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Issue 472, 5 November 2001

Bretton ode to a Grecian puteal

One of two heads – Bretton students admire the Roman altar

Two antiquities inherited by the University from Bretton Hall, are to be sold by auction. The heads are among certain assets at Bretton Hall identified by the HEFCE for sale, to repay some of the money provided by the funding council towards the cost of the merger.

The Roman Delian altar and the Greek Corinthian puteal, collectively known as the Delphi Heads, were part of the Bretton Hall estate when it was sold by the Wentworth family to Wakefield council in 1946 and so became the property of Bretton Hall College when it became independent in 1992.

The marble puteal, or mouth of a well, dates from the first century BC and was collected in Greece by the fifth Earl of Guildford in the early 1800s. Although recorded extensively during the nineteenth century, it was then ‘lost’ during the 1860s, only to resurface again a century later. It is a relatively rare piece, decorated with a number of human figures. The Roman altar is more common, with a decoration of rams’ heads.

The pieces were being used as planters in the grounds of the estate, when Bretton Hall fine art professor David Hill identified them as ancient antiquities in 1995. They were subsequently moved and restored, with the help of the British Museum and the Henry Moore Institute.

The University has been instructed by the HEFCE to put the antiquities up for sale, and following valuation by Christies, they will be sold by auction early next year. As part of the merger agreement with the funding council, 80% of the proceeds will go to the HEFCE, with 20% remaining with the University to offset the significant investment both organisations have made.


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