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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Bluestone Collection of Arthur Dennis Passmore

Thanks to Pete Glastonbury for drawing attention to this interesting fellow:

"I spent some time in Wiltshire Heritage Museum today and heard some things about the antiques dealer and amateur archaeologist AD Passmore (1877-1958).
Seems he was the plague of the Ministry of Works in his time. He found pieces of bluestone all over the place and collected them up, including a large sized piece near where the car park is now.
His collection is scatted over several museums but I have been told that if someone were to looking into his works they would find a lot of references to the bluestones he claims to have found.
There are some links to his collections in the Bodleian but his paperwork is scattered in various museums.
Devizes has a good amount.
His note's on Silbury mention finding the large bluestone chunk.
Archaeologists of his time hardly credited him at all".

Can anybody else provide information about the man and his rocks?


chris johnson said...

Hopefully a Phd student will dig into this although there is no evident theme around which to construct a thesis.

A lady from Devizes Museum wrote a biography piece a while back which I could not find the text for, and I stumbled across a reference to a collection in the Ashmolean. The Ashmolean site has a few pictures and a list of finds. This is being re-catalogued at the moment - interesting in itself. Currently everything is listed as being "flint" - although there are some blue flints listed and shown in the photos; but then in my experience flint can have a background color. Perhaps someone with skill and access wants to spend an afternoon in the Ashmolean, but seeing most of their collection is attributed to the Avenue I don't suppose they will find a silver bullet for glaciation.

MPP accepts a wide spread of Bluestone scatter around the wider Stonehenge area. Passmore did not keep accurate records of provenance and so I doubt his work will take us much further forward.

Probably Tony with close links to the Wiltshire experts is our best bet on this one.

Tony H said...

It is interesting to hear from Pete that there are "some links to his collections in the Bodleian". I wonder if English Heritage's archaeological staff will follow this up? For example, I know that someone there did this in connection with the immense Silbury Hill-like Hatfield Barrow that used to exist, until its 19th Century destruction by farmers, within the Marden Neolithic Henge monument (roughly half-way between Avebury & Stonehenge). An early print of the Hatfield Barrow was discovered relatively recently at the Bodleian.

Tony H said...

There are 4 references to AD Passmore in the index of "the Archaeology of Wessex" (1958) by LV Grinsell. This, for many years, was an indispensable source for all serious students of British archaeology, written by a man who walked and examined the evidence wherever it was to be found, and was Curator in Archaeology at Bristol Museum.

None of these refers to AD Passmore's rocks. There is reference to a possible small example of a (chambered?) long barrow. "S.W. of Scot's Poor (no longer an Inn) was opened by Mr A.D.Passmore, who found in it many human long bones, surrounded by skulls arranged in a circle".[ NGR 2756]

Passmore was involved with Silbury Hill."........finally, in 1922, Sir Flinders Petrie and Mr A.D.Passmore tried, without success, to find an entrance on the south side." So Passmore worked with the eminent Flinders Petrie - one archaeologist who reckoned Stonehenge was never completed in terms of its sarsens.

Some indication of the diligence of Passmore's researches is implied on pages 207-8, where Grinsell says a Roman site at Wanborough, near Swindon, "may well have had the Roman name DUROCORNOVIUM, an identification due to the researches of Mr AD Passmore".

By contrast, Julian Richards' "Stonehenge: The Story So Far" (English Heritage, 2007), neglects to mention Mr Passmore.

Tony H said...

Does anyone have access to Christopher Chipindale's "Stonehenge Complete", new edition,2004? This OUGHT to mention Passmore.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony
No mention of Passsmore in Christopher's 'Stonehenge Complete' I am afraid.
Not certain I like a 'wide scatter of Bluestones around the wider SH'.

Jon Morris said...

Passmore's work is mentioned on page 67 of Mike Parker Pearson's book.

Tony H said...

I did send this Post on Passmore to the Wiltshire Heritage Museum at Devizes and asked if they had anything to add, but they do not appear to have contacted Brian with any extra info.

Anonymous said...

I know Tony, the query was passed to the person who told me about it in the first place and who in turn has passed it on to me...
I was hoping someone else would take a look in the archives by actually visiting the library :)

chris johnson said...

There are two articles in the Wiltshire Natural History Magazine no 97 from 1994 about Passmore. These do not seem to be accessible on internet so someone needs to visit the museum perhaps. Bit of a long distance trek for me.

Anonymous said...

Checking the library is open and giving yourself time anyone can ask for ‘AA Box 22’ and have themselves a lovely few hours perusing Passmore’s notebooks, manuscript notes, and photographs of the concreting of the Devil’s Den and such as the 1922 Silbury excavation by Flinders Petrie and son.

There is “WAM” (WANHSM) title/author index online (, some volumes are online (, and for those located in the UK some county societies have a reciprocal arrangement. You might like to dip in here too:

The price of that WAM is perhaps a fiver plus postage if they have any left, older ones are sometimes just a quid.

Hope that helps,


Gordon said...

Hi Brian
Have you seen the review of A.D Passmores stone implement collection by H.H Thomas.
It is available on-line in the Wiltshire archaeology and natural history magazine.