Jean Le Patourel

Jean Le Patourel: Won international respect.
Jean Le Patourel: Won international respect.
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JEAN Le Patourel won a reputation in her field of expertise which resulted in a collaboration with John Hurst – the national medieval ceramics expert – at the Ancient Monuments Inspectorate, at 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, and 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 long-running and now world-famous excavation.

Jean Le Patourel, who has died aged 95, was a lecturer in archaeology at Leeds University.

Born in Weymouth, Jean Bird 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 was appointed to the Chair of Medieval History at Leeds.

Jean began to develop her own interest in medieval culture, especially the medieval ceramics of Yorkshire. Little was known about these at the time and she soon established herself as the regional expert, publishing specialist reports in archaeological journals which defined the main types and began to establish their distributions.

Contacts made through her many projects and through her husband’s international network meant that she became widely known, and was 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 50 years as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Her academic career at Leeds 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, and she was appointed an associate lecturer in the Department of Archaeology in 1976.

A doughty champion of archaeology within the university, she 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 enthusiastic promotion of it, 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. In recognition of her services, she was made a vice-president. Locally, she was also, with Professor Le Patourel, a keen supporter of the Thoresby Society, and took part in the excavations at Kirkstall Abbey. 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.

Jean Le Patourel was a hospitable hostess, helping entertain her husband’s tutorial groups and postgraduates, even after the family home moved from Leeds to Ilkley. Although reserved, she could be informal, jolly and charming, and earned affection with her many acts of kindness.

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 their daughter Nicolette, and sons Peter, Julian and Geoff.