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Celebrating Hampshire's Historians

Cottrill, Frank

1908 - 1994

Frank Cottrill was born in in Walthamstow but grew up in Torquay. His father was a keen amateur photographer and artist and his parents spent much of their leisure time looking at churches and archaeological sites, firing their son’s interest in the subject.

From 1926 onwards he studied archaeology at University College, London, completing an MA on Anglo-Saxon sculpture five years later. His supervisor was Mortimer Wheeler and Cottrill participated in all of his major excavations in the 20s and 30s, including Caerleon, Verulamium and Maiden Castle.  Excavations and investigations in the City of London followed, as well as work in Essex and Devon.  All this stood him in good stead for the newly created post of Keeper of Archaeology at Leicester Museum (1938).

It was at Leicester that he met Eleanor Swift, who was in charge of the City’s muniment room and they married in 1940.  In 1947 their careers took them to Winchester, when Frank was appointed as the first full-time Curator at the Museum, to be followed shortly afterwards by Eleanor, who became County Archivist.

Almost immediately, Cottrill set out his policy for the re-organisation of the collections, and development of the museum.  Despite staff shortages and financial constraints many advances were made and among the more spectacular accessions were the Hawkesmoor drawing of the King’s House in Winchester and the mosaic floor from Sparsholt Roman villa.

He retired in 1973.


Winchester Excavations Vol 3 (mss) Elizabeth Lewis.


Frank Cottrill

Contribution to county’s history

Brought a professional approach to the organisation and development of Winchester Museum; undertook the first proper excavation on the city’s defences (near the site of the East Gate).  

Relevant published works

  • Treasures of Winchester Museum; History, scope and future policy (1947)
  • Cottrill F (1949) Report on pottery Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc 17, 358-9
  • Cottrill F (1951) Excavations Colebrook Street Proc Hants Field Club & Archaeol Soc 18, 62 
  • The Hampshire Observer (1952) The ancient defences of Winchester; new evidence from the excavations.
  • The Hampshire Observer (1952) The need for reorganisation

Critical Comments

Other Comments


Dave Allen Oct 2021


archaeology, archaeological excavations, Winchester City Museum

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