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Exactly a year ago today we published this plea made by Heritage Action Founder Member Jamie Stone on a forum. We think it’s worth repeating – every year if necessary. How about saying something similar on your front page English Heritage?
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a digger destroying a stone row, a quarrying company destroying unique evidence of temporary camps around a henge, modern poems placed over a prehistoric landscape, a farmer allowing livestock to slowly destroy cairns or ploughing flat a round barrow, thousands of people stealing our heritage knowledge in the name of a hobby every weekend, landowners driving 4x4s across chambered tombs, tenant farmers flattening henges, 1000s of people denuding Avebury’s banks by not keeping to paths, unused roads being built over unique archaeology, 100s of people leaving tealights and garbage in barrows or one solitary person clambering to the top of a dolmen.
Don’t tell me it causes no damage. It doesn’t matter that in the greater scheme of things it’s practically irrelevant, because as the people that actually give a damn we should be setting the highest possible standard when we visit a site. We must do that because frankly, most people don’t know, they simply don’t realise.”
An interesting English Heritage document, Heritage Crime Research: The Size of the Problem seeks to evaluate the damage caused by various crimes and in our particular sphere of interest (scheduled monuments and other designated historic sites) simple antisocial behaviour is the single most common heritage crime. Illegal detecting and off-roading are also problems but metal theft is less common than it is with other types of heritage assets.
However, viewing damage through the narrow prism of heritage crime can distort the reality and none of the crimes quoted in that research document cause anything like as much damage as is caused legally by agriculture, as highlighted in another English Heritage document from 2003 – Ripping up History.
Modern ploughing has done more damage in six decades than traditional agriculture did in the preceding six centuries. Among the sites being actively ploughed are nearly 3000 scheduled monuments, sites recognised as being of national importance to our heritage.
“We are, quite literally, ripping up our history.
Farmers are not at fault.They have done what society has asked them to do and past agricultural policy has dictated. However, if this important inheritance is to be better protected in future, it is essential that government, archaeologists and farmers now work together to find a new and more sensitive approach.
Over 10,000 wetland monuments are estimated to have suffered damage in the last 50 years …….. An estimated 94% of East Midlands ridge and furrow has been destroyed …….. Ploughing is damaging over 100 Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in Norfolk and Suffolk …….. Fewer than 10 out of 1200 burial mounds in Essex now survive as earthworks …….. Over a quarter of the nationally important scheduled monuments in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site are under damaging arable cultivation.“
At that time EH suggested 3 key actions were needed: an expansion of Environmental Stewardship schemes, further protection legislation and further policies to lessen the amount of grassland over protected archaeology being turned over to arable cultivation. That was almost ten years ago and some progress towards those aims has been made, particularly a big expansion of the Stewardship schemes (70% of agricultural land is now in schemes). However, perhaps the best hope for greater protection in the next few years will come from something that wasn’t specified back then: the Government is to move towards paying farmers to adopt “min til” (minimum tillage) – the low impact farming system that replaces ploughing.
We’re pleased to be able to present a guest post by Peter Cornall, the Area Representatives Convenor for the Cornwall Archaeological Society, telling us a little about the Society’s “Monument Watch” scheme and its workings.
The late Tony Blackman was President of the Cornwall Archaeological Society until his untimely death early in 2012. Highly regarded both locally and nationally, in particular for his work with young people, Tony felt keenly the need to offer members of a local Society the chance to play an active role in the archaeology of their area. Opportunities in excavation for amateurs are infrequent, even in a region rich in monuments of the past. Other openings were to be sought, one being helping with the care of Cornwall’s ancient monuments.
Of these hundreds of monuments, scheduled and unscheduled, some may be found to be under no threat at all, while others may be neglected and clearly at risk. All stand to benefit from regular inspection, so it is no wonder that the development of Monument Watch across Cornwall came to seem a highly appropriate objective for the Society. The idea is by no means new, and important groups of volunteers have for some time been active in the protection and sometimes also the physical care and maintenance of monuments in several areas of Cornwall, including the Lizard, Meneage, West Penwith, Newquay and Bodmin Moor. Monument Watch countywide is in debt to their pioneering example.
For many years, the Cornwall Archaeological Society had recognised volunteer ‘Area Representatives’ acting as archaeological watchdogs for whatever group of parishes each felt to be within their reach. The members of this small group met quite informally each spring and autumn to exchange ideas and to report significant items of archaeological news, which might prompt the Society to action, often in concert with the Cornwall Historic Environment Service, English Heritage and the National Trust. It was this group which could be developed into a countywide watchdog for monuments, although this would never be the whole of its work.
During the past four years the group has doubled to twenty, as new volunteers have been recruited from the CAS membership, each to ‘adopt’ a contiguous group of ‘orphan’ parishes which the new Area Representative feels able to cover. By the autumn of 2012 the whole of Cornwall’s considerable land area and all its numerous Scheduled Monuments were covered by the scheme. (We also have an associate in the Isles of Scilly, who works alongside us.) A Short Guide has been written to describe the role of Area Representative; this paper can be consulted on the AR page of the CAS website, and probably offers the best concise picture of what we are trying to do. Our Monitoring Report Forms can also be found on the website.
This group of monument watchers now includes a wide range of age, experience and expertness, with some of the local heritage professionals doubling as advisers and Area Representatives. After careful discussion, a format for reporting has been devised which meets the recording needs of both English Heritage and the Cornwall Historic Environment Record. Reports on monuments can be submitted at any time either by e-mail or post, and the steady flow of these new-style reports is now of key importance to the sadly shrunken group of professionals in Truro. Thanks to this routine process, monuments under threat can be identified and action taken, while those reported as comparatively safe and sound -happily the majority- need not take up precious time. In this manner, Tony Blackman’s original wish to offer Society members a chance to be more active has led to an important and most timely collaboration between volunteers and professionals, just when resources for heritage protection are under serious threat.
It is possible, I guess, that this account may come under the eye of enthusiasts in other parts of the country where no such collaboration as that described here yet exists. There is one aspect of our Monument Watch which we would not offer up as ideal. Ours has been an organic growth, with the untidiness often associated with such a pattern of development. A group starting from scratch would certainly wish to achieve a more even distribution of responsibility for Scheduled Monuments than ours, which is numerically grossly uneven, reflecting the history of the Area Representatives group and its relatively rapid expansion. We have not seen fit, as yet, to attempt any redistribution of parishes in order to achieve a fairer sharing of burdens. Our answer has rather been to encourage the ARs to form support groups (where these do not already exist) or to recruit friends and fellow-members as sharers in the monitoring work. At the same time, we recognize the inherent difficulty of achieving even an approximate evenness of load, where the variables of terrain, distance, monument type and site distribution are so significant.
Our distribution of MW responsibilities to Area Representatives happens – somehow – to be based on the ancient ecclesiastical parishes of Cornwall; church and civil changes over the years have sometimes complicated matters for us, and more up-to-date boundaries would obviously be easier to use.
Then there must be more exciting – and descriptive – titles for monument watchers than ‘Area Representatives’, even when their duties (like ours) extend further than simply MW, and I am sure that they will be found and employed!
Any scheme starting-up elsewhere would certainly wish to ensure that all its monument watchers could at least send in their reports online, even if not all would be ready to deploy every possible gadget in the field, seeking their targets by GPS, making notes on tablets and taking their photographs on smart phones. Some of us in Cornwall still cherish the compass, the map, the notebook and the camera!
Our grateful thanks go to Peter for taking time out to put together this account of an important part of the Society’s work. If your local society has a similar or comparable scheme, please let us know and we’d be happy to give space to it here on the Heritage Journal.
By Sandy Gerrard
Amongst the simplest monuments to schedule are individual barrows. They survive as a discreet mound with a surrounding ditch. Indeed it sometimes feels as if the legislation is tailored to make their designation easy. It is therefore perhaps surprising to note that even the scheduling of a single barrow is not without its problems. Indeed an examination of a recent example reveals a number of entirely avoidable mistakes and contradictions.
The scheduled bowl barrow 550m south-east of Dairy Farm highlights that even the straight-forward can be made confusing. The barrow was first scheduled in 1997, but is now being re-scheduled in 2012. The reason for this double handling is not given, but the most likely explanation is that it was plotted in the wrong location in the first place. A number of aspects concerning this new revamped scheduling are worth considering.
In the Reasons for Designation section much is made of the ditch fills and the features below the mound, but the survival of the mound itself is not seen as a reason for protecting the site. This seems curious given the type of site. Even more bizarre however is the statement that the site “will contribute valuable information regarding” amongst other things “the distribution of settlement in the area”. Not sure how a single barrow can help enhance our understanding of an entirely different group of monuments. In the diversity section much is made of other nearby sites which are also protected, but concludes that they are separated from some of the others by “an existing gravel quarry.” The presence of the gravel quarry is obviously a sound reason for offering this site protection, but I am not sure how well this fits within the diversity section. A very odd juxtaposition of ideas. When considering the period criteria, the documentation bravely states “Bowl barrows are funerary monuments“, but elsewhere within the same report it says “Many, but not all, covered single or multiple burials or had burials inserted into them”. So are they funerary monuments or not? This last statement also curiously implies that only barrows with no primary burials had burials inserted into them at a later date.(On a really pedantic note, within the documentation section of the report this single barrow is suddenly transformed as if by magic into “The monuments”.)
The next section notes that bowl barrows “are funerary or ceremonial monuments”. This statement implies that barrows with burials somehow did not have a ceremonial function. I wonder what evidence EH has uncovered to support this particular position? The report then goes on to say that barrows were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds and are commonly surrounded by a ring-ditch. This is an incredible simplification as obviously many mounds are composed of both earth and rubble. I also believe that rubble mounds are generally thought of as cairns. Describing the ditch surrounding a barrow as a ring-ditch is unhelpful and confusing. Ring-ditch is not an appropriate term where the mound is said to survive. However, despite saying that the barrow mound survives elsewhere in the documentation later on the report says the “survival and precise location have been established more recently by magnetometer survey”. This might suggest that the site should indeed be thought of as a ring-ditch rather than a barrow. This is all very confusing when the identity of the monument keeps morphing from one thing into another. The next bit is if anything even more baffling – “Important evidence of earlier activity is often preserved beneath barrow mounds, which may be preceded by a lengthy sequence of construction and use.” Wonder what that means?
The report notes that “aerial photography and geophysical survey allow for the accurate plotting and measurement of the barrow” but then goes on to spoil things by noting that “the diameter of which measures about 12m from the outer edge of the ditch.” Seems odd to me that such an accurate measurement should result in only an approximation. Furthermore, the dimensions are expressed in such a clumsy way that the size of the barrow remains a mystery because we have not been told the width of the ditch.
The scheduling is provided with a 10m buffer zone which means “the scheduled area forms a circle measuring 32m in diameter.” This very generous “buffer zone” means that more than 85% of the scheduled area contains no known archaeological remains and the nationally important archaeology is limited to less than 15% of the total area. Some might argue that this is somewhat generous and others that a 85% buffer should be applied to all future schedulings.
Bottom line though is that this scheduling, in common with others that have been looked at in recent weeks, is riddled with mistakes and contradictions.
[For other articles in the series put Scheduling in the search box]
In Britain, there’s now a Community Right to Bid, as we highlighted recently here. It’s a rather limited right but in the States it seems some people have cut to the chase without bothering to wait for a Localism Act or a Big Society.
The Archaeological Conservancy is a “national non-profit organization dedicated to acquiring and preserving the best of our nation’s remaining archaeological sites“.
They have acquired more than 400 endangered sites in 41 states across America and they explain their aims very well:
“Every day, prehistoric and historic archaeological sites in the United States are lost forever – along with the precious information they contain. Modern-day looters use backhoes and bulldozers to recover artifacts for the international market. Urban development and agricultural methods such as land leveling and topsoil mining destroy ancient sites. The Conservancy protects these sites by acquiring the land on which they rest, preserving them for posterity.”
Of course, that takes loads of money. Still, if The Archaeological Conservancy has some then bearing in mind Britain’s prehistory is also theirs, we have a lot of sites we’d like to recommend they consider buying. The setting of the Thornborough Henges is still being annihilated daily! Perhaps Tarmac PLC will give them a discount?
Bribing local people so they’ll support planning applications is a growing trend and in the latest example people near a windfarm in Cornwall will get up to £150 and it is intended to expand the concession to people living near future developments. Julia Davenport, chief executive of the company, denied it was a “bribe” and said it was natural for locals to get “recognition” for doing their bit to combat climate change. So not a bribe, just “recognition”! The Department of Energy and Climate Change uses slightly less Sicilian language though. They say they are currently looking at “a range of financial incentives to encourage more communities to accept wind farms”.
Is it right though? The undeniable purpose of Bimbyism is to tip the scales against heritage protection by incentivising locals. Nationally significant heritage sites are nationally significant so it seems wrong that local bribes should affect their welfare. It isn’t that we’re anti-developments but surely planning decisions should be based on the merits of the case not on the fact that a few people that happen to be living in the area just now are being offered money to say yes?
Occasionally we look back at stories we’ve run in the past to see how they turned out. It’s not often there’s a happy ending but there has been in the case of Cissbury Ring, Sussex.
Exactly three years ago we ran a story about a protest by hundreds of people on land near the Iron Age hill fort in a bid to stop it being sold by the council and to keep it in public ownership.
A South Downs Society spokesman explained there was strong feeling and a “massive turnout” by people who had vowed to fight on until the land was fully protected for generations to come.
It worked. The Council changed their mind and the land was kept in public ownership. Better still, the ‘Stop the Cissbury Sell off’ campaign was changed into a volunteer organisation aiming to act as a public watchdog or ‘defender’ of the local countryside, known as The Worthing Downlanders …..
As they say on their website:
“Worthing Downlanders are an organisation dedicated to supporting and defending the ownership and control of all Worthing Council’s existing downland estate, and supporting the management of this downland estate for public purposes, free of built development.
These public purposes include: the maximum open public access to all this land, the enhancement of the wildlife resources of this land, especially with a view to restoration of the damaged down pasture mantle, and supporting sustainable farming initiatives.
Worthing Downlanders will also be supporting all campaigns to save any green belt land from development.”
(We’re always on the look out for similar good news stories. If you know of one please drop us a line).
By Sandy Gerrard
Industrial archaeology is an often overlooked heritage resource. In some quarters in Wales it is not even seen as archaeology. In England, however this is clearly not the case as English Heritage have just scheduled a large C19 gravel pit!
Whilst this might appear to be good news and a long overdue appreciation of the importance of this much maligned industry, sadly this is not the case. No mention of the pit appears in the documentation and instead English Heritage seems to be under the impression that the area where the pit once stood is the site of a small Roman town worth protecting. The scheduling documentation gives no clues to why EH believe that the shallow remains of the town have survived large-scale quarrying. Perhaps EH would be kind enough to explain why they have asked the Secretary of State to place this backfilled gravel pit onto the Schedule of Ancient Monuments?
EH’s own online PastScape describes the area as the “Site of a possible Roman settlement at Billingford represented by coins, pottery, a bronze brooch and a silver ring.” But apart from the finds mentioned above and a few “ephemeral cropmarks” there really does not appear to be anything in the scheduling documentation to strengthen EH’s own published tentative identification. Settlement remains are known to have existed in the area to the south, but there appears to be no definitive evidence that nationally important Roman remains actually survive within the scheduled area and the chances of them surviving within an area that has been quarried are surely non-existent.
There are many other peculiar aspects about this scheduling which I may return to in the future, but in the meantime EH might wish to consider why:
- the descriptive details all relate to the parts of the site that are not scheduled.
- the details imply that the focus of the settlement is elsewhere
- no building materials have been found and there is no mention of post holes
- the monument is described as “A Roman small town or roadside settlement occupied between the C1AD and c.750AD.”
- they have scheduled an area that may have been severely disturbed. The large number of finds might be an indication that much of the remains have been disturbed. Can EH be sure that nationally important remains survive in any part of the site?
- the continuity of settlement into the early Anglo-Saxon period and its association with the early see at North Elmham is also significant. Does proximity always mean association?
- aerial photographs indicate pre-Roman settlement in the form of a clearly defined co-axial field system.
- the site is described as “immediately connected to Roman roads” but what does immediately connected actually mean? Surely it is either connected or it is not?
- the new bank adjacent to the road is not excluded from the scheduling.
- the selected source details are incomplete
If they can come up with answers it would great if they could share them.
It would also be interesting to know why the site was rescheduled less than two years after it was first scheduled in 2010. This site was scheduled on 08-Jul-2010 and again on 27-Jun-2012 as “A Roman roadside settlement 150m south-west of Billingford Hall”. The List Entry Number is 1021458 and for those who wish to dig a bit further the PastScape No. is 130984.
[For other articles in the series put Scheduling in the search box]
We have received a response from English Heritage to Dr Sandy Gerrard’s first three articles on scheduling (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). We reproduce it below in full. We understand Dr Gerrard may wish to respond to some of the points. In addition, any other constructive comments will be welcome.
The Scheduling of Archaeological Sites: A Response from English Heritage
These posts raise a number of important points as regards the scheduling regime which we respond to below. A longer response to Sandy Gerrard’s comments elsewhere can also be read in British Archaeology 122 (Jan/Feb 2012) (http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba122/feat2.shtml). English Heritage is committed to an increase in scheduling, in order that it continues to identify and protect sites that are truly of national importance.
- Many of the specific points stem from the introduction of the Unified Designation System and the National Heritage List for England. These are extremely complicated systems managing large data-sets, and they are still undergoing fine-tuning. Such inconsistencies and glitches within these systems are in the process of being rectified. These systems are leading to major improvements in the efficiency of the designation process, which in turn frees up time for more sites to be assessed.
- There remain great strengths in archaeological expertise within the Designation Department and areas of upskilling in terms of expertise, for example, in its knowledge of maritime and coastal archaeology. Most recently, a new Head of Central Casework and Programmes was appointed to the Department’s senior management team, and that post-holder, Joe Flatman, has extensive experience of archaeology, having formerly been the County Archaeologist of Surrey.
- How English Heritage chooses sites for scheduling is determined by the National Heritage Protection Plan. As of the 1st October 2012, the total number of scheduling recommendations (including additions, amendments, and deletions) submitted to DCMS in the first seven months of the 2012-13 financial year was 48, of which 19 were new sites. If the same rate of submissions is maintained for the remaining five months of this financial year, then in 2012-13 we will submit approximately 100 recommendations. The intention is to continue to increase this number. Revision of older scheduling entries will add considerably to the numbers of new designations as well.
- While scheduling is, was and will remain an important way of protecting archaeological sites, there are other ways of protecting archaeology beyond designation. The partnership of local authorities and communities is crucial to the protection of sites through local schemes of designation and recognition of importance. Such local schemes are often the only viable solution to the protection of archaeological sites discovered as a consequence of the development / planning system, of which only a small number of such sites have ever been suitable for inclusion on the schedule.
- Sandy has raised a number of individual cases with us. We shall be responding to him directly on these.
[For other articles in the series put Scheduling in the search box]
Some months ago we wrote about the Courtyard Houses of West Penwith.
Today (Sunday) I visited the settlement of Bosullow Trehyllis to see some of the people from CASPN at work during an organised clearance day.
On a fresh October day the sun was shining though the wind was fresh, which belied the low turnout of only 5 or 6 people. I spoke with CASPN’s Dave Munday about the clearance. He told me that English Heritage had put pressure on the landowner (but offered no assistance?) to improve the settlement. CASPN had provided material help in the form of Asulox, a safe proven chemical treatment for bracken, which was applied by contractors earlier in the year. The full benefit should be seen next summer, though the site lays on private ground and is not normally publicly accessible. Today’s efforts were aimed toward cutting back the gorse and brambles which were taking hold.
The settlement of some 6 or 7 houses is part of a wider landscape, with Chun Quoit (Neolithic) to the SW on the far side of Chun Downs, remains of roundhouses (Bronze Age) on the nearside of Chun Downs, and Chun Castle (Iron Age?) atop the downs. On the horizon to the SE, Lizard Point can be seen, and to the west is the Atlantic Ocean.
CASPN arrange clearance days throughout the year both on West Penwith and the Lizard, in conjunction with the site owners and relevant authorities where applicable. A current schedule of sites and dates can always be found on their web site. Gloves and stout footwear are advised, other tools are provided. We would be pleased to hear of any similar groups you may know of in other parts of the country.