The death of Professor Dame Rosemary Cramp on the 27th April 2023 aged 93, leaves an immeasurable gap in the world of archaeology.
Rosemary began her archaeological career aged 12, with the discovery of the remains of a Roman villa on the family farm, and correspondence with Kathleen Kenyon followed who advised her by letter to take good care of the remains. Rosemary’s strong interests in early medieval, and particularly Anglo-Saxon archaeology, developed at Oxford. She studied English but was already focused on merging her early archaeological interests with the prose and poetry of the Anglo-Saxon age, while spending as much of her time as possible with the Archaeology Society. She was a Fellow at St. Anne’s until 1955, when she joined the University of Durham. There, with Eric Birley, she was instrumental in founding the Department of Archaeology. At Durham, Rosemary set about uncovering the post Roman and Anglo-Saxon archaeology of the north. She developed a strong interest in pre-Conquest sculpture, encouraged by V E Nash-Williams, and began to publish in the 1960s, initially on the southern Scottish monuments. In 1959 Rosemary was approached to undertake archaeological work at Monkweamouth, and likewise at Jarrow in 1963. These two sites, then in County Durham, were described in the writings of the Venerable Bede as a single monastic enterprise, having been founded by Bendict Biscop in 673 and 685 respectively . At Wearmouth, the work was rescue archaeology in urban conditions, digging in amongst the remains of houses due for demolition as the area was cleared and redeveloped. At Jarrow, the site had just been taken into guardianship and she was asked to date the buildings. Her excavations at both sites ran for some 29 years and were some of the first systematic excavations in Europe of early medieval monastic complexes, uncovering remarkable evidence of the art, architecture and intellectual milieu of these sophisticated early Christian communities.
In 1972, her early interest in sculpture bore fruit with the foundation of a new project on the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, formally recognised and funded by the British Academy as a national project. After assembling a team of scholars, the first volume, written by Rosemary herself, was published in 1984 and dealt with the sculptures of Durham and Northumberland. When complete, the Corpus will provide comprehensive and consistent coverage of every fragment of pre-Conquest stone sculpture from across more than thirty historic English counties. The project is now in its 50th year, with 13 volumes already published. Volume 14 (Cambridgeshire) is expected to follow in 2023, and the remaining two (the East Midlands and East Anglia) in 2024-25. Through the work of the Corpus, detailed catalogue entries and photographs for more than 5000 items of sculpture have been published, and freely released for world-wide use via the project website http://corpus.awh.durham.ac.uk/
Rosemary served 19 years (1971-1990) as Head of Department in Archaeology at Durham University. She ‘retired’ in 1990 and remained a key and active member of the department as Professor Emerita, publishing her two-volume Wearmouth-Jarrow excavations in 2005–6, and her second CASSS volume on the south-west of England in 2006. She also completed her excavations of the proprietary church and cemetery at The Hirsel, in southern Scotland, publishing this with the Society of Medieval Archaeology in 2014. Up until her last years she continued to lead the Corpus project, undertaking her own fieldwork in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland for the East Midlands volume (Vol. XV), supporting authors of the remaining volumes to complete their work, and securing major AHRC funding in her 90th year to complete the project.
Her passion, knowledge, determination and sense of fun, were infectious and shared by colleagues and students alike, all inspired and supported by Rosemary to continue and advance a career in archaeology, with many coming to hold prominent positions and Professorships in the discipline themselves. Rosemary also understood the need for change and advancement in archaeology with early recognition of the importance of science and innovation in archaeology and later support for the Archaeology Data Service as its first Chair. Her international standing and service to the discipline, with influential roles such as Trustee of the British Museum, President of the Society of Antiquaries London, and Commissioner for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, led to many honours, including six honorary degrees (Durham University 1995, University of Bradford 2002, University College Cork 2003, University of Leicester 2004, University College Dublin 2015, University of Cambridge 2019), fellowship of the British Academy, the Society of Antiquaries Gold Medal and Royal Honours with her appointment as Commander of the British Empire in 1987 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2011 for services to scholarship.
Rosemary has been a leading expert and voice on Anglo-Saxon and early medieval archaeology for over 70 years. Her rich intellectual contribution to Anglo-Saxon and medieval archaeology and legacy of published work on the subject will continue to be profoundly influential for all scholars. Rosemary will be deeply missed by colleagues and friends across the world.
Details of the Memorial Service at Durham Cathedral can be found here
In celebration of Rosemary’s life and achievements, we are sharing messages and memories from those she taught, supported and worked with during her many years. If you would like to contribute a message, a memory or share a photographs of Rosemary and her projects for the website, please email these to firstname.lastname@example.org or send my mail Department of Archaeology, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK.
Find out more about the Rosemary Cramp Fund or make a donation.
Rosemary with her Damehood
Professor Dame Rosemary Cramp