Obituary: Norman Cook

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The Independent Online
THE obituary of Norman Cook (by Peter Marsden, 4 June) has aroused both happy memories and some disquiet for its thinly veiled attack on Cook's character, writes Brian Philp.

I knew Cook for over 40 years and his outstanding quality was his encouraging of others. Examples of this were legion. One early protege was Ivor Noel Hume, now directing the Colonial Jamestown excavations in the United States. Cook actively encouraged my own interest in Roman archaeology, thus allowing me to take up a career in rescue archaeology. This led to the formation of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit, and the saving of some 550 sites in Kent over the past 24 years.

Cook also readily gave up his Sundays to show groups of amateur archaeologists the Guildhall Museum collections. And he was the one-time Chairman of the Council for Kentish Archaeology.

Cook's real concern was the serious damage to Britain's heritage caused by large-scale developments in the City during the 1960s. Indeed, when a prime site in Gracechurch Street was earmarked for Barclays Bank he knew that special resources would be needed. With his able deputy Ralph Merrifield he raised funds, obtained a unique four-week pause in the building programme and called in my growing team of full- time Kent archaeologists. This new approach to City archaeology resulted in a five-month on-site campaign with dramatic discoveries. The south range of the Roman Forum was located in some detail; an unpredicted earlier Forum was discovered beneath that and large areas of Londinium burnt to ashes by Boudicca about AD60.

The organisation, scale and approach of that 1968/69 campaign, thanks to Cook's vision, demonstrated just what could be achieved even against bad odds. Predictably, a few years on, a full-time team for the City was founded and has remained quite busy since.