An information board which celebrates the life and work of John Robert Mortimer has been unveiled by Driffield Partnership’s Culture and Heritage Group in the Cross Hill Car Park,
Born in 1825, in Fimber, Mortimer moved to Driffield in 1869, where he lived until his death in 1911. Mortimer, a corn merchant by trade, is best remembered as a pioneering archaeologist who made a nationally important contribution to the development of modern British archaeology.
He devoted much of his adult life to the systematic and careful examination of around 420 prehistoric burial mounds, as well as other archaeological features, on the Yorkshire Wolds, eventually becoming a nationally-recognised authority on the subject.
Stephen Harrison, archaeologist and chair of the culture and heritage group, said: “After visiting the Great Exhibition and the British Museum, in London, John Mortimer and his brother Robert began collecting stone tools from the fields of the Yorkshire Wolds. He also trained local farm workers to identify objects of archaeological interest. Mortimer would pay for these finds and the stone tools soon became known on the Wolds as ‘Mortimers’. He carefully examined around 420 prehistoric barrows (burial mounds) on the Yorkshire Wolds and recorded a vast amount of information about the early history of East Yorkshire which, but for his work, would have been almost certainly lost to us, eventually becoming a recognised national expert on the subject.”
In 1877 Mortimer bought land at 25 Lockwood Street, the building now known as the Masonic Hall, and, using his own money, built a museum to house discoveries from his excavations. In 1905 he published Forty Years’ Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, which established Mortimer as one of the most important British archaeologists of the 19th Century. When Mortimer died in 1911 his 66,000 Mortimer collection was sold and is now displayed in the Hull and East Riding Museum in Hull. During last year’s centenary celebrations, the Driffield Partnership transformed the Masonic Lodge back to its original use as a museum to house an exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the death of J R Mortimer and installed a blue plaque as a lasting memorial to his life and work. It also marked the site of the first purpose-built museum in the East Riding.
It is hoped that this interpretation board will help to raise the profile of one of Driffield’s most important historic figures with residents and visitors alike. It is just one of a range of projects that are planned through Driffield Partnership’s Culture and Heritage Group to celebrate and promote the history of Driffield. Future projects include placing a blue plaque in memory of the famous cricketer “Jack” Brown and commemorating the centenary of The Great War.
Driffield Partnership Board voted to include tourism for the remit of the culture and heritage group in an effort to increase the profile of Driffield as a visitor destination.
Councillor Jane Evison, cabinet portfolio holder for economy, investment and inequalities, said: “Driffield has a unique offer, being a traditional market town and capital of the beautiful Yorkshire Wolds. We need to celebrate the heritage of this area to visitors. This type of project makes an excellent economic contribution to the town and will help to promote tourism which is good for local businesses.”
Future activities will include supporting the “Walkers Are Welcome” group to develop the town as a service centre for walkers, raising the profile of the Way of the Roses in order to maximise on cyclists visiting the area and working with Visit Hull and East Yorkshire to help businesses in the town benefit from increased number of visitors.
Driffield Partnership’s Tourism, Culture and Heritage Group welcomes interested members of the public along to its next gathering on Tuesday, 12 November, at 5:30pm, at the Driffield Town Council offices on Market Walk.
The meetings are relaxed and informal and are about developing practical ideas for enhancing and enriching the tourism and culture offer in the town whilst celebrating its history and heritage. Regardless of age, if you are passionate about the town and want to make a difference come along to the friendly meetings.