AA200: A conference marking the bicentenary of Archaeologia Aeliana (1822-2022)

  • Venue: Keeton-Lomax Lecture Theatre, Armstrong G.09, Newcastle University and online (Zoom)
  • Start: Sat, 03 Dec 2022 08:30:00 GMT
  • End: Sat, 03 Dec 2022 18:30:00 GMT


To book your place to attend in-person, please use this booking form: 

AA200: A Conference marking the bicentennial of Archaeologia Aeliana | Newcastle University WebStore (

 For in-person attendance, there is a charge of £5 per person. This includes the cost of refreshments and lunch. Existing September bookings will be honoured and numbers are limited by the size of the venue, so please book as soon as possible if you would like to attend.

Online attendance is free & new bookings can be made up to December 2nd at noon. Simply contact for the Zoom link. Existing attendees will be emailed directly with the new link. 

All times are BST

Schedule and Abstracts 


Saturday December 3rd


Keeton-Lomax Lecture Theatre, Armstrong G.09 and Livestream

8.30-9am Coffee (Armstrong G.08)

9am-10am Panel 1: Archaeologia Aeliana: Achievements and Insights 

Don O’Meara (Historic England & Editor, AA), ‘Archaeologia Aeliana: the vital statistics’   (Zoom)

Today Archaeologia Aeliana is best known as a platform for publishing research on the history, archaeology, and culture of the North East of England – and in particular research on the history and archaeology of Hadrian’s Wall. However, this was not always the case in the earliest editions of the journal. Early editions had papers as diverse as one written in Latin, an account of arrowheads written by the Russian Ambassador to Constantinople, and a description of a runic inscription from Greenland.

Authorship too has changed, such as the gradual shift from early 19th century antiquarianism, to professional archaeology in the early 20th century, and latterly to development-led commercial archaeology publications. Other developments such as the movement from engraved images, to photographs, and latterly to computer-generated imagery mirror wider technological changes.

The aim of this paper is to provide a broad summary of the trends within the journal, and to illustrate the changes through time. This will also include the developing geographical scope of the journal, the changing nature and number of contributions, as well as highlighting the key milestones of the journal across its 200 years. It is hoped this will introduce the audience to the broad nature and evolution of the journal through time.   

Diana Whaley (Newcastle University), ‘“A vain and fanciful study” — AA contributions to the understanding of Northumberland place-names’

Times have changed since, in the very first issue of Archaeologia Æliana, Rev. Anthony Hedley felt the need to defend 'topographical etymology' against contemporary charges that it is a 'vain and fanciful study'; and the shift in perception has come about partly thanks to contributors to AA itself. Some have advanced the study of Northumberland place-names by engaging directly with questions of etymology, often focusing on the languages represented in the names and the light they shed on settlement history. Others have advanced the subject more indirectly, by providing edited texts of documents that are important sources of early place-name spellings, and still others by considering the archaeology of sites in relation to their names. This paper will briefly review these various types of contribution and present case studies of important articles by Hedley himself (1822) and John V. Gregory (1882), evaluating their efforts in the light of later developments in place-name research. Along the way we will encounter toponymic banter and outrage at supposed vulgarisms, and we will conclude with thoughts on recent research on Northumberland names. 

10.00-10.15 Short Break

10.15-11.15 Panel 2: Hadrian’s Wall in Scholarship and Fiction

Stacy Gillis (Newcastle), ‘Reading the Wall/Writing the Wall: Heritage, History and Nationhood in Early Twentieth-Century Writings about Hadrian’s Wall’

Monuments like Hadrian’s Wall circulate in the cultural imaginary in complex and challenging ways. In this paper, I explore the Wall in the early twentieth century, as writing about the monument shifted from the antiquarian ‘re-discovery’ of the Wall in the long nineteenth to the Wall in fiction and film of the twentieth century. I unpack the complexities of the cultural afterlife of the Wall, thinking about the connection of past and present through the act of writing about a heritage monument.  In effect, what is created when someone writes the Wall?  I read the Wall fictively and locate it against the debates about history, heritage and nationhood in the twentieth century.

M. C. Bishop (Independent Scholar), ‘What the Soldiers Wore on Hadrian’s Wall revisited’

In 1976, the Newcastle publisher Frank Graham produced a booklet with an unusual title which was a collaboration between two men. The writer was Henry Russell Robinson, the man who had (together with Charles Daniels) interpreted the armour found in the Corbridge Hoard and had just published his major volume, The Armour of Imperial Rome the year before. At the same time, in consultation with Robinson, nine colour reconstruction paintings were included by the artist Ronald Embleton, who had already provided illustrations for Graham’s other booklets about the Wall, many of which were also produced as postcards for sale. Robinson’s and Embleton’s booklet was, unsurprisingly, a product of contemporary research, so it is an interesting and informative exercise to review how well it has stood the test of time some four and a half decades later. This will inevitably involve reconsidering (and perhaps rephrasing) the question ‘What did the soldiers on Hadrian’s Wall wear?’!

11.15-11.45: Coffee

11.45-12.45 Panel 3: Medicine, Treatment and Healing in the Early Modern and Modern North 

Sue Ward (Newcastle Antiquaries), 'Medical treatment in the North in the early modern period; William Bullein and ‘Fairfaxiana'

This talk will discuss two volumes which together illustrate the state of ‘phisicke’ (medical treatment) in the North of England in the early modern period. A Newe Booke Entituled the Gouernement of Healthe was published in 1584 by physician William Bullein, who practised briefly in Northumberland and Durham in Elizabeth’s reign. His description of remedies for the plague ends with the heartfelt comment from an interlocutor that ‘in many places we could get no physition to helpe us, and when men be sodainly sicke 200 miles from London, Cambridge or Oxford, it is too late for the patient to sende for help…’ Fairfaxiana is a manuscript book compiled by members of the well-connected Fairfax family of Yorkshire in the 1620s. It is essentially a self-help book, offering remedies for the afflictions that members of the gentry might be expected to treat, within their households and the wider community.

Research on these volumes was carried out while preparing an article on Edwarde Potter’s Booke, a manuscript of medical, cookery, and miscellaneous receipts, part of Newcastle Antiquaries’ archives. The article is due to be published in the 2021 edition of Archaeologia Aeliana. The talk will put the volumes in the context of the diseases of the time in England, and the patchwork of medical treatment available.

Ken Smith (Newcastle Antiquaries), ‘The old Newcastle Infirmary and the introduction of Lister's antiseptic method to the hospital’

12.45-1pm Panel 4: Objects (10 minute papers on single items)

Emma Bowey (University of Wales), ‘Henry earl of Northumberland Silver Penny’ (Zoom)

The discovery of the silver penny is both significant and intriguing. Identified by Numista as an extremely rare coin, the penny was minted at Carlisle from the Alston silver mine and bearing the image of Henry, the earl of Northumberland, providing historians and archaeologists with a clue into the nature of Scottish occupation in the north of England. The coin was found between 2010 and 2011 in the Alnwick district, in a location that was under the control of Henry of Scotland as the earl of Northumberland. A single coin of Henry in a single find is not unusual. No recorded hoard has been discovered bearing the coins of David I of Scotland and his son Henry. Yet, these single coins remain rare and significant. This presentation will aim to briefly explore the significance of the coin, but also what we can learn from the coin about the Scoto-Northumbrian period.

1.00-2.00 Lunch (Armstrong G.08)

2-3pm Panel 5: The Architecture and Vehicles of Trade

Adrian Osler (Newcastle Society of Antiquaries), ‘The Tyne Coal Keel: a Unique British Watercraft, 1400-1890’ (Zoom)

Although a vital component of the ‘Coal Trade’ the Tyne keel has long remained an enigma. Using a range of previously unconsidered sources and by applying modern watercraft analysis, the keel’s: form and build; propulsion; handling techniques; and performance are fully revealed for the first time – and its origins considered.

Adrian Green (Durham), ‘Dignified Architecture – The Trade Guild Meeting Halls of Newcastle upon Tyne’

Newcastle upon Tyne had unusually long lasting trade guilds, which flourished into the eighteenth century. Many, though not all, guilds had their own meeting rooms. Their dignified architecture survives in the former Blackfriars and in a series of neat boxes on towers around the town wall, as well as in the Merchant Adventurer’s lavish room attached to the Guildhall on the Quayside. This presentation explores the architecture of the trade guilds, and what it said about their social world.

 3.0-3.10 Short break

 3.10-4.10pm Panel 6: Music and the Print Trade in Early Modern Newcastle and the North-East

Barbara Crosbie (Durham), ‘Anne Fisher and the Union Street Press: Gender and Print in Eighteenth-Century Newcastle upon Tyne’ 

This paper will consider the gendered nature of the print trade, with particular reference to the printing business ran by Thomas and Anne Slack (née Fisher) from their shop ‘The Printing Press’ on Union Street, Newcastle upon Tyne. When the Slacks married in 1751 Anne was a school teacher and author of educational books, whilst Thomas was a printer employed by the proprietor of the Newcastle Journal. Thomas is credited with starting his own highly successful printing business and (after falling out with his employer) establishing a rival newspaper, the Newcastle Chronicle. Anne’s role in this business has tended to be reduced to that of an able assistant. However, it will be argued that historians have overlooked Anne’s contribution to the print trade simply because her husband was the nominal owner of their printing business. If instead attention is paid to the chronology of the Slacks’ commercial endeavours, Anne’s entrepreneurial skills are exposed and the nature of their working partnership becomes clearer. Moreover, exploring the added value that Anne brought to the business demonstrates the extent to which her gender gave the couple an advantage in the ever-more crowded print market.

Kirsten Gibson and Roz Southey (Newcastle), ‘The Music Trade and Domestic Music Making: Two Sheet Music Collections from Late-Georgian North-East England’

This paper introduces two late-Georgian binders’ volumes of sheet music held at the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. These volumes have not received any scholarly attention, yet they provide significant insights into the musical activities of two amateur music consumers from the North-East of England. The contents of each volume will be analysed to date them and to examine the individual tastes and collecting habits of each compiler. Both collections include music from local and national presses, composers and publishers; evidence from these collections, alongside that for the music trade in Georgian Newcastle, will be explored to consider the routes through which the compilers might have acquired their music. Finally, these collections will be placed in the wider context of contemporaneous surviving binders’ volumes – in particular those associated with Jane Austen and her family, Hampshire, and those found in country houses such as Tatton Park, Cheshire – to consider how they illuminate engagements by two North-East amateur music consumers with both national and local musical cultures. 

 4.10pm-4.45pm Afternoon Tea (Armstrong G.08)

 4.45-5.45pm Panel 7: Faith, Religion and Women’s Sainthood in Medieval Northumberland

Lauren L.  Whitnah (U of Tennessee, Knoxville) ‘All the Saints of this Church Together’: Twelfth-Century Afterlives of Early Northumbrian Saints’

This paper examines the profusion of early medieval saints who were celebrated in northern England and southern Scotland c.1066-c.1215. I argue that twelfth-century venerators of early Northumbrian saints understood sanctity to function collectively; rather than promoting a holy individual, they often sought out and commemorated groups of ancient local saints. Relying on the works of early hagiographers, particularly Bede, twelfth-century authors and devotees constructed afterlives of the saints that linked them to each other and to identifiable local places.  Bede’s privileged position as Northumbria’s premier intellectual was critical for twelfth-century authors who relied upon his work to support their own arguments about sanctity. Yet even Bede was not immune from modification; the hagiographers often used local oral tradition to enhance or supplant what they gleaned from Bede about the early saints. This paper thus draws on a wide variety of narrative, liturgical, archaeological, and manuscript evidence to argue that both learned clerics and illiterate lay people fundamentally understood their early medieval local saints to operate together in the Northumbrian landscape.

Christiane Kroebel (Institute of Historical Research &Whitby Museum), 'Remembering St Hilda in the later Middle Ages' 

 St Hilda is a well-known figure from early medieval England but how she was regarded in the later Middle Ages is considered here. After the Norman Conquest, she became the focus of renewed interest which resulted in the foundation of a Benedictine monastery at Whitby. However, St Hilda’s appeal can be seen elsewhere and is traced through church dedications and secular and monastic texts. Uncovering the history of these churches found a small number of people who promoted her memorialization after the Conquest and their influence affected where her name is found in locations in Yorkshire and northern England. A network of secular landholders as patrons can be detected. It seems that in later centuries devotion to her never reached great popularity nevertheless she had her following amongst the laity and in diverse monastic foundations. By the fourteenth century, two miracles became popular whose origin cannot be firmly established as coming from Whitby but resonated locally.

5.45-6pm Short break

6.00-7.00pm Keynote lecture: John Grundy, historian and broadcaster, '1822-ish - changing times in the North East'

The launch of Archaeologia Aeliana in 1822 came at a time of great changes in the region’s politics, society and culture. John Grundy will look at how these developments affected views of history and identity.

7.00-8.00pm Wine reception (Armstrong G.08) and book signing. John will be signing copies of his new book, History of Northumberland (Tyne Bridge Publishing, June 2022), after the lecture.



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