Our Friend, Mick Aston, Dies

Listed on June 25, 2013 in Blogs!

Everyone at Dillington is totally shocked at the death of our dear friend Mick Aston at the young age of 66. Whilst no doubt all of the obituaries will acknowledge his enthusiasm for field archaeology and his genuine warmth of personality I want to pay tribute to his passion for adult education. An unpretentious communicator, he wanted to share his knowledge and know-how with all who would listen. Adult education was the perfect platform for this and in recent years he would rail against the ‘savage cuts’ in funding for this crucial aspect of education as he saw it. He was wise through experience and he had an independent spirit which the rest of us envied. When he was appointed as Somerset’s first County Archaeologist in the early 1970s nobody knew what the job entailed – least of all Mick. Believing that what he needed to do was to know Somerset he set about visiting every parish and recording every historic building and prehistoric monument he could find. Immediately he discovered dozens of previously unrecognised deserted medieval villages. Needless to say, he was out of the office for weeks on end though his work formed the basis of all future work in the County.

In many ways, Mick was an old lefty who believed that Thatcherism specifically, and managerialism more generally, had destroyed so much that was good in society. He hated bureaucracy and bureaucrats and enjoyed subverting all attempts to control him. With Mick you had to go with the flow. He very much followed in the footsteps of Maurice Beresford and Philip Ratz. He was a no-nonsense archaeologist who had no truck with theory admitting to me once that he had no time to read the stuff! His personal research centred on the history of medieval religious houses – monasteries, abbeys and priories etc. although he always stressed that he wasn’t interested in the liturgical aspects of monastic living. Nothing would give him greater pleasure than to be interpreting the lumps and bumps of an old abbey site. Time Team made Mick famous but it did not change him to his friends. He was a staunch supporter and champion of our work at Dillington – and an admirer of Joyce’s apple cake! We are grateful of Mick’s support and we’ll miss his visits enormously. Our thoughts are with Teresa and the family.