Percival Turnbull, FSA, a
pillar of the Teesdale Archaeological community
has died suddenly, aged 62. The following
Obituary Notes and Reminiscences have been
written by Tim Laurie, FSA, a friend and
colleague of Percival:
following reminiscences are my own and since I
am not familiar with his more recent work as
Consultant, they are not comprehensive.
was a good friend especially during the years
that I lived at Barningham. I first met Percival
when he worked in the Planning Department
at NYCC as assistant to Mike Griffiths, the NYCC
County Archaeologist. One rather younger Robert
White also worked in this Dept. at that time.
reasonably familiar with Percival’s earlier work
having visited and worked as a very part time
volunteer on several sites he directed. One
notable fieldwork project completed with
Percival was the recording and Scheduling of
probable Ring Cairns that I had previously
listed within this area.
great admiration for his formality in approach
to Prehistory and Archaeological Method.
Percival was first of all
a Roman Scholar. Jointly with Colin Haselgrove,
Percival supervised on behalf of Durham Unive
the very significant program of excavations at
the Stanwick Earthworks during the years
1981-1984. This excavation Project extended and
greatly enlarged Sir Mortimer Wheeler's 1956
Festival of Britain Year excavations within The
Tofts, Phase One of the Stanwick Earthworks.
Percival also excavated further sections through
the great earthwork ditches.
Haselgrove, C.C. and Turnbull, P. 1981—4.
Stanwick: Excavation and Fieldwork. Interim
work resulted in a re-assessment of the
sequencing of the different conjoined earthwork
enclosures which together form the Stanwick Iron
Turnbull, 1984. ' Stanwick in the Northern Iron
Age.' Durham Archaeological Journal. Volume 1,
His joint essay on
Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes, and of the
dramatic events which beset her household
during the middle decades of the first century
AD centred on Stanwick as a focus for an
examination of Tacitus’ all too brief first
century soap opera (Percival’s words!).
‘The Politics of Brigantia’ (Percival Turnbull
with Leon Fitts 1988. British Archaeological
Reports British Series 193, 1988 pp377-386.
Percival then continued to
complete excavations at significant Romano
British Settlements located on the line of the
A66 and near Melsonby.
Percival’s work and publications were not
confined to the Roman Occupation of
initial recognition of the Oddendale Ring Cairn,
from a small fragment of cremated bone in a
molehill and slight circular stone bank close to
the advancing edge of Hardendale Quarry, was a
masterful instance of fieldwork. Subsequent
excavation proved the ring cairn to be the final
phase of a multi period complex. Excavation of
the bank of this ring cairn produced pottery of
Second Millennium BC, Bronze Age character and
revealed the underlying double ring timber post
circle radiocarbon dated to the earlier Third
His detailed publication
of the relevance of this multi period ritual
complex firstly to Neolithic Communities as the
timber post circle then, perhaps a millennium
later, to Communities of the Bronze Age has
established this site as the Type Site for the
several fine Ring Cairn sites recently
recognised on the NE Pennine Fringe, notably
perhaps the Harker Mires Ring Cairn.
Percival Turnbull and Deborah Walsh, ‘A
prehistoric ritual complex at Oddendale near
Shap’. Transactions of the Cumberland and
Westmoreland Antiquarian and Archaeological
Society. Volume XCV11, 1977.
I first met Percival when,
as a precursor to the planned second campaign of
excavations at Stanwick, Percival excavated a
square mound close to Stanwick St John,
Kirkbridge Farm which he believed could be a
local example of the Square Barrows of the
Parisii Tribe which sometimes contain chariot
burials. No such luck with this fine square
mound. The mound covered the fine cruciform
beams of the foundation of a Medieval Post Mill.
His language was spectacular.
Can’t be found.
had the best dry humour of anyone. He succeeded,
as an undergraduate I think, in publishing a
learned Paper with the Title 'The Phallus in the
Art of Roman Britain'. Percival Turnbull 1978:
Institute of Archaeology, London Bulletin No 15.
miss him greatly and my great regret is that I
had not called on him at his office in Barnard
Castle recently for a pint and a chat. After
which, I would always leave with the clearest
views on any archaeological or other matters
that I had in mind.