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Jean Le Patourel, BA, FSA

Mrs Jean Le Patourel, former Lecturer in Archaeology, died on 20 January 2011.

Born in Weymouth in 1915, Jean Le Patourel attended Croydon High School before going on to Bedford College, a constituent college of the University of London, to read History.  She graduated in 1938 and completed a Diploma of Education in 1939.  In that same year, she married John Le Patourel, then a lecturer in History at University College London.

The Le Patourels moved north in 1945, when John Le Patourel was appointed to the Chair of Medieval History at Leeds.  Jean Le Patourel began to develop her own interest in medieval culture, especially the medieval ceramics of Yorkshire.   Little was known about these at the time and Jean soon established herself as the regional expert, publishing specialist reports in archaeological journals which defined the main types and began to establish their distributions.  The kilns which produced the pottery began to be found, in some cases through her own documentary research, and she either excavated these – at Winksley and at Brandsby in North Yorkshire – or produced the reports on the ceramics from them, as at Potterton and elsewhere. 

Collaboration with John Hurst, the national medieval ceramics expert at the Ancient Monuments Inspectorate, led to Jean being invited to carry out a number of excavations on medieval sites in Yorkshire, including Knaresborough Castle, and on four medieval moated sites threatened with destruction.   From this came a general survey of medieval moated sites in Yorkshire. The resultant publication is still the starting point for research on the subject.  Jean’s collaboration with John Hurst continued at the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy, where for many years she reported on the ceramic finds from this very long-running and now world-famous excavation.  Contacts made through these projects and through her husband’s wide international network meant that Jean was well-known and internationally-respected in her field.  For many years, for example, she was one of the British delegates on the Chateau Gaillard Conference on Castle Studies.  Elected in 1960, she completed fifty years as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Jean Le Patourel’s academic career with the University began in 1967, when she was appointed to a temporary lectureship in History and Archaeology in the then Department of Adult Education and Extra-Mural Studies.  The appointment was made permanent in 1969.  She was appointed as an Associate Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology in 1976.  Jean is remembered as an inspiring teacher by the students of her Extra-Mural and WEA classes, many of whom first encountered archaeology from her, but went on with her encouragement and guidance to make their own contributions both as amateurs and in some cases as professionals.   Another seminal publication, on the history of Yorkshire boundaries, emerged from such Extra-Mural work.  Mrs Le Patourel was a doughty champion of archaeology within the University and one of her principal achievements was the introduction of a two-year Extra-Mural Certificate in the subject.

Externally, Jean was a moving spirit behind the establishment of a Medieval Section of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, of which she was the first Chairman.  Through her proselytising zeal, she was responsible for the recruitment of a number of new members to the Society who were to become some of its most stalwart and hard-working supporters, taking on various offices and projects; in recognition of her services, she was made a Vice-President of the Society.  Locally, she was also, with Professor Le Patourel, a keen supporter of the Thoresby Society, and took part in the excavations at Kirkstall Abbey, and the presentation of the results in the Society’s Publications.  She was prominently involved in a range of other archaeological organisations, serving on the Council of the Society for Medieval Archaeology and the Executive of the York Archaeological Trust and as President of the Ilkley Museum and Archaeological Society, as well as on committees and working parties of the Ancient Monuments Board and the Department of the Environment. 

Alongside her own academic interests, Mrs Le Patourel went out of her way to support her husband’s work in the School of History.  She took pains to meet new members of staff in the School and was a hospitable hostess, helping entertain her husband’s tutorial groups and postgraduates, even after the family home moved from Leeds to Ilkley.  Although in some ways a reserved individual, Jean Le Patourel was also well-known for her considerable charm and acts of kindness, jollity and informality.  The eminent historian, Lord Asa Briggs, who held the Chair of Modern History at Leeds from 1955 until 1961, writes:  ‘I have the happiest memories of Jean.  I saw a lot of John and Jean in Ilkley.  Sometimes I used to walk to their house across the moors between East Morton and Ilkley, more often I went by bus from Keighley.  I remember well their caravan.  They went everywhere in it.  They liked travel as much as I did.  Jean was wonderful with students.  She made them feel at home.  My wife and I tried to behave in the same way.’

Mrs Le Patourel retired from her University post in 1980 but continued to pursue her scholarly interests.  Always a cairn terrier enthusiast, she gained much enjoyment in later years from the study and archaeological history of early dog collars, on which she was also the acknowledged expert. 

Professor John Le Patourel died in 1981.  Mrs Le Patourel is survived by a daughter and three sons.

The funeral has been held.

In memory of Mrs Le Patourel, the flag was flown at half-mast on the Parkinson Building on the day of the funeral.