Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Sheppard Frere

Discussion in 'WWII Era Obituaries (non-military service)' started by GRW, Mar 13, 2015.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "Sheppard Frere, who has died aged 98, was Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire at Oxford University and was best known for the excavations which he directed at Canterbury and St Albans (Verulamium); he was known as a brilliant interpreter of archaeological remains.
    His association with Canterbury began in 1946, when he succeeded Audrey Williams as director of excavations for the Canterbury Excavations Committee which had been set up two years earlier, after the “Baedeker raids” brought a rare opportunity to explore parts of the ancient city and to undertake rescue archaeology in advance of rebuilding.
    Frere, then a classics master and housemaster at Lancing College, undertook the excavation work in his summer holidays, devoting his spare time the rest of the year to sorting tea chests full of finds and working on detailed drawings, plans, sections and reports.
    The results revolutionised knowledge about the Roman town of Durovernum Cantiacorum as, for the first time, it was possible to reconstruct plans of Roman houses, baths, the theatre and some streets together with the full extent of the Roman town walls.
    Using the then new technique of stratigraphy, Frere related the remains to datable finds, such as coins and pottery, in the same layers. One of the most spectacular finds was a Roman “pavement” – a corridor with mosaics – from a Roman town house.
    Frere left Lancing to become a university lecturer in archaeology in 1954, continuing to participate in excavations at Canterbury until 1957 and remaining closely involved in the publication of the results of excavations in various parts of the city.
    Between 1955 and 1961 he led excavations, again carried out during summer holidays, at Verulamium, made necessary by plans for a new road cutting a swathe through the Roman centre. Verulamium had made the archaeological reputation of Sir Mortimer Wheeler in the 1930s, and Frere built on his achievement and revised many of his conclusions.
    In particular, his discovery of a thick layer of burnt material substantiated Roman accounts of the burning of the town by Boadicea’s followers in AD 60-61. He was also able to show that the rebels had had to scale a large defensive bank and ditch.
    Frere was also able to shed light on the town during what is known as the “sub-Roman” period — the 5th and 6th centuries AD – about which the historical record is sparse, when the empire was crumbling and the Roman citizens of Britannia were under threat from marauding waves of Pictish and Saxon “barbari”.
    Traditionally it was thought that the Romans had left Britain in the first years of the 5th century, but Frere discovered that “Roman” buildings were still being constructed into the middle of the century. On one site next to the forum, he found a feature interpreted as a corn-drying kiln which had been inserted into the mosaic floor of a house which had itself been built as late as circa 380. This had been subsequently replaced by a large masonry barn, and this in turn was cut through by a timber water pipe, apparently carrying water to the centre of town, implying some kind of functioning civic authority probably well into the 5th century.
    In 1967 Frere published Britannia: A History of Roman Britain, the first full-length study of Roman Britain since that of R G Collingwood came out in 1936. Now in its fourth edition, it provides a historical narrative of the Roman period fleshed out with the latest research findings from archaeological investigation, including Frere’s own, and is regarded as a classic work of synthesis.
    The eldest of three brothers, Sheppard Sunderland Frere was born at Graffham, West Sussex, on August 23 1916. His father was a colonial civil servant who became a provincial commissioner in Sierra Leone. Sheppard was educated at Lancing and at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where, although he had long been interested in Roman archaeology, he read Classics and Ancient History. At the time, the Cambridge Archaeology course would have meant having to specialise in either prehistoric or medieval archaeology; Roman archaeology was considered a branch of art history.
    After taking his degree in 1938, Frere taught classics for a short time at Epsom College. His first excavations, in Surrey and Norfolk, were carried out at this time and during the war in short intervals between some grisly experiences with the National Fire Service in London which left him with a lifelong dread of house fires"

Share This Page