The Years of Consolidation and Fame

Indian religious figure 1884.59.68

After the early 1850s when the collection very slowly got going, and the 1860s when we have seen that Lane Fox started his involvement in anthropology and archaeology and accumulated many more objects, the 1870s is probably his most successful decade. In this period, Lane Fox became very prominent in anthropological and antiquarian circles, and his collection became famous both through his publications and also the first public showings at Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums.

The 1870s was the decade when Lane Fox’s work in anthropology and archaeology became increasing celebrated and also publically recognized. In 1876 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, one of the most prestigious positions any scientist or academic can be awarded even today. He was also the President of the Anthropological Institute in 1875.

His contributions, both oral and written, to the learned societies he had joined in the 1860s, like the Anthropological Institute, became more frequent and more celebrated. He also became involved in wider intellectual debates in the UK. He joined the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1868 and attended most of their annual meetings during the 1870s.


In July 1867 (at the age of 40) he had gone on half-pay from the British Army and was free of military duties for the next 6 years, still holding the rank of Colonel. [Thompson, 1977: 29-30] This gave him increased amounts of time to carry out work on his anthropological and archaeological interests as we shall see. In 1873 he resumed full-time soldiering, taking command of the West Surrey Brigade Depot in Guildford [Thompson, 1977: 37] Promotion to Major-General was gazetted in October 1877 [Thompson 1977: 52] In 1878 he returned to London. Although, as I earlier mentioned, Lane Fox did continue a half-life as an Army man after this date, really his active career ended in 1877 or just shortly before he inherited his estate. He formally retired in 1882, at the age of fifty-five.

With regard to his archaeological and anthropological interests the 1870s was a key decade. His involvement with learned societies continued. He joined another, the Royal Institution, in 1871 and continued to attend the annual meetings of the BAAS where he was several times the President of the Anthropological Section. In the Anthropological Institute he was a key member of the committee charged with preparing the first edition of Notes and Queries, a guide to help field collectors of data or objects. In 1874 he gave his paper on early modes of navigation. In 1875 he gave probably his most influential paper, to the Anthropological Institute, ‘Evolution of Culture’, fittingly this was the first year that he was President of that society (he was reappointed the following year). In 1876 his eminence was acknowledged when he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

He carried out extensive excavations during the 1870s, in Bedfordshire, Hampshire, Kent, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex, Yorkshire and Wales. Towards the end of the decade his archaeological interests became more international. In 1878 he surveyed in Brittany, France where he stayed over the winter (his active Army career having ended in that year at the age of fifty). The following year he toured Scandinavia with George Rolleston from the University of Oxford.

Although for at least half of the decade he was busy with his Army career, Lane Fox’s involvement in archaeology and anthropology is at its height in this decade. This was the decade that sealed his reputation as an important scholar in these fields and an important curator and thinker about museum displays.

Exhibiting the collection

Opening of Bethnal Green Museum from wikipedia

The 1870s is the first decade when Lane Fox became fully engaged with displaying his collection. 1872 was a key year for his increasing interest in public displays of his collection: he contributed to a Bronze Age exhibition at the Society of Antiquaries and also an exhibition of musical instruments at the South Kensington Museum (his first involvement with that institution). From January 1874 he seems to have begun loaning objects to the same museum to be displayed at its branch library in Bethnal Green Museum. The objects were brought in in various batches between January and June 1874 when the display opened to the public. He wrote a lengthy catalogue of his loan collection to be used by visitors when they toured the displays, and gave a personal tour to members of the Anthropological Institute in July 1874.

Lane Fox was busy throughout this decade not only setting up the displays and arranging sequences, series and typologies but also in adding new material to the displays (often,it appears, to the annoyance of the museum authorities).

Towards the end of 1878, the loan collection was moved from Bethnal Green to the main museum site, to two (or three) rooms. It seems fairly certain that the displays were not changed, though, as the same catalogue written to accompany visits was used for both (with a new frontispiece for the post-1878 one).


It is clear that by the 1870s there are too many objects in the Lane Fox collection to make it possible to examine them individually in a web page. One of the only forms of documentation for the collection before 1884 are the blue, black and red books apparently written by South Kensington Museum staff in 1874.

In addition the various batches of items delivered from Lane Fox to South Kensington Museum are detailed in a series of photocopies, held by the Pitt Rivers Museum, of day book entries from South Kensington Museum. Each page was dated by the SKM museum staff and was associated with objects that often have a specific Ag (Agenda or Aggregate) number. For example, Ag 122 was associated with 15 objects dated 14 February 1874 by the museum authorities and dated 13.2.1874 on the objects. The Aggregate number goes up over time: by 15 December 1876 it is up to Ag 5982 and associated with the date 9 December 1876 on the objects. Then the system changed. Each new set of objects which formed a new loan was associated with a new number expressed as a fraction, for example 10/12099.

Assuming that the second half of the fraction number represents the total number of objects then loaned by Lane Fox to South Kensington Museum (in other words it remains an aggregate number) then it seems that before 16 January 1878 there were less than 7456 objects, the total climbed over the decade until it was over 12000 by the early 1880s (12099 in March 1881).

The only confusing thing is that we know that there were at least 1247 entries listed in Parts I and II of the catalogue (which actually equate to 1636 separate artefacts) displayed in the summer of 1874 because they are included in the published catalogue, and there must have been many hundreds more because the catalogue makes it clear that there were many more displays with objects that were not covered by the catalogue. See here for further information. Lane Fox wanted to publish further catalogues to cover these displays but this was never achieved.

The highest fraction numbers are still in the 12000s which suggests that that is a fairly accurate picture of how many objects South Kensington Museum thought had been loaned to them. However, it is clear from records and from the actual objects transferred to Oxford that this was a serious underestimate with some 23,000 objects actually being transferred. [1] How many of these 23,000 were displayed at Bethnal Green Museum and South Kensington Museum, and whether some were sent straight from Pitt-Rivers (as he was by then) to Oxford will never be known for sure. From Pitt Rivers Museum records and personal research it is clear that at least 10478 objects are thought to have been shown at Bethnal Green Museum during the 1870s.

Find out more about the objects at Bethnal Green Museum here.


Fox, A.H. Lane 1870 ‘Note on the use of the New Zealand mere’. Journal of the Ethnological Society of London NS2 [1870] pp. 106-109

Fox, A.H. Lane 1870 'On the Threatened Destruction of the British Earthworks near Dorchester, Oxfordshire' The Journal of the Ethnological Society of London(1869-1870), Vol. 2, No. 4 (1870), pp. 412-416

Fox, A.H. Lane 1870 ‘Remarks on a XVII century Matchlock from Inverness’. Archaeological Journal 27 [1870] pp. 134-135

Fox, A.H. Lane 1871 ‘On a flint implement from Honduras’. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in London5 [1871] pp. 93-95

Fox, A.H. Lane 1871 ‘On a flint implement from the Isle of Wight.’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in London5 [1871] pp. 113-114

Fox, A.H. Lane 1871 ‘On a wooden instrument from Skull, near Skibbereen’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in London 5 [1871] pp. 222-223

Fox, A.H. Lane 1872 ‘Address on the Neolithic Exhibition’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in London5 [1872] pp. 233-235

Fox, A.H. Lane 1872 ‘Address to the Department of Anthropology of the British Association at Brighton.’ Report: British Association for the Advancement of Science[1872] pp. 157-174

Fox, A.H. Lane 1872 ‘On the discovery of Palaeolithic Implements, in connection with Elephas primigenius in the gravels of the Thames Valley at Acton’ Journal of the Geological Society of London 28 [1872] pp. 449-466

Fox, A.H. Lane 1872 ‘On Stone Celts from the grove and hill-top Temples of the Malayalis of the Shevaroy Hills India’ Journal of Anthropological Institute2 [1872] pp. 348-349

Fox, A.H. Lane 1872 ‘Report on the collection of implements from Saint-Brieuc Normandy’ Journal of Anthropological Institute2 [1872] pp. 68-69

Fox, A.H. Lane 1873 ‘Remarks on the Bronze Exhibition.’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in London5 [1873] pp. 412-413

Fox, A.H. Lane 1873 ‘Report of the Committee appointed for the purpose of preparing and publishing brief forms of instructions for Travellers, Ethnologists and other Anthropological Observers’ Report: British Association for the Advancement of Science(1873) pp. 482-488

Fox, A.H. Lane 1874 ‘On a series of Stone Implements ... from the Rio Negro Patagonia’ Journal of Anthropological Institute4 [1874] pp. 311-320

Fox, A.H. Lane 1874 ‘On a blow-pipe, arrows and bow from Costa Rica’. Journal of Anthropological Institute4 [1874] p. 363

Fox, A.H. Lane 1874 ‘On Early Modes of Navigation’ Journal of Anthropological Institute4 [1874] pp. 399-435

Fox, A.H. Lane 1875 ‘On the principles of classification adopted in the arrangement of his anthropological collection, now exhibited in the Bethnal Green Museum’ Journal of Anthropological Institute 4 (1875) pp. 293-308 [read at the special meeting of the Institute held at Bethnal Green Museum on 1st July 1874 on the occasion of the opening of the collection to the public].

Fox, A.H. Lane 1875 ‘On the Evolution of Culture’ Journal of the Royal Institute 7 [1875] pp. 357-389

Fox, A.H. Lane 1875 ‘Excavations in Cissbury Camp Sussex’ Journal of Anthropological Institute5 [1875] 357-89 also Report: British Association for the Advancement of Science[1875] p. 173

Fox, A.H. Lane 1875 ‘Early modes of navigation’ Journal of Anthropological Institutevol iv (1875) pp. 399-435

Fox, A.H. Lane 1876 ‘Presidential Address to the Anthropological Institute’. Journal of Anthropological Institute5 [1876] pp. 468-488

Fox, A.H. Lane 1876 ‘Excavations in the camp and tumulus at Seaford, Sussex’ Journal of Anthropological Institute6 (1876) pp. 287-299

Fox, A.H. Lane 1877Catalogue of the Anthropological Collection lent by Colonel Lane Fox for exhibition in the Bethnal Green branch of the South Kensington Museum June 1874 Parts I and II. London, Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education HMSO [Re-issued 1879]

Fox, A.H. Lane 1877 ‘Presidential Address to the Anthropological Institute’Journal of Anthropological Institute6 [1877] pp. 491-510

Fox, A.H. Lane 1877 ‘On some Saxon and British Tumuli near Guildford’ Report: British Association for the Advancement of Science [1877] pp. 116-117

Fox, A.H. Lane 1878 ‘On the discovery of a dug-out canoe in the Thames at Hampton Court.’ Journal of Anthropological Institute7 [1878] pp. 102-103

Fox, A.H. Lane 1878 ‘Observations on Mr Man’s collection of Andamanese and Nicobarese objects.’ Journal of Anthropological Institute7 [1878] pp. 434-451

Fox, A.H. Lane [with G. Rolleston] 1878 ‘Report of the Excavation of a twin-barrow and a single round barrow at Sigwell (Six wells) Parish of Compton, Somerset’ Journal of Anthropological Institute8 [1878] pp. 185-194

Fox, A.H. Lane 1878 / 1881 ‘Excavations at Mount Caburn camp near Lewes conducted in 1877 and 1878’Archaeologia46 [1881] pp. 423-495

AP, February 2011; revised February 2013


[1] 22830 as at February 2013, this number is likely to increase over 2013 as the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project continues to find unentered items

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