Life of Egyptologist Ernest Harold Jones remembered at blue plaque unveiling

The life of Egyptologist Ernest Harold Jones will be remembered at a blue plaque unveiling on Thursday, 14 September at 3 pm. Born on Sackville Street in 1877, the plaque will poignantly be unveiled on the house in which he was born.

The plaque has been made possible following a joint project between Barnsley Museums, the Barnsley Civic Trust, and Professor Joann Fletcher. It will be unveiled by the Mayor of Barnsley, Cllr Mick Stowe, Professor Fletcher, and special guest the Countess of Carnarvon.

Jones was an important figure in the history of Egyptology and made significant archaeological discoveries that have largely been forgotten. Born to Welsh parents, his father was appointed the first headmaster of Barnsley School of Art so moved his growing family to Barnsley where Harold was born and then christened at St.Mary's church. The hugely successful ‘TUT’22: the Life of Tutankhamun’ exhibition at Experience Barnsley, which ran until earlier this year, included a celebration of his work, once again putting a spotlight on his vital research and the impact it had. 

The TUT’22 exhibition was curated by the town’s BAFTA award-winning TV Egyptologist Professor Joann Fletcher, who has been researching Jones’ life for over 20 years and was determined to write this Barnsley-born man back into the history books. 

Although Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter on behalf of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, it was the Barnsley-born artist-turned-archaeologist Jones who uncovered some of the first clues to the location of the tomb. Joann believes it is highly likely that he would also have found the tomb before Howard Carter, had he not died young from tuberculosis in the Valley of the Kings a few years earlier. 

Professor Joann Fletcher said: "In many ways he was way ahead of Howard 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 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. I do believe he would have found the tomb of Tutankhamun had he not died so tragically young. 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."

Cllr 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 research conducted 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 of Carnarvon will deliver a short talk about her life and work. Her husband, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, is the great-grandson of the 5th Earl who was an Egyptologist in his own right and for many years funded excavations in the Valley of the Kings leading to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Lady Carnarvon is a historian and author, whose works, including histories of the Earls of Carnarvon, also feature Harold Jones and the family seat Highclere Castle, made famous in recent years as the filming location for Downton Abbey.  

Lady Carnarvon’s talk will take place in the Town Hall Council Chamber at 1:30 pm, with an introduction from Professor Fletcher. Members of the public are welcome to the unique event. The talk is free to attend, but donations to the Barnsley Museum and Heritage Trust are welcome.