Harold Jones blue plaque honours Barnsley-born archaeologist who helped find Tutankhamun's tomb
Artist-turned-archaeologist Jones is an important figure in the history of Egyptology and made significant discoveries that have largely been forgotten, writes Graham Walker.
He uncovered some of the first clues as to the location of history’s greatest find but died before the so-called Boy King's tomb was eventually located in 1922 by Howard Carter and his patron Lord Carnarvon.
Today’s Lady Carnarvon, Countess Fiona, the fifth Earl’s great granddaughter-in law, joined her BAFTA award-winning TV Egyptology friend Immortal Egypt star Joann, also from Barnsley, and Mayor Coun Mick Stowe, to unveil a blue plaque outside the home where Jones was born in Sackville Street, in 1877.
It marks the conclusion of centenary celebrations for the tomb discovery.
The plaque was made possible following a joint project between Barnsley Museums, the Barnsley Civic Trust and Immortal Egypt TV star Joann, who has been busy writing Jones back into the history books by putting a spotlight on his vital research and the impact it had with exhibitions for Barnsley Museums, including the recent TUT22, which ended earlier this year and attracted record breaking numbers of visitors - take the free online virtual tour here.
Joann believes it is highly likely that Jones would have found the tomb before Carter, had he not died from tuberculosis in the Valley of the Kings a few years earlier.
“I do believe he would have found the tomb of Tutankhamun had he not died so tragically young," said highly respected ancient Egypt expert Joann, whose TV shows are also getting tens of millions of views around the world on YouTube.
"His funeral in Egypt was arranged by his friends Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, who were able to follow the clues Jones had found to finally discover the tomb in 1922."
"In many ways he was way ahead of Carter. It was Jones who first realised the significance of the then little-known name Tutankhamun, and it was Jones who was first talent spotted by the then Lord and Lady Carnarvon.
“They invited him to stay with them at their family seat Highclere Castle and took great care of him as his illness grew worse."
Countess Fiona is the wife of George Herbert, known as Geordie, the now 8th Earl of Carnarvon – they continue to own and run Highclere Castle, these days best known globally as the setting for TV’s Downton Abbey.
It is open to public visits and houses a permanent Egyptian Exhibition in its cellars, of ancient artefacts and Tutankhamun tomb treasure replicas, including the iconic golden death mask.
A historian and author, she has also written about Jones in her latest book, The Earl and the Pharaoh, which draws on many of Highclere Castle’s never-before-seen archives to tell the story of the fifth Earl and how his sudden death, from an infected mosquito bite just months after the tomb was opened, became front-page news fuelling rumours that persist today of ‘the curse of the pharaohs’.
She said of taking part in the blue plaque tribute to Jones: “It's a great honour to be here. It was a lovely gesture from Joann Fletcher who invited me along to be part of the story.
"The discovery of Tutankhamun wasn't an overnight success. It was built on many smaller stories, team work and other people's discoveries."
LISTEN: Highclere to Tutankhamun: Joann Fletcher. Lady Carnarvon chats to the TV Egyptologist in her official official podcast – CLICK HERE.
Coun Robert Frost, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “It is fascinating to discover the strong links between Barnsley and Ancient Egypt particularly around the work done by Ernest Harold Jones.
“It is important that his achievements are recognised and remembered, and this blue plaque is a fitting tribute to his work in archaeology.”
Before the unveiling, the Countess, introduced by Joann, gave a short free public talk about her life and work in the Town Hall Council Chamber, with donations to Barnsley Museum and Heritage Trust, which helps to fund and promote the town's five museums Experience Barnsley, The Cooper Gallery, Elsecar Heritage Centre, Cannon Hall Museum and Worsbrough Mill.
WATCH: TUT 22 EXCLUSIVE: An Audience With TV's Immortal Egypt star Joann Fletcher & Stephen Buckley.
- Barnsley-born inventor, Joseph Bramah, a locksmith and pioneer of hydraulic engineering, was also commemorated this week with a blue plaque unveiled at Wentworth Castle in Stainborough.
Barnsley Museums web site www.barnsley-museums.com
Immortal Egypt the official website of Prof Joann Fletcher visit www.immortalegypt.co.uk
Lady Carnarvon the official website of the Countess of Carnarvon, visit www.ladycarnarvon.com
Highclere Castle web site: www.highclerecastle.co.uk