Hurrah! No sooner had I written my blog on Mr Moneybags than I discovered a new Mr Moneybags, or rather a Miss Moneybags, in the form of the Honor Frost Foundation. I have long known Honor Frost as a name to conjure with, one of the glamorous pioneers of underwater archaeology, someone who in the magical 1950s discovered scuba diving, and was carried away by the romance of underwater archaeology and introduced proper methods of recording.
However there is a rather more interesting story behind her. She was born in 1917, an only child whose parents died when she was young and she was brought up by her guardian, the family solicitor Wilfred Evill, who was also a keen and discerning art collector: as a solicitor he acted for many of the rising artists in the 1930s and bought many of their works – people such as Graham Sutherland, Lucian Freud and particularly Stanley Spencer . On his death, he left his estate including his paintings to Honor Frost who went to live in his house in Welbeck Street and look after his paintings. Honor was a talented artist herself: having studied at the Central School of Art and the Ruskin, she then became a designer for the Rambert Ballet and Director of Publications for the Tate Gallery, but then she got bitten by the archaeology bug and devoted the rest of her life to underwater archaeology.
However on her death, having made provisions for her family, she laid down that the paintings should be sold and the money raised should go to an Honor Frost Foundation, supporting Marine and Maritime archaeology in the Eastern Mediterranean. The paintings were sold by Sotheby’s who thought they might fetch as much as £10 million — the Stanley Spencer collection was particularly fine – but in the event they went for £42 million over a three-day sale, and archaeology suddenly discovered that it had acquired a very valuable asset indeed. The first awards already been made, and Barry Cunliffe gave a superb inaugural address. Archaeology has a major new source of funding: has anyone else got a hidden collection of modern masters? Meanwhile if anyone is worried about the ‘cuts’, now is the time to put on your diving suit and head to the eastern Mediterranean.