Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood celebrates 2021 as the 200th anniversary of the birth of the famous local antiquarian, Thomas Bateman (1821-1861):
Thomas Bateman was born in November 1821 in Rowsley and became known locally as a pioneer of archaeology. He was fascinated by Bronze Age burial mounds (barrows), excavating more than 200 prehistoric barrows in the Peak District and earning himself the nickname ‘The Barrow Knight’.
Cross-section model of a barrow at Parsley Hay found by Bateman in 1848, on display in the Wonders of the Peak gallery
Unlike many antiquarians working at that time, Thomas kept detailed records of his work and published his findings. Ten Years‘ Diggings in Celtic and Saxon Grave Hills with Bateman’s well observed illustrations remains an fascinating read. He made watercolour paintings of many of his excavation sites and artefacts. He also left brass tokens where he excavated, and they remain important as sites have subsequently been revisited.
Bateman tablet found by Micah Salt when excavating Five Wells Tumulus in 1899
Bateman kept his collections of artefacts at his home, Lomberdale House, in Middleton-by-Youlgrave. When he died, aged only 39, he was buried as he requested in a field near his home, rather than a churchyard. His tomb is topped by a stone replica of a Bronze Age collared urn. His son, Thomas William Bateman inherited the collection.
Five Wells Chambered Tomb, Taddington Moor, photographed by Nick Lockett
Today, Bateman’s artefacts can be found in institutions around the world. However, most of them were acquired by Sheffield Public Museum and The Catalogue Of The Bateman Collection Of Antiquities In The Sheffield Public Museum shows the extraordinary wealth of the collection. This year Museums Sheffield will host a major exhibition about Thomas Bateman at Weston Park Museum. The exhibition will include an eclectic mix of objects, including several loans and highlighting Bateman’s pioneering collecting activity, network of connections and legacy. Here at Buxton Museum we talked to John Barnett, the Peak District archaeologist about Bateman – you can listen here: https://www.wondersofthepeak.org.uk/facts/the-legacy-of-thomas-bateman/
Thomas Bateman’s grade-II listed tomb in Middleton-By-Youlgrave is being restored as part of the bicentenary celebration. To help to do this please donate by visiting https://www.peakdistrictfoundation.org.uk/derbyshire-archaeology-day-supports-restoration-of-pioneering-peak-district-antiquarians-tomb/