Historical Manuscripts Commission

Summary report on the papers c1870-1996


Archaeologists, Antiquaries and Historians

in the custody of the


(reference: GB-1659-MS.Collections)

C Alderman and A Lewis, February 1998
Historical Manuscripts Commission

Table of Contents



Summary report

CRAWFORD, Osbert Guy Stanhope

GRAY, Harold St George

KEILLER, Alexander

KING, Denis Grant


SUMNER, Heywood


YOUNG, William Edward Vincent


The papers held by the Alexander Keiller Museum belong to the nation and are in the custody of the National Trust. Access is usually by prior appointment and enquiries should be addressed to the Curator at the Alexander Keiller Museum .

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The Avebury Stone Circle and the surrounding sites (West Kennet Avenue, Beckhampton Avenue, Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, The Sanctuary, and Windmill Hill) have provoked the interest of antiquaries for many centuries. The first antiquary to take an interest in Avebury was John Aubrey (1626-1697) who 're-discovered' the sites in 1649. His work was continued by William Stukeley (1687-1765) whose drawings represent a very valuable record of the stones and the earth works in the Avebury area during a period of rapid destruction. William Cunnington (1754-1810) and Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838) also worked at these sites at the beginning of the 19th century.

The first systematic study (1908) of the Stone Circle was undertaken by Harold St George Gray who dated the site as Neolithic. During the 1920s Alexander Keiller (1889-1955) puchased the Windmill Hill site and began excavations there. In the 1930's Keiller brought the Avenue, Avebury Circle, the manor and the farm. These sites were excavated and restored between 1934 and 1939 under his supervision and at his expense. Keiller also set up the 'Morven Institute of Archaeological Research' which he housed in the stables and created the Museum which now bears his name.

The Sanctuary was identified and excavated in 1930 by Maud Cunnington, and West Kennet Long Barrow was excavated and restored by Stuart Piggott and Richard Atkinson in 1955-56. Following Keiller's death in 1955, Isobel Smith continued the excavation of Windmill Hill using various 'new' methods such as radiocarbon dating, and Silbury Hill was excavated by Richard Atkinson from 1968-69 with the support of the BBC.

In 1966 Alexander Keiller's collections were presented to the Ministry of Works to be held for the nation. The Alexander Keiller Museum is now managed by the National Trust. The collection of papers held by the Museum extends from Gray's first work in 1908 up to the present day, and represents a very detailed record of pioneer archaeologists working on important sites and their communications with other archaeologists and related organisations.

There are three elements to the collection, Keiller's own correspondence and papers, the correspondence and papers of archaeologists and curators employed by him (and later the Museum), and an artificial collection of correspondence and papers relating to the Avebury sites. Among those whose papers can be found in the Museum are VG Childe, OGS Crawford, Maud Cunnington, Harold St George Gray, HGO Kendall, Stuart Piggott, Isobel Smith, Faith Vatcher, and WEV Young.

A detailed list of the whole collection has yet to be produced. The papers, particularly the correspondence, have been grouped and boxed partly according to date of accession (although later additions have in some instances been added to earlier groups) and partly according to subject matter. The bulk of the collection is described on the box labels as belonging to Keiller, whereas in fact much of the correspondence is from him to others, and many of the volumes of site records, catalogues of finds and notes have entries from several different people. In the following report, therefore, the majority of the collection is described under Keiller's name but a careful reading of this introduction and the record descriptions will give some clues as to the likelihood of papers belonging to other archaeologists being included in the collection.

This report was compiled following a visit to Alexander Keiller Museum by Dr Chris Alderman and Dr Andrew Lewis in connection with a survey of the papers of antiquaries, archaeologists and historians being undertaken by the Commission. The Commission is most grateful to the Alexander Keiller Museum for providing access to these papers and to the curators Dr Ros Cleal and Ms Clare Conybeare for their assistance.

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Summary report

CRAWFORD, Osbert Guy Stanhope (1886-1957)

Correspondence mainly with Keiller and papers relating to Avebury c1920-51.

Maps annotated by him relating to Wessex from the Air (1928).
[Request by name]


GRAY, Harold St George (1872-1963)

Photographs and drawings of artefacts from Avebury excavations.

Off-prints, maps and photographs relating to various non-Avebury excavations.

Typescripts, loose MS notes and notebook relating to excavations (c 21 items).
[78510452, 88024102]

Correspondence and some papers 1908-14.

Correspondence with Keiller.

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KEILLER, Alexander (1889-1955)
Businessman and Archaeologist

Correspondence with 'George Engleheart, Stuart Piggott, G Childe, Cunningtons, AS Kennard, B Shannons, Col Awdry and others' 1925-40.

Correspondence with 'G Dunbar, C Hawkes, AD Norrington (Clarendon Press), CT Norris, AD Passmore, Russel, DR Trelawny, FS Wallis, Warren and letters from Grant King to Taylor' 1926-39, with letters from 'Grant King to Taylor'.

Correspondence with 'Austin, Boothby, DR Clay, De La Granciere, Fox, Kendrick, Mills, FE Norris, O'Neill, Peate, and Peers' 1926-38. [78510175]

Site books (10 vols), kept by HGO Kendall and Keiller 1922-28.

Windmill Hill site records (8 vols), including excavation notebooks, survey and field notebooks.

Windmill Hill records (4 vols), including diaries, layer report and survey.

Original flint catalogues (2), Windmill Hill pot and file indexes, and further catalogues.
[78510454, 78510395, 78510497-99]

Correspondence with Gray and others relating to flint and to Windmill Hill 1924-57.

West Kennet Avenue notebooks, excavation diaries and survey book 1934-35, including entries by Stuart Piggott.

Avebury field notes for SW sector, official diary, plotting book, survey book for NW sector 1937-39.

Avebury excavation diary, survey book, field notes (2 vols), and notebook 1938-39, including entries by Keiller, Stuart Piggott, Isobel Smith, and WEV Young.

Excavation and survey notebooks from various sites 1933-39, including entries from Keiller, Stuart Piggott and others.

Windmill Hill flint and stone lists, correspondence between Isobel Smith and Gabrielle Keiller 1957-58.

West Kennet Avenue reports and catalogues (5 vols).

Avebury excavations NW sector find lists and excavation reports 1937.

Pickett Barrow and Windmill Hill catalogue list, miscellaneous correspondence and papers of Keiller, Gray, HGO Kendall, Cunnington and Childe.
[78510522, 88051604, 88051611-88051617]

West Kennet Avenue list, notes correspondence and photographs (c 9 envelopes).

Correspondence with Clark, Crawford, Fox, Goddard, Gore, Lane, May, Miller, AD Passmore, Pollard, Raby, and property inventory for Keiller 1936-39.

Notebooks (2), prices paid to finders for surface flint implements.

Correspondence with Kendrick, WEV Young and the Royal College of Surgeons c 1937-56, relating to miscellaneous subjects including Avebury Preservation Scheme, Keiller's last years and the 'Barber-Surgeon', with a few papers.
[88051609, 88051610, 88051605-07 88024572, 88024662]

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KING, Denis Grant

Photocopy of his Avebury journal August 1938 - February 1940 (original in private possession).
[Request by name]


PIGGOTT, Stuart (1910-1996)

Papers and transcript of interview 1995.
[Request by name]


SUMNER, Heywood (d1940)
Antiquary and Archaeologist

Correspondence relating to Avebury.
[88051422, no ref, 88051542-44, see also 78510457]


VATCHER, Faith (d1978)

Correspondence, notebooks, diaries, and lecture notes.


YOUNG, William Edward Vincent (1890-1971)
Archaeologist and Curator of the Alexander Keiller Museum

Correspondence mainly relating to the Museum, notebook and other papers 1942-67.
[20000568-69, 20000578, 20000590, 20000592]

Business and personal correspondence (4 Boxes) 1926-69. [88051930-38, 88051943-44, 88051984, 88051983-86, 88051942, 20000560-65, 20000575]

Excavation diary, find list and copy, two sheets of notes 1939.
[78510520-21, 78510479]

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