Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Remembering Sheppard Frere (1916-2015)

Waxwork figure of Sheppard Frere,
Roman Museum, Canterbury, Kent
photo: Linda Spashett (Storye book)
Distinguished Roman historian and archaeologist Sheppard Frere, CBE, FSA, FBA, passed away on February 25th at 98 years old. Although most will associate him with his book, Britannia: A History of Roman Britain, London, 1967, and subsequent revised editions, or for his excavations of Verulamium, when I heard the news my mind immediately went to his (as editor) Problems of the Iron Age in Southern Britain; papers given at a C.B.A. conference held at the Institute of Archaeology, 12 to 14 December 1958.

A considerable part of the latter volume was taken up by D. F. Allen, FSA, The Origins of Coinage in Britain: A Reappraisal, which was inspired by the discovery of the 1957 Le Catillon hoard (Jersey) and the excavations at Bagendon in Gloucestershire between 1955 and 1957. Allen's paper included a gazetteer of find spots of Celtic coins in Britain.

Sheppard Frere and D. F. Allen then collaborated on the first (card file) Celtic Coin Index at the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford and the first records are dated 1961. The tradition of the Celtic coin findspot gazetteer was continued by a number of publications by Colin Haselgrove, BSc (Sussex), MA, Ph.D. (Cantab), FHEA, FBA, FSA, FSAS.

Sheppard Frere was an important part of a lively, growing, interest in Celtic Britain and he and Allen's Celtic Coin Index inspired me to create an online version which was mostly constructed by my wife, Carin Perron (1957-2003). I never knew Sheppard Frere, he was part of a renaissance of Iron Age Celtic studies that took place when I was just a schoolboy, but I am sure that today's Portable Antiquity Scheme owes much to him for its inspiration.

On  February 25th, British history, archaeology, and Celtic coin studies lost an icon.

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