Meeting with Head of Division and Head of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. 16th August 2017

The M2020 team response to our specific questions on the 9th August was met with another redirection to discuss our concerns with Professor David Langslow, the Head of the Division of Archaeology, Religions and Theology, and classics and Ancient History. Myself and Katie Mills (a PhD student) met with David, and Professor Alessandro Schiesaro the Head of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures on 16th August to discuss our concerns. The meeting lasted an hour, and was recorded, but I provide a summary of the responses from by David and Alessandro below.

Q: How do you propose to ensure that we ‘will not experience any disruption’ to our studies in the event that we lose one, two or all three members of our supervisory panel?

A: They accept that there will be some disruption to most students, but that they will work to minimise that disruption. They could not give us any information about how they would minimise disruption beyond finding new supervisors.

 

Q: How will you ensure that the remaining staff have adequate expertise to provide PhD level advice and supervision in all our research areas?

A: They can’t. Whilst neither David nor Alessandro were willing to offer options for supervision themselves, they agreed that a number of possible scenarios proposed by me would be most likely, namely that alternative supervisors will be sought within the department, within the University of Manchester in other departments, or externally from other Universities.

The PhD students have repeatedly requested clarification from the University regarding the possibility of formally retaining our supervisors as externals in the event that they are made redundant, but HR have not responded to our, or David’s request for clarification. Our expectation is that it will not be possible to retain supervisors in this formal capacity as legally one cannot continue to pay for services from someone that you have made redundant.

It was clear that whilst the University does not have to accept a request for Voluntary Severance (VS), there is no plan or strategy for the future of the Archaeology department against which to make decisions about who stays and who goes. The number of PhD students is one of a number of criteria to be taken into account when making redundancy decisions, but as most staff have at least one PhD student, this will neither prevent disruption to current students, nor ensure adequate expertise to supervise PhD students.

 

Q: What will happen if more than 4 members of staff voluntarily leave the department? Specifically, will the University recruit to replace those staff and maintain a minimum of 4 staff?

A: They were unable to provide any reassurance that the University would recruit new staff to maintain 4 members of staff in the department, or that replacement staff would be of an equal level of seniority or similar area of expertise.

 

Q: What plans are in place to ensure that the archaeology department continues to produce increasing quantities of world‑leading research. To this end, what provisions will be put in place to ensure that the research produced by staff within the archaeology department does not deteriorate to the level of other departments in the UK with 4-5 members of staff.

A: David confirmed that the work allocation model and percentage of time allocated to research would remain the same, as would all normal research support for staff at the university. There was no recognition that staff in a department of 4 might struggle to produce world leading research compared to colleagues in a larger department, and no suggestion that there would be additional support from the University for staff to improve the quality of the research.

 

Q: Why does the university need to ‘urgently improve the quality of our intake’ and what do you foresee the results to be of maintaining the current admission process?

A: The increase in entry tariff is a university wide step, made with a view to reducing the number of undergraduate students at the university. There was some acknowledgement that this step would adversely and disproportionately affect archaeology. There is great concern within the School about the decreasing numbers of UG students at Manchester, despite this being a UK wide trend in Archaeology, but very little being done beyond the department to address the problem. 

They were unable to make any useful comment beyond the fact that entry tariffs and non-traditional A-level routes are something to be discussed when they know what the ‘new’ smaller department will look like.

They were somewhat taken aback by the two pages of testimonials I presented them with, from alumni who had come to the department with A-level grades below BBB and either achieved 2:1 or 1sts. Furthermore, many of these had gone on to excel within the profession, either going directly into employment within archaeology, further study and many to PhD research in archaeology.

 

Q: What is the vision is for the department in terms of the courses it is expected to deliver, and the breadth of subjects expected to be covered?

A: They were unable to provide any information about this, and unwilling to make comment until they know who would be staying and who would be going. Discussions about what the department might teach from 2018 would take place after the deadline for VS and CR.

With regards to the impact on GTA teaching opportunities, they are working on the assumption that there will be less courses being taught, but also less PhD students/GTAs to offer teaching opportunities to, and that all PhD students would continue to have the opportunity to teach. No PhD student should be overloaded with teaching as we are not under any obligation to accept teaching.

 

Q: How will adequate supervisory time be ensured for PhD students when the staff within the archaeology department are overloaded with undergraduate teaching and supervision.

A: The only answer given was that the work allocation model would remain the same and therefore the same amount of time should be available for supervisions.

There was no real acknowledgement that although student numbers have declined this intake, there are still full complements of students in their 2nd year, who will need supervising through their 3rd year starting Autumn 2018. There will also be around 10 PhD students who will need supervising, which is a heavy load for just 4 members of staff, when each PhD student has a first and second supervisor and independent reviewer.  

 

Q: We request that any consideration of merging the department of archaeology with Classics and Ancient History, or any other department, be clarified and stated out‑right.

A: Nothing is being discussed at the moment until they know which staff are staying. The whole of the structure of SALC is being looked at as well, and the indication was that this is an option, certainly from the point of view of sharing administrative support, etc.

 

So, overall, very little was offered to reassure the PhD students. This was not entirely surprising given that neither David nor Alessandro were architects of the M2020 plan, but have merely been told to carry out the redundancies associated with it.

What did become absolutely clear though, was that despite the M2020 strategy being in place, there was no strategy in place to determine what the smaller 4 person Archaeology Department would look like, what it would teach and research, and how it would interact with the wider School and University. This was particularly alarming given that there is the potential to be left with 4 members of staff with no overlapping areas of research, which would make creating a cohesive and attractive UG degree extremely difficult. It would also, of course, make supervision of PhD students difficult and ultimately end with the collapse of UG and PhD student numbers, and the closure of the department. With a cynical eye, this seems like a highly attractive approach for the University to take, if they wanted to close the department of archaeology down quietly. By taking this approach, it could be said to have failed by itself, when evidently the lack of support for the subject from the University would be to blame.

Furthermore, given the University’s poor view of the Archaeology Department’s 2014 REF results, it was frustrating, but not surprising, to learn that no assistance, professional support or CPD type support is in place to enable staff to improve the quality of work submitted for future REF assessments. Given one of the main aims of the M2020 project is to improve the quality of research at the University this seems astonishing.

The PhD students are extremely frustrated that this seems to be the end of any discussion with the University. The M2020 team are unwilling to engage further and provide any further information about their plans or vision for the department, and David and Alessandro have nothing further to offer. It seems we must wait until decisions have been taken about which members of staff are to be made redundant.

Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

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PhD students respond to the M2020 project management team 9th August 2017

In response to the M2020 project management team’s email (here) of 3rd August, suggesting that they had provided a ‘detailed response’ to our concerns and questions, the PhD students wrote the following, which was supported by over 60 alumni of the department:

 

Dear M2020 Project Management team, and senior leadership at the University of Manchester,

Further to your email response of 3rd August, we, the PhD students in the Department of Archaeology, do not accept your assertion that you have provided a ‘detailed response’ to our concerns. In fact you have provided absolutely no information at all to reassure us of how supervisory arrangements will be managed to ensure no disruption to our study, or how you propose to improve the quality of research. Reasserting that there will be no disruption and that the process will improve the student experience without any information as to how is not reassuring, and in fact suggests that there is in fact no plan at all. Therefore, I repeat our request for further information:

Specifically, we request further clarification regarding the following comments you made in your previous correspondence:

  1. ‘We are fully committed to ensuring that you will not experience any disruption’.

This statement is beyond our comprehension. Every single one of the permanent staff within the Archaeology department is supervising PhD students. To make any one of them redundant, and therefore unable to provide supervision, will result in some disruption to at least some of the PhD students. As we each have two supervisors and an independent reviewer, it is likely that every single student will experience some level of supervisory disruption with the loss of half the departmental staff. It is entirely possible that a number of students will lose every single member of their supervisory team. The loss of 50% of the staff will result in a dramatic decrease in the breadth of expertise within the department, and given the wide range of research being carried out by the PhD students, it is likely that the remaining 4 members of staff will not have sufficient expertise in our area of study to provide adequate supervision.

We request clarification as to how exactly you propose to ensure that we ‘will not experience any disruption’ to our studies in the event that we lose one, two or all three members of our supervisory panel? How exactly do you propose to ensure that the remaining staff have adequate expertise to provide PhD level advice and supervision in all our research areas?

We further request that you clarify what the situation will be should more than 4 members of staff voluntarily leave the department? As was the case during the internal review in 2015, when three members of staff sought positions elsewhere, many of the staff are, yet again, feeling unvalued and worried about their futures. Can you confirm whether, in the event that more than 4 members of staff find employment elsewhere, that the university will recruit appropriately experienced, senior level staff to maintain a minimum of 4 members of staff within the archaeology department?

We would like to make it clear that we are in correspondence with Professor David Langslow regarding this issue, but he has been unable to provide any level of reassurance regarding proposed supervisory arrangements, largely due to the lack of information being passed to him from the M2020 Project team and senior management. David has done his best to provide us with information, and we acknowledge his support for our concerns, but we request that this issue be addressed directly by the M2020 team and senior management.

2. ‘Our vision is for The University of Manchester to be one of the leading universities in the world by 2020’. ‘Improve the quality of our research, by increasing the quality of research outputs and research income, through enabling investment in our research priorities.’

We appreciate that the SLT has high aims for the international reputation of the University of Manchester, but we do not understand how reducing the Department of Archaeology to just 4 members of staff helps with this vision. As mentioned above, reducing the number of staff to just 4 dramatically reduces the breadth of expertise within the department, therefore limiting the level of collaboration within the department and directly reducing the range of subjects that can be taught and supervised. Although the department at Manchester may be viewed as having performed poorly in the 2014 REF, we out‑performed every other department of a similar size (10 in 2014), with significantly more of our submissions scoring at 4* and 3*, compared to other departments with 10 or less staff that had the majority of their submissions graded as 2*. Whilst those departments currently ranked in the top 5 in the country all significantly ‘out‑performed’ the department of archaeology at Manchester, they also had at between two and six times the number of staff. We would argue that league tables and the REF do not tell the full story of departmental success, however this brief assessment also suggests that it is the larger departments that consistently produce ‘world-leading’ research. Furthermore, the departments that had 5 or less members of staff had the majority of their submissions graded at 1* or 2*. We do not understand how reducing the number of staff within the department will assist with your vision of producing higher quality research than at present.

We request that you clarify what your plans are to ensure that the archaeology department continues to produce increasing quantities of world‑leading research. Can you also please clarify, exactly, what provisions will be put in place to ensure that the research produced by staff within the archaeology department does not deteriorate to the level of other departments in the UK with 4-5 members of staff, as the quality of the research environment has a direct impact on the experience of PhD students.

  1. ‘we need urgently to improve the quality of our intake’

We note that many of the University ranking systems use student intake scores as part of their assessment, and we therefore assume that SLT believe that increasing the required admission scores will assist the quest to rise up the rankings. As a group of students who have excelled academically within the field of archaeology, often entirely within the department at the University of Manchester, we feel it is important to highlight that, like our fellow students at undergraduate level, we did not all achieve straight As at A level. Archaeology departments across the UK (with the exception of Oxbridge) have a long tradition in enabling students that did not excel at school to flourish and become outstanding students, professionals and academics. The unique mix of scientific and humanities approaches that characterises archaeological research is a particular draw for students who struggled within the confines of the school exam systems. Whilst not documented scientifically for obvious reasons, anecdotal evidence and discussions with dyslexia support staff indicate that archaeology, as a discipline, attracts disproportionate numbers of students with dyslexia, many of whom are only diagnosed at university, often explaining average or poor A level grades. Limiting admission to students who excel at school restricts the diversity of the student body and therefore diminishes the quality of the student experience. High A‑level grades are not a guarantee for achieving 1st class honours, but exclusion of those with lower grades does exclude students who may go on to excel in the subject. We would like to highlight the results of the most recent graduating class which achieved the following grades: 1st– 10 students, 2.1- 35 students, 2.2- 11 students, 3rd– 1 student. Clearly the existing arrangements for admissions is producing high quality graduates, so we therefore request that you clarify why exactly we need to ‘urgently improve the quality of our intake’ and what you foresee the results to be of maintaining the current admission process?

  1. ‘provide highly talented individuals, to support large-scale infrastructure projects of national importance’

We note your understanding that the archaeological profession is in desperate need of more trained archaeologists, but do not understand how your proposed halving of the archaeology department staff in any way supports the profession’s needs. We draw your attention to the following event, organised by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, titled ‘A Crisis of Upcoming Work’ in which the dire lack of qualified archaeological staff will be discussed. The department at Manchester excels in the field of British archaeology across a range of periods, and along with its teaching of field techniques, heritage management and support for undergraduate fieldwork experience, makes Manchester graduates highly desirable employees. This combination is crucial for students wishing to work in the UK, and it is the excellent teaching of these subjects that place Manchester 7th in the UK for graduate prospects. It is inconceivable that 4 members of staff could effectively cover the range of subjects and skills that go into providing this vocationally relevant degree course, in addition to the academic skills that enable so many students to progress to MA and PhD study.

Can you please clarify what your vision is for the department in terms of the courses it is expected to deliver, and the breadth of subjects expected to be covered? A reduction in teaching volume has direct consequences for GTA opportunities for PhD students, and has the potential to leave PhD students with limited teaching experience and therefore unprepared and under qualified for academic posts. Equally an expectation of increased teaching commitments by PhD students to fill the gaps left by departed staff runs the risk of overburdening PhD students.

Further to this point, there have been suggestions that with just four members of staff the archaeology department would no longer stand alone, but be merged within the department of Classics and Ancient History, and that single honours degree courses will no long run. Such a move would be hugely detrimental to students wishing to work in the UK, with an associated negative effect on the employability of students in the field of professional archaeology. Of the 6 universities placed higher than Manchester for graduate prospects, only one (Birmingham) has a joint department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, in which 11 archaeologists are currently employed. Many students at Manchester are concerned that the significant reduction in staff numbers will make a stand alone department of archaeology no longer viable. We request that any consideration of merging the department of archaeology with Classics and Ancient History, or any other department, be clarified and stated out‑right.

  1. ‘Reduce student numbers leading to an improvement in teaching, learning and student outcomes’

It is widely recognised that smaller student:staff ratios provide a higher quality student experience, and we welcome the potential for this initiative. Manchester compares favourably at present to other high ranking UK universities offering archaeology with a student:staff ratio of 14.3:1 although it has a somewhat higher ratio than the highest ranking universities in the UK (which average around 11:1) and internationally (which average around 7:1). A reduction of staff to just 4 in September 2018 would require a simultaneous dramatic cut in student numbers to ensure adequate supervision for undergraduate students in their second and third years, with a concurrent significant negative impact on the quantity and quality of PhD supervision able to be offered by staff. We do not understand how the proposed loss of staff will provide an improvement in the experience of either undergraduate or post-graduate students.

We therefore seek a full explanation of how adequate supervisory time will be ensured for PhD students when the staff within the archaeology department are overloaded with undergraduate teaching and supervision.

Archaeology PhD Students:

Daniel Calderbank

Hanna Steyne Chamberlin

Ellon May Souter

Sarah Jayne Botfield

Katie Mills

Linnea Kuglitsch

Sarah Douglas

Holly Jane Atkinson

Lois Stone

Marte Tollefsen

Alison Burns

Julie Birchenall

Giulia Muti

Alathea Byrne

Matt Hitchcock

 

We the undersigned share the concerns of the PhD students and support their request for further information:

  1. Dara Laughlin, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2017, starting Archaeology MA September 2017
  2. Katie Sanderson, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2017, starting Archaeology MA September 2017
  3. Dr Angela McClanahan, UoM Archaeology 2000-2006
  4. Dorian Gordon, current UoM Archaeology undergraduate student
  5. Jane Barker, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2017, awarded David Coombs scholarship for MA starting September 2017
  6. Greg McSorley, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2012
  7. Dominic Cisalowicz, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2016
  8. Andrew Lewis, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2009
  9. Ellie Hunt. UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2007
  10. Victoria Green, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2010-13, MA Archaeology 2016-17
  11. Catherine Bearshaw, UoM Archaeology BA(hons) 2011-2014, MA Archaeology 2015-2017.
  12. Alex Conlon, UoM BA(hons) Ancient History & Archaeology 2012-2015
  13. Jim Cook UoM BA(hons) Archaeology 2009, MA Archaeology2010
  14. Lauren Doughton, UoM MA Archaeology 2006, PhD 2014
  15. Stephen Gordon, UoM Art History and Archaeology (BA 2007) and English Literature and Archaeology (PhD 2013)
  16. Mark Reddington 2007 BA Archaeology UoM
  17. Lara Bishop PhD Archaeology UoM, graduated 2017
  18. Somayyeh Mottaghi-Taromsari, UoM Archaeology (BA) 2008-2012
  19. Dr Gordon Marino, UoM Archaeology 2007 (BA), 2008 (MA) 2012 (PhD)
  20. Debi Amirat 2006 BA Archaeology and MA in Archaeology 2007 at UoM
  21. John Piprani Graduated 2017 Archaeology PhD, graduated Archaeology Masters 2011 both at UoM
  22. Andy Bull, MA Archaeology 2016, BA Archaeology 2015
  23. Emma Stansfield UoM BA Archaeology- 2009-2012
  24. Dr Ben Gearey, Dept Archaeology, UCC, Cork, Ireland
  25. Anne Templeton, Field Archaeologist. University of Manchester 2009 – 2012
  26. Dr Nick Overton, PhD at the University of Manchester 2010-2014
  27. Dr Stephanie N. Duensing, Archaeology MA (2010) & PhD (2015)
  28. Nick Georgiou BA Archaeology 2009, current MA Archaeology student
  29. Insar haq, BA (Hons) Archaeology 2011-14, MA Archaeology 2014-16. UoM.
  30. Mike Nevell. Head of Archaeology University of Salford, University of Manchester graduate Ancient History & Archaeology BA Hons 1984, Archaeology MPhil 1986, Archaeology DPhil 1993
  31. Hannah MacGuire BA Hons Archaeology and Anthropology 2010-2014, MA Archaeology 2014-2016
  32. David Jennings, BA Hons, 2011-4, MA 2014-15. Currently undertaking a PhD at University of York.
  33. Savanah Mohamed Fahmy-Fryer, BA Archaeology & Anthropology, 2014-2017. Due to start Archaeology MA, September 2017
  34. Andreas Michaelas, Graduate 2012
  35. Kate Smith, BA Archaeology, graduated 2015
  36. Jim Haake, BA Archaeology and Ancient History, 2009 – 2012
  37. Justin Ayres BA Archaeology Sheffield graduate 2017
  38. Neil Lockett. BA (Hons) Ancient History and Archaeology, 1997
  39. Simon Askew BA(Hons) Ancient History and Archaeology 1995
  40. Cansu Han, BA Archaeology and Anthropology 2013-2016, starting MA Archaeology in September 2017
  41. Ellen McInnes, PhD Archaeology 2015
  42. Jayne Graham, graduated 2014 BA Archaeology
  43. Alicia Bell, graduated 2012 (BA Hons archaeology)
  44. Daisy Knox, PhD Archaeology 2012
  45. Irene García MA 2007 PhD2012
  46. Hannah Hogan BA Hons Archaeology 2012
  47. Jamie Farrington BA Ancient History and Archaeology, and soon to be MA Archaeology
  48. Jamie Skuse, graduated 2013 with a BA (Hons) degree in Archaeology.
  49. Emma Bratby, graduated 2012 BA (hons) Ancient History and Archaeology
  50. Melody Gosling MA Archaeology graduating 2018
  51. Anthony Parker graduated 2012 BA hons Archaeology
  52. Chris Mowat, graduated 2012 BA (hons) Archaeology and Ancient History
  53. Fred Craig, BA (Hons) Archaeology and Anthropology, Graduated 2017
  54. Fleur Stevens, BA Archaeology, graduate 2016
  55. Stephanie-Adele McCulloch, BA (Hons) Archaeology 2016 graduate.
  56. Alixann ferguson, BA archaeology, graduate 2017
  57. Phillip Sweeting, graduated 2012 BA (hons) Ancient History and Archaeology.
  58. Thomas Stebbings Archaeology BA (hons) 2012 graduate
  59. James Smith BA (Hons) Archaeology and ancient history. Graduated 2013
  60. Carla Clynes MA Archaeology 2016. Hoping to start PhD at Manchester in 2018
  61. Naomi Brudney BA (hons) Archaeology and Anthropology 2017 graduate
  62. Sandra Lynes BA (Hons) Ancient History and Archaeology 1993-1996. MA 1999-2000.
  63. Andrew Shaw BA (Hons) Ancient History and Archaeology 1993-1996.

 

 

 

Outrageous and patronising response from the M2020 Project Management team 3rd August 2017

In an alarmingly swift response to our request for specific clarification of a number of points regarding the effect of the proposed staff cuts, we received this response on the 3rd August 2017. We are not amused. The University has not addressed a single one of our concerns, or outlined in any way how they proposed to mitigate the effects of staff cuts on our studies, improving the quality of research outputs, continue to run undergraduate degree courses and improve teaching and student outcomes. Here you go:

 
Thank you for your further email sent on behalf of Archaeology PhD Students to a number of the University’s senior office holders and the Chair of the Board of Governors.   As we have already provided a detailed response to your earlier correspondence we do not propose to respond further to what has been previously said, please be assured that  your additional  comments have been carefully read and noted. The time that you have taken to highlight a number of important issues is greatly appreciated and the points covered in your email will be given detailed consideration. 
 
Emma
 
Emma Pemberton-Eccles
Communications and Engagement Manager (M2020)
 
Division of Communications and Marketing
MLG 0.11 John Owens | The University of Manchester | Oxford Rd | Manchester | M13 9PL
 

M2020 Staff Cuts: PhD students request details 2nd August 2017.

In reply to the generic and somewhat vague response by the M2020 Project Management team on the 27th July 2017 to our concerns about the effect of the proposed staff cuts on both the department of archaeology at Manchester, and our studies particularly, we drafted a much more direct letter requesting specific details and plans:

 

Dear M2020 Project team and Senior Management at the University of Manchester,

We appreciate your detailed response regarding our concerns about the effect of the proposed M2020 restructuring on the Archaeology department, but fundamentally disagree with the anticipated effect that a reduction to 4 members of staff will have on both the quality of research and the student experience.

Specifically, we request further clarification regarding the following comments you made in your previous correspondence:

1. ‘We are fully committed to ensuring that you will not experience any disruption’.

This statement is beyond our comprehension. Every single one of the permanent staff within the Archaeology department is supervising PhD students. To make any one of them redundant, and therefore unable to provide supervision, will result in some disruption to at least some of the PhD students. As we each have two supervisors and an independent reviewer, it is likely that every single student will experience some level of supervisory disruption with the loss of half the departmental staff. It is entirely possible that a number of students will lose every single member of their supervisory team. The loss of 50% of the staff will result in a dramatic decrease in the breadth of expertise within the department, and given the wide range of research being carried out by the PhD students, it is likely that the remaining 4 members of staff will not have sufficient expertise in our area of study to provide adequate supervision.

We request clarification as to how exactly you propose to ensure that we ‘will not experience any disruption’ to our studies in the event that we lose one, two or all three members of our supervisory panel? How exactly do you propose to ensure that the remaining staff have adequate expertise to provide PhD level advice and supervision in all our research areas?

We further request that you clarify what the situation will be should more than 4 members of staff voluntarily leave the department? As was the case during the internal review in 2015, when three members of staff sought positions elsewhere, many of the staff are, yet again, feeling unvalued and worried about their futures. Can you confirm whether, in the event that more than 4 members of staff find employment elsewhere, that the university will recruit appropriately experienced, senior level staff to maintain a minimum of 4 members of staff within the archaeology department?

We would like to make it clear that we are in correspondence with Professor David Langslow regarding this issue, but he has been unable to provide any level of reassurance regarding proposed supervisory arrangements, largely due to the lack of information being passed to him from the M2020 Project team and senior management. David has done his best to provide us with information, and we acknowledge his support for our concerns, but we request that this issue be addressed directly by the M2020 team and senior management.

2. ‘Our vision is for The University of Manchester to be one of the leading universities in the world by 2020’. ‘Improve the quality of our research, by increasing the quality of research outputs and research income, through enabling investment in our research priorities.’

We appreciate that the SLT has high aims for the international reputation of the University of Manchester, but we do not understand how reducing the Department of Archaeology to just 4 members of staff helps with this vision. As mentioned above, reducing the number of staff to just 4 dramatically reduces the breadth of expertise within the department, therefore limiting the level of collaboration within the department and directly reducing the range of subjects that can be taught and supervised. Although the department at Manchester may be viewed as having performed poorly in the 2014 REF, we out‑performed every other department of a similar size (10 in 2014), with significantly more of our submissions scoring at 4* and 3*, compared to other departments with 10 or less staff that had the majority of their submissions graded as 2*. Whilst those departments currently ranked in the top 5 in the country all significantly ‘out‑performed’ the department of archaeology at Manchester, they also had at between two and six times the number of staff. We would argue that league tables and the REF do not tell the full story of departmental success, however this brief assessment also suggests that it is the larger departments that consistently produce ‘world-leading’ research. Furthermore, the departments that had 5 or less members of staff had the majority of their submissions graded at 1* or 2*. We do not understand how reducing the number of staff within the department will assist with your vision of producing higher quality research than at present.

We request that you clarify what your plans are to ensure that the archaeology department continues to produce increasing quantities of world‑leading research. Can you also please clarify, exactly, what provisions will be put in place to ensure that the research produced by staff within the archaeology department does not deteriorate to the level of other departments in the UK with 4-5 members of staff, as the quality of the research environment has a direct impact on the experience of PhD students.

  1. ‘we need urgently to improve the quality of our intake’

We note that many of the University ranking systems use student intake scores as part of their assessment, and we therefore assume that SLT believe that increasing the required admission scores will assist the quest to rise up the rankings. As a group of students who have excelled academically within the field of archaeology, often entirely within the department at the University of Manchester, we feel it is important to highlight that, like our fellow students at undergraduate level, we did not all achieve straight As at A level. Archaeology departments across the UK (with the exception of Oxbridge) have a long tradition in enabling students that did not excel at school to flourish and become outstanding students, professionals and academics. The unique mix of scientific and humanities approaches that characterises archaeological research is a particular draw for students who struggled within the confines of the school exam systems. Whilst not documented scientifically for obvious reasons, anecdotal evidence and discussions with dyslexia support staff indicate that archaeology, as a discipline, attracts disproportionate numbers of students with dyslexia, many of whom are only diagnosed at university, often explaining average or poor A level grades. Limiting admission to students who excel at school restricts the diversity of the student body and therefore diminishes the quality of the student experience. High A‑level grades are not a guarantee for achieving 1st class honours, but exclusion of those with lower grades does exclude students who may go on to excel in the subject.

  1. ‘provide highly talented individuals, to support large-scale infrastructure projects of national importance’

We note your understanding that the archaeological profession is in desperate need of more trained archaeologists, but do not understand how your proposed halving of the archaeology department staff in any way supports the profession’s needs. We draw your attention to the following event, organised by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, titled ‘A Crisis of Upcoming Work’ in which the dire lack of qualified archaeological staff will be discussed[1]. The department at Manchester excels in the field of British archaeology across a range of periods, and along with its teaching of field techniques, heritage management and support for undergraduate fieldwork experience, makes Manchester graduates highly desirable employees. This combination is crucial for students wishing to work in the UK, and it is the excellent teaching of these subjects that place Manchester 7th in the UK for graduate prospects[2]. It is inconceivable that 4 members of staff could effectively cover the range of subjects and skills that go into providing this vocationally relevant degree course, in addition to the academic skills that enable so many students to progress to MA and PhD study.

Can you please clarify what your vision is for the department in terms of the courses it is expected to deliver, and the breadth of subjects expected to be covered? A reduction in teaching volume has direct consequences for GTA opportunities for PhD students, and has the potential to leave PhD students with limited teaching experience and therefore unprepared and under qualified for academic posts.

Further to this point, there have been suggestions that with just four members of staff the archaeology department would no longer stand alone, but be merged within the department of Classics and Ancient History, and that single honours degree courses will no long run. Such a move would be hugely detrimental to students wishing to work in the UK, with an associated negative effect on the employability of students in the field of professional archaeology. Of the 6 universities placed higher than Manchester for graduate prospects, only one (Birmingham) has a joint department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, in which 11 archaeologists are currently employed. Many students at Manchester are concerned that the significant reduction in staff numbers will make a stand alone department of archaeology no longer viable. We request that any consideration of merging the department of archaeology with Classics and Ancient History, or any other department, be clarified and stated out‑right.

  1. ‘Reduce student numbers leading to an improvement in teaching, learning and student outcomes’

It is widely recognised that smaller student:staff ratios provide a higher quality student experience, and we welcome the potential for this initiative. Manchester compares favourably at present to other high ranking UK universities offering archaeology with a student:staff ratio of 14.3:1 although it has a somewhat higher ratio than the highest ranking universities in the UK (which average around 11:1) and internationally (which average around 7:1). A reduction of staff to just 4 in September 2018 would require a simultaneous dramatic cut in student numbers to ensure adequate supervision for undergraduate students in their second and third years, with a concurrent significant negative impact on the quantity and quality of PhD supervision able to be offered by staff. We do not understand how the proposed loss of staff will provide an improvement in the experience of either undergraduate or post-graduate students.

We therefore seek a full explanation of how adequate supervisory time will be ensured for PhD students when the staff within the archaeology department are overloaded with undergraduate teaching and supervision.

Yours,

 

 

[1] https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-crisis-of-upcoming-work-a-cpd-event-and-london-group-agm-tickets-36483155099

[2] https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/rankings?o=Graduate+Prospects&s=Archaeology

Response from the M2020 Project Management team 27th July 2017

After threatening to go a little public, this was the response to received to our letter:

Dear Hanna,
 
Thank you for taking the time to contact the Chair of the Board of Governors and a number of senior office holders at the University, following up earlier correspondence about the Manchester 2020 (M2020) proposals.  As the Programme Management Office is supporting the delivery of the M2020 proposals, we have been has asked us to respond on their behalf to the important issues that you raise in your email.
We recognise that you may feel concerned about the potential impact of this announcement as you continue your research and studies. We are fully committed to ensuring that you will not experience any disruption. The Head of Division, Professor David Langslow, who held an open meeting with PhD students on June 8, is available to meet again to further the conversation if you would find this helpful.
We would like to offer a few details about the background and rational to the project. Our vision is for The University of Manchester to be one of the leading universities in the world by 2020. While we are progressing well against a number of our targets, realising our ambition for excellence and financial sustainability will require a significant improvement in performance in some areas and a capability for additional investment. 
Over the past few years recruitment to Archaeology has been challenging, and we have become excessively dependent on students with poor entry grades. Whilst the School are resolved to continue to offer quality Archaeology courses in order to provide highly talented individuals, to support large-scale infrastructure projects of national importance, we need urgently to improve the quality of our intake in order to ensure that the programme remains sustainable and aligns with overall recruitment strategy of the University.
We would like to reassure you that the University has a clear and undiminished commitment to Social Responsibility.  Enabling fairer access to a Manchester education for talented students regardless of their background is central to our values as a world-class university, and we are proud that you as Archaeology students have benefited from this core goal.
It follows that the University remains committed to attracting and admitting the most able students, based on their potential.  In 2015, we undertook an analysis of the profile and attainment of students with widening participation (WP) backgrounds accepted onto a course at Manchester. This analysis showed that there are no significant differences in average entry qualifications between students with Widening Participation backgrounds and other students. Accordingly, there is no reason why raising entry standards will have a disproportionately negative impact on our ability to recruit students from all backgrounds.
The M2020 Programme is not primarily financially driven.  The aims are fourfold, to: 
  • Improve the quality of our research, by increasing the quality of research outputs and research income, through enabling investment in our research priorities;
  • Reduce student numbers on some degree programmes, leading to an improvement in teaching, learning and student outcomes;
  • Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of certain areas of the Professional Support Services (PSS);
  • Increase income and/or reduce costs, to provide funds for investment in strategic priorities. 
The reported surplus figure of £59.7m for 2015/16 does not take into account of the impact of pensions valuations, which when accounted for gave a final net surplus figure of £1m for 2015/16. The sustainable delivery of a surplus is especially important now, as we face new uncertainties and financial challenges. 
The time that you have taken to highlight a number of important issues is greatly appreciated and please be assured that each of the points covered in your letter have been given detailed consideration. 
Kind regards,
Vicky
 
Programme Management Office | The University of Manchester | Manchester | M13 9PL

Open letter to University of Manchester senior leadership team

As a result of the M2020 vision, the senior leadership team at the University of Manchester has proposed 171 job cuts, of which 4 will be within the Department of Archaeology. The department currently has just 8 members of staff, and this 50% reduction will effectively end the delivery of single honors undergraduate degrees and the MA degree.

The PhD students at the Department of Archaeology raised a number of concerns with the senior leadership team around the proposed cuts to staff and the impact on the survival of the department. The only reply we had was, in summary, that ‘it will improve the student experience’. In response to this non-reply, we have taken it in turns to send the following letter, every day for a week, but have yet to receive any response at all.

Dear senior management,

I write to you on behalf of all PhD students currently studying in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Manchester regarding the impact of the proposed M2020 vision on our department.

We note the responses given to date, but ask for clarification in relation to the stated aims for the M2020, specifically how the reduction from 8 to 4 members of staff within the archaeology department will improve the student experience, improve the quality of research and provide financial stability for the University.

Regarding improving the student experience, we ask specifically that you clarify exactly how you will improve the student experience by actions that reduce staffing numbers to a point where running single honor undergraduate degrees is almost impossible, there will be no master’s degree programs, smaller numbers of PhD students are enrolled and students come from a less diverse background? Given that the Archaeology department has an unparalleled reputation for positive student experience already, it is difficult for us to understand how cutting staff numbers by 50% helps to improve an already excellent student experience. At the moment Archaeology is the only subject in the University to have 100% student satisfaction, and the only Archaeology department in the UK to achieve this figure. In recent years, our staff have won four University wide awards for teaching excellence, in the fields of Social Responsibility, Mental Health Champion, Best E-Learning Experience, and Best Communicator. The positivity of the teaching and research environment is something that we PhD students have benefited from first-hand, and is something that will be increasingly valuable to the University under the TEF.

We are also very confused at the suggestion that the M2020 plan and loss of 4 members of staff from Archaeology will somehow improve the quality of research in that department. We understand from Senate meeting minutes that there is no specific grievance against individual members of staff, which suggests that none of the staff are underperforming in any way. Academic staff in the Archaeology department are involved in or direct world leading research, and are internationally recognized for their contributions to the field. They work collaboratively, and acknowledgements within their publications highlight the valuable contributions that colleagues within the department have made to their work. This positive and encouraging approach to research extends to the PhD students, who are attracted to the department by the unique research being carried out and the supportive environment. The staff attracts PhD students from across the country, and internationally, adding to the quality of the research environment at Manchester. From our perspective a loss of 50% of the staff and potentially 50% of the PhD student intake can only have a negative effect on the quality of the research at the department. Can you please clarify to us in what way you expect just 4 members of staff to produce higher quality research?

We are aware that mention has been made of reducing the staff:student ratio within the archaeology department in line with other departments within SALC, however we understand that to achieve this would only require the loss of 1.5 members of staff, not 4. Could you please clarify the situation regarding the current staff:student ratios across SALC and the proposed ratio within Archaeology?

Regarding the financial stability of the University, we fundamentally disagree with the notion that the University should be run as a business, and note that the University posted a £59.7 million surplus for the year 2015-16, had reserves totaling almost £1.5bn, of which £430m was cash. We find it difficult to understand how cutting 4 academic posts will make a significant impact regarding financial stability when such enormous sums of money are already held in reserve. What we do understand though, is the disproportionate effect this will have on an already small department, and on the individuals and families who will find themselves without an income.

The M2020 vision directly and unfairly targets Archaeology staff, and these cuts would cause irreparable damage to our department. The decision by the University not to implement it’s own recommendations from the department’s 2016 review is unjustifiable. The review concluded positively with respect to the department, and suggested a number of actions to further strengthen the department’s position. To then decide to halve the number of staff, more than any other department in SALC, indicates an underlying bias against the department which must be explained to staff and students.

We chose to study at Manchester for many reasons; most significant was the unrivalled expertise and unwavering support of our supervisory staff, coupled with the enthusiasm and vibrancy of the Archaeology department’s research environment. The cuts will leave us with inadequate supervision that will no doubt have a severe effect on our research experience, the quality of our work, and ultimately our career opportunities. The threat to our staff undermines the foundations of our shared identity and affects the prestige of the University of Manchester on an international level. We therefore implore you to reconsider these unjustifiable measures.

We look forward to hearing from you regarding our specific concerns shortly.

Submerged Landscapes of Port Phillip Bay – Publications

The submerged landscapes project was initially planned as a 3 month research sabbatical, but the surprising success of analysing old data, and the enthusiasm and interest from academics, government agencies and the local Traditional Owner groups meant that work on the project continued for over 18 months. In order to maintain interest, and keep people updated on what was a ground-breaking project in Australia, I wrote a number of short updates for the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology (AIMA) Newsletter.

Unfortunately these Newsletters haven’t yet been transferred to the new AIMA website but thanks to the publications team at AIMA these updates are now available online via my academia.edu page. The first dates from 2007 and provides an introduction to the project. The second is a halfway point update from 2008. The final one from 2009 provides a summary of the results, including background on the animation, the pollen diagram and radiocarbon date created as a spin off for the project, and a brief discussion on the validity of the methodology and it’s potential for use elsewhere in Australia. I hope they are of interest for those looking for references from this project whilst I try to find some time to finish the journal publication.

Just to get you in the mood, here is one of the 19th century images that helped inform and inspire our animation.

 

Merri_Creek_Plenty_Ranges-Troedel_1865_v2

Merri Creek, Plenty Ranges 1864 from The Melbourne Album, published by Charles Troedel, Melbourne, 1863–64. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Online

 

 

 

Submerged Landscapes of Port Phillip Bay – The Animation

The following information was formerly hosted online by Heritage Victoria, Department of Planning and Community Development, but is no longer available. The information has been slightly edited for clarity.

Introduction

The Submerged Landscapes of Port Phillip Bay project used published sources, and previously collected raw data to investigate the potential for the survival of ancient land surfaces beneath modern marine sediment and sea water in Port Phillip Bay. Based on sub-bottom profiler data, pollen data, archaeological and historical evidence it was possible to reconstruct the drowned landscape and ancient environment of Port Phillip Bay area around 10,000 years ago, before the Bay was flooded by rising sea levels. This project was the first of its kind in Australia, and demonstrated the value of this multi-disciplinary approach to investigating submerged ancient landscapes in Australian environments.

The landscape reconstruction aimed to provide an idea of what the ancient landscape might have looked like, and uses topographic information from the seismic data and vegetation information from pollen data. The activities of the people represented are based on a combination of archaeological information and historical illustrations.

The research was funded by Heritage Victoria through Victoria’s Heritage Strategy.

How do we know the Bay was dry land?

Since the earliest occupation of Australia, around 60,000BP (Flood 1994: 1), global changes in climate have had dramatic effects on sea levels, exposing and covering vast areas of land. Periods of intense cold (Ice Ages) have frozen sea water in glaciers and ice sheets, resulting in sea levels dropping up to 150m below present levels (Chappell et al 1996).

The last time the sea level dropped on this scale was at the peak of the last Ice Age around 20,000 years ago. It is estimated that Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands was joined to mainland Australia until around 14,000 years ago, when the sea level was approximately 50m below present levels (Lambeck & Chappell 2001). Using current seabed depths as a guide, it is thought that the coastline 14,000 years ago might have been about 7km south of Point Nepean, with the Yarra River running through the area now known as Port Phillip Bay. The area beyond Port Phillip Heads may have been like a river delta, as the freshwater ran southwards to meet the sea, but the effect that the narrow gorge at the Heads had on the water flow is uncertain. It is possible that a waterfall could have formed due to the height difference between the Bay and the land beyond the Heads. Without the assessment of additional geological data from this area, it is not possible to draw definite conclusions. It is estimated that Port Phillip Bay was flooded by rising sea levels around 8000 years ago (Holdgate et al 2001).

How do we know what the landscape was like?

Sub-bottom profile data provide a image like a slice (profile) through the seabed, and show us the layers of sediment beneath the sea. Data from Port Phillip Bay shows river valleys and later accumulation of sediments through time. Figure 1 shows one of the profiles through Port Phillip Bay where large valleys are visible, but now filled in with sediments.

figure-1

Figure 1: Example of seismic sub-bottom profile data identifying the submerged and buried river channel in the northern part of Port Phillip Bay (Esso pipeline survey).

By combining position and depth information from a number of profiles, a 3D model  was created, shown in Figure 2, which provides an idea of what the topography would have been like prior to flooding. The sub-bottom profile survey lines are approximately 2-3km apart, making this model very rough, but figure 2 does suggest that the Bay area was generally low lying, with large shallow valleys up to 3km wide running through it in the northern part, and around 6 narrower, deeper valleys in the southern part.

figure-2

Figure 2: A) The 3D representation of the river channels flowing through the central part of Port Phillip Bay and B) the location of the 3D reconstruction within the Bay (Source: Author)

The channels could not be traced any further south due to the type of seabed sediments, which prevented deeper penetration by the sub bottom profiler. It is thought that the smaller channels re-joined into one large channel, then flowed out through Port Phillip Heads in a deep channel or waterfall (Holdgate 1981: 128).

How do we know what trees & plants were here?

Generalisations about vegetation at the end of the last Ice Age suggest a thin and broken band of woodland along the eastern and south-eastern coast Australia, whilst the Bass Strait Islands were dominated by open scrub and heath, with some forested areas (D’Costa & Kershaw 1997). It has been suggested that the windy and dry climatic conditions of the period may have reduced woodlands to localised favourable sites, such as river valleys, and that grass and scrub covered much of the eastern coast (Adams & Faure 1997).

The vegetation reconstruction in this animation is based on pollen information collected from buried sediments in Port Phillip Bay. Sediments recovered within core samples contained pollen from ancient trees and plants. The pollen of each plant and tree type is unique and can be seen under a microscope, allowing the identification of plant and tree species that were alive in the area in the past.

Sediment and pollen from the top of the core is the most recent, whilst the sediment and pollen from the bottom of the core is the oldest. Core 7D, collected by Guy Holdgate in 1971 from the central part of Port Phillip Bay, was re-analysed and a new dates obtained. An oyster shell from 1.5m down core 7D was dated by radiocarbon to 6273 ± 36 BP (Wk-23494). The pollen from the lowest sample (3.75m) produced evidence of Sheoaks (Casuarinaceae), daisies (Asteraceae), a small amount of grass (Poaceae), saltbush (Chenopodiaceae) and some fern, moss and liverwort spores (Barbara Wagstaff pers comm.). As the pollen comes from a layer below the radiocarbon dated oyster shell, the pollen must be older than 6273 ± 36 BP.

How do we know that people were here?

Dreamtime stories passed down through the generations tell the stories of the Aboriginal groups who lived, and still live in the Port Phillip Bay area. The stories describe the formation of the landscape, the daily lives, relationships, customs and rituals of the people living here.

Archaeological excavations from around Port Phillip Bay have found evidence of people living in the area continuously from around 32,000 years ago. Sites at Keilor and Pakenham Lakeside provide information about daily life in temporary campsites, with hearths and stone tool working areas. Burials at Green Gully, Brimbank Park and on the Werribee River provide evidence of customs and rituals.

Historical records and traditional crafts can provide an indication of tool kits that might not survive archaeologically, such as basketry.

What are the people in the reconstructed campsite doing (Figure 3)?

reconstruction_stillofcamp

Figure 3: Still image of the reconstructed campsite at the end of the animation (Source: Janet Saw and Hanna Steyne)

It is thought that the climate of the Melbourne area around 10,000 years ago would have been slightly damper and cooler than today. The only direct information we have about how people kept warm in this damper and colder climate are the archaeological remains of hearths, so we have shown one of these at the camp.Historical records and oral history from contemporary Traditional Owner groups, describe the local community using Possum skin cloaks to keep dry and warm, so we have dressed our people in these. In addition, a number of historical drawings and photographs show that different designs of bark huts were used as shelter, but it is possible that shelters could have been roofed with grasses, reeds or rushes or animal hides.

We have depicted people at the camp fishing and with a Kangaroo ready for butchering. This is based on both tools and animal bones that have been found archaeologically, and Aboriginal knowledge of food sources in the Port Phillip Area that has been passed down through the generations.

The animation

The animation can be found here on YouTube

The landscape visualisation and animation was created by Janet Saw and Tom Chandler at the Information Technology Unit (ITU) at Monash University. Through the combination of the DEM model and environmental information. It took around 120 hours to create, using four pieces of animation software; Autodesk 3ds Max, Forest Pack Pro 3, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects. The team converted digital elevation models, that were created using the seismic sub-bottom profile data, into a 3D mesh. Landscape colour, texture and vegetation was then added. The trees were mostly Casaurina and were added using random scattering algorithms. The limited budget did not allow for a full spectrum of accurate vegetation to be created, and therefore alternative, closest match models were used.

 

References

Adams J.M. & Faure H. 1997. (eds), QEN members. Review and Atlas of Palaeovegetation: Preliminary land ecosystem maps of the world since the Last Glacial Maximum. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, USA. http://www.esd.ornl.gov/projects/qen/adams1.html

Chappell et al. 1996. Reconciliation of late Quaternary sea levels derived from coral terraces at Huon peninsula with deep sea oxygen isotope records. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 141: 227-236.

D’Costa, D.D. & Kershaw, P. 1997. An expanded Recent Pollen Database from South-eastern Australia and its Potential for refinement of Palaeoclimatic Estimates. Aust. J. Bot. 45: 583-605.

Flood, J. 1994. Archaeology of the Dreamtime. Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing.

Holdgate, G.R., Thompson, B.R. & Guerin, B. 1981. Late Pleistocene Channels in Port Phillip. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria. 92: 119-130

Holdgate et al. 2001. Marine geology of Port Phillip, Victoria. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences. 48: 429-455.

Lambeck, K. & Chappell, J. 2001. Sea Level Change Through the Last Glacial Cycle. Science. 292: 679-686.

Discovering London with Interdisciplinary Resources

Last week I attended a really interesting session, aimed at postgraduate students, to introduce us to a range of of interdiscipinary archives and institutions relevant to researching the history of London, organised by two Senate House librarans. The day included short introductions to the collections at Senate House Library, the Centre for Metropolitan Studies at the IHR and British History Online.

The day brought a number of archives and sources to my attention that I hadn’t known about, including the Guildhall Library and Bishopsgate Insitute. I am also excited to investigate the colletions of Victorian visitor and walking tour guides that may prove particularly useful in trying to understand the experience and perception of landscape in the pre-embankment period. I also discovered the Talis views of London, which sadly don’t seem to cover Chelsea, probably becuase the area was considered outside of London in the early 1840s when his images and guides were written/drawn.

The Literary London Society were also in attendance, an organisation whose stated aim is to ‘foster interdisciplinary and historically wide ranging research into London literature, in its historical, social and cultural contexts’. The LLS pulls together a wide range of people researching London, but from varied different angles, with varying relationships with London literature, including historical geographers, urban historians alongside the expected English Literature researchers. I have previously looked into the possibility of using contemporary literature to provide some indication of how the pre-Embankment landscape was perceived and experienced at the time, but suspect that becuase the volume of mid-late 19th century literature on London is so huge, scouring it for references specifically to the riverside or Chelsea speifically may be beyond the scope of my PhD. Michelle Allen’s book Cleansing the City (2007) gives an indication of how this might work, using detailed analysis of Dickens’ literature to explore the ‘geographies’ of 19th century London. However, one potential way into yet another discipline that I have no experience in, may be the 2017 Literary London Society conference. I am wondering if a session to discuss riverside landscapes in litereature might provide the opportunity to talk to other people who have more expertise and experience in this area? I will ponder.

We were also given a brief introduction to the Layers of London project, being coordinated by the Centre for Metropolitan Research at the Institute of Historical Research. The project is digitising and georeferencing a number of historic maps of the Barking and Dagenham area, however the project may provide both an unusual source of information, and an interesting output for my research. In addition to traditional map regression type work that the project is doing, they are collecting oral histories, biographies and photographic collections to tell a variety of stories. Of particular interest is the collection of oral histories, biographies, and personal photographs from residents of the Gasgoine Estate, which is due to be demolished and ‘regenerated’. Whilst I haven’t had a look at these archives yet, they might provide a fascinating insight into people’s connections with homes and place within the wider estate, thereby providing a contemporary ethnographic view of the impact and effect of imposed housing demolition and landscape remodeling.

Sarah Milligan from British History Online provided an excellent run through of some key sources available through the BHO website. Sources include the Victoria County Histories, the Survey of London and Old and New London, Volume 5 (1878), which provides fabulous descriptions of the changes that the construction of the Chelsea Embankment brought:

At its commencement by Battersea Bridge very little land has been reclaimed from the Thames; but one alteration is worthy of mention—the old awkward way down to the steamboat pier under the archway of a private house has been cleared away, and the pontoon, moored close to the wall, is reached by a bridge resting in an opening in the granite. An old block of houses, too, which stood between this spot and Chelsea Church has been entirely removed. They formed a narrow quaint looking old thoroughfare, called Lombard Street, one part of which was spanned by the upper rooms of an old house. The backs of one side of this thoroughfare overlooked, and here and there overhung, the river; but they have all been cleared away, and the narrow street converted into a broad one, so that one side of it faces the river.’ From <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol5/pp50-70>

Leila Kassir gave a fascinating talk discussing the links between writers of London fictional literature and London historiography, and astutely identified that ways in which these writers become implicated in the creation of London’s identity when they write about the city. I felt slightly shamed by the small volume of ‘London Literature’ that I’ve read, but feel inspired to explore more.

The librarians/archivists had kindly brought a number of interesting volumes for us to look at. One of them was titled ‘London on the Thames: Life Above and Below Bridge’ by Angus B. Reach. Whilst the book itself doesn’t have a publication date, the Birkbeck online catalogue suggests 1848. In this lovely little book are a series of descriptions of the river and riverside, including this passage, which provides a lovely evocative description of the Thames at mid-century:

This chapter is merely devoted to a cursory glance at the river in its now-a-days’ condition, and to attempt to convey to the reader’s mind a general notion of the mass of elements, which, when united, produce the Thames.

Let the student, then, conceive an agglomerate mass made up as follows: – mud banks, dead cats, dead dogs, slimy hurdles, coal-barges, grimy wharfs, common sewers, police galleys, dishes of whitebait, coal-heavers, water-side public-houses, penny steam-boats, mudlarks, Jacks in the Water, tiers of colliers, ugly ballast boats, Dutch craft with Kennet eels, Boulogne steamers with railway defaulters, yachts going as far as Erith on  a voyage to the East Indies, gents conducting gentesses to the Red House at Battersea; stokers fastening down safety-valves, reading penny newspapers, and drinking beer instead of attending to their work; foreigners in funny hats and coats going to see the Tunnel; touters on all the piers shouting ‘Now then, London Bridge, Thames Tunnel, Lime’us, Shadwell, Greenwich, Blackwall, and Woolwich’; rowing-men in flannel shirts and straw-hats, in training for a match; halfpenny boats, penny boats, two-penny boats, three-penny boats, four-penny boats, five-penny boats, six-penny boats –  all puffing, paddling, snortin, blowing- boys in all of them, screaming “move her ahee-id, a turn a sta-arn, ease herrr, stop herrr, back herrr;” imagine all this and a great deal more-tiers of shipping, lines of old tumble-down houses, rigging, chimneys, wharfs, bridges, boats, and everywhere muddy water and restless currents-all moving-all comingling-and all over a canopy of ever-rolling smoke; gather together, we say, all these elements in your minds-eye, and before that eye will be displayed the idea to be conjured up by these magic words “The Thames”.

londononthethames_liveaboveandbelow_1848

From: Angus B. Reach, 1848, London on the Thames: Live Above and Below Bridge.