Geoff Wainwright at Stonehenge
Geoff Wainwright at Stonehenge © Timothy Darvill
Geoff Wainwright at Stonehenge © Timothy Darvill

Tribute to Professor Geoffrey Wainwright, MBE, FSA, FRSA, FLSW

Inspector of Ancient Monuments 1963 - 1980; Principal Inspector 1980 - 1990; Chief Archaeologist, English Heritage 1990 - 1999

Professor Geoffrey Wainwright was one of the seminal figures in the development of professional archaeology in England and Wales. Outside universities, museums and a modestly sized public service, archaeology was a largely amateur discipline until the pressures of development in the 1970s required a professional response to the threats to our archaeological heritage.

Geoff was instrumental in putting rescue archaeology on a properly organised basis. Initially this was achieved through government funding of rescue work and delivered through local and national units such as the Central Excavation Unit which became renowned for its commitment to excavation on an extensive scale anywhere in England in the harshest of weather. The need to dry out and warm up in the pub was also an essential component of those early days.

Geoff's significant contribution to field archaeology should also be recognised. His large-scale rescue excavations at the Neolithic henge of Durrington Walls in 1966, working on a huge scale which was very rare for the time, changed the way in which archaeologists excavated.

Although he was in charge of the "Rescue Budget", Geoff recognised before almost anyone else that public service archaeology needed to adapt to the policies of the Conservative governments of the 1980s. He recognised that "the polluter pays" principle could be applied to rescue archaeology, provided there was a well regulated public service to oversee the contractors appointed by developers to carry out the necessary archaeological work. There should be no need for a "Rescue Budget" he argued. Causes celebre such as the Rose Theatre (1989) and the Queens Hotel development in York (1988) - in which Geoff was involved - also highlighted the need to avoid last minute rescue archaeology and instead to protect archaeological remains for the future rather than digging them in the here and now.

It was Geoff who promoted the establishment of county archaeology services to advise planning authorities on the archaeological implications of development. By providing English Heritage grant-aid to local authorities to establish archaeology services, including sites and monuments records, during the 1980s and early 1990s, England-wide coverage was established and the system, although now under pressure from declining funding, remains at the heart of the planning process to this day. The publication of PPG 16 Archaeology and Planning in 1990 - championed by Geoff - consolidated the growing practice of developer funding, early assessment and the preservation of archaeological remains in situ.

Not everyone involved in the early days of professional archaeology was able to follow Geoff's example of publishing excavations in a timely and comprehensive way. To tackle the problem of a large backlog of important work that remained unpublished, and to prevent it growing larger, Geoff oversaw the development of effective project management by commissioning guidance on the management of archaeological projects. The second edition of this guidance, MAP2, written by Gill Andrews, became the industry standard and over time the backlog was substantially cleared and new projects were operated on an effective professional basis. 'Time please', Geoff's aptly titled, magisterial and enjoyable overview of the changes to professional archaeology during his lifetime still remains a vital source for anyone who wishes to understand why the profession has come to be the way it is today. See Antiquity 74 (2000).

While for many Geoff will rightly be forever associated with his work at Stonehenge and his related research work with Tim Darvill in his beloved Preseli hills of Pembrokeshire, there are others of us who remember also that we owe our careers in significant measure to Geoff's foresight, clarity of vision and dogged determination that was so influential in shaping the thriving archaeological profession that we enjoy in England today. He is greatly missed by his many former colleagues and friends.