Ivan D. Margary (1896 - 1976)

Ivan D. Margary, known as Donald to his friends, was without question the most important contributor to the study of Roman roads this country has ever seen. Born in London in 1896, he grew up at Chartham Park, East Grinstead, and was privately educated before going up to Exeter College, Oxford, in 1913, reading Chemistry. WWI intervened and in 1917, a lieutenant in the Royal Sussex Regiment, he was seriously wounded in France.

After the war, he completed his degree and by 1927 been elected  a Fellow of both the Royal Metereological Society and the Royal Geographical Society, the year his passion for Roman roads and archaeology began with the discovery of a road on the family estate. His study began locally, publishing Roman Ways in the Weald in 1948. Roman Roads in Britain followed in 1945/7, revised in 1967 and 1973, and remains the standard gazetteer type work on the subject, introducing his system of numbering Roman roads which was quickly adopted by the archaeological community and remains in use today.

Less well known is his considerable philanthropy which includes his donation of a 100 yard length of Roman road at Holtye, East Sussex, to the Sussex Archaeological Society. He was largely responsible for helping the National Trust to purchase the nationally important sites at Avebury and Windmill Hill, and funded the excavations at the Roman Palace at Fishbourne, paying for the building to cover it, thus saving it for the nation. All his financial contributions were very discreet and he even turned down an OBE, which he felt he didn’t deserve.