B. H. St. John O'Neill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Bryan H. St. John O’Neill
Born 7 August 1905
Died October 24, 1954(1954-10-24) (aged 49)
Nationality British
Fields Archaeology
Medieval architecture, History of early Artillery
Institutions Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales and Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments.
Alma mater St. John's College, Oxford

B. H. St. John O’Neill (7 August 1905 - 24 October 1954), was Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments in the Ministry of Works. In 1939 he married Helen Donovan of Bourton-on-the-Water, who was noted for her work on Gloucestershire archaeology.[1] As an Inspector of Ancient Monuments he wrote or commissioned authoritative guide books to ancient monuments of all periods. He specialised in medieval castles. One of the guide books he wrote was on Dartmouth Castle, where the ‘Guntower’ building of 1481 and 1495 is the earliest surviving English coastal fortress specifically built to carry guns.[2] This gave him a great interest in the development of early artillery fortification, in which he became a leading expert. His book Castles and Cannon; A study of Early Artillery Fortifications in England, has become a standard work. This was published in 1960, six years after his premature death at the age of 49. He also wrote on the coastal castles of the Gold Coast as well as studying the defences of Tangiers and Rhodes.

His work as Ancient Monuments Inspector for Wales was cut short with the declaration of war in 1939, and he had to take charge in London of the archaeological consequences of War damage and the organisation of rescue excavations.[3] As Chief Inspector he was involved with the drafting of the 1953 Historic Buildings Act and the setting up Historic Building Councils.[4]

In Montgomeryshire, with the encouragement of the energetic local historian J D K Lloyd he embarked on a notable series of excavations, using the modern excavation techniques pioneered by Mortimer Wheeler. These included the excavation of Iron Age Hill Forts at the Breiddin and Ffridd Faldwyn (as well as at Titterstone Clee in Shropshire); the excavations and survey of the Montgomery Town Walls, studies of the town layout of Llanidloes and the castle site at Castle Caereinion.

Select Writings[edit]

  • St John O’Neil B H “Montgomery Castle and Town Banks and Ditches” Archaeologia Cambrensis 1932, Vol 81 364-372
  • St John O’Neil B H “The Castle and Borough of Llanidloes”, Montgomeryshire Collections, 1933,Vol 43 47-65.
  • St John O’Neil B H “Excavations at Excavations at Titterstone Clee Hill Camp, Shropshire, 1932”, Archaeologia Cambrensis 1934,Vol 89, 83-111.
  • St John O’Neil B H “The Castle of Caereinion”, Montgomeryshire Collections, 1935, 39-44.
  • St John O’Neil B H “Dartmouth Castle and other defences of Dartmouth Haven ”, Archaeologia 1936, Vol 85, 364-372
  • St John O’Neil B H “Excavations at Ffridd Faldwyn Camp, Montgomeryshire, 1937-39”, Archaeologia Cambrensis 1942,Vol 97, 1-57.
  • St John O’Neil B H “Rhodes and the origin of the Bastion” Antiquaries Journall, 1954, 44-54 1932, Vol 81 364-372
  • St John O’Neil B H Castles and Cannon; A study of Early Artillery Fortifications in England, Oxford, 1960


  1. ^ E. M. Jope, ‘Bryan H. St. John O'Neill: a memoir’, ‘The published works of B.H. St. J. O'Neill’, and portrait in Studies in building history: Essays in recognition of the work of B. H. St. J. O'Neil, London, 1961, ed. E. M. Jope (1961)
  2. ^ St John O’Neil B H “Dartmouth Castle and other defences of Dartmouth Haven ”, Archaeologia, 1936, Vol 85, 364-372
  3. ^ “Jope” 10
  4. ^ Simon Thurley ‘“Men from the Ministry: How Britain Saved Its Heritage” Yale University Press, 2013,