Weeks 15 & 16, 25th-29th Jan & 8th-12th Feb

During the past 2 weeks of the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive Project (with a week-long break in the middle) I have finished cataloguing John’s travel logs, and seen a different perspective on things by cataloguing Hilda’s travel log (there is just one in the archive).

Pages from one of John Pendlebury’s travel logs, containing photographs of Kodok (Fashoda) in South Sudan and Abu Simbel in Egypt (March 1938). Copyright: The British School at Athens

The last of John’s travel logs was very interesting, and includes some fantastic photographs. It covers a trip to archaeological sites in Iraq (including an Oriental Institute of Chicago excavation at Tell Asmar, and Babylon), Syria, Lebanon and Palestine in 1933; a 2nd trip to Palestine (with Hilda this time) in 1935; a journey from England to Egypt in November 1933 which included stops at Gibraltar and Pompeii; and a trip (which John took alone) to Sudan, Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Egypt (where he met up with Hilda) in 1938. The volume also includes the less exotic locations of the Lake District (Oct 1933) and Hadrian’s Wall (Aug 1937), and photographs of a house in Cambridge that the Pendlebury’s must have been considering renting.

“Dumping” at the excavation at Khafaje [Khafajah], Iraq, (Feb 1933). Copyright: The British School at Athens
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

John’s travel log contains a photograph of a Nairn Car in Ramadi, Iraq. I did a little research about these to find out why John may have photographed it. It turns out that the Nairn Transport Company ran a service taking passengers between Beirut and Baghdad from 1923 to 1956, and that the Middle East Centre Archive at St Antony’s College in Oxford has the company’s archive.

Nairn Car at Ramadi, Iraq (Feb 1933), in one of John Pendlebury’s travel logs. Copyright: The British School at Athens

Hilda Pendlebury’s travel log takes the form of a scrapbook containing a handwritten account, postcards and photographs. The handwritten account is of a trip to Italy (which is undated but judging by the content must have been between 1922 and 1925) which Hilda went on before she met John, and it seems that she travelled from the United Kingdom with a group of archaeologists to see sites around Rome, Naples and Florence. Following the account of her travels to Italy, the scrapbook does not contain any more handwritten accounts but does contain further (mainly unlabeled) photographs and postcards of Cambridge, Melrose Abbey in Edinburgh, Whitby, Venice, Athens, Rhodes and Crete, as well as photographs of John and Hilda’s wedding.

Part of handwritten account of a trip to Italy, by Hilda Pendlebury, illustrated with postcards and a photograph. [c. 1922-25]. Copyright: The British School at Athens
The photographs of Crete in Hilda’s travel log were unlabeled and hard to identify for the untrained (in archaeology) eye. Luckily I was able to cross reference these photographs with photograph albums of Crete within the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. The photographs in Hilda’s scrapbook turned out to be duplicated in the photograph albums, where they were labeled.

As well as finishing off cataloguing the travel logs I have begun entering catalogue data into EMu (the BSA’s cataloguing software) which I discussed in week 5. I am getting to grips with the software which is a little different from systems that I have used before, and it feels good to have begun getting some of the data into its final form. Entering the data into EMu is a good opportunity to double check my catalogue entries, and to add information or correct things where details have become apparent through familarisation with the archive.

Next week I will continue entering data into EMu and continue cataloguing records of John and Hilda’s travels. Now I have pretty much finished the travel logs, the next section is comprised of accounts of John and Hilda’s travels written much later by Hilda (probably in preparation for a publication).

Postcards of Athens, [c. 1927-28], from Hilda Pendlebury’s travel scrapbook. Copyright: The British School at Athens

Weeks 13 & 14, 11th-22nd Jan

Photograph of John Pendlebury taken during his honeymoon (22 Sep 1928). Reference: PEN 2/2/3/7. Copyright: The British School at Athens

These past 2 weeks have been all about cataloguing the travel logs which I discussed in my previous post. I am currently part way through the 5th (of 6), and these have followed John and Hilda’s travels up to 1931 so far.

Most of the items in the travel logs are small photographs that have been stuck in and labelled by John. John’s captions should be very helpful when I come on to cataloguing the section of loose photographs (many of which are not labelled), as I believe there are possibly photographs printed from the same negatives or at least from the same occasions.

It has been interesting to look at photographs of places in Greece and Italy (John and Hilda visited archaeological sites in Sicily and mainland Italy from December 1929 to January 1930), but I have also enjoyed the photographs of people. Most of the people featured are mentioned in letters, or in other papers, in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. Having photographs of these individuals helps to bring the papers to life.

Here are some of my favourites from the last 2 weeks.

Photographs from a 2 day trip to Khalkís, Erétria and Thebes from Athens (March 1930). Copyright: The British School at Athens
Photographs of John and Hilda Pendlebury during their honeymoon (September 1928). Copyright: The British School at Athens
Photographs from a day trip which Hilda and John went on to Vouliagméni (near Athens), 19 May 1928. Copyright: The British School at Athens



Week 12, 4th – 8th Jan

This week I have had a break from cataloguing letters, and started cataloguing travel logs within the John Pendlebury Family Papers. Cataloguing the letters has been taking a long time as they are so detailed and there are so many of them (1125 in total). We decided it would be best for me to move on to another section for a while so that I can get some of the material ready for digitisation quicker, but also because the letters and travel logs relate to each other.

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

The travel logs that I am cataloguing now are from the same period as letters that I have already catalogued. They are helping me to add extra detail to the descriptions of the letters, and I am adding cross references into the descriptions for the letters and the travel logs. This should be helpful for future researchers.

At the beginning of the week the BSA Archivist and I discussed how to best structure the descriptions of the travel logs. The travel logs are notebooks with itineraries, descriptions and a lot of small photographs stuck inside. Each photograph is to be catalogued to item level and there will also be a higher level description of the volume. We thought about how things will be numbered in the digitisation process to make sure that everything has a unique reference number, and that the reference numbers for the digital images and physical items match up. We had to consider that double page spreads will be captured in the digitisation process, and whilst these are not to have their own catalogue description they will be numbered.

The travel logs in the John Pendlebury Family Papers are a series of 6 volumes. The first volume was compiled by Herbert Pendlebury (John’s father), whilst the others were compiled by John.

First page of travel log from Pen 02 001
First page of travel log of John Pendlebury’s trip to Greece with Mr Cullen, 1923. Copyright: British School at Athens

For the first travel log Herbert wrote out extracts of John’s letters sent home from Greece in 1923, and photographs have been added to the volume (presumably after John’s return). John had travelled to see archaeological sites with James Cullen (a young Classics master) during the Easter holidays of his final year at Winchester College. The travel log not only documents the pair’s tour of archaeological sites in Greece, but also their journey through Europe.

Photographs of James Cullen and John Pendlebury with locals in [Livadeia], Central Greece, 1923. Copyright: British School at Athens
The travel logs are a fascinating and detailed record of John and Hilda’s travels in Greece and Sicily, and also John’s trips to Iraq, Syria and Palestine (in 1935) and East Africa (in 1938). I have found it very interesting to see John, Hilda and their travelling companions’ photographs of sites that I recognise in Athens and Corinth.

Travel log containing photographs of sites in Athens, 1923. Copyright: British School at Athens

So far I have catalogued the first travel log from 1923, and partially catalogued “Greece 1927-28 Vol. I”. Next week I will continue cataloguing the travel logs.

Week 11, 14th-18th Dec

This week I have been cataloguing letters from John to his father (Herbert) which were sent during John and Hilda’s first excavation season in Egypt (Nov 1928-Mar 1929), John’s first season as Curator at Knossos (Mar-Jul 1930), during a cruise around some of the Greek islands (Apr 1929), and from Athens, Sicily and Cambridge.

Letters from Sicily, Athens and Egypt
Letters sent to Herbert Pendlebury from Sicily, Athens and Egypt. Copyright: The British School at Athens

John’s future career looms large as a subject in the letters I have been cataloguing this week.  There is discussion of a job offer from the British Museum, Herbert’s encouragement for John to accept a lectureship at Cambridge University (which John enthusiastically declined), John becoming the first recipient of the Macmillan studentship at the BSA, and accepted offers of the Curatorship at Knossos and Directorship of the Egyptian Exploration Society excavation at Amarna.

The archive shows that John was extremely pleased to receive the unexpected offer of the Directorship of the Amarna excavation. He writes…

“Amarna means a real chance of making a name – and what is more a definite position and hold on both sides. It is a great and famous site and it is the biggest compliment I have ever been payed to be asked to succeed such celebrities as Petrie, Borchardt, Peet, Woolley, Griffith and Frankfort”.

The Egyptian Exploration Society Lucy Gura Archive has digitised film footage of life at the Amarna excavation, which features John Pendlebury and is available to watch online.

Other subjects covered in the letters include a dispute with Spyridon Marinatos (Director of the Candia Museum [Heraklion Archaeological Museum]), disagreement with conclusions in John’s article on ‘Egypt and the Aegean in the Late Bronze Age’, publication of ‘Aegyptiaca’, and a cruise around the Greek Islands with Charles and Isabel Seltman.

Postcard from Chios
A postcard from Chios sent to Herbert Pendlebury from John Pendlebury, during a cruise around Greek islands (Apr 1929). Copyright: The British School at Athens

This week I have been getting to grips with the Getty Geographical Thesaurus, a controlled vocabulary tool, to decide which version of place names to use. This tool is particularly important for cataloguing the material about Greece and Egypt, as there are quite a few variants of place names [partly due to differences in transliteration from different alphabets] . Using controlled vocabulary terms will help researchers look for material relating to places and ensure consistency in my cataloguing.

I will be taking a break over Christmas, but when I come back at the beginning of January I will continue cataloguing John’s letters to his father.

Week 10, 7th-11th Dec

Letters sent from Greece Sep & Oct 1928
File of letters from John Pendlebury to his father, from Greece. September – October 1928. Copyright: The British School at Athens

This week I have finished cataloguing John’s letters written to his father during his studentship at the BSA (British School at Athens) from November 1927 to May 1928. I have also completed the descriptions for letters that John sent to Herbert (his father) from London and Cambridge during the summer of 1928; and from Athens, the Peloponnese and Thessaloniki in September and October 1928.

The letters sent during John’s studentship contain information relating to an item in the museum collection at the BSA. The correspondence reveals that during a trip to Aegina John and Hilda “picked up” parts of a Minyan bowl near what John described as the temple of Aphrodite (probably the temple of Apollo). Later letters reveal that John gave the fragments of the bowl to the BSA’s collection and that it had been found in a “dump of sherds” left by a German archaeological team during their excavations at the temple. With the help of the BSA Archivist I looked for this item in the museum catalogue, and there it was – or what seems highly likely to be the same bowl.

The information from the John Pendlebury Family papers can be added to the museum catalogue to give the item more context. Here we have a clear example of how cataloguing a specific collection can enrich the overall knowledge of collections, particularly where there are these explicit links.

The letters sent from London and Cambridge in the summer of 1928 include Johns announcement of his engagement to Hilda. John quotes, what can be assumed was Herbert’s letter announcing his engagement to Mabel Dickinson, writing…

‘Your own style is best. “You will probably be surprised to hear that I am engaged” – to Hilda White who got back today from Greece.’

John and Hilda Pendlebury
John and Hilda Pendlebury on their wedding day (15 Sep 1928), from the Pendlebury Family Papers. Copyright: British School at Athens

John and Hilda were engaged in June and married in September. They then returned to Greece for a week-long honeymoon in the Peloponnese and some work in Thessaloniki (sorting sherds from an excavation in Chalkidiki which John had been part of earlier that year).

The latest section of letters that I have catalogued describe the honeymoon, the work in Thessaloniki and arrangements for their journey to Egypt – John and Hilda’s next stop.

Back of letter with route of honeymoon
A map of the route of John and Hilda’s travels for their honeymoon in the Peloponnese, on the back of a letter to Herbert Pendlebury. Copyright: The British School at Athens

Next week I will be continuing to catalogue John’s letters to his father, beginning with his first dig season in Egypt.

Week 9, 30th Nov-4th Dec

Folder of letters from John at Winchester College
A file of letters sent to Lilian and Herbert Pendlebury from John Pendlebury whilst he was at Winchester College. Copyright: The British School at Athens

Whilst completing the catalogue descriptions of John’s letters to his parents from Winchester College I discovered more about the terminology that I was puzzling over last week. This terminology is called ‘notions’. There have been official books of the terms published, and John refers to spending time learning them in his letters. The number of notions in use has declined over time, but there is still a current booklet which pupils of the College can purchase and a glossary of some of the terms on Winchester College’s website.

I also discovered that Winchester College Football is a distinct game from football, and that both are played at the College (and were played by John). Depending on the context and terminology used it is usually possible to determine which sport John was discussing in his letters. He was a very sporting pupil and as well as playing  both types of football he took part in activities including competitive rifle shooting, cricket, fives, athletics (hurdles and high-jump) and the Steeplechase race.

After finishing the first draft of the descriptions of John’s letters to his parents from Winchester, I checked through the descriptions again making additions and adjustments. I found I was able to make more sense of some of the letters once I had learnt more about the Winchester College environment and context that John was writing in.

I have now moved on to cataloguing John’s letters to his father which were written whilst he was based here, at the British School at Athens, from 1927-28. John arrived in November 1927 with a studentship and a task to trace all archaeological finds of Egyptian origin in Greece up to 664 BC. His letters to his father reveal first impressions of the British School and his fellow residents, including his future wife Hilda White.

…Miss White who alone of the lot strikes one as being at all human, she reminds me of Vera rather. The rest are definitely sub-human.” (20 Nov 1927)

“I only wish everyone wouldn’t be so obviously learned to the eyebrows. It makes me feel like such an impostor being here at all.” (20 Nov 1927)

The British School residents wasted no time in organising expeditions to other parts of Greece. The letters I have been cataloguing are full of descriptions of trips to Thessaly, the Argolid and Crete – which has prompted regular searches on Google maps!

Map from letter about East Crete trip 1928 BSA 1410
A map of John’s trip around Eastern Crete with Hilda White, Vivien Whitfield and Margaret Rodger (from the British School at Athens) in 1928. From a letter to Herbert Pendlebury. Copyright: The British School at Athens

John’s letters from Greece are written solely to his father. His mother, Lilian Pendlebury, had died of heart failure in September 1921 when she was only 50 and John was just 16. The archive does not tell us much of John’s reaction to this tragedy as there is a gap in the surviving correspondence between March 1921 and November 1927.

The only material within the John Pendlebury Family Papers dating from the mid-1920s are a few letters sent to Herbert about John from Winchester College and Pembroke College, a travel log of John’s travels in Greece in 1923, some school notebooks containing essays, and a hand-drawn plan of Tanagra (from John’s travels in 1923). I am not yet certain whether the letters from the schools to Herbert contain much about John’s reaction to the death of his mother, but this will become clear once they are catalogued.

Herbert Pendlebury, photograph in the John Pendlebury Family Papers. Copyright: The British School at Athens

So why is there a gap in the letters? Perhaps John ceased writing, or (as I believe to be more likely) the letters have been lost. He certainly did write to Herbert from Greece in 1923, as those letters were transcribed by Herbert into the 1923 travel log. Herbert moved to Malvern to live with his new wife, Mabel Dickinson (“Dickie”), in 1925. So perhaps the letters were lost in the move.

This week I will continue cataloguing John’s letters sent to his father from Greece in 1927-28, and then hopefully move on to his letters from London (when preparing for his marriage to Hilda White in 1928), Greece (during his honeymoon) and Egypt (1928-29).


Week 8, 23rd-27th Nov

I began the week by continuing working through John’s letters to his parents (Lilian and Herbert Pendlebury) from St George’s School in Broadstairs, Kent, which he attended until February 1917. I then catalogued letters sent to John’s parents from Beaudesert Park, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire (May 1917 – Mar 1918), before moving on to his letters from Winchester College.

Letter sent from Henley in Arden illustrations
Letter to Herbert Pendlebury, from Beaudesert Park school (24 Mar 1918). Includes illustrations of Theseus killing the Minotaur and Hannibal drinking poison. Copyright: the British School at Athens

John usually sent letters home from school at least once a week, mainly written on Sundays and to his mother. There are occasional letters to Herbert Pendlebury, though mostly reporting on academic progress. The letters written to Lilian reveal a lot about John’s life at school, interactions with other pupils, and extra curricula activities. He was not shy of informing his mother about his misbehaving….

…only to find there was more excitement down at Commoner Gate so we went there in pyjamas and danced and sang Domum and heard speeches and cheered and were told to say “good night” by History Bill…which only made us sing Domum all through again. By the time we got really into bed it was 11 and there were morning lines the next morning.”


Letter to Lilian Pendlebury from John, sent from Winchester College. John mentions books by Henry Rider Haggard and uses Winchester College terminology. Copyright: British School at Athens

Last week I found myself browsing a list of books by Henry Rider Haggard, as the letters reveal that John was a big fan of these adventure stories. He often asked for these books from his parents, and discussed reading them or lending them to friends.

I have also been puzzling over terminology that was used at Winchester College, and that John used liberally in his letters home from the school. Winchester College was founded by William of Wykeham (Bishop of Winchester and former Chancellor of England) in the 14th century and has been educating boys continuously since then.

Chapel at Winchester College. Photograph by Andrew Powers (2005), Wikimedia Commons.

I have been finding ‘Winchester College : a brief history & guide’, Winchester College’s website and the Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang useful for deciphering John’s letters from Winchester. Terms used include “cuse”, “sweats”, “Pots” and “Hatch Thoke”.

“Cuse” = the weekly order of the pupils’ marks in each division of the school. The term is used in sentences such as “I was 2nd in cuse”.

“Sweats” = chores carried out by pupils.  Synonymous with the public school system of fagging.

“Pots”= house football (and possibly other sports) leagues.

“Hatch Thoke” = Founders commemoration day (holiday).

This week I will continue cataloguing John’s letters to his parents from Winchester College (there are over 100 of these), and then hopefully progress to some later letters by the end of the week.