University of Chester pays tribute to Professor Dai Morgan Evans.

Posted on 9th March 2017

The University of Chester is mourning the passing of Professor Dai Morgan Evans, who died on St David’s Day, his 73rd birthday, and made his mark interpreting the landscapes of England and Wales. 

Professor Dai Morgan Evans.
Professor Dai Morgan Evans.
Dai will be sadly missed by current and former staff and students of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester and many more in the world of British archaeology.
Professor Howard Williams

David ‘Dai’ Morgan Evans was Visiting Professor of Archaeology at the University of Chester since his retirement in 2004, and is perhaps best known outside the field of archaeology for his television work on the Channel 4 television series Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, where he designed a Roman villa on behalf of English Heritage, advising 21st-century builders on how to construct it, using classical techniques. Subsequently, through the villa’s opening to the public in February 2011, the structure in Wroxeter, Shropshire, has remained a key element of the ancient site’s heritage interpretation.

He was an expert on the Pillar of Eliseg, which stands near Valle Crucis Abbey near Llangollen. With colleagues at the University of Chester and Bangor University, he helped initiate Project Eliseg, an archaeological research project aimed at discovering more about the multi-period monument.

Professor Howard Williams, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Chester, paid this tribute to him:

“Professor Dai Morgan Evans was the very best of academic friends to me. Dai will be sadly missed by current and former staff and students of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester and many more in the world of British archaeology. 

“Born in 1944, Dai had ties with Chester and its archaeology since childhood: he was a Chester King’s School pupil and dug with the Grosvenor Museum. His career began studying archaeology at Cardiff and he served as Assistant Director of the famous South Cadbury excavations. As an Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings, he was instrumental in bringing into existence the Welsh Archaeological Trusts. His case work took him across Wales and England during a career based first in Cardiff and then in London. Leaving English Heritage in 1992, he became General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL), steering it towards the institution it is now today. Leaving SAL, he became a member of the National Trust Archaeology Panel, the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Advisory Group, and Chairman of the Buster Ancient Farm Trust in Hampshire. His extensive and indefatigable research career included published works addressing heritage management and conservation, the Roman and early medieval archaeology of western Britain, industrial archaeology and 18th-century antiquarianism. 

“In his long-standing capacity as Visiting Professor of Archaeology, Dai enriched the student experience through his teaching. I particularly recall his contributions to the final-year student module Archaeology and Contemporary Society, where he was both popular with students and entertaining and visionary in his distinctive perspectives on the future of archaeological research and public archaeology.

“A proud (London-based) Welshman, I will remember him for his humour, goodwill, many insights, and his inspiration for my research. I recall his theories and good-natured dialogues with students, including his vision of the future of archaeology based on nanorobots! I recollect Dai’s enthusiasm for understanding the long-term biography of the Pillar of Eliseg from prehistory to recent times, and for the origins of Powys in particular. I also remember our many conspiratorial soup-and-sandwich meetings in a cafe near Chester’s Northgate.”

Professor Williams added: “Many former students who knew Dai, including those who dug with him on the 2010 season of Project Eliseg, have been in touch to express their sorrow at the news of Dai’s passing.”

Professor of Archaeology, Meggen Gondek, Head of the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester added: “I remember Dai as a devoted scholar and educator with an unbounded enthusiasm for archaeology and heritage. All former archaeology staff who knew Dai have expressed their sincere condolences and shared their warm memories of Dai as a teacher and colleague.

“Rest in peace Dai.”

Read Professor Howard Williams’ blog in full here