Maud Cunnington
Maud Edith Cunnington (24 September 1869–28 February 1951), was a Welsh
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

-born archaeologist, most famous for her pioneering work on the prehistoric sites of Salisbury Plain
Salisbury Plain
Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau in central southern England covering . It is part of the Southern England Chalk Formation and largely lies within the county of Wiltshire, with a little in Hampshire. The plain is famous for its rich archaeology, including Stonehenge, one of England's best known...


She was born at Briton Ferry
Briton Ferry
Briton Ferry is a town and community in the county borough of Neath Port Talbot, Wales. The town encompasses the electoral wards of Briton Ferry East and Briton Ferry West....

 in Glamorgan
Glamorgan or Glamorganshire is one of the thirteen historic counties and a former administrative county of Wales. It was originally an early medieval kingdom of varying boundaries known as Glywysing until taken over by the Normans as a lordship. Glamorgan is latterly represented by the three...

 to Charles Pegge, a doctor who ran Vernon House, the last privately owned asylum
Psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental hospitals, are hospitals specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders. Psychiatric hospitals vary widely in their size and grading. Some hospitals may specialise only in short-term or outpatient therapy for low-risk patients...

 in Wales. One of seven children, Cunnington's older brother Edward
Edward Pegge
Dr. Edward Vernon Pegge was a Welsh international rugby union forward who played club rugby for Neath Rugby Football Club, international rugby for Wales and later became a vice-president of the Welsh Rugby Union...

 followed his father as a doctor, and was also a notable rugby player and Welsh international. Maud was educated briefly at Cheltenham Ladies' College
Cheltenham Ladies' College
The Cheltenham Ladies' College is an independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11 to 18 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.-History:The school was founded in 1853...

. In 1889, she married Ben Cunnington who was the honorary curator of Devizes
Devizes is a market town and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. The town is about southeast of Chippenham and about east of Trowbridge.Devizes serves as a centre for banks, solicitors and shops, with a large open market place where a market is held once a week...

 Museum. Their only son, Edward, was killed in the First World War.

From 1897, Maud carried out early Rescue archaeology
Rescue archaeology
Rescue archaeology, sometimes called "preventive" or "salvage" archaeology, is archaeological survey and excavation carried out in areas threatened by, or revealed by, construction or other development...

 work during development in the area but also carried out full excavations at some of the most important sites in British archaeology. These included the first known Neolithic causewayed enclosure
Causewayed enclosure
A causewayed enclosure is a type of large prehistoric earthwork common to the early Neolithic in Europe. More than 100 examples are recorded in France and 70 in England, while further sites are known in Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Slovakia.The term "causewayed enclosure" is...

 at Knap Hil, the Iron age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 village at All Cannings Cross
All Cannings Cross
All Cannings Cross is the name of farm and an archaeological site close to All Cannings near Devizes in the English county of Wiltshire.It is famous as being the first site where the emergence of iron age technology in Britain was identified by archaeologists...

, West Kennet Long Barrow
West Kennet Long Barrow
The West Kennet Long Barrow is a Neolithic tomb or barrow, situated on a prominent chalk ridge, near Silbury Hill, one-and-a-half miles south of Avebury in Wiltshire, England. The site was recorded by John Aubrey in the 17th century and by William Stukeley in the 18th century.Archaeologists...

, Figsbury Ring
Figsbury Ring
Figsbury Ring is a 11.2 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Wiltshire, notified in 1975. It is owned and managed by the National Trust....

, Woodhenge
Woodhenge is a Neolithic Class I henge and timber circle monument located in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site in Wiltshire, England. It is north-east of Stonehenge in the parish of Durrington, just north of Amesbury.-Discovery:...

, (which she named) and the The Sanctuary
The Sanctuary
The Sanctuary is a prehistoric site on Overton Hill located around 5 miles west of Marlborough in the English county of Wiltshire.It is part of a wider Neolithic landscape which includes the nearby sites of Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow and Avebury, to which The Sanctuary was linked by the...

. This last monument she rediscovered as it had been lost since William Stukeley
William Stukeley
William Stukeley FRS, FRCP, FSA was an English antiquarian who pioneered the archaeological investigation of the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, work for which he has been remembered as "probably... the most important of the early forerunners of the discipline of archaeology"...

 saw it in the eighteenth century. Woodhenge and The Sanctuary were bought by the Cunningtons and given to the nation. In 1931, she was elected president of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society was founded in 1853, and is one of the largest county-based archaeological societies in the UK. It runs the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire which has the best Bronze Age collections in Britain, including finds from Avebury...


In 1948 she was made CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 for services to archaeology, the first woman archaeologist to receive the honour. Bedridden since 1947, and suffering from Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

 however, she never knew of the accolade. When she died at home a few years later she left almost all her property (£14,000) to Devizes Museum, (now Wiltshire Heritage Museum
Wiltshire Heritage Museum
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum, formerly known as Devizes Museum, is a museum, archive and library and art gallery in Devizes, Wiltshire, England. The museum was established and is still run by, the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society , a registered charity founded in 1853. After... allowing a salaried curator
A curator is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution is a content specialist responsible for an institution's collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material...

 to be appointed for the first time. Her husband had died a few months previously.


  • Rundle, P, Cunnington , Maud Edith (1869-1951), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

    , 2004 accessed 23 September 2005
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