The stone alignment at Saith Maen stands on moorland above Craig-y-nos in Powys at SN83311540. The row includes a line of seven slabs (two of which are recumbent) extending for a total length of 13.7m. There is nothing else quite like it in Wales. Compared with all of the others the stones are set very close together and indeed for the closest parallels one must look west to Ireland where several well-known examples exist.This alignment also lacks a prehistoric context as there are no cairns or similar features in the immediate vicinity. Finally the stones are relatively unweathered compared with others in the area.

These warning signs could be seen as an indication that all is not as it appears. No conclusive evidence exists to support a prehistoric date but it is accepted as prehistoric because well it looks right and no alternative explanations have been forthcoming. Interestingly when Cadw were asked for alternative explanations for the Bancbryn alignment they responded “I am not minded to express an opinion on the most likely interpretation given the limited nature of the evidence.”  A curious response given that there is plenty of evidence to support a prehistoric date for Bancbryn whilst none exists for Saith Maen and its documented use as a sheepfold should perhaps sound warning bells!

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A line of closely set stones in spectacular surroundings. No positive evidence currently exists to support a prehistoric date beyond the fact that it looks like some rows in Ireland.

A line of closely set stones in spectacular surroundings. No positive evidence currently exists to support a prehistoric date beyond the fact that it looks like some rows in Ireland.

English Heritage (EH) have recently made a big splash in the media on the release of their latest ‘Heritage at Risk‘ register, which lists heritage assets deemed to be in danger from deterioration, damage, development or other threats.

When I contacted EH some years ago to enquire, I was told that the vast majority of Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) in England are lucky if they are officially inspected once a decade. Some are never visited officially, and many can go 20 years or more without any official inspection. Frequently the responsible body will rely upon reports from landowners, the public or police regarding any damage that occurs to a site. The response given to a Freedom of Information request to EH earlier this year shows that what I was told nearly a decade ago still holds true today (check some of the ‘Last Visited Dates in any random spreadsheet in the reply).

But now we’d like to change all that, with your help.

HelpWantedSign

We know that many of our readers visit SAMs and other heritage sites on a regular basis, be it a local site that they’re familiar with, or a site that has been selected as the target of a day trip, or holiday visit to an unfamiliar area. All we ask is that when on such visits, you keep your eyes open for any evidence of Heritage Crime. What is heritage crime? Quite simply, as stated on the EH web page on the subject, it is “any offence which harms the value of England’s heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations”.

So how can you help? Firstly by taking note of any evidence. Pictures are always helpful. If you actually witness a crime being committed, the EH web page on reporting crime suggests phoning 999, but we’d say only do this if you will not be endangering your own personal safety by doing so. The first port of call for any crime will be the police, whether via 999 if a crime is in progress, or 101 if not (see the previous EH link above). If this all sounds familiar, we’ve previously highlighted these steps, here on the Journal.

But in addition, the relevant authority should also be informed, whether that be English Heritage or the National Trust in England, Cadw in Wales or Historic Scotland north of the border – see the contact links below.

It might also be worth recording your visit and any actions taken on one of the hobbyist web sites so that others can see what has already been reported – the Megalithic Portal has a useful Visit Log facility for registered users in addition to its site comments facility.

With your help, the integrity of many of these forgotten and threatened sites can hopefully be maintained, and any damage brought to the attention of the relevant people.

Useful Contact Links:

It seems that leading architects have welcomed the news the Government is again considering a road tunnel at Stonehenge (see the latest Architects Journal) despite the fact it is only a short one.

Roddy Langmuir of Cullinan Studio, whose practice worked on numerous proposals for the site in the early 1990s, said:
A tunnel [would be] a fantastic move……. Having drawn many options with engineers for tunnels in this landscape, one of the key consequences often ignored is the impact of the cut for the tunnel portals in such a subtly rolling landscape. These need clean incised banks that minimise land-take instead of the usual naturally retained battered walls and wide-mouthed portals. The engineering design needs to include an architectural appreciation of the landscape, and this historic landscape above all others.

Is that how it’s all going to be presented? “Never mind the archaeological damage, look at the clean incised lines and the way it exhibits architectural appreciation of the landscape“? Have architects confused sympathetic architectural treatment with destructive archaeological action? No matter if it’s architects making that mistake. What matters more is if archaeologists make the same error.

Hurrah for metal detectorist Laurence Egerton who found a massive hoard in Devon and stopped digging and slept in his car for 3 days to guard it so it could be excavated by the professionals! Compare and contrast most detectorists. Ever heard of any of them doing that? It’s 3 years since we suggested they should do exactly that (and still PAS hasn’t suggested such a thing on their website!). And what about this lot?

There's a video of them digging this up. 21 detectorists were seen or heard on that but only one is heard to be suggesting the archaeologists should be brought in, and he is quickly shouted down. Less than one in twenty. Their excuse was that if they left it overnight "someone" (by which they probably meant one of them!) would steal it. And no-one was prepared to stay and guard it. Yet Mr Egerton was.

There’s a video of them digging this up. Twenty one detectorists were seen or heard on that but only one is heard to be suggesting the archaeologists should be brought in, and he is quickly shouted down. So that’s less than one in twenty. Their excuse was that if they left it overnight “someone” (by which they probably meant one of them!) would steal it. And no-one was prepared to stay and guard it. Yet Mr Egerton was.

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So how can detectorists be made to “do an Egerton”? Here’s an idea. Never mind a token “bad behaviour reduction” in their reward by the Treasure Valuation Committee. How about giving a stonking 75% of their reward to Mr Egerton or those who behave like him? Do that a few times and the message might get through that bad behaviour isn’t worth it and good behaviour is! Which detectorist would think that was unfair? The message might even get through to the people no other messages reach – like Terry Bull from Kent:

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“I think they did the right thing …. they put the hard work in so can’t see the problem good for them to have found a hord that’s grate if I find a hord I’m digging it out to and have a look inside to see what’s there lol”

Really Terry? What if you stood to lose £100,000?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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NASA says the archaeological remains at the Apollo landing site (for such they are) are important to mankind and a priceless human treasure and must be protected – so they want to establish a protection zone of at least 1.2 miles round them. Few would argue with that.

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Apollo 17 Lunar Heritage Site: protection limit 1.2 miles

Apollo 17 Lunar Heritage Site: protection limit 1.2 miles

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Meanwhile, back on Earth, the National Trust recently echoed their words, sort of, when they said the Stonehenge Landscape is among the most precious places on the planet“. Few would argue with that either.

But there the similarity ends for despite what they said then, the National Trust have just announced they’ll support a proposal to create a massive cutting in that landscape within walking distance of the actual stones. That makes them look pretty bad compared with NASA, but they also look pretty bad compared with themselves: years ago they said any tunnel HAD to be at least 2.8 miles long, now they’re saying a 1.8 mile tunnel will do – that’s a whole mile shorter and with entrance cuttings projecting a whole mile further into the World Heritage Site. Yet it’s the same World Heritage Site, the only difference being that loads more features and sites have recently been discovered within it. Can anyone explain that?!

Or this: right now on the HS2 route through the Chilterns the National Trust are insisting on a 15 mile tunnel – more than eight times longer than at Stonehenge!

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Please sign the “Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site” petition.

by Sandy Gerrard

Situated near the base of a steep sided shake hole at SN 82898 15123 near Craig-y-nos and the Welsh National Showcaves is a small circular stone built structure. The building is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, (BR256 Hut Circle west of Saith Maen) although it is actually situated to the south-west.  The structure is very small with an internal diameter of 3.1m surrounded by drystone walling up to 0.6m high. A clearly defined slab-lined entrance faces west.  The Royal Commission record it as a hut-circle, although David Leighton in his Western Brecon Beacons book notes only that “The building is probably of prehistoric date” (Leighton, 2012, 69) but the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust go rather further stating that “There is something about the site which feels more akin to a shelter of a more recent date than any kind of prehistoric dwelling”. So definitely no consensus and despite the considerable uncertainties Cadw scheduled the site as a prehistoric hut circle.

This is important because when an application to schedule the Bancbryn stone alignment was submitted to Cadw they concluded that because the evidence base is inconclusive, and there is an alternative theory of post medieval origin that would not meet the criteria for scheduling, it is not possible to schedule the site.”  So why was this structure near Saith Maen scheduled?  After all alternative very plausible post-medieval theories have been offered but with typical Cadw inconsistency and total disregard for their own professed procedures they pressed on regardless. The final irony is that the post-medieval explanations offered for this scheduled site remain whilst Cadw have now accepted that no specific evidence to support the post-medieval explanations for the Bancbryn stone alignment exist.  A fine old mess indeed.

Tiny circular structure in a large shake hole. Note the figure in blue on the upper edge for scale. The terracettes above the building provide tangible evidence of soil creep but despite this the building remains clear of hill wash deposits.

Tiny circular structure in a large shake hole. Note the figure in blue on the upper edge for scale. The terracettes above the building provide tangible evidence of soil creep but despite this the building remains clear of hill wash deposits.

Tiny circular 2

Despite being at the foot of a very steep slope no hillwash deposits have accumulated within the upper part of the building. This strongly suggests that the structure is relatively recent as does its fresh almost pristine appearance. Furthermore its very small size is unusual as is its position in the bottom of a shake hole.  A couple of post-medieval interpretations which Cadw appear to have overlooked include a gunpowder magazine or shelter and both would seem, given the anomalies highlighted above, much more plausible than the prehistoric one favoured by Cadw.  The structure stands in the midst of an industrial landscape and this context complete with the character of the remains makes a post-medieval date much more likely. The sides of the shake hole would have provided an excellent blast wall and the gunpowder could have been transferred throughout the area using the adjacent tramway. The form of the structure however suggests that it is most likely to be a shelter. Identical structures are known in the archaeological record.

According to the Western Morning News  …..

“Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has hailed English Heritage and National Trust’s backing of a possible tunnel under Stonehenge as an “an important milestone” in ending the traffic nightmare on the A303.

In a letter to Yeovil MP David Laws, the Conservative Secretary of State said their “in-principle” support, revealed two weeks’ ago, paved the way for finding a “solution to the problems that exist” on the notorious A303, A30 and A358 corridor.”

No. For avoidance of all doubt: they’ve always been keen on a tunnel. What has changed is the fact that both of them are now willing to countenance a short, damaging tunnel
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Please sign the “Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site” petition.

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As has been said: “If we can’t save the monuments and settings of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site for future generations, then we can’t hope that we or the future can protect anything!”
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If you agree with the petition can you please post a link to it on your website or on Facebook or Twitter?

Here at the Heritage Journal we were overjoyed to hear that Pip Richards has been deservedly awarded the title of Cornwall’s new Heritage Champion. She is the first female to be accorded the award.

Lt Col Philip Hills, Chairman of Cornwall Heritage Trust said ‘I am delighted to be able to announce that this year’s winner of the Sir Richard Trant Memorial Award goes to someone who has done so much to promote our unique history, whilst inspiring and engaging communities to carry on this vital work for future generations’.

‘Pip receiving the Heritage Champion award from the chairman and president of the Cornwall Heritage Trust’

‘Pip receiving the Heritage Champion award from the chairman and president of the Cornwall Heritage Trust’

The award is in memory of Sir Richard Trant who was a Cornishman of extraordinary talents. After a very distinguished career in the Army he retired to his beloved Cornwall and dedicated his remaining years helping to promote Cornwall’s heritage. Each year the award is presented to an ‘unsung hero or heroine’ – someone who gives their time and energy in a voluntary capacity and has made a significant contribution to Cornwall’s heritage.

Colonel Edward Bolitho OBE and President of Cornwall Heritage Trust agreed that “Pip Richards has made an outstanding contribution to preserving and strengthening our iconic landscape and is certainly a very worthy heritage champion, following on from our previous year’s winner Cedric Appleby.”

Following this personal recognition of  work as the project manager, the Council for British Archaeology has awarded the Sustainable Trust the Marsh Award for the best Community Archaeology project. ‘This award recognises and promotes innovation and quality in the dissemination of the results of research and/or fieldwork through publication, communication and archiving. In 2014 the winning project is the Restoration of Carwynnen Quoit, a neolithic monument which collapsed following a reported earthquake in the 1960s.’

The official ceremony for the award will be made at the CBA’s AGM at the London Academy in early November. Lead Archaeologist Jacky Nowakowski from the Cornwall Archaeological Unit will accompany Pip Richards to the ceremony.

Pip commented ‘This is a great honour for me, Sustrust and Cornwall. I have enormous gratitude for all the members of the community who have made this all possible by participating in so many different ways. We are currently producing a commemorative book ‘The Restoration of Carwynnen Quoit’. Making sure that everyone gets a credit on the acknowledgements page is a great challenge. The prize for the award will be put towards our next project.’

Sustrust manages two large groves on the Old Clowance Estate for outdoor learning and volunteering opportunities. Pip may be contacted by email pip.sustrust@gmail.com

See our previous articles covering the restoration at Carwynnen.

We recently highlighted how the Government seems less determined lately to impose large housing developments onto unwilling communities and sensitive historic landscapes.  But it’s not just houses, it’s also wind farms. Eric Pickles is now calling most of them in for review. Take Northumberland:

the wind of change seems to have blown through the whole vexed issue on onshore wind. Many believe that the DCLG and its boss Eric Pickles is acting out of a desire to appease rank and file Conservative voters, who rightly or wrongly are associated with an anti-wind stance.” The wind farm industry is angry about it: “The Government is clearly trying to shut down onshore wind…. It’s a long an arduous job to get a wind farm through the planning system then along comes a politician from Westminster who knows nothing and kills it”.

The timing of all this certainly looks suspicious. Not that the “election factor”, if such it is, has been all good for heritage conservation: a short tunnel at Stonehenge, with no public consultation and in the teeth of likely bitter opposition from most archaeological and heritage organisations, looks very like chasing votes in the South West by sacrificing the welfare of parts of the Stonehenge landscape.

Stonehenge? Never mind the merits, look at the votes!

Stonehenge? Never mind the merits, look at the votes!

by Nigel Swift

Sad Day For Wales2.

As the CBA says, the best way to extract evidence is via “controlled, high-standard archaeological excavation“. So it follows that the proper role for archaeologists to adopt towards metal detecting is to encourage people to mitigate their damage, nothing else. Yet the Welsh Museums (aided by PAS and the Lottery Fund) have just launched a project that effectively promotes artefact hunting providing it’s done well (or in their words, creates “a long-term collecting culture to underpin responsible discovery and reporting”.) The law of unintended consequences needs noting. Promoting detecting done well also promotes detecting as a whole, so what they regard as applying a conservation brake is actually pressing an exploitation accelerator. There are better actions they could take. For example:

“Images show hundreds of people, including gunmen, taking part in the excavations from dawn until night in many cases. Dealers are present, and when they discover an artefact, the sale takes place immediately.”

That’s a press report about Syria of course but apart from the guns it describes exactly what has been happening in Wales (and England) routinely on unprotected archaeological sites for donkey’s years. PAS outreaching hasn’t stopped it (at rallies PAS often has a stall next to the artefact dealers, for goodness sake!) and nor will the latest stance by the Welsh museums. Welsh archaeologists and heritage professionals might be better employed persuading the Government to put a stop to that before they try to “create a long-term collecting culture to underpin responsible discovery and reporting.”

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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