Abingdon Area Archaeology and History Society

Meetings Programme 2021-22

Welcome to our meetings page. Our year runs from September through till June.
Meetings are normally held in the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS, starting at 7.45pm. 
We will be adding to this page with updates and further information as soon as we have it. 

Thursday 20th January 20227.45pm

IMPORTANT - meeting moved to Zoom

After careful consideration, we have decided to hold this meeting by Zoom, rather than in person, because of the Covid situation. We will keep the position under review month by month, and return to in-person meetings as soon as it feels safe to do so. The Zoom link will be sent to members nearer the date. If any non-member would like to attend this talk please email Michael Bloom and the link will be sent to you. We will not be asking for a visitor's donation for this meeting.

Katharina Ulmschneider (Director of HEIR):
The Camel that fled the Nazis - The Story of a T'ang Dynasty Camel in the Ashmolean Museum 

Tang CamelOn the first floor of the Ashmolean Museum in the Asian Crossroads gallery the visitor is greeted by a large, Chinese, pottery camel on a plinth. The Tang Dynasty camel serves as a symbol of the Silk Roads linking East to West, but there is much more to it than initially meets the eye. Little does the label show that this is a camel with history, a camel that fled the Nazis, a camel that survived persecution, war, and exile. This talk will trace the origins of the camel and its astonishing 20th century journey from Nazi Germany to wartime Britain in the luggage of enigmatic refugee scholar Prof. Paul Jacobsthal. Nazi perversion of archaeology, secret escapes, subterfuge, and propaganda are just some of the themes that will feature as the extraordinary story of Jacobsthal and his camel is being uncovered. 

katharina Katharina Ulmschneider (Director of HEIR)

Dr Katharina Ulmschneider is a Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College Oxford, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and an Associate Member of the Society of Archivists. She has published widely on archaeological refugee scholars, medieval archaeology and economy, and on the impact of metal-detecting in archaeology. Her co-edited books Markets in Early Medieval Europe won the British Archaeology Book award in 2004, and Celtic Art in Europe was shortlisted Current Archaeology Book of the Year 2016. In 2013 she became Co-Director of the Historic Environment Image Resource at the School of Archaeology, Oxford, and is currently finishing a book on refugee archaeologist Prof. Paul Jacobsthal.

 Visitors are welcome at our in-person speaker meetings - suggested donation £3. No donations are required for Zoom meetings.

Thursday 17th February 20227.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS
Timothy Walker (Oxford University):
"The History of Oxford University Botanic Garden"
Thursday 17th March 2022, 7.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS 
Nina Morgan (OU Museum of Natural History):
"William Smith and the History of Geology in Oxfordshire"
Thursday 21st April 2022, 7.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS
Stephen Barker (Heritage Advisor):
"Oxfordshire (the modern county) in the English Civil War" with especial reference to the Abingdon area
Thursday 19th May 2022, 7.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS
 Ed Peveler (Archaeology Officer at Berkshire Archaeology, formerly Landscape Heritage Officer, Chilterns AONB):
 "The Use of LiDAR in Archaeology" with especial reference to the Chiltern Hillforts Project and sites in Berkshire
(Lambrick Lecture 2022)
Thursday 16th June 2022, 7.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS
Members' Evening


Thursday 16th September 2021, 7.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS

The talk will follow the Annual General Meeting (AGM)

 How Pagan were Medieval English Peasants?

For most of the twentieth century most historians believed that the common people of medieval England had remained substantially pagan in their religious beliefs. This view has now disappeared, for reasons that will be explained, and the time seems right to ask three questions about medieval popular religion in England. Why did belief in a pagan medieval populace develop and last so long among experts, and then be abandoned? What is the actual evidence for medieval popular religion? What new perspectives can be obtained on it by comparing it with paganism? This talk aims to suggest answers to all three.

Professor Ronald Hutton

Ronald Hutton


Ronald Hutton is the senior Professor of History in the University of Bristol, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Learned Society of Wales, and the British Academy. He is the historian on the board of trustees which runs English Heritage, and chair of the Blue Plaques panel which awards commemorative plaques to historic buildings. He has published seventeen books and eighty-one essays on a wide range of subjects including British history between 1400 and 1700, ancient and modern paganism in Britain, the British ritual year, and Siberian shamanism. 

Professor Hutton’s face is well known as he appears in many historical television documentaries, and his insightful observations on the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of people in past times invariably enhance our understanding of an area of life not always fully appreciated. We are extremely fortunate that he has agreed to come and speak to us – a talk not to be missed. 


Thursday 21st October 2021, 7.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS
(The Lambrick Lecture 2021) 
Dr. Tania Dickinson (York University, retd.): "The Staffordshire Hoard: an Anglo-Saxon Treasure"
Staffordshire PommelSince its discovery in 2009 near Lichfield, the ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ has dazzled and perplexed scholars and the public alike. The assemblage – the largest yet known of early Anglo-Saxon gold – exists solely as fragments, mainly from swords and military parade gear but also from some of the earliest pieces of English ecclesiastical treasure. How did this unique assemblage come together and why was it buried, apparently alone? In 2019, the results of a six-year research project by a team of conservators, archaeologists and historians were published, as a book and online. The talk will provide an overview of the arguments: it will outline the character, dating, origins and social contexts of the material, and the wider archaeological and historical contexts into which it might be placed. Explanations are far from exhausted, however.
Image shows a Staffordshire Pommel

Dr. Tania Dickinson 

Tania Dickinson

 Tania Dickinson read history at St Anne’s College, Oxford, followed by a DPhil at the Institute of Archaeology, studying the early Anglo-Saxon burial sites of the Upper Thames region. She was a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology, University College, Cardiff, before in 1979 becoming a founder member of academic staff at the Department of Archaeology, University of York. Since retirement in 2011, she has been an honorary research associate of the Department. She has published widely on Anglo-Saxon archaeology, especially its burials, artefacts and art, including papers on the Oxfordshire ‘princely’ burials of Cuddesdon and Asthall. She was an academic co-editor of The Staffordshire Hoard: an Anglo-Saxon Treasure, published by the Society of Antiquaries of London, of which she is a fellow.

Thursday 18th November 2021, 7.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS
 Tony Rayner (Cholsey resident, naturalist and historian): 'Cholsey - a very special place' 
AC House Cholsey
This talk will outline the history of Cholsey village from Saxon times until the present day and will feature some of its notable residents over the years. These include the world's most published female author – Agatha Christie.
Image: Winterbrook House: Agatha Christie's House in Cholsey
Tony Rayner 

Following retirement from Oxfam twenty years ago, Tony devoted much of his time to natural history interests and to writing. The writing includes over 100 nature articles for Cholsey's magazine and three published books about Cholsey with a fourth in the pipeline. He is a former president of Reading & District Natural History Society and a former Chairman of Abingdon Naturalists’ Society.'


 Thursday 16th December 2021, 7.45pm at the Northcourt Centre, Northcourt Road, Abingdon OX14 1NS
Ian Giles (Oxford Waits Band)
Historical Christmas and Winter Folk Songs and Music -  Live Costumed Performanceian giles
Ian Giles is a traditional folk singer who also plays various traditional instruments. He has been performing and recording with Oxford folk group Magpie Lane and The Oxford Waits for over 25 years. The Oxford Waits are a revival of a medieval tradition of town bands which played for festive and ceremonial occasions. The modern Oxford group specialise in the music of the 17th century through its changes in political and religious fortune. 
For our Christmas event, Ian will give a costumed talk and performance of folk and traditional songs for Christmas and the winter season, particularly but not exclusively from the 17th century.

Visitors are welcome at our speaker meetings - suggested donation £3.

 Seasonal refreshments will be served after the performance.