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At last the nature of the mysterious heart shaped feature next to Rob and Tracey’s henge in New South Wales can be revealed!
Here it is…
“I used dye” says Rob. “It took a while”.
Now why can’t English Heritage do stuff like that?! ***
*** Please note, that’s just a joke. Adding things on or near Scheduled Ancient Monuments is definitely a bad thing to do!
Here is a letter we’ve sent to Mr Penny. You never know, it might be worth it.
Dear Mr Penny,
According to the police and English Heritage it is important that proper consideration is given to the impact of a crime on a heritage asset. We’d like to explain why we think that hasn’t happened at Priddy (and to propose a solution):
1. Your financial circumstances suggest a £48,000 penalty is relatively inconsequential.
2. It also looks lenient relative to previous heritage crimes, few or none of which had such a catastrophic impact.
3. Despite the value of your land possibly having been enhanced by what you did no confiscation order was applied.
4. Although not precisely equivalent, it looks anomalous that had you been convicted of metal detecting on the henge your equipment would have been confiscated whereas you still retain your bulldozer.
As you know (as it was your barrister that proposed it) restorative justice formed the backbone of the penalty. Trouble is, that’s supposed to comprise “restitution or reparative measures” whereas if you bulldoze something away it is absolutely gone so there can be neither restitution, restoration, reparation nor justice.
Worse, we feel that by offering to pay for rebuilding and then keeping that offer open with respect to the less costly plan to merely carry out a research project you established very low parameters to the amount of restorative justice you have been subject to. (An investigation costing only £38,000 will be very limited in both scope and the amount of knowledge gathered – archaeological investigations typically involve hundreds of thousands of pounds!).
Hence we feel you have got away rather lightly for the heritage crime of the century and that morally at least you still owe a significant measure of restitution to the community. We also feel there will be an on-going negative impact: the court has effectively put a very low price on top-of-the-scale heritage assets and now potential developers can do their sums and perhaps calculate it is worthwhile not playing by the rules. A much higher penalty would have been good for heritage.
May we therefore request that for the sake of your reputation, the feelings of those who feel justice is yet to be done and the good of prehistoric heritage in general that you now consider making a series of significant ex gratia donations to some of the many worthy conservation projects currently in need of support?
Many people feel the Priddy decision was about right. We’re less certain. £48,000 is not a lot for a top-of-the-scale heritage crime committed by someone wealthy enough to afford to pay a lot more. “More” would have had two useful effects: it would have provided a stronger deterrent for others and it would have established a high “top tariff”, thereby stiffening penalties for lesser heritage crimes. So why wasn’t it higher? We weren’t there so can’t know for sure but there may be clues in the press reports:
Evidently Mr Penny’s barrister wanted the hearing adjourned for six-months until restoration had begun. Was that because (as someone on BAJR forum suggested) he felt the penalty would be lower once less damage was visible? It seems plausible. Mr Maunder, representing English Heritage, countered that the matter shouldn’t be dealt with on the defendant’s terms but he did propose that the work be done or supervised using Mr Penny’s resources “under the eye of English Heritage”.
Was that the point when Mr Penny got lucky? For although the idea of “restoration” was quickly abandoned in favour of a research project, the principle of him paying for the work was retained. Thus, when the scope and cost of the intended work was reduced, so did his contribution, meaning that the punishment was no longer fitted to the crime but to the scale of the research project.
What a shame the research project wasn’t far more expensive – or that it couldn’t have been expanded beyond the excavation of a filled swallet hole to embrace all the other Priddy circles and indeed the nearby monuments thought to be associated with them – the Priddy nine barrows and Ashen hill barrow cemeteries. That way, perhaps, far more could be learned, a much greater deterrent could have been established and everyone except the culprit would have benefitted. Mr Penny and his advisors, who already had zero cards to play, could hardly complain that he was being asked to pay for research on places he hadn’t damaged – for how could they deny that the only way to learn about something he had destroyed without trace was to look elsewhere? How else could Mr Penny achieve his obvious wish to make amends?
When we say tarmacked we mean treated like Tarmac plc would – utterly destroyed for money while lots of aren’t-we-caring claptrap is mouthed by the culprits. Why can’t they just build on the ruddy thing without insulting people with the silly chat?
The site is at Bishop’s Stortford. Thousands of new homes are to be built on the town’s ironically termed “Areas of Special Restraint”. The county council’s historic environment unit says:
“Interpretation is tentative at this stage but the Hazel End site, involving trenches on both fields alongside Hazel End Road, has identified the remains of a probable burial mound, of Late Neolithic (c4500-2500BC) or Early Bronze Age date (c2500-1700BC) several ditches, pits and post-holes of probable Bronze Age date, and, in the lower field next to the River Stort, a roughly cobbled surface covered with Late Iron Age and Roman pottery. “Investigations within the larger area, enclosed by the bypass, have identified an enclosure and ditches of probable Iron Age date (c800-100BC) an enclosure of possible Roman date (further excavation may clarify this) and also another prehistoric burial or possible henge (a ritual enclosure) of late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age date (c3000-1700BC). “This circular, ditched feature appears to contain several cremation burials in the ditch and it has a central feature that may also be a burial. If so, it is potentially, an important find.”
It adds: “The finds would have to be excavated in detail and recorded before new homes could be built. Alternatively they could potentially be protected and preserved – barring new construction.”
Compare and contrast the caring, sharing developers:
“As expected on a site of this size and in this location – on the edge of a historic town – there’s archaeology but not of any particular significance and it would not prevent development occurring on our site.
“As a responsible developer we are responding to the finds by extending some of the trenches to check whether there’s anything else there.
“The finds are of local interest, but the condition is such that do not warrant preservation in situ.”
The penalty for bulldozing part of the Priddy Henges will soon be known. Bearing in mind some recent lesser cases (12 months in jail for stealing lead from a church roof and a £2,600 fine for installing uPVC windows in a listed farmhouse) Mr Penny might expect very bad news. On the other hand, imprisoning octogenarians for long periods is hardly appropriate, so it may well be that he’ll get what many will say is a light sentence and one that is insufficient deterrent to others.
But is focussing on the punishment missing the point? Isn’t reminding people there’s a punishment the real priority? In front of the King Stone at the Rollrights there’s a very old fashioned sign telling people that any person injuring or damaging it “will be liable to prosecution according to law”.
There’s no information board at the henge that Mr Penny damaged, they’re pretty expensive. But who knows, if there had been a simple, inexpensive warning notice, similar to the one at the King Stone, near the gate through which the bulldozer was driven, maybe the damage wouldn’t have happened.
The Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments of Thornborough, North Yorkshire
Sat 21 July; 13.00-17.30
To the north of Ripon, in Yorkshire’s North Riding, are some remarkable prehistoric monuments. No less than six giant henges, along with many other Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, can be found here, suggesting this was a special landscape between 4000-1500 BC. The most famous of these monuments is the alignment of three henges at Thornborough.
It is a truly spectacular icon of Neolithic Britain – and its story offers an enthralling insight into prehistoric life. This event, organised by the Thornborough Heritage Trust, is dedicated to Thornborough’s remarkable prehistory. An introductory talk (1-2.15pm) by Dr. Jan Harding, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Newcastle University, will be followed by an opportunity to handle prehistoric finds, including flint and pottery found at Thornborough (2.15-3.30pm). The event will culminate in a two hour walk of the monument complex (3.30-5.30pm), , An entry fee of £1 per person will enable participants to attend the talk, handle the artefacts, and go on the walking tour. Refreshments will be available for a charge. The event will be held in the West Tanfield Memorial Hall. The village of West Tanfield can be found on the A6108 to the north of Ripon in North Yorkshire. Limited parking is available outside the hall.,
Location: West Tanfield Memorial Hall, West Tanfield, Ripon HG4 5JU.
As the Thornborough Trust note on their blog:
“We are greatly concerned about the condition of Thornborough’s central henge. Animal disturbance to its earthwork has been a problem in recent years, and concerned individuals contacted English Heritage 16 months ago to alert them as to its deteriorating state. We contacted them again in May 2012. The decline in the physical integrity of its bank is alarming and suggests that action is urgently needed.” (See their photograph of the damage here.)
At the same time, it has been reported on the Megalithic Portal that access to the Northern Henge has been been formally blocked (see their photograph here.) The Northern Henge is the only one of the three henges that isn’t included in the stewardship agreement although ironically it is far better preserved than the other two (albeit severely compromised by large trees – which must surely be causing far more damage than any number of visitors would do).
It seems that the long tale of neglect and exploitation of this monument complex is still continuing. Campaigners have been pointing out for some time that actually none of the Henges has formal access arrangements and that allowing people to visit them was crucial to safeguarding their future. Dr Jan Harding, senior archaeology lecturer at Newcastle University, said: “Despite being of unique cultural value and being described by English Heritage as the most important prehistoric site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys, it is closed to visitors, lacks educational information and sits in an extensively quarried landscape. At the moment, there isn’t even a display board. Getting some kind of formal access for the public is vital.”
If you’d like to help then Thornborough Charitable Trust would be happy to hear from you.
More news on the sentencing of Roger Penny, the landowner who allowed the partial destuction of one of the Priddy Henges. After he pleaded guilty at the Magistrates hearing in April to permitting the execution of works affecting a scheduled monument, Mr Penny was sent to Taunton Crown Court for sentencing as the Magistrate’s sentencing powers were too limited given the nature of the offence. He was due in Crown Court on the 18th May but sentencing has now been adjourned until the 6th July.
Mr Penny has offered to return the land to the care of English Heritage or make any reparations as may be required. At the very least he should pay to rebuild the henge to its previous state. English Heritage should also take him up on the offer of taking this henge into state care and open it up for public access.
The Magistrates Court can impose a maximum fine of £5000 whereas the Crown Court can impose an unlimited fine or up to two years imprisonment.
This henge and stone circle is entirely a reconstruction, improbably situated between a flooded gravel pit and a landfill site just south of the village of Stanton Harcourt to the west of Oxford. But this is far from a ‘Disney’ theme park site. The large circular enclosure is defined by a bank and internal ditch, which has entrances to the east and west. Within lies a circle of 28 local conglomerate stones, the Quoits, with one off-set on the south side.
The nearby village of Stanton Harcourt takes it’s name from the stone circle; Stan-tun, or “farmstead by the stones”. This nomenclature is also seen in other sites, such as Stanton Drew south of Bristol, and Stanton Moor in Derbyshire. The village became known as Stanton Harcourt after Robert de Harcourt of Bosworth, Leicestershire inherited lands of his father-in-law at Stanton in 1191. The manor has remained in the Harcourt family to the present day.
In the Second World War, the two remaining stones at that time were flattened (but recorded) as part of the construction of a wartime airfield, the henge and ditch having disappeared long before as the result of earlier agriculture. Thus the site had all but disappeared from the record with nothing remaining to be seen.
Excavations in the area first started in the 1980′s and have continued for over 3 decades, largely overseen by Oxford Archaeology. A report of findings has been produced, showing that the area has been in extensive use for habitation and ritual since at least the Neolithic, right through to the post Roman era.
With use of the site planned for gravel extraction, in 1996 Time Team recorded a dig here. In Season 3 episode 2, recorded in April 1995, the team unearthed evidence of remains of mammoths and other prehistoric animals. The conclusion was that the site had been in use since at least the Mesolithic period.
In 1846, the stones at that time were described briefly in “The wanderings of a pen and pencil” by F. P. Palmer and Alfred Henry Forrester:
…we turned our steed to the village, and inquired of the first juvenile upon the road the whereabouts of the stones in the vicinity, usually called the “Devil’s Quoits.”
“It’s over the field,” said the smock-frocked urchin, pointing westward, in the direction of the stream. At our bidding, and with the understanding of a compensation, we wagged his pair of cumbrous heels by the side of our vehicle, and became our guide. The first rude stone lies in a field to the right of the field road, and is of no great size. the second is in another in a “land” further on. The third, and the tallest, beyond that, in another ground.
“Them be the devil’s kites!” said the guide; “a many year ago they carried a bigger than all on ‘em away, to make a bridge somewhere.” We alighted, and deliberately inspected them. They are of the sandstone common to the country, veined with a deeper shade.
By 1856, Dicken’s Dictionary of the Thames counts only two of the stones, and gives a brief mention of their possible origin.
Some half-mile from Stanton Harcourt are two large stones called the ”Devil’s Quoits”, which are said, on doubtful authority, to have been set up to commemorate a great battle fought in 614 between the Britons and the Saxons under that Cynegil who was subsequently baptized by Birinus at Dorchester.
Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of England (1835) also mentions this same battle (and may well be source of the quote above), adding that more than 2000 Britons were killed in the battle.
The name of the “Devil’s Quoits” pertains to another legend, outlined in the book ‘Oxfordshire Folklore’, by Christine Bloxham (tempus 2005), it is said that the Devil was playing a game of quoits and was told off by God, because it was a Sunday and there was to be no recreation. In a petulant fit of anger the Devil threw the quoits as far as he could and where they landed became the site we now know.
A different legend suggests the same devil was playing a game of quoits with a beggar, which the beggar lost. The quoit remained to form the henge we see today. One of the stones was reported to have been removed for a bridge over the nearby Black Ditch. However, the stone kept slipping and would not remain in place, so was returned to the circle.
But what of the monument today? Completely reconstructed, some would now dismiss it as a fake. Certainly, the ground inside the henge is strewn with litter and bones (and the smell!) from the nearby landfill, and the makeup of the soil being largely uncompacted suggest that it’s a relatively new addition. True, rabbits (a largely Norman import) have devastated the banks of the ditch despite all efforts to control them. And yet, standing on the raised bank of the henge, looking across at the altered landscape, this site has a certain something evocative of the past.
The Stripple Stones sit on private land on the south slope of Hawks Tor in Bodmin Moor, north of the A30. There is no public right of way to the stones. The monument itself consists of a stone circle approximately 47 yards in diameter (the second largest in Cornwall), with a fallen central stone. The whole is enclosed within a henge monument some 58 yards wide, making the monument somewhat unique in Cornwall – it is the only circle in the county built within a henge.
The henge itself has been severely mutilated by cattle, particularly in the north. There is an entrance to the SW, in line with the nearby Trippet Stones circle. A modern field boundary dissects the ditch and bank to the NE. The central stone is 12 feet long by 5 feet at the widest point, but has been split in three places in the past – the drilling marks are quite evident. Only four stones remain standing within the circle, with eleven others fallen. William Lukis (1885) suggested that with an average spacing of 12 feet (3.7 m), there would have been as many as thirty seven original stones, whilst Aubrey Burl (2005) has suggested a possible total of only twenty eight stones.
A 1905 excavation by H. St. George Gray found that most of the large stones were only set in shallow holes around four feet deep, presumably leading to their current state – especially as grazing cattle use the standing pillars as rubbing posts, evidence of which is quite clear here in the worn ground around their base. Four postholes were found surrounding the central stone which was offset fourteen feet from the centre of the circle.
Burl has speculated that when set upright and looking towards 3 bulges that exist in the outer henge, the Mayday sunset, the Equinox sunrise and the major Northern moonrise would all have been visible, supporting the idea that such stone circles had astronomical and calendrical uses.
As for the name, Burl (in A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany) states that the origin is unknown, but is suggestive of ‘brazen behaviour and subsequent ossification’ – a common theme as we’ve seen with other circles in the county.