director of the Humberside Archaeological Unit. Living on the south bank, he followed up his research interests on the Roman settlement of that area. He retired a little early, and several years later moved with his wife Betty to Spain, from which they only returned in March of this year.

October 2021

Kathleen Jefferson (1938-2021)
Librarian and Tennyson enthusiast

Yorkshire-born Kathleen Jefferson, who died on 18 August, began her library career in Leeds before moving to Lincoln where she worked for several years in the Sam Scorer building at Brayford Pool. By the time of her retirement she was a senior figure in Lincolnshire County Council's library service.
Kathleen was a member of SLHA  for many years and was a quiet but astute presence at Local History team meetings. She belonged to the Lincolnshire branch of the Betjeman Society as well as the Wordsworth Society whose annual events in Grasmere she attended without fail. Her main focus though was with the Tennyson Society which she served as Secretary for more than 30 years, gaining a well-deserved British Empire Medal for her work.
A private individual, Kathleen enjoyed meals out with friends and had a love of horseracing with regular visits to Doncaster racecourse.
Mark Acton
In September 2014, on behalf of HM The Queen, the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire bestowed the British Empire Medal on Kathleen Jefferson. This well-deserved Honour was for her services to Lincoln and Lincolnshire in a number of ways. She was actively involved in many organisations, including the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, Lincolnshire Association of the National Trust, the Lincolnshire Branch of the Betjeman Society, the Enquiry Desk at Lincoln Cathedral, and above all, the Tennyson Society.
When Kathleen accepted the position of Honorary Secretary to the Tennyson Society in 1987 she was still employed by Lincolnshire Library Service as Assistant County Librarian, Bibliographical and Special Services. Since then, and throughout her retirement, the Society flourished with a healthy membership in this country and with members, both personal and institutional, in the USA, Japan and Europe. The Society's finances have been in steady surplus, largely due to Kathleen's watchful eye on expenditure and her drive to increase membership.
Tennyson's poetry, his reputation and that of his friends, and the context in which he wrote have become increasingly well-known and valued; from a decline in reputation in the post-war period Tennyson is now viewed as one of our greatest national poets. His work is popular with the general public and is also a lively subject for scholarly activity. This is due in no small measure to the central role of the Society in promoting his work and to Kathleen's part in being the mainstay of the Society.
The Tennyson Society draws on many individuals to support its activities. These include citizens of Lincoln and academics from across the country and abroad, particularly the USA. Kathleen's contribution was outstanding in relation to these individuals by virtue of her central organising and managing role, which she fulfilled with exemplary firmness and efficiency. She was the hub round which the Executive Committee and the Publications Board revolved. She was also responsible for the oversight of the conferences, the visits and the commemorative occasions. 
She will be very much missed.

Rosalind Boyce

September 2021

Chris Lester (1945-2021)
Untimely death of a leading SLHA member

The Society has been deeply saddened by the death of Chris Lester on 14 August following a long period of illness. Chris was a man with a passion for industrial archaeology and involved with our Society in many ways and on several levels for a remarkable 50 years.
Lincolnshire was his adopted county. Born in Liverpool, his early years were spent in South America where his father was working, firstly in Peru and then Argentina. He came back to an English boarding school and eventually determined on a career as a Chartered Engineer working in the microwave electronics industry. Employed initially in Chelmsford, he came to Lincoln to work for GEC in 1971. That was when he joined the Society and he remained a member despite a short period working in Devon, after which he returned to Lincoln.
In 1972 he became a member of what was then the Lincolnshire Industrial Archaeology Group and he remained a member of the IA Team until his death. During that time he served for a period as the Chairman and throughout he played a very full and active role.
At the same time he joined a WEA class on Industrial history led by Dr Michael Lewis of Hull University. This met regularly in Lincoln and, after Michael retired in and the course closed in 2000, Chris organized an annual reunion in Barton on Humber where friends from Michael's Lincoln course met their Hull counterparts for a stimulating lecture by their former tutor. The last of these was in 2018.
Chris was a very strong team player. Not a man to seek the limelight he was a strong believer in the right person for the right job. He would lead our work where it was appropriate or take an enthusiastic back seat where it was not. But in either role he was equally sound. If you needed someone to organize a survey, a visit or a conference, he was the man. He was equally at home with research and was prepared to travel anywhere to accomplish this. He was also keen to support other Team members in their activities and would usually be there in the room to listen to a talk or out in town or country for a guided visit.
One of Chris's specialisms in survey work was going into holes in the ground, however dark. Nothing put him off. If it involved baling out a flooded underground chamber, he would be at the bottom passing the bucket up. On one memorable occasion he was crawling through a very restricted and dark cable-tunnel to get inside a building to open it up when he came across a very dead fox - but he carried on.
He was also always keen to ensure that once survey work was completed the results were published. He was rarely named as the author but, credited or not, his influence was always behind it somewhere. Much more high profile will be the book on the Industrial Archaeology of Stamford. This was largely researched and drafted by Neville Birch before his sad death in 2018 but it needed some comprehensive editing which Chris took on with his usual commitment, completing it recently and working on it throughout his illness whenever he was able. Publication will follow later this year.
He was not just an ideas man. He could be practical as well, demonstrated by his restoration of a waterwheel at his Branston home, a wheel which was a critical component of the Victorian water supply to Branston Hall.
And what a breadth of subjects he was interested in: brewing and malting; bricks and brickmaking; canals and waterways; Cold War technology; country house water supply; farming history; gas works; iron and steel; land drainage; mechanical engineering; mills, wind and water; mining and quarrying; and roads and railways; in short, almost everything industrial.
It was not just through the IA Team that Chris contributed to the Society. He was on the Executive Committee for many years. He was also a Trustee and from 2013 contributed a great deal to put the Society on a sound footing and bring in the new constitution to ensure our future. He was the Society's unofficial IT expert, though latterly he kept saying that he was not up to date with the latest developments.   Nevertheless, he knew more about computers than most people in the Society and spent many hours setting up new software and machinery in the SLHA office and sorting IT problems. He also made a major contribution to the development of our website. When the Society took on the management of Bardney Abbey site, he also became a member of the Property Team. He was also a keen supporter of the Sleaford History Group.
Many of these contributions were in management, administration and technology. While they are not such high profile or as interesting perhaps as doing a survey down a hole on a wet day, he brought the same enthusiasm and support to the roles. He would draft a Health and Safety policy or analyse a legal document, for example, with the same dedication to detail. And once he said he would do something he did it. You never had to chase him up.
For 22 years Chris represented the Society on Heritage Lincolnshire's Heritage Open Days Steering Group. He played a key role in determining the annual theme and then encouraging specific organizations, groups and private owners to organize their events. Each year there was also a booklet on the Open Days theme to leave a legacy and for two of those years he was the joint editor: in 2001 with Paula Judson for Twentieth Century - What Heritage and in 2005, with Jean Howard, Lincolnshire on the Move.
His other interests outside the Society were also significant. The Welsh slate survey work was organised originally by Michael Lewis in 1971 and from 1975 Chris went on the annual week-long summer surveys for over 40 years. After Michael Lewis retired, Dafydd Gwyn took on the role and it was he who wrote the report that led to the Welsh Slate Industry being added recently to the World Heritage Site list. If it hadn't been for this 50-year survey the World Heritage award may well not have happened. Chris was in at the beginning and stayed through to the end.
Chris had been involved with the Dogdyke land drainage pumping station since the mid-1970s. First providing occasional help, especially on the engines' open days, later he worked tirelessly to establish the Trust as a Charitable Company in 2009 and became the Company Secretary. He continued working with the Charity Commissioners resulting in the Trust being awarded full Charitable Status in 2018. A Committee of Trustees was formed to oversee the overall running of the Trust. Chris became the Chairman of the Trustees and held this post until April 2021.
The Grimsby Ice Factory Trust was formed in 2010 to secure the future of the Ice Factory which the Victorian Society considered to be one of the ten most endangered important buildings in England. This became another project dear to Chris; he joined the campaign, became a Trustee in 2017, and gave over 50 talks to local organisations to raise its profile.
I asked his Society friends and colleagues for their thoughts about Chris. Energetic; friendly; committed; supportive; stalwart; tenacious; energetic; enthusiastic; knowledgeable; encouraging; a lovely man; indispensable; determined. These were some of the adjectives used.
So his legacy for us is all around. It is in our activities and publications over the last 50 years as well as in our sound organization and management into the future. On the wider level he had the satisfaction of hearing only recently about the success of the Welsh slate World Heritage status, and also that the Grimsby Ice Factory has been bought by a local businessman, a move that does appear to be a new and positive start for the building.
Chris Lester was truly a remarkable man who will be missed by us all.



August 2021

Geoffrey F Bryant (1935-2021)
Great loss to Barton and North Lincolnshire

We note with sadness the death on 25 May of Geoff Bryant FSA OBE of Barton upon Humber. He was a longstanding member of SLHA and an accomplished local historian and archaeologist. He was also a keen campanologist.
Geoff worked as WEA Tutor-Organiser in Barton from 1971 where he formed an outstanding creative partnership with the late Rex Russell. He undertook important archaeological work on pottery kilns and was an acknowledged authority on the history and architecture of Barton's two outstanding churches. He also became very knowledgeable about the brick and tile making industry on the Humber Bank.
Geoff will be remembered in SLHA circles for his organisation and leadership of archaeology conferences at Horncastle College each February through the 1970s until the event was taken over by SLHA. His name also lives on as the editor of - and contributor to - the widely acclaimed series of local books published by the Barton WEA on the history of the town.

August 2021