The National Trust has opened a room in Avebury Manor that until now has been inaccessible to visitors. The refurbishment of the Alexander Keiller drawing office is a new and exciting ongoing project, to bring another aspect of Avebury’s history to life.
Alexander Keiller is well known for his extensive archaeological work at Avebury, and was paramount in discovering and re-erecting much of the stone circle and avenue, as well as ground-breaking work at nearby Windmill Hill.
Keiller’s drawing office is where he undertook much of his post-excavation work – working on plans and sections, archaeological drawings and writing reports.The room, currently empty, is located overlooking the manor courtyard and was probably used because of its north-east aspect where light remains consistent for the majority of the day – important for drawing work.
Amelia Bryan the House Manager at Avebury Manor, who is overseeing the work, says ‘We’ve known for some time that this room was Keiller’s drawing office, the workroom for his archaeological work – but it has not been possible to open it to the public until now. Now it’s our task to bring this room back to life again, so that people can see another part of the history of the house’.
Although empty at the moment the National Trust will be working from photographs and archive material to present the room as closely as possible to how it was in Keiller’s time. It will be kept open throughout its transformation, so that people can see the progress as the room transforms.
‘We’re very much hoping that the room will be finished by summer 2019 and are keen to give visitors the most authentic experience possible. We’ve also been fortunate enough to discover Keiller’s plan chest which survived in the basement of Avebury Manor for all these years and will help us in the transformation process.’ said Amelia.
The first stage of the process is to undertake paint analysis on the walls, fireplace, wardrobes and plan chest. Thereafter electrical work to restore the old light fittings and the removal of modern utilities will commence.
Once the room is finished, visitors will be able to have a go at doing their own scale drawings and artefact drawing. Experiencing ‘hands-on’ how Alexander Keiller and his staff went about their daily working lives using replica artefacts within an authentic archaeological working space. The room will also give the National Trust the opportunity to display copies of some of the excavation archives for people to see.
Occasionally archaeologists will be using this room to work on projects, drawing finds or plans; with the opportunity for visitors to ask questions while they work.
Keiller was a complex character and although Scottish by birth he spent most of his life in England, having inherited money from the family business, James Keiller and Sons of Dundee, which allowed him to indulge his interest in archaeology. He excavated in Avebury and the surrounding area between 1925 and 1939 and owned Avebury Manor from 1937 to 1955.
The National Trust are funding the restoration of this room through the sale of raffle tickets and generous donations from the public. At least 5,000 raffle tickets need to be sold ahead of the October closing date in order to raise enough funds to complete the work (the main prize of the raffle is £10,000). The work is also supported by enthusiastic volunteers who are generously dedicating their time to support Amelia with her work.