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Memories of Professor Dame Rosemary Cramp

John Carling St Cuthberts 1956-1960. 

I went up to Durham in 1956 to take a degree in Modern History, a course which to my surprise began with the Romans and an opening lecture by Eric Birley. Within a very short time a bonny lady appeared to introduce us to the Anglo Saxons. Miss Cramp soon took us to Jarrow and Monkearmouth. So interesting! She ,even then ,knew every stone. Her department operated from a humble shed in the grounds of Hatfield College where spades and trowels were kept. I believe a Mr Wilf Dodds (?) was there as a knowledgeable assistant. Over the years I went on to teach history in the East Riding, becoming a deputy head [but in] the 1960's I helped to excavate iron age and Medieval sites around Beverley and Hull. However, the pressures of teaching got in the way of archaeology but I retained a great interest.


Robert Stoneley

[I remember] being told after my interview to get onto the degree course: “Remember Mr Stoneley - next time you are supposed to impress your interviewer”!!!! After this success, I was rather surprised to be offered a place.


Once on a field trip through Yorkshire (I think), as Rosemary was driving us along a particularly pot-holed road, she turned her head back towards those of us sitting behind her and said with a huge grin “this one will be good for your kidneys” just as we hit a particularly large bump…. The resulting jolt certainly was!


Generally sleeping through the last year of my degree - I was rowing for the university, would invariably get to Rosemary’s lectures late after the early morning training, have to sit in the front row (the only space left) and then fall asleep through exhaustion. For some reason Rosemary was rather benign in any criticism of this which always surprised me as she is a very direct speaker (cf the first quote)


While I ended up very interested in Anglo Saxon Art & Archaeology, our interests aligned more fully around China… When I was in the last year of my degree she went on a cultural mission there with the British Council (I think it was) and struck up a friendship with Prof Guo, the head of the Bureau of Cultural Relics. In time, he came to the UK and while visiting Durham she put him up in her house and, since I was interested in Chinese archaeology, she roped me in to help look after him. This brought us closer together and I ended up having dinner with them a couple of times, being entrusted wither keys, driving him around sites like Hadrian’s wall (in her car), and me maintaining a relationship (that’s unfortunately now lapsed) with her after I graduated. Ultimately this contact led to me getting a place at Peking University to study Chinese Archaeology - an experience that was life-changing and has led me to live pretty much ever since in China/Hong Kong. I am certainly eternally grateful for all that she did for me and can’t imagine what my life would be now if I’d somehow not managed to pass an interview with her!

Angela Roome

I graduated from the English Literature and Language Department in the 1950’s when, among her many other activities,   Dame Rosemary Cramp was a student advisor at St Mary’s College. The students in the English Department benefitted from her lectures on Anglo-Saxon archaeology and way of life. I have never forgotten her and I don’t suppose anyone who was taught by her has either. Her lectures were inspiring and her laugh was truly infectious. I have not seen her since the 1970s when my mother and I visited her dig at Jarrow. 

One story I remember about her is that she could never get her tongue around the surname of one of the students in the class, It wasn’t a difficult name though I only remember him as Jimmie no- surname,  though I believe he later taught at Durham. Anyway, one day when she handed his paper back with the inevitably wrong pronunciation of his surname he riposted with, “Thank you, Miss Crimp. ”  which made us all laugh- and Miss Cramp, too, after an initial knitting of the brow. ( Not then a professor nor yet  a dame.)

Dame Rosemary  will not remember me but I vividly remember being vicariously jubilant when her Dameship (?) was announced and dancing around the table in my apartment in Istanbul. Angela Roome


Martin Jones

Rosemary was ahead of her time in foreseeing the growth role of archaeological science. While not a practitioner herself, so the sake of the discipline, she committed to lending it her energy and support. A central part of this was through chairing committees of such bodies as SERC and English Heritage. At strategic moments, and much, much less conspicuously, she cornered key decision-makers, got them into her office for drinks, looked them in the eye, and somehow made sure they were not in any confusion about the decision that was required of them. Those of us who have benefited from the fluorescence of UK archaeological science are in Rosemary’s debt.


Carole Lattin (previously  Millington)

I am a Durham History graduate. In my first year, 1963, I studied Anglo Saxon archaeology,  history and language with professor Cramp. ('Rosie' as we rudely called her behind her back.) I was also a student of St Mary's and she was my moral tutor.  That's the terminology of the time.  I have such memories of her 'introduction to Durham' tour  as a fresher,  which involved going 3 times round the police box in the market place in her Morris Minor estate. Also of her kindness in my 3rd year,  when,  traumatised by exams for which I had done no work are all in my 2nd year (too busy editing Palatinate) she whisked me away  to her bolt hole in Frosterly.


R P Jeynes, BA Hons Archaeology 1979 -82

I studied BA Hons Archaeology at Durham from 1979 -82 when the department was in Sadler Street. It was without doubt one of the most interesting and enjoyable times of my life. The department was small enough for everyone to know each other and I made a number of lifelong friends there. It was a real pleasure to attend lectures, practicals and tutorials in the rather quirky building which I believe is now a cafe. Rosemary Cramp was undisputed head of the faculty and a really inspirational figure. Initially treated with great awe and even a little feared we all quickly came to realise what a wonderful person she was .

I studied BA Hons Archaeology at Durham from 1979 -82 when the department was in Sadler Street. It was without doubt one of the most interesting and enjoyable times of my life. The department was small enough for everyone to know each other and I made a number of lifelong friends there. It was a real pleasure to attend lectures, practicals and tutorials in the rather quirky building which I believe is now a cafe. Rosemary Cramp was undisputed head of the faculty and a really inspirational figure. Initially treated with great awe and even a little feared we all quickly came to realise what a wonderful person she was .

I remember my initial interview very well. It was with some trepidation I entered her office. Having taken a seat Prof Cramp viewed me over her glasses for what seemed an eternity and then said - " Mr Jeynes, would you regard yourself as an observant person?" I repied I thought I was so she responded with " Then can you describe the staircase you have just come up" I was so stunned ( and nervous) as I had no recollection of ever climbing a staircase!!


The interview must have gone well as I was offered a place but that particular question has remained fixed in my mind and, I have to admit, I have used similar questions myself when interviewing job applicants.


Many years later , when my son came to Durham to read Archaeology we had dinner at Rosemary's house. She asked my son how observant he was and pointed to a watercolour on the wall . What is that she enquired. It was a Roman fort and, thankfully, Patrick was able to identify it.



Anon. 1966-69

I took “modern” history, a course which in those days allowed me to avoid all except one paper later than the seventeenth century, taking instead papers on Medieval Britain and Europe, and going down to the Old Fulling Mill for Roman Britain (with profs Mann and Birley, risking being attacked by Birley’s dog Mandy) and Anglo-Saxon Archaeology, with Rosemary Cramp, who also taught me Old English. In those days there was not a separate archaeology degree course. Rosemary made a very strong impression on me and is one reason why I pursued a career as an Anglo-Saxon archaeologist. However, most of my memories about her don’t relate to the specifics of archaeology. 


 I did sometimes take what she said too seriously:   I was in St Mary’s College, as was Rosemary, and she became my “moral tutor” half way through the course (because of the illness of my previous tutor). I remember going to see her in a personal crisis, being offered a glass of ?was it sherry  or something stronger?  She looked at me thoughtfully, asked how old I was (22) and said “I had forgotten how very young you are “. I worried about this for several years, since 22 was (to me then) not at all young - until one day I woke up several years older and realized there had been no hidden meaning in her words. There were also the Monday afternoons when three of us, myself, Sue Hirst and Judith Stone, were taught Old English by Rosemary. I usually arrived hot and bothered from the railway station  because I had been away for the weekend.  She looked at me one Monday, and said I looked like something out of Mary Webb- not a flattering comment as I discovered when I read those books- mostly known now as the source for Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. But given the shapeless home-made garments I wore that year quite justifiable.


Once Iris Murdoch, I think invited by Rosemary, came to give a talk which I went to with a friend, Susan Cottingham. Rosemary and Iris engaged in clever conversation while throwing a cigarette packet  to and fro and smoking numerous cigarettes (or was that just Iris?). We were impressed but did not feel inspired to become like Iris, a fierce intellectual woman with short blue hair and a meek husband. Rosemary had more warmth and energy, a better role model.  


Oddly, I don’t remember very clearly what Rosemary said in her Tuesday afternoon lectures on Anglo-Saxon archaeology. I recall those as inspirational but, like the weather forecast, I couldn’t tell you then or now what was in them. Maybe my concentration was as erratic then as now, maybe it was quite hot in the lecture room in the Fulling Mill which I think was not large and full of assorted furniture and artefacts, with the soothing noise of the water rushing along below - although I recall walking there, in a hurry, along icy and slippery paths. But I did learn enough to get an adequate degree. Later I was taught by Vera Evison, in London, who gave me a better basis of knowledge of the archaeological evidence for Anglo-Saxon England in its continental context. But I got part of my enthusiasm for the subject from Rosemary who made it seem like an important and dynamic subject, full of variety, from sculpture to skeletons, well worth spending my academic life on.


Rosemary was supportive in later stages of my career, writing references and acting as the external examiner of my PhD thesis. Although again I only recall her comment that it was surprising that someone with access to such an expensive typewriter was such a bad typist.  The reason for that was I had typed it myself- after hours on the office typewriter of the Norfolk Unit where I was then working.


 I have enormous admiration for Rosemary as an inspirational teacher, as the creator of a major modern university department of archaeology, one of the few twentieth century women professors of archaeology in Britain, and as the scholar who has contributed so much to so many aspects of the archaeology of early medieval Britain.   And I am also grateful to her for setting me on the path of my later career.  ANON


James Dinn, Single Hons Archaeology 1974-77

Autumn 1974 – the last term at the Fulling Mill and my first term as an undergraduate. One day a very noisy dog fight broke out between Dennis Harding’s sheepdog and John Hunter’s two Irish wolfhounds, in the central open space of the building. A group of us gathered round and were egging them on. Prof Cramp appeared at the top of the stairs; I don’t recall whether she said anything, but she didn’t need to. We all fell silent and shambled away rather shamefaced, but the dogs continued to fight, quite unaffected, until they were eventually dragged apart by their respective owners.


Eileen Tomaney, MA Archaeology 1976-77

I have so many happy memories of the Fulling Mill! I was first acquainted with the Department at The Fulling Mill, in 1967 when I was in 4th form. I came along with a Durham friend to just help out. It is such a magical location and enjoyed many Jarrow dig related meetings. When I was in the MA program, the department had moved to Saddler Street, but I enjoyed volunteering in the museum there.


1976-1977 MA program may have been one of the first years in Saddler Street. The MA group had a cozy corner and it was exciting being in the fascinating maze like building.

Professor Cramp played such a HUGE influential role in my life. My life would be so different if I had not met her in 1967. I was 14 when signed up for the Jarrow dig, along with a few schoolmates.  Professor Cramp was incredibly welcoming and patient with us. I loved every minute, the fascinating work, great guidance and good company, as well as the good weather, torrential downpours, local smells of the River Don and River Tyne. A few weeks after the 1967 dig, my family emigrated to USA, and with me went a few seeds of archaeology planted in my soul. A few years later, I wrote to Professor Cramp about joining her excavations again, so I found myself on the 1971 and 1973 Jarrow excavations.


I always admired her passion, her drive, and of course her love of her work, as well as the readiness to be in the trenches with all of us. On the way to Jarrow from Durham, we would often see the Cramp-mobile speed by us – she would be there ready, ahead of the team. On the MA program in 1976, I discovered for myself that Professor Cramp‘s inspiration and human compassion permeated the seminars and classrooms, just as much as it had in the trenches. Her love and sculpture, churches, glass became her students’ passion. I now live in California but every visit back to the UK is peppered with church visits and hunts for sculpture. Professor Cramp’s influence in my family will continue for generations. After all, my 3 children have the middle names of Farne, Bede and Aidan. We are never spiritually far from Durham and Jarrow.


Becky Payne , Single Hons Archaeology 1976-9, Research Assistant 1979-81

I remember as a student, the small landing at the top of the bottom flight of steps where staff and post grads would sit and have coffee and serious conversations. When I became a member of staff, I felt able to join that group and of course found that those conversations were not always about archaeology.

The main thing I remember was that for five years, it did feel like a home from home. When I was there between 1976-1981, it was a small department and we all benefitted from knowing everyone – ‘everyone knew your name’ and from being able to mix across all years, the post grads and the lecturers. There were some great eccentrics, wonderful people and above us all was the wonderful presence of Professor Rosemary Cramp. And, across the road was the Shakespeare which funnily enough also became a second home from home – I will always remember the nicotine stained walls, the jar of pickled eggs on the counter and the back bar where there was still waitress service.

She could be terrifying when you were a 1st year undergrad. I remember my initial Freshers’ Week conversation with her in her very large 1st floor room and being completely overwhelmed so  much so that when it came to choosing my subsidiary subjects, I agreed to Anglo-Saxon and Anthropology as I couldn’t face going through the whole list. Fortunately, I enjoyed them both and in fact, continuing with Anglo-Saxon into the second year enthused me with an interest in that period so I chose in my third year to take Rosemary’s option of Anglo-Saxon Art and Architecture. Our tutorial group of four learnt so much from her first-hand expertise and her huge enthusiasm.


She could tell great stories about her life in archaeology especially when she was digging in the early years of Jarrow and Monkwearmouth.


I was also lucky enough to take part in one season at Jarrow and also two at The Hirsel, Coldstream. She worked us hard, but always fully participated in the dig parties. We had great themed ones at Coldstream. No worries about late night dancing as long as we were in the trenches on time the next morning of, course.


Two particular memories are very vivid:  on a study trip to Poitiers in my third year seeing Professor Rosemary Cramp and Dr David Wilson (British Museum) sitting together in a dodgem car whirling around the floor. And squeezed into the back of Rosemary’s sports car driving at top speed as part of a field trip and her turning over her right shoulder to shout at the three of us in the back ‘what can you tell me about the changing vernacular architecture?’


Professor David Breeze, BA Hons Modern History (1962-65), PhD History (1965-1969)




Nicky Pearson MA Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age Art and Archaeology (1975-77)

One of my best memories of Saddler Street is a lecture given by Rosemary in which she intended to use two projectors so she could show dual images. 

Unfortunately as she entered the room (you will remember the steep steps) she dropped one of the carousels spilling the slides everywhere.  Of course when she put them back in, the required sequence was lost.  As was (and no doubt still is) her style she pressed on and as each pair of unrelated images appeared on the screen, she proceeded to deliver an impromptu performance that was as hilarious as it was informative - sheer genius.


Alison McQuitty, BA Hons Archaeology 1976-80

I can remember being part of a group being taken around Palace Green by Rosemary to do some on-the-spot architectural analysis of the buildings. Her gaze fell on me and my turn came to talk about the windows style of the Library – it was terrifying as I so wanted to get it right….I can’t even remember if I did but Rosemary always inspired admiration and respect and encouraged me to bring out the best in myself. When I applied to Durham I remember thinking – wow – not only can a woman be an archaeologist she can also head a university department and be a professor. Rosemary has continued to follow my eclectic career path – contact is not frequent but she remains eternally encouraging. When I opted to take an aegrotat degree in my final year because of illness, Rosemary telephoned me and persuaded me to come back and do the final exam – I will be forever grateful.



Mrs Susan McNeil (nee Topping) Research Assistant 1982-86

During the excavations at the Hirsel in 1984 we had a visit from a local historical society, who in the main were of pensionable age.  They were led up to the site and then Rosemary addressed them via a loud hailer.  Normally Rosemary had no problem making herself heard and, on this occasion, the use of the loud hailer resulted in a large number of visibly shocked visitors reaching to turn down their hearing aids or clutching their chest/pacemakers!


Dr Colleen Batey Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Glasgow, BA Single Honours Archaeology the PhD Archaeology 1975-82, Research Assistant to 1988


I remember well going for interview at the Old Fulling Mill as a potential new undergraduate. Those stairs!! I think I may have had only a term there for classes when I did arrive in October 1975, as one of the small cohort  who made up only the second year of dedicated Honours degree in Archaeology. I graduated with a PhD from the department in Durham in 1982, the first student to study all the way through from Undergraduate to Postgraduate in Archaeology.


The rest of my Undergraduate and indeed Postgraduate days were passed in Saddler Street, where I was able to witness the growth of the department both in terms of student numbers and an increased staff presence which brought a much wider range of study. The building itself, part Georgian frontage, part modern “extension “ hugging the hillside down to the river mirrored the state of archaeology at the time – one foot in the past and the other most definitely in the future. This was Rosemary’s domain, and the total respect of the students (and many staff !) was incorporated into the walls.


I have two very strong memories of being taught by Rosemary. The first relates to a tutorial, the topic I do not recall, but in those days of small group teaching there were only two students in that group – myself and Paul Glover. Paul had to present first and then I should make erudite comment, my mistake was to admit to agreeing with what he had said and had little to add. Rosemary rounded on me, definitely with  a raised voice and telling me that I should NEVER lack for an opinion. Anyone who knows me, realises just how significant that admonishing became – I have never lacked an opinion on almost anything since that date!!


The second memory relates to an artefacts class. We gathered around a large table with trays of mystery objects from which we were to chose an example and tell the rest of the class about it. Terrifying in prospect, and I regret to say I still use that same method with my own students!! I had an object which I had no clue about – I described it as best I could and then plumped from a wholly unlikely suggestion for function. To say I was chastised, is perhaps too gentle, humiliation takes many forms. It was, by the way, a Georgian wig-curler – who knew! However, I now am an artefact specialist and will always remember that vital training of describing what you can see before you, even if function is harder to determine.


From both these experiences, I learnt the basic skills of my career and of course, for that I will forever be grateful for Rosemary’s hand in that.


Mr Paul Middleton, MA Archaeology 1965-66

I had the finest office desk in the world - in the Fulling Mill my window facing Framwellgate Bridge. Dear old Wilf and his talent for drawing the artefacts. Attending epigraphy seminars under Eric Birley, as a geographer with no Latin or Greek. The lovely smell of Eric's tobacco. My colleagues - Michael, Danny, David and Hazel. A wonderful year of research and friendship.


I first learnt the skills and fun of excavating at Monkwearmouth under Rosemary’s tuition in 1965/66. Mainly because of her inspiration I retained a lifelong interest in history. As Editorial Director I oversaw the publication of The Times Atlas of Archaeology, World History and Atlas of the Bible.

My main memories of Monkwearmouth were threefold: finding some female skeletons among the monk burials, making new friends in St Aidan's College in Durham, and enjoying Rosemary's tutoring. Every day was a delight!


Dr David Griffiths, University of Oxford, PhD Archaeology 1985-90

46 Saddler Street is an amazing building, half ancient and half modern. Parts of its basement are constructed within the stone foundations of Durham’s medieval city defences.  Now a pub, “The Library”, its street frontage has since been altered. As the department, it looked quite small and unassuming from the outside, but was remarkably large and complex inside, and if not spacious, certainly had many labyrinthine corridors, rooms and storage areas, not to mention stairs, and more stairs (disabled access? definitely lacking).


Rosemary ruled it from her rather grand office on the first floor, furnished with a set of severely-upright carved dining chairs around a wooden table, and a low, squashy armchair for visitors, over which her desk towered. The lecturers’ offices were upstairs at the front, in the older part of the building, with a small lecture room, research rooms (known as ‘units’), photographic and conservation facilities in the modern 1970s extension downstairs at the back. The windowless subterranean reading-room was a treasure of books and reports, with a terrifying collection of past theses and dissertations.


It was full of life during the working week, and fairly busy at the weekends; a social centre for students, research staff and lecturers, all of whom had their own favourite areas to sit, gossip and drink coffee, before repairing over the street to the ‘Shakespeare’ after work. Whatever our differences of opinion on various matters of method or theory, there was no doubt that archaeology was the most important part of all our lives.


Christine Ingham

My memory of Prof Cramp concerns an AngloSaxon/Roman feast which the Department held to fund raise in 1982. My friend Louise Williams and I volunteered to help out and the event was organised by Prof Cramp. We went to her house and helped to prepare the food etc. It was highly successful and many members of the passing public popped in to try the food and marvel at the strange sackcloth costumes we had created. One male student in particular was very enthusiastic about the food. Eighteen months later at a Grad. Soc. disco I met up with a Post Grad. student John, and we married in 1985. It was several years later that I discovered that he had been that very keen student at the feast. We introduced my friend Louise to John's friend Graham and they also married. Thus Prof. Cramp played matchmaker to four Durham students.


Michael Hand, Archaeology 1973-75

I studied archaeology at Durham 1973-75 as one of four students who chose the subject as part of their General Arts degree - two have remained close lifelong friends. We have many enjoyable, humorous and lasting memories of our time in the Department - in particular the Easter excavation at Monkwearmouth - and of Professor Cramp herself. 


Paul Middleton

1962-1966 I first learnt the skills and fun of excavating at Monkwearmouth under Rosemary's tuition in 1965/66.  Mainly because of her inspiration I retained a lifelong interest in history and am still publishing the odd book of social history.


Hazel Wheeler (nee Williams)

I was a BA (hons) student in the Archaeology department from 1980-1983 along with Christine Ingham (nee Yendley).  Together we have a few special memories of Professor Cramp, including my 21st Birthday at The Hirsel Estate when the Professor read from Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon and also when we put on an Anglo-Saxon/Roman feast, under the Professor's watchful eye, in the department, then on Saddler Street.  This is when Christine met her future husband, then a PHD student in the History Department.

Spencer Carter, BA (Hons) Archaeology 1984-87 (Hatfield College)

I studied when the department was on Saddler Street and the Shakespeare was the archaeologist’s pub of choice. Professor Cramp ran the ship and fostered a friendly, but healthily challenging, atmosphere. The teaching staff included, amongst others, Martin Millett, Anthony Harding, Colin Haselgrove, John Casey, Chris Morris, Janey Cronyn, Martin Jones, James Rackham. I think we were known for our “spirit” and “enthusiasm”. I was also President of the Arch Soc (1986-7), for my sins. My drawing office corner is now the rear terrace of The Varsity pub where I can legitimately indulge in a glass of wine (versus the Prof’s sherry)—though it’s a very strange and nostalgic pleasure. There be ghosts on that staircase!

After graduating (and a final dig in Poland that summer) I moved from Teesside to London and found a job as a box packer in a basement in Soho as a temp. It turned out to be the first vendor of Unix software, called The Santa Cruz Operation, or SCO, and enabler of the first pizza delivery to be ordered online in the world, in Santa Cruz CA (albeit then delivered to the wrong address). Things escalated and I ended up in a business career as a marketing then sales operations manager for global hi-tech corporations, latterly at Cisco Systems where I ran customer services for some very strange countries (I’ve been shot at in Brazil and chased around Moscow; now there’s a story). I never lost the passion for archaeology, tried to stay well-read, and maintained a particular penchant for the Mesolithic, as one does.

I think a combination of Durham’s collegiate system and the camaraderie both within college and the department with staff, fellow students and postgrads all contributed to a sense of teamwork and collaboration. We were working in areas where there were (and remain) more questions than answers, and the way of approaching challenges, problem solving, solutioning in the rest of life—the way of analysing, thinking, exploring, testing—prove that archaeology represents an amazing set of transferable skills. Back then, each annual intake in archaeology was small, perhaps no more than a dozen people, and I think we all benefitted from the intimacy as well as self-dependence. Durham and the department have blossomed and grown exponentially, and so I wonder what the experience is like today?

I’ll start with my least favourite if I may? Remember, we were in the pre-personal computer age (except for the library dumb terminals). There were no such things as a PDF or ‘open-access’. There were journals and books, often hugely obscure books that had to be requested, shared, have overdue fines paid, and returned. I did manage to type up my dissertation on Durham’s mainframe, which occupied an entire floor on the science site. There were no backups. It crashed three times and so I had to type up the dissertation three times. We used letraset and rotring pens for diagrams, SLRs and film for images (which still persist I guess), and there were never enough photocopiers!

Archaeology at Durham in the late 80s was as much about theory as it was about practical skills both in the lab and in the field. Fieldwork was a mandatory and significant proportion of the degree. I have abiding memories of many projects (mine were generally in northern England and Poland) over the summer season, and between terms—both the hard work, the joy of applying taught skills in reality, and the immense fun we all had (very occasionally carnage). Poland, specifically an early Iron Age site at a place called Sobiejuchy near Poznan, was particularly experience-building, given this was before the fall of the Iron Curtain. One student managed to forget his passport and visa, which was interesting. We had to carry our own toilet rolls amongst all the other equipment. Vodka was unbelievably cheap (as was red wine) and the people incredibly friendly. The “tipsy” crop-spraying pilots would dive-bomb our dig every afternoon to “see how close we can get to your heads”. We really did lay flat in the dirt. Unfortunately they also pilfered our meagre rations.

I must say that I revelled in the traditions of Latin graces, formal dinners in gowns, the collegiate structure and the fact one couldn’t walk down the Bailey, any time of the week, without bumping into somebody. I miss the self-discipline, the ‘shared struggle’ (but not the deadlines). I miss a certain sense of “owning the city” although I still have a number of friends in today’s department. Having said all of this, however, I still feel a bond with college, the university and with an extraordinary jewel in the North of England. Matriculation in the Cathedral was a truly unforgettable experience. Durham is part of me and, in a very small way, I am part of its history. We shan’t mention Klutes though. Not yet. I still cannot drink vodka.

Post script | After Durham I did periodically suffer from insecurity nightmares where I never seemed to have actually graduated; perennial rounds of revision, floating in shadows, finding somebody else in my tiny college room. So, I contacted Prof Cramp a few years back to see if she would entertain a conversation with an old alumnus. After a really good natter, fine coffee (and a single malt), I can now confidently declare myself free of that particular bad dream. I was there. And I did (somehow) graduate.


Trevor Ogden, Dereham, Norfolk, UK

I do not even have alumnus status.  I was only a physics student, excited to be on my hands and knees in a trench amongst the half-cleared houses of Monkwearmouth, uncovering – what?  I didn’t know what it was all about, but gradually learnt.  And a couple of years later we would sit in the sunshine on the south-facing slope at Jarrow, eating our sandwiches, and Wilf Dodds would explain about the Vikings coming up the River Don in front of us.  Can that all have been true?

I didn’t know that we were not just uncovering history, we were making it!  Our Miss Cramp, Rosie behind her back,  is now Professor Dame Rosemary Cramp, DBE, FSA, FBA.  Now I am only a retired physicist, but if I mention in some circles that, “Yes, I dug  at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow – I was there”, it is enough to produce a silence of wonder. I remember a conversation, all that time ago, with a member of one of her tutorial groups, who had somehow chosen to do Anglo-Saxon studies  as  a subsidiary subject.  I was told that Miss Cramp would begin by asking, “What do you know about the Anglo-Saxons?” Silence.  Someone would eventually mention Alfred burning the cakes.  “Very well, can you tell me his dates?”  Silence.  “Or even what century he was?”  Today my grandchildren’s generation is doing projects on the Anglo-Saxons and making model Sutton Hoo helmets, and they know all about it, and part of the reason is Miss Cramp’s contribution.  And yes, I was there.


Steven Willis, 1985-2004


One particularly striking memory is of Rosemary (‘Prof’) playing football with my son Kitson when he was aged four in the summer of 2002 at a garden party at Christina Unwin and Richard Hingley’s house at Shadforth. Rosemary asked if there was a connection with the much respected Mary Kitson Clark who had contributed so much to recording the archaeology of Yorkshire (answer: a little connection). Anyway, back to the game: my son was very nifty with his soccer skills and a joyous competitive ‘knock-about’ ensued: result, honours even at two all. Both much enjoyed the fun!


A maxim that was instilled in me by Rosemary during one of her lectures to first year students (in Epiphany term 1986) was that when excavating archaeological deposits “you often do not know and understand what you are dealing with until you have gone through it”. I often repeat this observation to my students: of course the immediate response of the uninitiated might be to think that archaeologists do not know what they are doing. However, the point can be developed, as it was by Rosemary: you need as a field archaeologist to recover as much data as you can, she said, whilst you are able to, understand sequence and formation processes, and then to look at the full picture of information available. She went on to say: “keep the faith in the archaeological record and it will reward your efforts, as you will come to recognize its patterns and more often than not develop an understanding of what it all represents”. (I still have the Lecture notes!).


A mighty rock of the Department for all the years I was at Durham was of course Sheila Brown, always so reliable, logical, helpful and cheery. Shelia invariably referred to Rosemary as ‘Prof’, the very expression of the term encapsulating the standing, character and admiration we collectively acknowledged by its use. In those days there was indeed only one ‘Prof’ in the Department. In subsequent years the ranks of professors in all institutions have expanded, almost exponentially. Yet for me there is only, and will only be, one ‘Prof’: Rosemary – exceptional, admirable and inspiring, held dear to the many whose lives she has immeasurably enriched.



Sarah Elsom DL BA Dip. Archaeol. AMA


[Memories include]…while studying a Roman- based tower in York City walls with her she asked us: ”What Century are we in now?”….Shouting to a Uni plod (University policeman) on Palace Green: “Park my car – I’m late” as she left her white Austin Maxi in the middle of the road with the driver’s door open (possibly apocryphal!)….While I was digging at Jarrow she came and looked at the baulk in my trench and exclaimed “That looks like one of those Saxon gravel paths that you have just dug through without noticing”!


Lisbeth Thoms, Diploma in Archaeology 1970.

Just by way of background - I studied for the Diploma in Archaeology (North of England) at Durham, 1969-70.  This was a multi-period diploma so there was limited study of Anglo-Saxon material but I remember so much of Rosemary's input - eg I recall her waxing lyrical about the Codex Amiatinus so was delighted to actually go and see that massive book on display recently at the British Library.  I also remember well her coming, in 1971, to the small excavation she had actively encouraged fellow post-graduate student David Austin and I to undertake at the shrunken medieval village of Hart in Co Durham - not simply to visit but to get down on her hands and knees, trowel in hand and demand a finds tray!   

Paul Everson (RCHME/ English Heritage)

My memories of the Department in the Old Fulling Mill include work-desks for a large, like-minded cohort of post-graduates packed close together, ‘downstairs’. I was a contemporary of a group of very capable young people, who were committed to making a career – not necessarily an academic career – in the expanding profession of archaeology: and went on to do so, with notable success. Pat Wilkinson (Passmore Edwards Museum), Georgie Plowright (latterly Curator of the Clayton Collection at Chesters), Lisbeth Thoms (Dundee Museums), John Hinchliffe (Central Excavation Unit), Marilyn Brown (RCAHMS), John Hunter (Professor at Bradford and Birmingham), and David Austin (Professor of Archaeology at Lampeter) … and others. It was their enthusiasm, talent and determination that underpinned my own pursuit of a professional life in archaeology. Their diversity of career paths characterises the era.

And on Rosemary’s excavations, the cry of ‘SPEED ON’!


Professor Richard Hingley, Durham University

I remember tutorials with Rosemary in 1977 to 1978, when I was an undergraduate in Durham. I used to have these teaching sessions with Rosemary in a group of four students and we would read our essays to Rosemary, who would always provide incisive insights. One day, in the late afternoon, I had a sore throat and was having trouble reading my essay. Rosemary produced a bottle of brandy and shared it around our group. It was to be many years before I returned to Durham as a lecturer (in 1999) and, I think, that I have never thanked her for this kindness. Rosemary inspired me as a Durham undergraduate to pursue archaeological research. I am not sure what would happen if I produced a bottle of brandy in a tutorial with our Durham students today. I am tempted to find out, but then...

Dennis Harding


My first acquaintance with Rosemary Cramp was at my interview for a lectureship at Durham in 1966.  The panel was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Derman Christopherson, and included Professor Eric Birley, the benign and patrician Head of Department, and the effervescent Rosemary Cramp, who I instantly sensed was most likely to detect the weaknesses in my application.  At least Rosemary and I had in common an acquaintance with Grendel’s Mother, having both read English Lang and Lit at Oxford.  As it transpired, the only moment of potential embarrassment came when one of the non-specialist members of the panel asked something about the druids and Stonehenge, a question so crass that only a non-archaeologist could have asked.   My dilemma was obvious to other members of the board, how to tell him it was crass without losing his vote (and perhaps the sympathy of others through seeming arrogant), whilst at the same time not losing the support of the specialists through entertaining an untenable proposition.   As always in such circumstances, the diplomatic untruth afforded the best solution.   An interesting question, I told him, preparing for the put-down with flattery.   As he would know, the received view was that the earliest recorded reference to druids being the best part of fifteen hundred years (in the chronology then current) after Stonehenge’s Bronze Age hey-day, there could be no conceivable connection (visible relief from rest of board).   However, perhaps he was referring to unpublished research being carried out in Oxford on the antecedents of Iron Age religion, which had recently suggested a much greater antiquity for the cult practices with which druids were commonly associated.... Restored pride of questioner, from Rosemary just a beady eye and lip curling into faint smile, honour maintained all round.


Durham Archaeology in the Birley Years was synonymous with the Old Fulling Mill, where the accommodation was homely, if cramped in both senses.  The ground floor was open plan around the central staircase and was mainly used by postgraduate students.   Flanking the double doors which led from the outer lobby was the chief technician’s desk, a decidedly distressed roll-top model that matched its equally distressed occupant.   Wilf Dodds was the product of an older tradition of amateur archaeology, qualified only through experience, who occasionally found himself at odds with the demands of the newer breed of academic archaeologists, especially when they were women of forthright temperament.   Such culture conflicts would induce sullen mutterings about ‘petticöat government’, the double vowel pronounced as two in his broad Wearside accent.  He was a mine of information, mostly useless and just occasionally valuable, his problem being his incapacity to distinguish between the two.   He was, nevertheless, well-liked by the students, who found his insistence on plastering the few surviving strands of hair from the back of his head across an otherwise barren scalp curiously endearing rather than absurd.  The other technician was Eric Parsons, an ex-miner and stalwart excavation foreman.


At the head of the stairs was the professor’s office, which he shared with his spiteful little sheltie dog, Mandy, which he pampered.  It would attack and nip anyone who entered the room.  Eric’s doting rebuke that ‘naughty Mandy mustn’t nip Auntie Rosemary’s stockings induced a muttered threat that naughty Mandy might get her neck wrung if she tried it again.   John Mann occupied the adjacent office, with Rosemary next.  Round the corner, under the stairs to the attic, crouched the departmental secretary, Mrs Glover, with her spaniel under her desk, in a passage that was the only access to the main teaching room-cum-departmental library.  Beyond that was a further series of attics, one of which was to be my office for the next few years, with Brian Dobson, the Extra-Mural tutor, at the end of the house.   It was a happy and collegiate environment that, half a century later, I still look back on with great affection.


It was a bygone age, nevertheless.  Colleges were still single sex and students were still in statu pupillari and their tutors in loco parentis.  In Van Mildert, where I was billeted, ladies were not permitted after 10.30, and students had to obtain exeats to be away from Durham.  Across Europe, however, change was being fomented by violent student demonstrations, and even in Durham there were sit-ins in the febrile atmosphere of 1967, the Summer of Love. 


The move to Saddler Street coincided with Eric Birley’s retirement, and saw a profound shift in outlook to a new professionalism, in which science-based and environmental archaeology was to play an increasing role, and in which fieldwork was to become the province of new professional units.  The architect of this process of change was Rosemary Cramp, newly elected to the Chair of Archaeology.  Much has subsequently been made of the fact that she was Durham’s first female professor, but I do not recall this being an issue at the time; she was just so obviously the right choice.   A person of formidable energy and unstoppable enthusiasm, she had campaigned for some time before Birley’s retirement, and with his passive support, for a new building.  In promoting her territorial ambitions, she had taken over a variety of dilapidated university properties, acquiring them without resistance because no-one else was interested, and then claiming the accumulated square-footage in support of her demands for a new building.  (This was a strategy that I subsequently adopted in Edinburgh, and was somewhat surprised to find that it still worked.)   Rosemary was notorious in senior administrative circles for her unrelenting promotion of her cause, and was once described by the University Registrar, Ian Graham, as ‘spreading like an insidious weed across the University.’  ‘Weed?  Weed!’ she expostulated, not attempting to deny the substance of the assertion.   The Saddler Street accommodation not only included rooms behind the old street facade, but a new suite of laboratories and excavation processing and storage facilities extending down the steep slope towards the river.  In the early seventies, it was a department without parallel, but it would not be long before adjacent premises further up the street began to be absorbed within the empire...


My other recollection at this time was of Rosemary’s pivotal role in developing a response in the north of England to the crisis in Rescue Archaeology.   In particular she initiated the Northern Archaeological Survey, funded by the Department of the Environment, and oversaw the production of its report, Archaeology in the North, which established the benchmarks from which future rescue archaeology could proceed.  The Department of the Environment’s Archaeological Advisory Committee for the region included a formidable trio.  The DoE representative was Dorothy Charlesworth, in whose presence no mere man would risk untoward levity; among the local delegates was Barbara Harbottle from Newcastle, whose frown seemed to elevate misery to an art-form; and in the chair was Rosemary herself, whose acquisition of a lorgnette seemed to anticipate her damehood.  In the face of such a jury, only the laconic interventions of George Jobey, veteran of North Africa and in due course holder of a personal chair at Newcastle, could compete.


Of course, I also treasure social recollections of Durham, lunch or supper in Rosemary’s flat in Church Street, where last minute panic for a bottle of milk or a packet of cigarettes could be met by tapping on the door of nearby Oswald’s Store, run by an amiable couple that I still think of as George and Mildred.    I also enjoyed the hospitality of St Mary’s College, where Rosemary had kindly proposed me for honorary membership of the SCR during the Principalship of Mary Holdsworth.  Lunches were particularly good value, since the college kitchens invariably produced a special dish for the vegetarian college chaplain, the Reverend Richard Bevan of St Oswald’s, familiarly known as the Rev Bev, which he generously shared with others. 

Bryan (BJ Atkinson)

As an undergraduate student (circa 2002/3) I was giving a power point lecture at Dunelm on the current excavations at Catcote. In the audience that particular night was Prof. Cramp. I had, as a lead to the talk, made reference to Prof. Cramp’s excavations at Catcote from the 1960’s. During this part of the talk I put up on the cine screen a picture of an Iron Age cooking vessel that Prof. Cramp had personally excavated. The image, once on the screen, was a close up and as such displayed the vessel in dimensions that made it appear enormous. I then asked if I may address a personal question to Prof. Cramp about the vessel, she was delighted to answer any question I had. I put my question to Prof Cramp...I asked, “how had she managed to get the vessel out of the ground unaided as the pot was absolutely gigantic?” There was a then a deafening silence in the hall, how dare an undergraduate address such a trivial question to such an eminent academic. Prof. Cramp then started to smile, from the podium I could see a twinkle appear in her eyes followed by a chuckle that was quickly followed by a hearty laugh...”with great difficulty my dear, with great difficulty.” It was a moment that I will never forget, it summed up the personality and persona of Prof. Cramp, and in that moment with that question and that image on the screen placed “Rosie” back in that field at Catcote as a young fun loving archaeologist.


Ashley Deakin

I graduated in 1985 and read Archaeology and Anthropology. I was on the dig at Berwick on Tweed with Prof Cramp in summer 1984 and have many fond memories of the 3 weeks there. I remember she allowed me to maintain my camping allowance of £1 a day after the first week, despite my moving into a shared dorm with a bed, for being such a hard working heavy duty digger!


She gave me two good bits of advice during my time at Durham:

  • When deciding on my other electives she maintained that any ‘ology’ was perfectly fine – so I elected for Egyptology
  • Before leaving after expressing her mild disappointment at my not wanting to pursue a career in archaeology she reminded me that I had been taught a set a skills that compared with any graduate leaving university whatever subject they might have read, namely; how to research a problem, present a reasoned debate on the problem and then reach a conclusion.


Paul Sams

I had the privilege of supporting Rosemary a couple of times in 2016 with the arrival of the Codex Amiatinus to Bede's World from Florence. As a Durham undergraduate and postgraduate I relished the chance to work with her, I wasn't disappointed. She had so much energy and spent time getting to know me and talking about her life, I will cherish these memories. 


David Gurney 1975-78.

I remember well my first meeting with Rosemary in her office in the Old Fulling Mill in 1974 when, as a first year General Arts student, I made my case for admission to the second year of the Archaeology BA (Hons).  As anyone who knows Rosemary would expect, I was set some challenging first year examination grade targets to meet!  Another memorable test came in the form of Rosemary’s unannounced tray of “mystery objects” and I was fortuitously handed the legendary 17th century pipeclay wig curler.   Life and study in the Department under Rosemary were amongst the best three years of my life, and helped me immeasurably to pursue a lifetime in archaeology culminating in being County Archaeologist for Norfolk.   Thank you Rosemary and all best wishes for your 90th birthday.


Dr. Carolyn Graves-Brown

I studied archaeology at Durham 1980-83 when the department was in Saddler St.. Rosemary Cramp was my first ever role model. I had never met such a determined and important woman. More important than the men around her. I wanted to be her! To say I was a little in awe was an understatement. Truly an inspiring woman.


Sarah Talks (Moynihan) 1984-87

When I arrived to study at Durham in 1984, with less than perfect A level results, I was summoned to Professor Cramp's Office up the stairs in Saddler Street.  Like something out of Hogwarts, (years before we knew about fictional firm but fair Professors and wonky staircases) I entered the book lined, wood panelled (at least that’s how I remember it) study and sat in a chair that caused my bottom to almost rest on the floor, peering up over my knees to Rosemary.  ‘What on earth happened to your history marks?’ She enquired.  I stumbled and mumbled, ‘Not sure…ummm...didn’t go well…’. I expect she was exasperated but luckily I was allowed to stay in the Department, although not to do double honours with Anthropology.  I don’t think she regretted that decision, I loved my degree study and was very active in the Archaeology Society and in excavations etc.  I was always too shy to do much with Rosemary though, and headed towards the Romans…I got a good degree and am still involved in Archaeology today.


Another memory..

Each year group of students had their photographs and names on a paper sheet in the corridor by the office.  These grim mug shots, black and white passport photos, photocopied and stuck on the wall were hugely varied, some faces were quite large, looming out of the grey background, some, like mine, hilariously small and squished down into the corner because I had failed to make the seat tall enough.  Not many second chances with photo booths in those days, one shot, printed four times, no photoshopping! One day, when a group of us were waiting for some seminar or other, people (not me, honest!) began to graffiti our year group, with funny speech bubbles and things drawn on. I remember Carol, from Wales having a traditional Welsh hat added to her photo. Mine had a huge ‘Viking’ style hammer banging my head down into it’s corner. I don’t remember anything too cruel or crude but it was a long time ago. We thought it was very funny but it caused quite an uproar and various stern communications and strict instructions not to defile the new clean sheet.


Louisa Gidney (Durham 1979-2013)

The Department in Saddler Street had such a happy friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Although on the fringe, Rosemary always made me feel part of the Department.


Elizabeth Rice

When I arrived in the Fulling Mill as a student, Rosemary assured me in no uncertain tones that archaeology wasn't glamorous. As I was at the time a perhaps somewhat timid and certainly the least glamorous teenager one could imagine, I did vaguely wonder about this and it always stuck in my memory. At post-degree drinks celebration, her parting words to me were "the world is your oyster". Not sure I fully took advantage of my oyster either but I've always remembered her kind advice anyway. Although I didn't specialize in Anglo-Saxon archaeology (Vikings were my thing in those days) I really appreciated her knowledge and expertise in the subject and a tour of some wonderful sites she took us as students, to see. Happy days!


Tadgh O’Keeffe

I was only in Durham for a year (as a graduate student, on a scholarship from Ireland), but it was a very, very special year. I set foot in Saddler Street for the first time on October 4th 1985, a Friday. I recall knocking on Rosemary’s office door that morning and I recall the warmth of her welcome. Memories of days thereafter, in Saddler Street and beyond, come thick and fast. Were I to select just one, I would dishonour the others. I treasure them all. It was simply a magical time, spent in the company of great people in a magical place.


I had two more years left of my scholarship after Durham, and Rosemary, knowing where my interests lay, strongly recommended the Courtauld Institute in London for a year and then Poitiers in France for the final year, and she armed me with names of people to talk to in both places. I went to London in October 1986. I did not enjoy my time there… at all.  I met my ‘supervisor’ just once and we didn’t really get on. That was just the start of it. About ten years later, when I next saw her (in Durham), I told Rosemary that I had been miserable in London and that I regarded my year there as a disaster. She told me that she wasn’t at all surprised, but she told me that, by ‘sending me there’ (funny, I thought it had been my decision!), she had made sure that I had ticked a box that she knew needed to be ticked for the sake of my career. I suddenly realised that she had a master plan for me! And she was right – having that particular box ticked turned out to be empowering. For the final year of the scholarship I did indeed go to Poitiers, as she recommended (orchestrated?), and I had a wonderful time there, as she expected (planned?).