Monday, 15 February 2016

Trowelblazers - Maud Cunnington

Maud Cunnington was born in Wales, at Briton Ferry, and she was involved in pioneering archaeology.
From 1897 she was involved in rescue archaeology on Salisbury Plain, and also conducted digs at some of the most famous sites on the Plain, like West Kennet long barrow and Knap Hill.
And in 1925 Squadron Leader Gilbert Insall, who had won a VC in the First World War, flew over the area in a Sopwith Snipe, and noticed dark markings on a field. This was one of the first instances of ariel archaeology. He told Maud, and she conducted a dig with her husband, Captain Cunnington, her nephew and an excavator called William Young.

They discovered Woodhenge.

All that remained of the henge were pits in the meadow, so when the Cunningtons bought the field in 1928, they decided to mark the positions of the pits with lengths of concrete drainpipe, to give some idea of what the monument would have looked like. They painted the tops of the capped drainpipes the same colours as the plan of the site, to distinguish the different rings. Later they gave the field to the Ministry of Works, to preserve it for the nation. The Ministry of Works put in a plaque showing the plan of the site with the coloured posts - and sadly this has now been stolen. All this information comes from Mike Pitts' blog Digging Deeper.
Maud Cunnington became president of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1931 and in 1948 she was awarded a CBE for her services to archaeology, the first woman to recieve the honour. Sadly, by that time she had Alzheimers, so never knew, and she died a few years later, leaving a substantial sum to Devizes museum.

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