Stories in Stones: the MEDICUS stories and the archaeological record.

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  • 11th May 2021
    19:30 - 21:00

[this is a virtual event presented via Zoom]

Presented by: Ruth Downie

Bio: Ruth writes a series of murder mysteries set mainly in Roman Britain during the early years of Hadrian’s reign. They’ve been published in many countries and the first one had a brief flirtation with the New York Times bestsellers list. Writing the books is a fine excuse for poking into obscure corners of Romano-British archaeology, and before Ruth moved to the West Country, she was part of the Whitehall Villa team. Ruth still enjoys keeping in touch with CLASP and occasionally coming back to wield a trowel.  Website:

Summary: We’ll be having a look at some of the locations of the books in the MEDICUS series, and the archaeology that inspired and underpins the stories. We’ll also be looking at the question of what to do when there’s too little, or too much, or indeed conflicting archaeological evidence. There may also be mention of some alarming Roman medical treatments and handy hints on how to write a Roman curse.

In Memoriam – Alan Priestley:

“Alan Priestley was my planning supremo at Whitehall Farm and an early Trustee who was a great asset to CLASP in its early days. He was an enthusiastic supporter and a very likeable person who is greatly missed. He was a quiet but immensely helpful man and interestingly he had worked with notable archaeologists like David Neal at Gadebridge Roman villa as well as being involved in other excavations. Gillian Biddle who took over from him says “Alan was such a pleasure to know and work alongside. I first started to work with him in 2003 when I drew my first plans at the Whitehall Villa project. Most of what I know about planning I learnt from him and in the following years I learnt enough to become his assistant planning supervisor.

I appreciated the way he managed, while frequently muddy and wet, to bring together such meticulous and craftsman-like plans in the cramped and often grubby space of our ancient caravan. Work aside, he was a man interested in so many other things, so it was a great pleasure, particularly on sunny days, to listen to anecdotes and reminiscences of his long and varied life.

It’s hard to think about Alan without his wife, Gill, who was a faithful stalwart of the Whitehall pot-washing team. I got to know Gill better at post-dig meetings at their house with Alan and Steve Young when we pieced together all the plans into a coherent view of the whole site. I remember too the trip several of the group made to Los Picos de Europa in Spain. Alan and Gill were enjoyable companions there – at elevenses Gill could always ‘murder a cup of coffee’ and, at aperitif time, do the same to a gin and tonic. Good times!

Alan was a kind and gentle man and I am grateful to have had the privilege to have known and worked with him.” – Steve Young, CLASP archeologist.


This is a free to attend event provided by CLASP. Should you wish to join CLASP or to make a donation  our membership and donations page is here.



The CLASP Zoom based conference hall has plush red velvet seating, fine dining, a well stocked bar and very well organised cloakrooms. It’s also your house – you will need the free Zoom client to view conferences hosted in our virtual conference hall. Downloads are available at

Please note:

  • Questions for the speaker at a virtual conference should be sent via the “Chat” option. The meeting chair will collate questions sent and, time permitting, the speaker will answer them all in a Q&A session at the end of the talk.
  • The conference will be captured on video and provided on the CLASP website. If you’d rather there’s no chance at all that your image will appear on the conference video please ensure that your video is disabled (stop video is the lower right-hand corner has a red line through it) when joining.



Additional Volunteers

We need to expand our team of enthusiastic and committed volunteers to fulfil a variety of roles and maintain the charity’s development whether you are able to give a few hours a week or more:
Volunteer help needed for:
  • Field work (field walking, excavation, geophysics etc.
  • Post excavation (processing and recording finds and archiving)
  • Computer and digital work
  • Fund raising
  • Publicity
[more information]