Curator’s Choice – William Stukeley’s ‘Itinerarium Curiosum’

Posted: 21st April 2021

Humber Museums Partnership - Curator’s Choice – William Stukeley’s ‘Itinerarium Curiosum’

Today I am going to share with you a book that is in the museum collection that is not usually on display. It is the museums copy of William Stukeley’s Itinerarium Curiosum: An account of the antiquities and remarkable curiosities in nature or art observed in travels through Great Britain.

Stukeley was an antiquarian and one of the first members of the Society of Antiquities. He was born in Holbeach in Lincolnshire in 1687. Whilst studying medicine at Cambridge University he began sketching historical objects and making topographical and architectural drawings. During the 17th century, many historical sites were being damaged or destroyed by agriculture and industry. Stukeley recognised their importance and deplored their loss. Between 1710 and 1725, he embarked on annual tours of the country seeking out interesting sites and monuments and recording his findings in an effort to preserve as much information as he could. His findings were published as the Itinerarium Curiosum.

Living as he did in Lincolnshire, its no surprise to find that Stukeley’s 1724 tours of the country found him in what is now North Lincolnshire. So, within this wonderful record we can find information about archaeology and sites in this area.

This is Stukeley’s topographical drawing of the Countess Close monument at Alkborough. Medieval Moated site. Stukeley thought Countess Close was a Roman site and so he called it Aquis.

Here we have his drawing of the site of the Roman settlement at Old Winteringham. I particularly like this scene, with the masted ships sailing sedately on the Humber, here we can see Brough and there in the distance is Hull.

Here we have Stukeley’s drawing of Ferriby Sluice. The Sluice was built by Sir John Monson when he drained the Ancholme Valley. The locals were very unhappy at the drainage project, so they destroyed the works including the sluice during the English Civil War. When Stukeley saw the sluice ruins with the waters of the Ancholme rushing through in 1724 he likened the scene to the gates of Hell.

What I really like about this book is that it is a record of what Stukeley saw in the early 1700s. Many of the sites he recorded have since been destroyed or changed, so its an important record. Also, Stuekely is remembered as one of the fathers of archaeology and I am an archaeologist, so I’m grateful for people like him creating the field I work in.

Image: Invaluable