Awesome Women in the John Pendlebury Family Papers

Over the last two weeks, I have catalogued some of the photograph albums that form part of the John Pendlebury Family Papers collection. As I wrote in my previous post, I started cataloguing one of the photograph albums containing handwritten itineraries and photos of Pendlebury’s trips around Crete from 1934-1939.

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had to face whilst carrying out this task has been to indentify people included in the photographs. It hasn’t been easy; most of the photographs included in the album have a caption, but sometimes the handwriting is difficult to understand and other times there is no caption at all. I have, however, had great help from work carried out by my predecessor, Madelin. The great level of detail so far included in the catalogue has helped me to compare names and dates -even faces!- and the rest of the collection has given me some broader context regarding the people surrounding John Pendlebury at that particular moment of his life. Identifying these people has been, somewhat, like solving a puzzle!

Whilst I was cataloguing photographs taken during the excavations in Tzermiadho (Crete) in the summer of 1937, one in particular caught my eye. This photograph shows a woman from behind, smiling as she peers back at the camera. Next to her, a man also looks at the camera, in mockery. The photograph is captioned: ‘Vincent Desborough and Marion Pascoe’. Intrigued by this photo but, especially, by this woman, I did a bit of research into her background, and the story I found was fascinating:

Photograph captioned ‘Vincent Desborough and Marion Pascoe’ [PEN 7/2/6/728]. Copyright: British School at Athens.

Marion Pascoe Sarafis, archaeologist, activist and writer, was born in December 1913, the only child of an Anglo-Austrian family resident in Woking, England. Her childhood papers, covering the years 1913 -1938 are held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. Marion’s father, Wallis Pascoe, was a stockbroker, and the family lived at ‘Bracken Hill’, a large Victorian house. It was in this house that Marion was educated by her mother, Anne Harding Kliamanek, until being sent to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in 1925. Outgrowing the Convent’s limited academic opportunities, Marion yearned to go to University and, in 1932, after being coached in ancient Greek by a priest, she finally gained a place at Oxford University to read Classics.

After graduating from Oxford University, Marion took a postgraduate archaeology course at Cambridge, and then in 1936 travelled to Athens where she joined the British School at Athens the same year. The School Annual Report for the session 1936-1937 states of her time in Greece:

Miss M. Pascoe, B.A. – Society of Oxford Home-Students. Carried out a preliminary investigation of the Hagia Marina pottery, and assisted in Mr. Pendlebury’s excavations in Crete’

 According to the Annual Reports, Marion worked with the BSA for the next two years. In 1937, she worked at Chaeronea, on the prehistoric sites in the vicinity of Smokovo and Lake Xynias, and in Athens on the prehistoric pottery from Hagia Marina and Drachmani, as well as visiting Ithaca and Milos. In May and June of that year, she helped with excavations in Crete. During 1938, she completed her work at Chaeronea and helped with the excavations at Karphi. In 1939, whilst in Milos, she met her future husband, General Stefanos Sarafis (1890-1957), a leftist republican, who was exiled from the mainland for his political ideas. Their incipient friendship was, however, broken off by the Second World War.

From the ‘British School Annual Report for the session 1936-1937’. Copyright: British School at Athens
Photographs of the excavations at Karphi in the summer of 1938. Copyright: British School at Athens.


During the war, Marion returned to England where she became a founder member of the League for Democracy in Greece, which campaigned for the release of imprisoned resistance fighters and also lobbied for human rights in the country. In 1951, she also edited a book in English about the Greek Resistance Army. She finally returned to Greece in 1952 and married General Sarafis the same year. The couple lived in Athens for the next five years, and they had a daughter, Lee Sarafis. Those were years of tireless political activism, campaigning for the United Democratic Left Party. Unfortunately, in 1957, Marion and her husband were involved in a car accident in Athens, and General Sarafis was killed. Marion was also severely injured in the crash.

After this episode, Marion Pascoe Sarafis returned to Bracken Hill, where she spent the rest of her life pursuing her interests: reading English, French, German, Modern Greek and Latin. She retained her Greek citizenship and was an active campaigner during the 1967-74 Colonels’ dictatorship. She also worked on books on the Greek resistance as well as for the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles and always retained her interest in Greece. Marion died in 1999.

It’s amazing the stories that can be found behind a simple photograph, isn’t it? These chance encounters whilst working with archive material make such incredible moments and so I am dedicating this blog entry to Marion Pascoe Sarafis in celebration of Women’s History Month, by telling the story of this really awesome woman.


Greetings from the new Project Assistant for the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive

My name is Laura, and I have been appointed as the new Pendlebury Archive Project Assistant at the British School at Athens. Before moving to Athens, I lived and worked in Glasgow for five years, where I was an archive assistant for different organisations such as the Scottish Music Centre, the National Library of Scotland and Glasgow University Archive Services. It was at the University of Glasgow that I completed my MSc. in Information Management and Preservation in 2016.

I will be picking up this project where Madelin, the former Project Assistant who finished a large part of the work before leaving Athens for a new job opportunity in Cambridge, left off. And so, over the next four months I will see the Pendlebury Project to completion by finishing up the last bits of item level cataloguing and organising the remaining material to be digitised. After all the material has been processed, I will assess the digital data together with the BSA’s Archivist, Amalia Kakissis, to prepare it to be uploaded to EMu (the BSA’s collection management software used for museum and archive collections). The last part of the project will be to curate the digital data after the catalogue and digital images have been imported into EMu and make the Pendlebury Family Papers available online!

My aim during my first week at the BSA has been to familiarise myself with the material which forms the John Pendlebury Family Papers collection. This is a very rich collection which consists of correspondence, travel logs, and photographs as well as negatives, as Madelin has described in previous entries in this blog. The collection is fascinating. If I had to choose my favourite find of this first week, it would be the copy of Howard Carter’s letter to the Editor of The Illustrated London News on 30 May 1933. In this letter, Carter, who became a famous archaeologist after discovering the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt, thanks the Editor for sending him a letter from John Pendlebury where he describes his discoveries, including sculpture, at El Amarna, in Egypt. I read about Carter’s work during my degree in History at the University of Murcia, in Spain. In particular, I remember reading ‘Gods, Graves & Scholars: The Story of Archaeology’ by C.W. Ceram in my first year. Published in 1949, this book gives a romantic glimpse into the life and work of Carter and other archaeologists who worked in Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia and South America. I feel very lucky to be able to work with this material!

Copy of a letter to the Editor of The Illustrated London News from Howard Carter, [1933]. Copyright: The British School at Athens
Copy of a letter to the Editor of The Illustrated London News from Howard Carter, [1933]. Copyright: The British School at Athens
Other items that have caught my eye are the excavation records and photographic material relating mainly to Crete. In fact, my task during this first week is to finish cataloguing one of the photograph albums containing handwritten itineraries and photos of Pendlebury’s trips around Crete from 1934 to 1939. Let’s see where these trips take me. I’ll keep you posted!

Reflections on my time as Project Assistant for the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive: 8 months of John Pendlebury and family, archaeology, travel, photographs and digitisation

Back in the summer of 2015, after a Skype interview, I was lucky enough to be appointed as the Project Assistant for the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive Project. I moved to Athens and the project commenced at the beginning of October. I started to learn a great deal about the Pendlebury family, archaeology and Greece.

Postcards of Athens, [c. 1927-28], from Hilda Pendlebury’s travel scrapbook. Copyright: The British School at Athens
I spent a fascinating 8 months cataloguing the archive in detail, repackaging the archive, and working with a local digitisation office to organise the digitisation of the archive. By the time I left at the end of June the archive was fully catalogued (mostly to item-level) and the photograph albums, letters and travel logs were digitised. These 3 sections are the richest in the archive and contain a multitude of early 20th century photographs of Greece, details of many trips taken by John and Hilda Pendlebury, and family letters covering the whole of John Pendlebury’s life.  

Travel log containing photographs and extracts from John Pendlebury’s letters to his father, from Greece 1923. Copyright: British School at Athens

Many of these family letters were written during John Pendlebury’s time as a student at Winchester College (1918-1923). I am very grateful to the Wykeham patrons (supporters of Winchester College) who generously funded my work and the digitisation work which was carried out.

There is still some work to be done on completing the digitisation, inputting catalogue data onto EMu (the BSA’s cataloguing software), and linking the digital images to catalogue entries. In an ideal world I would have been able to complete all these tasks, but as the project progressed it became clear that this would not be possible. We had to prioritise tasks but also made a huge leap forward towards completion.

I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to work at the British School at Athens on the John Pendlebury Family Archive. The project was really interesting and I learnt more about archaeology than I realised there was to know. I also gained valuable experience of cataloguing to item-level (which I had rarely done before) and working with EMu.

A page from one of John Pendlebury’s travel logs, containing photographs of a house in Cambridge and of Ralph Lavers (architect) and Herbert Pendlebury (Oct 1934). Copyright: The British School at Athens

I am writing this blog post from an unusually sunny Cambridge, where I am now working as an Assistant Archivist in the Department of Manuscripts and Archives at the University Library. As those who have followed my blog or know about the life of John Pendlebury will realise, he was no stranger to Cambridge. John was a student at Pembroke College and the Faculty of Classics, and John and Hilda lived in various houses in Cambridge between dig seasons in Greece and Egypt. Most mornings I walk past the site of one of their houses (now part of Robinson College).

I hope that my connections with John Pendlebury and the British School at Athens are not completely over, but if they are I will always look back with fond memories.

Approaching Karphi, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

Following John and Hilda Pendlebury’s footsteps in Crete

My 2nd trip to Crete was with the British School at Athens’ Archivist (Amalia Kakissis) and the School’s current Early Career Fellow (Roderick Bailey). We stayed at the British School in Knossos, and together with staff from Knossos followed Pendlebury’s footsteps in Crete. Well…we selected which footsteps to follow as we only had a few days. Over the 14 years that John Pendlebury spent time in Crete he (often accompanied by his wife Hilda) travelled the length and breadth of the island, probably more than once.

Landscape near Karphi, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

Whilst visiting Crete, we took the opportunity to recreate some of the photographs in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. You can see some of our efforts in this blog post.

Taverna, British School in Knossos:


First we explored the archaeological site at Knossos where John was curator from 1929 to 1934.

South Propylaeum, Knossos Palace, 1933 (PEN 7/2/5/320). Copyright: BSA
Throne Room, Knossos Palace (May 1928) in a photograph album in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive (PEN 7/2/4/127). Copyright: British School at Athens
Pithos, Knossos Palace, Feb 1928 (PEN 7/2/4/37). Copyright: The British School at Athens
Inscribed stone, Knossos Palace, May 1928 (PEN 7/2/4/128). Copyright: The British School at Athens
John Pendlebury and Rosaleen Angus on the Royal Road, Knossos Palace, Mar-Jun 1933 (PEN 7/2/5/245). Copyright: British School at Athens

Around the Lasithi Plain we visited the sites of Karphi and the Trapeza Cave which John excavated under the BSA in 1936 and 1938, and Tzermiado village (where the excavation team was based).

Approaching Karphi, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens
Karphi (peak) – the settlement is just over the ridge on the right, between the Karphi and Koprana peaks. From a photograph album in the Pendlebury Archive (PEN 7/2/6/549), 24 May 1936. Copyright: British School at Athens

Views from Karphi:


Trapeza Cave:

View from entrance to Trapeza Cave, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens
Trapeza Cave, before excavation. May-Jun 1936 (PEN 7/2/6/517). Copyright: British School at Athens
Trapeza Cave after excavation, May-Jun 1936 (PEN 7/2/6). Copyright: British School at Athens

Dig-house, Tzermiado:

Excavation house in Tzermiado, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

We visited Archanes and the Ideon Cave (birthplace of Zeus) on Mount Ida. These were both places that John and Hilda Pendlebury had been to.

Church in the centre of Archanes, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

The Ideon Cave and views from the cave:


Entrance to Ideon Cave, May 1932 (PEN 7/2/4/405). Copyright: British School at Athens

We also spent some time in Heraklion and I visited the archaeological museum. This is an excellent museum and I really enjoyed seeing finds from Pendlebury’s excavations at the Trapeza Cave and Karphi. For example, I had seen many photographs of a monkey seal in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. Travelling to Crete not only gave me the opportunity to see the cave where it was found (Trapeza), but to see the object on display and have it explained within a wider context. Now that I have seen the excavation sites and finds first hand, cataloguing the excavation records will be all the more enjoyable.

Workers by the Vitzelovrysis Spring near Karphi, 1939. John Pendlebury commissioned the stone surround for the spring. with the lettering designed by Eric Gill. Photograph in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive (PEN 7/2/6). Copyright: British School at Athens
Vitzelovrysi Spring, April 2016. Recreating the original photograph. Copyright: British School at Athens

Visit to Souda Bay War Cemetery, Crete

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Me at Souda Bay. The beach and War Cemetery in the background.

In April I was lucky enough to visit Crete twice. On the first of these visits I made my way to Souda Bay War Cemetery, just outside of Chania, to see John Pendlebury’s final resting place.

Souda Bay is one of the most tranquil spots that I visited in Crete. The water in the bay is as placid as a lake, a peaceful sandy beach runs between the sea and cemetery, and the cemetery itself is well cared for with lush green grass and plants surrounding the site.

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Main entrance to Souda Bay War Cemetery
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Souda Bay War Cemetery

This is, in fact, John Pendlebury’s 3rd resting place. Though the circumstances of his death (and whether or not he was actually dead) were sketchy for some time after the events, the details are now clearer. This is thanks to a concerted effort on Hilda Pendlebury’s part to establish what had happened to her husband in the confusion of the May 1941 Battle of Crete.

Material in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive includes testimonials gathered from local Cretans who interacted with John during his last hours, letters between Hilda Pendlebury and Herbert Pendlebury about John’s death, and letters from some who were with John in Crete such as Lieutenant Commander Mike Cumberlege (who died in 1945).

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John Pendlebury’s grave, Souda Bay War Cemetery

The exact circumstances of John’s death are detailed in ‘John Pendlebury in Crete’ (250 copies printed for private circulation in 1948). To summarise: on the 21 May 1941 John was wounded in battle outside of Canea Gate in Heraklion, taken prisoner and deposited in a local house for treatment; a new German unit arrived the next day, searched the house, took John outside and shot him; he was first buried near the main road from Heraklion to the west; later he was moved to the British part of the Heraklion cemetery; and then to Souda Bay War Cemetery.

On my second visit to Crete, we (I was with British School colleagues) visited the cemetery that John was buried in, and Pendlebury Street outside Canea Gate which should be (more or less) the site of John’s death/first burial.

A sign on Pendlebury street, “English Archaeologist, fell in the Battle of Crete”


Weeks 23-29, 28th Mar – 13th May

I have spent the last 7 weeks of the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive Project cataloguing the photograph series, preparing material for digitisation and working with a digitisation company to begin digitising the archive.

So far I have catalogued 5 out of 7 large photograph albums. The majority of photographs in these albums document John and Hilda Pendlebury’s travels and work in Crete. I was lucky enough to travel to Crete twice in April and to see some of the places documented, and so cataloguing the albums at this time has been particularly interesting. I will write more about my time in Crete in forthcoming blog posts.

A photograph of the Lasithi Plain seen from the Trapeza Cave (Crete), in the John Pendlebury Family Archive. We visited the cave, and saw a similar view, in April 2016. Copyright: The British School at Athens
Photograph taken from near the Trapeza Cave, April 2016

Cataloguing the photograph albums has taken a long time because, like the travel logs, they are simply crammed full of photographs (the 5 albums catalogued so far contain around 1500 photographs). I am giving each photograph its own description, and some descriptions take more time to compile than others.

The descriptions take longer if:

  • I need to look up the place name in a thesaurus (as explained in my blog post of the 18th of December).
  • I don’t recognise a landscape or archaeological site (and they are not captioned) and then need to spend some time identifying the subject.
  • I have seen the photograph before, so need to find the duplicate for cross referencing. As explained in my previous blog post there is a lot of duplication of photographic prints in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive.

I have also been preparing the parts of the archive which have already been catalogued for digitisation. This preparation has included checking the numbering and packaging of items, and writing specific guidance for the digitisation of each section.

Pages from a photograph album of Crete (PEN 7/2/4), in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. Copyright: The British School at Athens

So far digital images of sections 1 and 2 have been captured on flat-bed and book-eye scanners (the correspondence and travel logs). The first 5 photograph albums have already gone off for digitisation and once the photograph section is finished, we’ll be halfway through the digitisation aspect of the project.

During the next few weeks, as well as liaising with the digitiser and transporting material to the digitisation office, I will continue cataloguing photographs in the collection. I have just started an album which contains over 900 photographs, so I imagine this may take some time. After the photograph albums are completed, I will move on to some loose photographs of Greece and Egypt, and family photographs.


Weeks 19-22, 29th Feb-25th Mar

During the past 4 weeks of the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive Project I have completed cataloguing the correspondence (though I may return to this section to add more detail), and begun cataloguing photograph albums.

The cataloguing of the correspondence (section 1) was completed with less detail than I was using to describe letters previously. This is so that this section will be ready for digitisation, as explained in my previous post. These less detailed catalogue descriptions still include a title, reference code, previous reference codes, level of description, covering dates, and extent and medium, for each item. The difference between these descriptions and the more detailed ones is that I have not described the content of the letters. I hope to be able to return to this section to add more detail at a later date.

Letters sent to John Pendlebury’s parents (Herbert and Lilian) about his education. Copyright: The British School at Athens

The letters which I have catalogued in the past 4 weeks include: letters from Hilda Pendlebury to Herbert Pendlebury (John’s father) and Mabel Dickinson (John’s step-mother) sent just after she and John were married; letters to John’s parents about his education; and letters to Hilda’s mother and sister (Dora) from Hilda and John.

After completing the section of correspondence, I moved on to cataloguing photograph albums (in section 7). These are a priority because they are a slightly unknown quantity. What I mean by that is that each photograph is to be catalogued to item level and the number of photographs varies from album to album. There is also duplication of photographic prints between albums; between albums and loose photographs; between albums and negatives; and between albums and travel logs (section 2). This duplication needs to be checked and described in the catalogue (through cross-referencing) to avoid future confusion and digitisation of duplicates.

Pages from “Album Mycenae” containing a diagram of the Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agememnon, notes, and photographs of features of the tholos tomb. Copyright: British School at Athens

The first photograph album I catalogued is labelled “Album Mycenae: The Tholos Tombs of Mycenae & elsewhere with The Citadel of Mycenae & its Environs.” This contains plans, notes and photographs and represents John Pendlebury’s work documenting and understanding archaeological sites during his studentship at the British School at Athens (1927-1928).

The volume also contains some, seemingly unrelated, loose photographs of Knossos and a temple in Egypt. Some of these photographs took some time, a bit of detective work, and picking the brains of an archaeologist who knows the subject matter, to be able to catalogue them. It is really very helpful to be surrounded by specialists who know what a specific site looks like or what a type of pottery is called.

Loose photographs of Knossos found slotted inside “Album Mycenae”. Copyright: The British School at Athens

I have also started cataloguing a photograph album of Greece compiled by Hilda in 1927-1928. I’ve already noted a lot of duplication of photographs which are in John’s travel logs for the same period. This makes a lot of sense as John, Hilda, and other students or members of the British School at Athens, travelled in Greece together during these years and often shared photographs.

Students of the British School at Athens travelling in Greece: Bob Dixon, Hilda White (later Pendlebury) and John Pendlebury (photograph by Margaret Rodger), [24 Nov 1927]. Copyright: The British School at Athens
Next, I will continue cataloguing photograph albums (there are 7 of these) and then move on to family photographs and bundles of loose photographs. I am hoping to overcome some of the challenges presented by the loose photos (most of which are unlabelled) by cataloguing these after the other photographs. Some may be duplicate prints, or I may be able to identify them more easily as I’ll be more familiar with the subject matter.