When John Saltmarsh (historian, archivist and Vice-Provost) died in 1974, he left behind unfinished but quite remarkable manuscripts for a book entitled ‘King’s College Chapel: A History and Commentary’. The book has been co-edited by Bert Vaux (Fellow and Graduate Tutor) and me (Peter Monteith, Assistant Archivist) and was launched on Friday (6 November).
Our launch was a fairly modest event with around thirty guests, including Saltmarsh’s relatives, Fellows and a few other individuals whom we wanted to thank for their part in the publication. This publication is part of the College’s celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the completion of the stonework of the Chapel; however, we felt it was important that this event was also a celebration of John Saltmarsh’s life and work.
When our guests arrived, they came to the Archive Centre to see an exhibition on ‘John Saltmarsh and the Chapel’. This exhibition included records relating to his youth, the various roles he held at King’s, his work as a historian and his work on the Chapel. The guests had the opportunity to greet each other, as they admired the beautifully written medieval building accounts used to great effect by Saltmarsh while writing his Chapel book.
After this, we all headed over to the Chapel, where we sat in the Fellows’ stalls. Andrew Hammond (King’s Chaplain) led a wonderful Evensong and our guests had the opportunity to hear the College’s famous choir.
Then we went to the Saltmarsh suite, where Rob Wallach formally welcomed our guests, and paid tribute to John Saltmarsh. Bert and I took the opportunity to thank our guests for all of the support they have shown us throughout this project.
The Saltmarsh family seem very close, with four generations being present at the launch. We heard wonderful stories about Saltmarsh. He has a reputation as a ‘notable Cambridge eccentric’. The stories supported that view but showed the warmth he had for others and how keen he was to share his knowledge of local history.
We were also pleased to welcome Lilah Wayment, who had kindly allowed us to print her husband Hilary’s report on the manuscript. Shortly before he died, Saltmarsh had told Hilary Wayment (an expert on the Chapel windows) about the manuscript so the report, along with one written by Saltmarsh himself, sheds light on the story behind the book.