I was fascinated to read the references to Nina Frances Layard in the
article by Bob Markham and Merv Russen in the latest Newsletter [Peter Bruff
and the mammoth]. You may be interested to read the enclosed article about
Miss Layard published in our History Society Journal, 3rd Series, No. 11,
Sincerely, Michael Roberts (Hon. Editor, Framlingham History Society).
We are pleased to include extracts from the article entitled A remarkable
woman: Nina Frances Layard by George Miller Chamberlain.
'Who was this woman? Without question, she was one of the most remarkable
English women to have lived. A great archeologist, poet, botanist, humanist,
radical thinker, and champion of the underdog. A heroine, now almost unknown
outside Suffolk, unsung in the annals of English history, and not to be
found in Who's Who? or other reference books of famous or significant
Nina Frances Layard was not of Suffolk stock, and arrived in Ipswich in 1890
at the age of 37. Already she was a noted poet, author, and archeologist.
Deeply religious, she was radically active in her support for improving the
lot of the working classes. In 1902 she had been made a Fellow of the
Anthropological Institute. Later, in 1906, she was again honoured by
becoming a fellow of the Linnaean Society. In 1921 when the Society of
Antiquaries first allowed the admission of women, she was one of the first
to gain a Fellowship. During her time in Ipswich, she was President of the
Prehistoric Society of East Anglia and Vice President of the Suffolk
Institute of Archaeology.
Miss Layard's father, Charles Clement, was Rector of Combe Hay, Bath. One of
her brothers, the Reverend Charles Villiers Layard, held the curacy of St.
Margaret's Church, Ipswich. Her father's cousin was Henry Austin Layard, the
explorer, the excavator of the tombs of Nineveh, hence her deep love of
archaeology from an early age.
For most of her time in Suffolk, she resided mainly in Ipswich, firstly at
"Rookwood", a rambling red brick, towered edifice, in Fonnereau Road, next
to the Arboretum (now the vicarage of St Mary-le-Tower Church), then at "The
Moorings", in Paget Road. Both houses remain much as they were in those
All through the years until the time her death, she was a tireless worker,
visiting every archaeological excavation in Ipswich and other, far-flung
areas, a valiant and persevering investigator, whose span of activities
embraced the exploration of an early cemetery just beyond the Seven Arches
bridge in Hadleigh Road, sites at Foxhall Road, Derby Road station, Stoke
railway cutting and many others.
... Nina Layard was a free spirit long before the time of today's modern
woman, and spent much of her life fighting the prejudice and disbelief that
a mere woman could contribute anything serious to the science of
archaeology, or any other bastion of male dominance. She would never bend in
the struggle against the evils of injustice, ignorance, intolerance,
personal greed, or political chicanery, and was to be a thorn in the side of
the reactionary Ipswich Borough Council all her years, but always a catalyst
for sensible change, improvement, and progress. There is no evidence that
she was involved in the Suffrage movement, but there can be no doubt that
she was a fearless protagonist of women's rights, and therefore must surely
have been a staunch supporter. She had a strong social conscience, and was
deeply concerned over the plight of the poor. Her early poems, particularly
"A Song of Tears", demonstrated this; and the Literary World 1891 magazine,
when praising her work said "she deplored the helplessness of the great, for
all their good will, to relieve the suffering of the poor."
... The "Layard Collection", the results and findings of Miss Layard's
heroic work on the Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Hadleigh Road, can be seen at the
Ipswich Museum, and are by themselves well worth a visit.'
The 2004 book Miss Layard excavates: A Palaeolithic site at Foxhall Road,
Ipswich, 1903-1905 by Mark J. White and Steven J.Plunkett is available to
borrow from Suffolk Libraries.
Cover, issue 195