On 14th December I was off to Rugby to celebrate the opening of the Jack Lucas Gallery at Rugby Museum.
Jack Lucas was one of the last of what might be called the ‘old-fashioned’ archaeologists. He was by profession a painter and decorator but he virtually discovered and excavated the Roman posting station at Tripontium on the Watling Street and his death on 28th March 2006 aged 85 was the end of an era.
He was first bitten by the archaeology bug during the War, when he was in the RAF as a fitter servicing Spitfires, and as he made his way from Sicily up through Italy, when he was not servicing Spitfires he was chatting up the local signorinas and discovering the delights of Pompeii and Herculaneum. His diaries have recently been transcribed and are now accessible on the internet (www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/U762460).
After the War he returned to painting and decorating, but gravel diggers were active in the region of Tripontium and he went out at weekends with the Rugby Archaeological Society following the quarrying, and discovered a fine Roman well with a Roman milestone down it which really fired him up. Then quarrying began on the other side of the Watling Street and here they made their first really important discovery – a Roman fort straddling the Watling Street which Graham Webster suggested might have been a burgus, one of a series of forts erected in the chaos of the early 4th century. Then by 1970s the gravel was no longer viable, so Jack and the Society turned their attention to the heart of Tripontium around Caves Inn where they found a structure that may or may not be a mansio and also a large attached bathhouse (CA 145). In 1992 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, an honour which gave him great pleasure and he has since been writing up his reports with the help of Irene Glendinning – the fourth and final report appearing in 2005. The finds from Tripontium now form the centrepiece of the Roman collections at the splendid Rugby Museum and it is a fitting tribute to his work that the Roman section has now been renamed the Jack Lucas Galleries.
This opinion comes from CA issue 208