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The ostomy stunt at the Long Man of Wilmington that we mentioned two days ago went ahead.
We understand that it was authorised on the basis it would cause no physical damage and wouldn’t be for long. Our thesis is that damage to respect for monuments (especially hill figures it seems) can lead to physical damage to monuments.
An ostomy pouch is to be added to The Long Man of Wilmington on Saturday “to help raise awareness of World Ostomy Day”. It appears also that “By supporting the day the Long Man is also helping to support himself and his on-going care and maintenance with a kind donation from SecuriCare.”
This is just the latest of a very long list of brandlism and disfigurement of monuments for commercial, charitable or political purposes. (Here’s an account of a previous time the Long Man was mistreated back in 2007). We don’t think it’s right as it erodes respect and encourages other, sometimes damaging stunts. We published a very compelling article on this subject from a guest contributor a couple of years ago. It’s well worth reading. World Ostomy Day may be a very worthy cause but that’s no excuse for doing this.
This week there have been lots of images of the Uffington White Horse in a desecrated state thanks to a certain insensitive firm of bookmakers so we thought we’d show this view from it rather than of it by Heritage Action member Jane Tomlinson.
We’re particularly fond of that spot as it was where many of the Heritage Action founder members first met up. The monument and it’s surroundings are not a place for cheapening in our view or that of countless others. Let’s hope the National Trust takes steps to make it much clearer in future than they have in the past that they absolutely agree.
You can see more of Jane’s work here. Her annual exhibition as part of Oxfordshire Artweeks this year is on 5, 6, 12 and 13 May 2012.
Without wishing to provide even more publicity to a certain Irish betting company which we refuse to name, we can’t let the occasion of yet another heritage site defacement pass without some sort of comment.
The known facts would appear to be that a group visited the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire under cover of darkness, and in a carefully planned project proceeded to ‘pin down’ a quantity of white sheeting with what were described as ‘tent pegs’ in order to make it look like the horse had acquired a rider. What are the odds of that happening, eh?
This was apparently done without permission from the National Trust, who ‘own’ the monument, and in direct contravention of planning laws, as Scheduled Monument Consent was not sought/granted. The bookies have stated that a donation has been made to the NT, but the NT have denied any such donation has been received.
There has been quite a bit of discussion on the British Archaeology (Britarch) email list about this prank/crime, almost all of the comments have condemned what has happened.
There are several aspects to this case.
- Physical damage. The perpertrators claimed that they stayed off the actual monument (the visible chalk) but inserting a large number of tent pegs may have disturbed archaeology – we have no real way of knowing what’s there without a large scale ecvacation. Future techniques such as much more advanced geofizz will doubtless change this in years to come.
- Environmental damage. Many Scheduled Ancient Monuments are located within SSSIs with a fragile ecosystem. We can’t help but think that a (large?) group of people clambering on the Uffington hillside in the dark, dragging large quantities of sheeting can only be causing unneccesary damage to the fragile chalkland environment.
- Collateral damage. We’ve seen this kind of thing before; Big Brother at Uffington, Homer Simpson at Cerne Abbas etc. How many other companies will think that desecrating heritage sites in this way is a good way to get publicity?
- Ethical damage. What kind of society are we living in if any damage above is considered acceptable because a ‘donation’ was made?
Was it really only yesterday that we suggested how non-professionals can help protect ancient sites?
The Giant, Cerne Abbas in 1790 by Samuel Hieronymous Grimm
The god is a graffito carved on the belly of the chalk,
his savage gesture subdued by the stuff of his creation.
He is taken up like a gaunt white doll by the round hills,
wrapped around by the long pale hair of the fields.
Taken from Jeremy Hooker’s book of poems titled
“Soliloquies of a Chalk Giant”
A restoration group is appealing for volunteers to help re-chalk one of Wiltshire’s oldest hill figures. The Cherhill White Horse, cut into the Marlborough Downs, is owned and maintained by the village of Cherhill. The 232-year-old hill figure underwent a major facelift in 2002 after losing both its whiteness and its horse shape. Since then the 18th Century landmark, the second oldest in the county, has required a “re-chalking” every two years.
Part of the South Downs with the Long Man of Wilmington on the right
Image credit Sorcha
6000 years in the making, the South Downs (which includes the Long Man of Wilmington hill figure) was today officially designated as a National Park with an opening ceremony in Petersfield. Back in 2009 BBC news reported that -
“The South Downs area has been given national park status almost 60 years to the day since it was recommended. The South Downs, which covers parts of Sussex and Hampshire, was among 12 areas identified for national parks in the 1940s. Environment Minister Hilary Benn has said the area will become England’s ninth national park…
“The announcement means the area will be given the highest level of protection under the planning system.”
More here – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7973417.stm
Writing in The Observer yesterday, Laura Cumming reports on the Watercolour exhibition now showing at Tate Britain and running until the 21 August.
The exhibition includes a watercolour of The Vale of the White Horse (circa 1939) by Eric Ravilious. Something, “…conjured entirely out of cross-hatchings, strokes, dabs and striations of faint colour, frail contour against pale line, with the white page breathing airily in between, is almost nothing, a see-through dream. But it is uniquely strange, starting in reality and ending in its own radiant elsewhere.”
See original story here
Submitted by a correspondent:
With the most recent incidents of vandalism affecting the Uffington White Horse and the Wilmington Long Man, the history of hill figures in the present century is dominated by turn overs – adoptions and adaptations by such as political groups, fundraisers, television and film stunts, advertisers, sporting patriots, and pranksters. In some cases this has been done with the consent and assistance of site guardians and heritage organisations that claim it could be achieved anyway with photography or mock-ups so they decide to control and financially benefit. In cases where it was not with the consent of such bodies, whether graffiti spraying, digging, or burning, it can have a lasting impact on the archaeology as well as the appearance.
In all of these cases without exception, whether officially sanctioned or disapproved, it has lowered the public perception and esteem of hill figures as monuments. This is compounded in a number of cases by a lack of respect being promoted when the turn over is presented, both on websites and in the media, in a way that encourages interpretation of the action and outcome as harmless fun. The stance that the guardians and heritage organisations have adopted then endorses and supports this lack of respect through acceptance and approval, that in effect legitimises deployment of the actual site for purposes incongruent with long term preservation .
Whilst it would be true in comparison to reflect that the actual Stonehenge has been given over to filming Dr Who, and agreed it was an opportunity to stimulate interest amongst new audiences, that site is very well protected where no hill figure is and even that hasn’t stopped vandalism of the stones.
Each and every example of hill figure turn overs, whether for a worthy charity or a noble cause, makes it plain how easy hill figures are to target, makeover, gain publicity and get away with it.
Time to change stance guardians and heritage organisations – let the media know you disapprove of turn overs and why. Let’s get these cheapening stunts seen for what they are by the public, and let us all afford these unique monuments the time honoured respect they deserve.