Masson Phillips, E. N.


Published in DA Transactions, 1988.


The Devonshire Association has suffered a loss in the death at his home in Totnes on 20 July 1987 of Edwin Masson Phillips. ‘Ted’, as he was known, was born in Plymouth and was the only child of the Plymouth artist E. R. Phillips. He was educated at the Hoe Grammar School and Plymouth Polytechnic, biology and chemistry being his special subjects. He then joined his father’s stained glass manufacturing business at Stonehouse. This business supplied glass windows for churches and buildings from the Isles of Scilly to Northumberland and overseas as far as New Zealand and Buenos Aires.

In 1930 Edwin joined the Old Plymouth Society and in 1931 he became a member of the Devonshire Association where he met R. H. Worth. In later years he said he owed ‘Mr Worth a great personal debt of gratitude since he literally transformed my outlook and interests. R. H. W. not only provided factual material but also trained me to observe, to record and to consider before making rash statements’. At the outset of World War II Mr Masson Phillips was Curator of the Plymouth Athenaeum and personally packed away two outstanding specimens – the bronze mirror from Mount Batten and the amber and gold ‘Hameldon’ dagger pommel. Unfortunately both items were lost when the Athenaeum was destroyed in the Plymouth blitz.

During the war Mr Masson Phillips served in the Special Reserve Police in Plymouth and had some narrow escapes in the blitz which destroyed the family business. After the war he qualified as a teacher and taught chemistry and biology at the Totnes Boys Grammar School and later at the King Edward VI Comprehensive School until he retired in 1973. He managed to combine a teaching career with his many hobbies and interests. During the late 1950s Mr Masson Phillips persuaded the then Totnes Borough Council to buy the empty No 70 Fore Street and convert it into a museum for the town. He was active on the various committees for the Museum and served as vice-president and president.

Between 1937 and 1987 he published a series of papers in the Transactions on ‘Ancient Stone Crosses’; between 1979 and 1982 a series of three ‘Archaeological Notes’; in 1985 ‘The Boundary Stones of Plymouth’ and in 1986 ‘The Boundary Stones of Totnes’. In 1984, when the Association decided to reprint The Good Town of Totnes by Percy Russell, he wrote an introduction which updated the information in the book and in 1987 he wrote an introduction for the facsimile reprint of William Crossing’s Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor. He was an erudite and entertaining lecturer and a frequent contributor to The Western Morning News.

Ted Masson Phillips had an outstanding memory and was a natural student who was always ready to share his vast knowledge with others. He was courteous, kind yet strong minded, with a firm belief in living according to the Ten Commandments. He was also a sensitive and caring person moved by beauty in every form be it Nature, Music or Art. He will be sadly missed by many.

Papers published in DA’s Transactions

Year  Vol.Pages
1937E. Masson PhillipsAncient Stone Crosses of Devon. Part 169289-342
1938E. Masson PhillipsThe Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon: Part II70299-340
1939E. Masson PhillipsCarduus Pynocephalus L. on Plymouth Hoe71243-248
1940E. Masson PhillipsSupplementary Notes on the Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon. (Second Paper)72265-272
1943E. Masson PhillipsNotes on Some Roadside Stones in South West Devon75141-166
1943E. Masson PhillipsSupplementary Notes on the Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon. (Third Paper)75259-266
1951E. N. Masson PhillipsAn Addendum To The Moorstone Age Part II83298-299
1954E. N. Masson PhillipsAncient Stone Crosses of Devon: Supplementary Notes (4th Paper)86173-194
1958E. N. Masson PhillipsBunter Quartzite Artifacts from Coastal Sites in South Devon90129-145
1959E. N. Masson PhillipsSupplementary Notes on the Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon9183-91
1977E. N. Masson PhillipsArchaeological Notes (south Devon Norman Tympana; pebble-scrapers, etc.)109179-182
1979E. N. Masson PhillipsSupplementary Notes on the Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon111139-144
1981E. N. Masson PhillipsArchaeological Notes II (Mesolithic flints)113147-164
1982E. N. Masson PhillipsArchaeological Notes III (excavation of Bronze Age house, Scad Brook, Ugborough)11457-62
1984E. N. Masson PhillipsSupplementary Notes on the Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon116135-153
1986E. N. Masson PhillipsThe Bounds of the Borough of Totnes11813-24
1987E. N. Masson PhillipsSupplementary Notes on the Ancient Stone Crosses of Devon (Eighth Paper)119241-250