Further tributes to Margaret Rule

Margaret Rule
Margaret Rule

A MEMBER of the Isle of Wight Archaeological Committee has paid tribute to famous archeologist Margaret Rule.

Dr Margaret Rule, CBE, died aged 86, on April 9.

She had a huge influence in the archeological world after working with Emsworth Museum, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Chichester Cathedral, and Bosham Churchyard, to name just a few.

John Bingeman, member of the IOW Archaeological Committee, met Margaret when he became a Mary Rose diver in the mid-1970s.

He said: “It has been an honour and privilege to have known and worked with this remarkable Lady for the past thirty-nine years. My wife, Jane and I also enjoyed our friendship with Margaret and her husband, Arthur, who predeceased her last year.”

He said as well as her well-known work of raising the Mary Rose and excavating Fishbourne Roman Palace, she was also Chichester Cathedral’s archaeologist responsible for monitoring excavations to lower the surrounding ground level.

Mr Bingeman said: “It is to her credit, with Alec Down, that we have a mosaic floor section displayed in the retro-choir.”

She supervised the ‘dig’ at the Mill House, in Bosham in 1968, when it was established that the immediate area had been occupied for the previous 900 years, as well as a further excavation in Bosham Churchyard.

She was also involved with the conservation of the mosaics at the Brading Roman Villa on the Isle of Wight.

Mr Bingeman spoke of Margaret’s work helping to raise Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, in 1982.

He said: “Over time Margaret became the driving force responsible for the project.

“Never losing heart, despite mammoth difficulties and lack of funding, she even paid bills out of her own pocket.  What a wonderful legacy she leaves behind in the spectacular modern museum standing today in Portsmouth Dockyard. The Mary Rose cemented Margaret’s reputation as the mother of British marine archaeology.”

Speaking of some of her lesser-known achievement Mr Bingeman said: “Margaret stood at the forefront of introducing legislation to protect Britain’s underwater heritage leading to the passing of the Protection of Wrecks Act of 1973.

“In 1974 she was invited to become a member of the Advisory Committee formed to review all applications to the Department of Trade for site designations as a ‘protected wreck site’ and to approve licences. She was to remain a member of the Committee for nearly twenty years.

“Before the introduction of the Advisory Diving Unit in 1986, when it was necessary, she personally inspected sites on behalf of the Committee.

“Margaret went out of her way to help amateur divers take responsibility for their discovered sites.  At the Church Rock site at Teignmouth in Devon she advised a 16 year-old Simon Burton, whose find of a Zuane Alberghetti bronze minion cannon led to further discoveries on an important 16th-century wreck.” 

Margaret directed the lifting of the remains of an extremely rare 3rd-century AD Gallo-Roman hull off St Peter Port, Guernsey, publishing the results of the so-called ‘Asterix’ wreck with Jason Monaghan in A Gallo-Roman Trading Vessel From Guernsey (1993).  

“She took on the role of Archaeological Director for the Invincible (1758) excavations, another important historic wreck site.

In North America, Margaret and Dr Robert Ballard, who found the Titanic, conducted a TV ‘question and answer’ programme with school children while operating an unmanned Remotely-Operated Vehicle investigating a sunken wreck deep beneath the Great Lakes.

“With her ever-enquiring mind, Margaret bridged the generations. She held a strong conviction that anyone able to bring the past alive for the benefit of our own and future generations should be helped rather than scorned.”

Her final and controversial project started in 2012 when Margaret became Chairman of the Maritime Heritage Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee to save the First Rate English warship Victory (1737-44) sunk in the English Channel.

“Some campaigners favour leaving the remains untouched but at a depth of only 75 metres this, one of Britain’s greatest wrecks, has succumbed to looting, erosion and damage from fishing trawlers.

“Margaret maintained a no-nonsense practical approach to our sunken past and was convinced that inaccessible remains of the Nation’s premier battleship of the period must be saved and shared.”