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Charles Roach Smith (1806-90) and the first Museum of London

8th November 2023 @ 8:00 pm

Bronze forceps found in the bed of the Thames, 1840
Roman castration clamp used in the Rites of Cybele. Found in the Thames and purchased by Charles Roach Smith for his Museum of London Antiquities

Speaker: Dr. Michael Rhodes.

After establishing his Pharmacy in the City of London in 1834, Charles Roach Smith learnt that numerous antiquities were being unearthed in Thames dredging operations and in excavations for the new sewers. He paid small boys to obtain them for his Museum, which he established behind his Chemist shop.

Smith was soon to be elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and subsequently helped to form the British Archaeological Association. In an effort to understand his finds, Smith contacted antiquarians all over Europe, made extensive tours to France, and published the results in his seven-volume Collectanea Antiqua.

When he decided to retire in 1854 Smith offered his collection to the British Museum, but its Trustees liked only Greek antiquities. It took a public campaign to force the museum to save his collection, which today forms the core of the Museum’s Department of Roman and British Antiquities.

About the speaker

Our speaker – Dr. Michael Rhodes served as the Museum of London’s Finds Officer from 1974-1992, working on the same kinds of materials as Charles Roach Smith had done a century and a half before. It was therefore only natural that he should write his PhD thesis of 1993 about his illustrious predecessor Charles Roach Smith.

Zoom link

This is an on-line talk via Zoom. Members will be receiving their Zoom link via email.

Free The talk is free to members

An Online Event Organised by the Hornsey Historical Society

Image credits

Source: C. Roach Smith Illustrations of Roman London (London 1859) Pl. XXI.