Sir John Evans Centenary Project - image background is marbled paper from one of John Evans's books John Evans Numismatic Society Medal 1899

History of the Collection

Evans acquired his collections from various sources, among the many private collectors were: Henry Prigg and Joseph Warren (Suffolk); J. Flower, C.R. Manning, Rev. W. Greenwell (Norfolk); T. Collingwood, F. Spalding (Essex); Robert Sadd for flints, coins and bronzes (Cambrideshire); C. Abbott (Gloucestershire and Ireland); E. Tindall, Rev. F. Porter and C. Monkman (Yorkshire); G. Worthington-Smith and W. Allen, especially for coins (Hertfordshire); Rev. J. Morrison (Scotland); William Ready (London); James Morris (Faversham, Kent) Anglo-Saxon material. A large proportion of Evans Irish objects came from Robert Day of Cork, William Arthurs and George Greene of Ballymena, Lord Enniskillen and S. Sharp. Evans also acquired objects from excavations such as those by Lane-Fox (Pitt Rivers) at Cissbury Ring and Mount Caburn in Sussex.

Joseph Warren, clock and watchmaker and postal officer from Ixworth in Suffolk spent many years acquiring objects, especially in the immediate area of his home. He kept the best objects for himself and sold the rest. Quite a proportion came from his immediate area, the most famous being the Anglo-Saxon Ixworth Cross and the Tostock buckle, the remainder from other parts of East Anglia. Warren died in 1875 and bequeathed his notebooks, one of which was his 'Journal' - the handwritten compilation of objects he had carefuly catalogued for the sale to Evans. Evans had purchased Warren's large collection in 1866; they had been corresponding for over 20 years.

Also important were the personal contacts he made in the course of his travels in England and France with roadmen, quarrymen and agricultural labourers whose work brought them face to face with antiquities. This enabled Evans to collect objects this way; he even gave them drawings and instructions as to what to look for.

Correspondence with his Irish contacts, William Arthurs of Ballymena, Dr. Neligan and Robert Day of Cork who describes the kind of collections that came his way. 'It is really surprising the number of flint arrowheads and stone celts that are found North of the Boyne. I stumbled on a rag and bone dealer in Ballymena from whom I got an early copper celt, 35 stone celts and 30 arrow points'. Day also obtained from Arthurs saying 'I recently got a hundred objects in stone and flint from him at 6d each, his supply has been and generally is in excess of the demand'. (Time and Chance). From 1867 onwards Arthurs became one of Evans's msot important correspondents.

Evans was able to travel abroad extensively, either on business, conferences or family holidays. This enabled him to collect objects from Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Moravia, Galicia, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. Evans visited the settlement at Hallstatt in Austria in 1866 and purchased a number of objects; he also made an agreement with the bergmeister to acquire objects from the adjacent cemetery site; the collection comprises of about 120 items, acquired between 1866 and 1868 and came to the Ashmolean Museum in 1927. His travels in France, visiting the Somme, resulted in him acquiring most of the palaeolithic hoard from Drueil-les-Amiens.

For that period, the collections were well documented and care was taken to record the provenances. Evans collections of antiquities were considered to be the best in the country. John Evans bequeathed these collections to his son Arthur, who, in three lots, presented them to the Ashmolean Museum in 1909, 1927 and 1941.

Further References / Links:

Joan Evans, Time and Chance: The Story of Arthur Evans and His Forebears (1943)