Our Beginnings

The Birth of the Devon Archaeological Society

In the mid-1920s, there was an increased interest in archaeology in the country, especially in prehistoric archaeology. This led a certain Mr E Montgomerie Neilson from Chudleigh and who had been trained in archaeological investigation by Sir Flinders Petrie in Egypt to suggest the creation of a Devon Archaeological and Exploration Society (DAES) for Devon.

Neilson met up with Henry Dowie, Curator of Torquay Museum and together, in the summer of 1928, they wrote to numerous local organisations, requesting support for the formation of a county archaeological society. Not all were in support of this proposal, but nevertheless, on the 12th of November 1928, a gathering of worthy gentlemen of Devon met in the Guildhall, Exeter, to discuss the ‘desirability of forming an Archaeological Society in Devon for the purposes of carrying out exploration and excavation work.’ They concluded that they should proceed with the formation of a ‘Devonshire Working Archaeological Association’. Within less than a month, on December 5th 1928, these worthies, together with a few others, met in Room 15 of the University College of the South West of England and unanimously agreed that the ‘Devon Archaeological Exploration Society be formed.

Within the next few years the essence of the Society with which we are familiar today had developed: the Society’s Objectives were set out; rules were established; a membership leaflet was devised and Editorial and Executive Committees were formed.
The Objectives of the new Society were:
– to promote interest in anthropological and archaeological research and in the prehistory and early history of Devon
– to engage in practical exploration and investigation; and
– to encourage interest in the preservation of Ancient Monuments.

The first Field Meeting was held at the Race Course pavilion at Haldon, attended by 11 people at which ‘various places of archaeological interest were visited’; members were offered the chance to attend ‘lantern lectures’ (the first of our Winter Meetings).

In 1930, the DAES and the Devonshire Association agreed to fund an excavation. The site chosen for this was Hembury hillfort, near Honiton in east Devon. This excavation was going to result in some important discoveries…

(more to be added as research continues)