In the footsteps of Pitt-Rivers: A reflection on a sunny Sunday September walk

A full complement of 30 walkers gathered at Win Green on 13 September for a Pitt-Rivers walk. Adrian Green (director of Salisbury museum) supplied the participants with plans and photographs to lead us though the heartland of the General’s experiments, not only in archaeology but also in education, entertainment, animal breeding and estate management. Particular points of interest were views of Winkelbury Hill and a much closer look at Rotherley Romano-British settlement where the General has installed a 19th century version of an interpretation panel – a large inscribed (or is it concrete?) obelisk in the centre of the site. Adrian stressed the thoroughness and attention to detail in the General’s work even if the latter did, with his craniometric measurements and devices, for example, sometimes dive down a few scientific blind alleys.

 

Along the way, and in particular in the church at Tollard Royal, we were invited to reflect on how the General used archaeological evidence to deliver his very Victorian message that social and economic change had always been gradual and so rapid change or revolution was not a good idea. His audience were the labouring masses in the countryside and the nearby expanding urban centre of Bournemouth. Adrian pointed out the irony that the improvement of the General’s own circumstances had been far from gradual when he inherited the extensive Rushmore estate! The walk also featured press barons and pop stars, a reminder that landscape echoes national life and culture today as much as it conserves deeper layered information about the past. The end of the walk was a steep climb, but what is physical tiredness when the mind is usefully occupied – and if that isn’t a Victorian concept, what is?

 

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