Pevsner Wiltshire

Following a seminar last night organised by the Paul Mellon Centre to introduce the new heavily revised third edition of Pevsner’s Wiltshire, I was so pleased that my copy arrived today, so that I was able to check out some of the entries while it was fresh in my mind. It gives a date, 1881, for the Old Vicarage, Redlynch, the house where I was born. It states more definitively than I had known that the Mound at Marlborough is not simply a Norman motte as had been thought, but has been proved by carbon-dating to be contemporary with Silbury and, in addition, that the lining of the grotto added in its base by Lady Hertford was restored by Diana Reynell, the wife of the classics master, in 1986. It describes the Great Barn in Tisbury as being earlier than previously thought, tree-ring dating giving a date of 1289-1314 (can it really be so precise ?). It gives a date, 1740, for Oare House and a scrupulous description of the Pavilion designed by I.M Pei. The quality of photography is also hugely much improved, with a very atmospheric photograph of the Stone Circle at Avebury and good photography, always difficult, of tombs. It reveals that Henry Dawkins, the owner of Trafalgar House, was a Jamaican plantation owner, but not, so far as I can see, Alderman Beckford. Altogether, it looks like a pretty mighty achievement of radical research and rewriting by Julian Orbach, taking six years, when Pevsner pumped the original volumes out over his summer holidays.

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