Weeks 17 & 18, 15th-19th & 22nd-26th Feb

Over the past 2 weeks I have completed cataloguing section 2 of the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive (records of travels and journeys); sorted a file of around 100 undated letters from John Pendlebury to his father (and succeeded in dating some of them); continued cataloguing correspondence; and prepared an order for archival repackaging materials.

The file of undated letters included 21 sent from Pembroke College, Cambridge, when John was a student (1923-1927). I had previously thought that these letters were missing from the archive, and wondered what had happened to them, so it was a relief to find that they were here after all. Subjects covered include John’s examinations, Herbert Pendlebury (John’s father) sending him academic notes, John’s contemporaries and tutors, and sporting activities.

Undated letters from John Pendlebury to his father (Herbert Pendlebury), sent whilst John was a student in Cambridge (1923-1927). Copyright: The British School at Athens

Dating the letters from Pembroke College was fairly straight forward, as most were written on College paper or Hawks Club headed paper (a members-only social club for sportsmen at the University of Cambridge). Some of the other undated letters have presented more of a challenge. It has been necessary to read the letters carefully, look for any clues or events which may date the letters, and cross reference them with letters that do have a date. For example, I was able to roughly date some letters that mentioned using Uncle Stanley’s camera, as there is another dated letter in which John describes meeting Uncle Stanley who was generously giving him a large camera.

One of the undated letters gives an amusing glimpse into social and sporting life on an Egyptian Exploration Society excavation in Armant, Egypt, in January 1929. The camp had just received a delivery of hockey sticks and John writes…

“They improve the game immensely and are a great advantage, our game has gone up tremendously since we stopped using walking sticks”.

In another undated letter, John recounts how he had accidentally revealed himself to a dining room full of strangers in Munich during his trip across Europe with Bob Dixon in 1927.

Extract from a letter, from John Pendlebury to Herbert Pendlebury (Munich, Oct 1927). Copyright: The British School at Athens

The later part of the records of travels and journeys (section 2 of the archive) contains accounts of John and Hilda Pendlebury’s travels in Greece, written up by Hilda and with added photographs. These accounts were written after the events, and a small section was published as ‘A Journey in Crete’ in ‘Archaeology’ (Autumn 1964, Vol. 17, No. 3).

This last section of “records of travels and journeys” also contains a folder of information about travel routes in Crete which came from the British School at Knossos. This folder is part of an accession received from Sinclair Hood (Director of the BSA 1954-1962 and Honorary Curator at Knossos 1962-63). The folder seems to have been kept in Knossos for use by others wanting to travel around the island, and contains details of journeys made by John and Hilda Pendlebury but also by their contemporaries including Humfry Payne, Thomas Dunbabin and Mercy Money-Coutts.

Folder and contents, “Routes in Crete”, from the British School at Knossos (1927-1939). Copyright: The British School at Athens

Finally, I have decided how to repackage the material within the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive and prepared an order for the repackaging material. Perhaps not the most exciting or glamorous area of archive work, but certainly essential to the task of preserving the archive for future generations. Repackaging is particularly important for photographic material which is much more susceptible to environmental factors such as heat and humidity, and is often damaged by original packaging. The collection includes a variety of photographic negatives in different sizes, glass plate negatives, and many photographic prints (around half of which are in volumes such as travel logs or photograph albums).

Next, I will be returning to cataloguing correspondence. I will catalogue the next section of letters in less detail (than the earlier letters) in order to get them ready for digitisation. I’ll hopefully be able to return to the descriptions later and add more information, but for now getting the digitisation element of the project underway is a priority.


Week 7, 16th-20th November

This week I have finished cataloguing the section of correspondence sent to Hilda Pendlebury, and begun cataloguing correspondence sent to John’s parents (Herbert and Lilian Pendlebury).

Some of letters that I catalogued at the beginning of the week were sent to Hilda after John’s death in 1941. These are evidence of how Hilda, Herbert and John’s friends and colleagues tried ascertain the exact circumstances of John’s death. This included gathering eyewitness reports from local Cretans (which are in the archive).

Photograph of John Pendlebury’s Grave at Souda Bay War Cemetery, Crete. Hilda visited John’s grave during a visit to Crete in 1947. Copyright: British School at Athens.

The letters sent to Hilda after 1941 also show how John was commemorated with an endowment for a school prize, a donation of books to the Villa Ariadne, obituaries, a bust in Heraklion (Crete) and the publication of ‘John Pendlebury in Crete’.

‘John Pendlebury in Crete’ was published in 1948 and includes a summary of what was known from investigations into John’s death in the form of a chapter written by Tom Dunbabin (‘Last Days – May 1941’). Hilda gave a copy of the book to many of John’s friends which prompted letters of reply reminiscing about John.

So many things come back to me as I think of him – his quirks and pranks as assistant secretary of the P.C.D.S. Ye Joyeux Companie of St Pol which he founded – a strange secret society assembled to tell stories, one of which was told by the Grand Seneschale on behalf of the absent Master of the College

(From a letter by Rowe Harding, a friend of John’s at Pembroke College)

I spent the second half of this week (back-in-time a few decades) cataloguing some of John’s childhood letters to his parents. I have been cataloguing letters sent from St George’s School in Broadstairs, Kent, from 1915-1916. The school faced out to the English Channel and John witnessed warships (passing by and once firing at a submarine), air raid sirens and being called to the “dug out” (air raid shelter), and aeroplanes and zeppelins flying overhead. This was all very exciting to a boy of 12 and the games he played with his friends often involved battles, raids on dormitories, and building armoured cars and trains.

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A file of letters from John to his parents (Herbert and Lilian Pendlebury), 1915-1916. Copyright: British School at Athens

Next week I will continue cataloguing John’s letters to his parents.