This week we pointed out that the Stonehenge landscape is so precious and so important and so unique that Historic England et al. have no business approaching it in the same way as other places such as Calverley Park, Tunbridge Wells. The simple reality is that if somewhere is sacrosanct then damaging it is unacceptable, whatever the claimed benefits of doing so.

Today we were reminded that ICOMOS-UK and UNESCO have repeatedly said exactly the same thing about the A303 proposals at Stonehenge:

We appreciate the very real need to address the issue of the A303 and recognise that a tunnel could have beneficial impacts on parts of the World Heritage property. However, we are concerned that associated portals and dual carriageways could have a highly adverse impact on other parts of the World Heritage landscape that cannot be set aside however great the benefits of a tunnel.
[ICOMOS-UK (November 2014) in a letter to ministers]

“To suggest that this damage can be mitigated by benefits brought by the tunnel to the centre of the WHS, is to fundamentally misunderstand the commitments made to sustain OUV at the time of inscription of the property on the World Heritage List.”
[ICOMOS-UK, earlier this year, reponse to the consultation on the A303]

“It is not considered satisfactory to suggest that the benefits from a 2.9km tunnel to the centre of the property can offset the significant damage from lengths of four-lane approach roads in cutting elsewhere in the property.”
[UNESCO’s WH Centre (June 2017) in its report to the WH Committee]

Just how much explanation do Historic England, English Heritage and The National Trust need before they stop lobbying for damage to the protected landscape of our national icon? And who is advising Highways England on UNESCO’s advice?

Sounds familiar?

“We believe the proposed scheme ….. could be an opportunity to enhance this edge of the park and it is possible that the public benefits of such a project could outweigh harm to the park….. Heritage conservation is all about weighing competing public interests in the balance. If the harm is minimised and the enhancement of the park maximised, we are prepared to be persuaded that a case for the development can be made.”

[Read more here]

Yes, conservation IS usually about weighing competing public interests and yes, sometimes development must win. However, those words were about Calverley Park, Tunbrige Wells and although we don’t know enough about the details to judge what should happen over there we DO know that Calverley Park, Tunbrige Wells is NOT the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

The difference is pretty simple. Some harm is so profound and some places so special that there should be no talk of harm being minimised and enhancement being maximised as a case for damaging them. Yet that’s exactly what Historic England and others have been saying about the Stonehenge landscape. Do they have no understanding of the term “sacrosanct”?

 

As everyone knows, selectivity is akin to lying. What then should be made of the succession of recent stories praising detectorists for having donated their finds to museums when the reality is that more than 90% of them don’t do so?

Instead they are paid handsomely. That’s the law, so they’re entitled, but you might think there’s a distinction between legal entitlement and doing what’s right, and it would do no harm at all for the difference to be made clear, not obscured. Here’s a very typical recent example (from Ely Museum) of it being obscured …..

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The public had just paid for its own property. Why present it as a triumph, when it was avoidable? Much better if the reality was clearly expressed:

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When did the Truth ever hurt? Might not the number of selfless “donors” be thereby increased from the current very low level?  And might not claims such as “only in it for the history” and “citizen archaeologists” start to look less like calculated fibs designed to mislead landowners and taxpayers?

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English Heritage have some explaining to do – missing from public view for five years, the plaque marking the re-dedication of the Airman’s Cross in 1996 has been found when a garden in Salisbury was being cleared by the property’s new owner.
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This story begins with Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Richard Wilson losing their lives, becoming the earliest military aviation casualties in the country when their Nieuport monoplane crashed during a training flight from Larkhill airfield near Stonehenge 5th July 1912. A year to the day later, in a ceremony attended by family and friends, the monument now known as the Airman’s Cross was unveiled near the scene of the crash. The monument was funded by the comrades of these two pioneering airmen and the staggered junction at which the Cross stood, where the A360 met the A344 and B3086, was known forever after as Airman’s Corner.
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In a further ceremony on 5th July 1996, a plaque was unveiled by the Friends of the Flying Museum, Middle Wallop, re-dedicating the Airman’s Cross. For almost a complete century the focus had always been on 5th July, the day of the accident, but just days before a century could be reached English Heritage oversaw the removal of the Airman’s Cross and the associated plaque on 25th June 2012, the Royal Engineers damaging the latter on two edges in the process.
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In August 2015, the Heritage Journal reported on the evolving nature of English Heritage’s care plan for the Airman’s Cross monuments. https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/stonehenge-questions-5-and-we-will-remember-e-h/
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Airman’s Corner is now a roundabout and relocated alongside the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre the Airman’s Cross has an ice cream van for company, the luridly liveried vehicle being connected to adjacent permanent wiring. The plaque marking the re-dedication 5th July 1996 was nowhere to be seen. This plaque reemphasizing the loss of the two earliest military airmen and maintaining the focus on the 5th July was replaced by a new re-dedication plaque alongside the Airman’s Cross unveiled on 1st May 2015 to ‘MARK ITS ACQUISITION BY ENGLISH HERITAGE’.
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Earlier this week the Heritage Journal received an email from a Salisbury resident, the plaque last seen tucked in a corner of a contractor’s site office in September 2013 had been found when clearing his garden. We salute the public spirit of Mr. M. of Salisbury, who cared enough to drive to Middle Wallop and return the plaque to the Friends of the Flying Museum. At least the plaque is now back in the hands of those that fully appreciate its importance. It is a mystery how the plaque ended up in this man’s garden, but the bigger mystery is why we allow our Stonehenge heritage to be cared for in this fashion.
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English Heritage’s license to care for our monuments comes up for renewal in 2023!

A cabmen’s shelter, just given listed status by Historic England:

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The Stonehenge Landscape,

…. about which they have stated:
“Stonehenge is arguably the greatest prehistoric monument in western Europe …. as a World Heritage Site it ranks in significance with such sites as the Acropolis of Athens, the Pyramids of Giza, Great Zimbabwe and Machu Picchu. Stonehenge sits at the heart of a landscape rich in other monuments and remains of the Neolithic period and Bronze Age that are also part of the World Heritage Site.”

Guess which one they support damaging?

Tryphena Grommit (Miss), pictured, was shocked by a parking fiasco at Avebury yesterday.

“I’m a frequent visitor to Avebury” said Miss Grommit “and I often stay all day and spend lots of money. But yesterday I was on my way to Devizes and wanted a tinkle, I was desperate. I only wanted to pop into Avebury for a moment to use the facilities there but imagine my distress to see the notice – £7 pounds for ten minutes!. It’s an outrage, the blinking jobsworths”.

We understand this is not the first complaint and the Trust have said they’ll reconsider if they get enough of them. Watch this space….

Dear Colleagues,

Last week I warned that selling permission to detect on your land could seriously damage your finances. However, it’s far more likely you’ll be asked to allow rallies “for charity”. Here is a typical one a week ago:

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What’s wrong with that? Well everything actually, as The Journal first explained back in 2011 (see “Charity Metal Detecting Rallies – a racket exposed” – 6,100 views so far).

The main issue is that NO archaeologist approves of big rallies (ask them) due to the archaeological damage they do. Please remember that, whatever any rally organiser tells you. Plus, in the case of charity  rallies, double hypocrisy is used: “we’re only interested in history” and “we’re doing it for charity”. If they were historians they wouldn’t keep or sell the finds and if they were charity workers they would donate all the finds to the charity.

The truth of the matter is that paying ten or twenty quid entrance fee to dig sometimes very valuable artefacts up for your own benefit makes you neither an historian nor a charitable donor – nor a conservationist. What we’re really left with is archaeological damage enabled by false pretences.

Regards,

Silas Brown
Grunter’s Hollow
Worfield
Salop

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Legal opinion in the US now seems to suggest that there’s no Presidential license to revoke national monuments  and that therefore Mr Trump’s attempt to breach the protection given to National Parks will fail: “The text, spirit, and 111 year history of the Antiquities Act of 1906 militate against presidential power to revoke a national monument proclamation made by a predecessor president…. A presidential proclamation declaring a national monument may not be unilaterally revoked by a successor president.”

Imagine that level of protection in Britain! Our most significant landscapes would no longer be vulnerable to development at the vote catching whim of fleeting politicians. Like this one….

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That’s what happened at Stonehenge – and even though he has long gone his agenda is still being pursued by our so-called protection agencies. If we had a Sacrosanct Landscapes Act (and which civilised country doesn’t deserve one?) it wouldn’t be. It’s to be hoped we get one as a direct result of the current short tunnel debacle.

From the Heritage Journal exactly 12 years ago.
Stonehenge beware…..

The diggers are tearing into the archaeology rich ritual landscape of Tara right now.

The Hill of Tara is an ancient monument complex that dates back to the birth of civilization in Ireland. It has been a place of power since farming first sprung up in Ireland and has been a very significant place for many thousands of years.

This important historical area is threatened RIGHT NOW by the building of a motorway through the Skryne valley. Its foundations will trawl through the fragile archaeological deposits that may give us clues to the past and the founding of this magnificent site.

Despite massive objections from an appalled international community, the Irish Government has chosen to plough ahead with the scheme.

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