We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Lamb, Winifred (1894–1963), archaeologist and museum curator, was born on 3 November 1894 at Holly Lodge, Campden Hill, London, the only child of Edmund George Lamb (1863–1925), landowner, colliery proprietor, and former Liberal MP for North Herefordshire (1906–10), and his wife, Mabel (1862–1941), daughter of Stephen Winkworth, a Manchester cotton mill owner, and his wife, Emma. Her father educated her at home, at Borden Wood in Sussex (near Liphook), and at Holly Lodge, the home of her maternal grandparents and previously that also of Lord Macaulay, who had purchased it in 1856. In 1913 she was admitted to Newnham College, Cambridge, which her mother had also attended, to read classics; Winifred's maternal grandparents had been early benefactors of the college. Winifred became interested in classical archaeology, partly through the endeavours of Jane E. Harrison.

Lamb completed the classical tripos with a double first in 1917, and joined the naval intelligence department (Room 40) at the Admiralty, where the classical archaeologist John D. Beazley worked. Beazley's help is detected in Lamb's first published article in the Journal of Hellenic Studies (1918) which discussed seven Greek pots that she had acquired at the sale of the Hope antiquities at Christies in July 1917. Lamb was clearly influenced by the new ‘science of vases’, the attribution of works to largely anonymous Athenian pot-painters; Beazley was later to name one of these painters, ‘the Lamb painter’ (‘der Lamb Maler’), in her honour.

After the war, Lamb decided to pursue her interests in classical archaeology. In 1919 Sydney Cockerell invited her to become honorary keeper of Greek and Roman antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in succession to F. H. Marshall of Emmanuel College; she accepted, and held the position until 1958. Lamb was able to bring order to this significant collection, which contained antiquities presented to Cambridge University by Professor E. D. Clarke and Dr John Disney. One of the significant developments was the creation of a prehistoric gallery, which was to display material obtained through the fieldwork of members of the British School at Athens. Sadly, one of Lamb's key acquisitions of a marble figure of a Cretan goddess, made with the support of Sir Arthur Evans, turned out to be a forgery.

In October 1920 Lamb was admitted as a student of the British School at Athens; one of her fellow students was Bernard Ashmole. In May 1921 Lamb joined the British excavations at Mycenae, and in the 1922 season acted as second in command to the director, A. J. B. Wace; her parents were financial supporters of the excavation. She was to publish a series of studies on the palace at Mycenae in the Annual of the British School at Athens (1921–3).

Lamb's interests lay in the field of prehistoric Greece, and by early 1924 she was excavating with W. A. Heurtley, the assistant director of the British School, at Vardaroftsa in Macedonia. However, in March 1924 she joined the British School's major excavations at the classical site of Sparta under A. M. Woodward. Lamb was responsible for the publication of the bronze finds, in the Annual of the British School at Athens (1926–7). Despite the frustrations of the excavation, Lamb wrote home to her mother, ‘Archaeology is a wonderful life’, and expressed the view that she was now ready to start excavating on her own.

Lamb's father died in January 1925, and it was not until the autumn of 1928 that she opened a trial excavation at Methymna on the island of Lesbos, although the lack of stratigraphy meant that she abandoned future plans to work there. Frustrated, she resumed field walking the island with R. W. Hutchinson on the look-out for a suitable place to excavate. At Thermi they recognized a prehistoric site which had been partly eroded by the sea, and in April of the following year a series of excavations was started, largely at Lamb's own expense; they continued until 1933. The site was to be published in the monograph Excavations at Thermi in Lesbos (1936). In 1940 Lamb was awarded a ScD by the University of Cambridge on the basis of the volume; it was examined by Professor Gordon Childe of Edinburgh and Carl Blegen of the American School at Athens, who had respectively reviewed the book for the Journal of Hellenic Studies (1937) and the American Journal of Archaeology (1938).

During the excavations of Thermi, Lamb conducted minor excavations at Antissa on Lesbos, in part to look for evidence of the Late Bronze Age and archaic period. With the Thermi excavations complete, she initiated the excavation of the archaic temple of Apollo at Kato Phana on the island of Chios. Lamb had visited Troy in 1929, and her excavations at Thermi had raised certain key questions about the contact between the Aegean and mainland Anatolia. In the spring of 1935 she selected the site of Kusura near Afyon as a possible site for excavation. Three seasons of work were carried out and published in Archaeologia (1936, 1937).

In spite of this busy excavating programme, Lamb continued to develop the Greek collections of the Fitzwilliam, in part through the donation of objects that she had obtained on her travels. She was later to be recognized as one of the most significant benefactors to the classical collections. This museum work allowed Lamb to concentrate on ancient bronzes, and which was to culminate in Greek and Roman Bronzes (1929). Her earlier interest in Greek pottery also led her to prepare the two Cambridge fascicles of the Corpus vasorum antiquorum (1930, 1936), which replaced Ernest Gardner's Catalogue of Vases (1897).

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Lamb settled at the family home of Borden Wood to look after her now frail mother, who died in August 1941. This freed her to accept the post of Greek language supervisor at the BBC, and in 1942 she transferred to the Turkish section of the Near Eastern department of the BBC, where she worked until 1946. During the final stages of the war, Lamb was badly injured when a German V2 rocket hit her lodgings in north London; her housemates were killed.

Lamb's pre-war fieldwork in Turkey led her to join in the creation of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara under the initiative of John Garstang. Lamb was to serve as the institute's honorary secretary from 1948 to 1957, and subsequently as a vice-president. Although her excavating days were over, she made a number of trips to eastern Anatolia which resulted in papers for Anatolian Studies (1954, 1956).

Lamb became an associate of Newnham College in 1926, was awarded a life studentship of the British School at Athens in 1931, and was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1932. In 1958 Lamb's health started to fail her. She resigned from her honorary keepership at the Fitzwilliam Museum and retired to Borden Wood; she never married and died at the Cottage Hospital, Easebourne, Sussex, of a stroke on 16 September 1963. Her funeral took place in the Roman Catholic church at Midhurst in Sussex, and she was buried in the Midhurst cemetery.

David Gill

Sources  

G. Caton-Thompson, ‘Winifred Lamb, 1894–1963 (Newnham, 1913–17)’, Newnham College Roll Letter (1964), 50–52 · The Times (18 Sept 1963) · A. M. Woodward, The Times (21 Sept 1963) · R. D. Barnett, ‘Winifred Lamb’, British School at Athens Annual Report (1962–3), 16–18 · Annual Report of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, 15 (1963), 2–3 · R. Hood, Faces of archaeology in Greece: caricatures by Piet de Jong (1998) · D. W. J. Gill, ‘Winifred Lamb and the Fitzwilliam Museum’, Classics in 19th and 20th century Cambridge, ed. C. A. Stray, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, suppl. 24 (1999), 135–56 · K. Butcher and D. W. J. Gill, ‘The director, the dealer, the goddess and her champions: the acquisition of the Fitzwilliam Goddess’, American Journal of Archaeology, 97 (1993), 383–401 · R. W. Hutchinson, ‘Winifred Lamb’, priv. coll. [unpublished MS] · W. Lamb, ‘Byways in Attica’, Newnham College Roll Letter (1922), 70–73 · H. Waterhouse, The British School at Athens: the first hundred years (1986) · G. Caton-Thompson, ‘Mrs Edmund Lamb (Mabel Winkworth), 1880–1881’, Newnham College Roll Letter (1942), 35–7 · D. W. J. Gill, ‘“A rich and promising site”: Winifred Lamb (1894–1963), Kusura, and Anatolian archaeology’, Anatolian Studies, 50 (2000), 1–10 · A. Hamlin, Pioneers of the past (2001), 39–42 · b. cert. · d. cert.

Archives  

British School at Athens, corresp., photograph albums · FM Cam., letters, artefacts, incl. bequest · priv. coll., photograph album |  priv. coll., diaries and papers


Likenesses  

P. de Jong, cartoon, 1924, repro. in Hood, Faces of archaeology in Greece; priv. coll · photograph, British School at Athens, Greece; repro. in Hood, Faces of archaeology in Greece

Wealth at death  

£492,366 15s. 0d.: probate, 15 Oct 1963, CGPLA Eng. & Wales