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We hear The National Trust is angling to get money from anyone who sells photographs of places like Avebury. 

A worrying attitude for a public charity to suddenly claim rights over open air public assets that have been standing there for millennia, especially as a new or intensified policy.  And dangerous, for where will it end? If they’re stepping up efforts to claim payments from professionals isn’t it a small and logical step to try to do the same thing to amateurs? They are suddenly declaring the stones are in their own beneficial ownership, after all…

We do hope this isn’t the shape of things to come!


The Cove

We see trouble ahead. Look at that chap…. is he a professional or an amateur? And does it matter? Is he doing any harm? And is he taking something that belongs to the National Trust?  

It’s not their notice of course, it’s ours. But it makes a point and begs a question –

When does guardianship become scary?

Considered by some to be Britain’s largest prehistoric complex yet far less visited than Stonehenge or Avebury, Stanton Drew contains three stone circles (including the second largest in England), two stone avenues, a cove and a massive outlier. Recent geophysical research has revealed that the Great Circle is itself surrounded by a very large ditch 440 ft in diameter and contains a highly elaborate pattern of buried pits that once held massive posts arranged in nine concentric rings.


Remains of Avenue leading up to the Circle

Remains of Avenue leading up to the Circle


Professor Burl has written of the site:

Midsummer processions and ceremonies may be imagined, rituals by moonlight celebrated by hundreds of people from the countryside, assembling for reasons long forgotten but preserved silently in the stones themselves….


On the evening of May 6 there is a rare opportunity to visit the site and to explore it in the company of a local historian, Colin Budge.


DEVELOPMENT of Southend Airport could produce a wealth of previously unknown archaeological finds, according to Essex county councillor for the environment John Jowers. 

Mr. Jowers goes on to say that  ‘There are further finds, particularly on the west of the site which indicate prehistoric activity, evidence of which is likely to survive.’   and that   it was important the cultural heritage of the site was taken into account at an early stage so proper investigation and management of the area could be carried out.’

Lets hope that fine sentiment is adhered to.                More here……


A conference is being  held at Bristol University on the 27th June, seeking to explore the relationship and difficult ethical questions that arise between the event of the recent upsurge in Pagan thinking and the forces that it brings to bear upon the archaeological world.

Both contemporary Paganism and Archaeology share common origins in the Enlightenment re-engagement with physical traces of the prehistoric past. Despite these shared roots, the relationship between archaeologists and Pagans has often been portrayed as one of limited mutual comprehension and conflict, which may be seen to mimic wider societal tensions in the West between religion and science.  The aim of this conference is to see how mutually beneficial opportunities for collaboration and co-operation can be taken forward.

Among the topics covered will be the current controversy surrounding calls for the reburial of prehistoric human remains (with many Pagans opposed to reburial), the place of Pagan values in the management of ancient landscapes and heritage, and the role of alternative archaeologies. 

* Ronald Hutton (University of Bristol)
Orthodox and Alternative Archaeology: The Early Years
* Joshua Pollard (University of Bristol)
Whither Archaeology?
* Martin Smith (Bournemouth University)
Balancing interests: making decisions regarding prehistoric human remains.
* Will Rathouse (University of Lampeter)
Stormy Heritage: interactions between the contemporary Pagan community and
the Heritage industry/Archaeological community
* Tiffany Jenkins (University of Kent at Canterbury)
Cultivating Claims: the significant role of the museum sector
* Yvonne Aburrow (Pagans for Archaeology)
Our silent ancestors: an exploration of responses to human remains and their
* Robert Wallis (Richmond University) & Jenny Blain (Sheffield Hallam
Stepping stones to common ground: negotiating paganism, archaeology and ‘sacred’ sites
* Graham Harvey (Open University)
Animist Pagans and the present dead
* Andy Letcher (Freelance writer)
Fertile Imaginings: Challenging Popular Conceptions of ‘the Pagan’

 £25 / £20 (students/unwaged)

To book a place, please email
Further information can be found here……

A dark enigma to the memory. Image credit Littlestone

…and when you die, I will erect a monument,
Upon the verdant plains of Salisbury,
No king shall have so high a sepulchre,
With pendulous stones, that I will hang by art,
Where neither lime nor mortar shall be used,
A dark enigma to the memory,
For none shall have the power to number them;
A place that I will hallow for your rest;
Where no night-hag shall walk, nor were-wolf tread,
Where Merlin’s mother shall be sepulchred.

William Rowley (1690–1768) and also occasionally ascribed to Shakespeare.

Merlin, in William Rowley’s The Birth of Merlin, suggests to his mother that she should ‘retire to a solitude’ that he has made ready for her, “…to weep away the flesh you have offended with…”

The Guardian has a series entitled ‘Secret Britain’,  several trips look interesting the latest  is the route that Boudica took on her way to ravage the towns of Colchester and London.

I would trace the first 40 miles marched by the warrior queen’s army at the beginning of the greatest rebellion ever staged by Britons against Roman rule.

So our indefatigable journalist writes, be that as it may, Norfolk Museum are promoting this walk to run in conjunction with the opening of their new Boudica gallery, which  has on show a replica chariot and the beautiful gold  Iron Age  jewellery from this time.


Part of the route the Roman road once took between Colchester and London. This section outside Hatfield Peverel, Essex.

Heartening news about this story

The Friends of the Stroud Museum have received enough donations for the Museum to purchase the Roman coins, and to put them on  display in the Museum’s archaeology room.

A  passing metal detectorist might well have commented

Thank goodness this is over. This has reflected appallingly on the people of Stroud, taking such a long time to raise £225  for the finder, Wayne. He’s been a real brick, waiting patiently like this for true justice. Like us all, he’s an absolute hero, who does it entirely for the love of history.

We have to agree. He is a marvel, and the people of Stroud – nay, the whole population of Gloucestershire, should hang their heads in shame for their delay in paying him his cash. Anyone would think it was their heritage, not his and they expected him to DONATE the finds!

In the words of a detectorist hero on

With all due respect to the museum if i had travelled 500 miles to a rally i would not want to give my hard earned finds to anyone unless a reasonable reward was offered to me.

Quite right. It is heartening that Britain has entrusted  the decision on whether it gets to see its history to such generous, sophisticated and enlightened people.

Or is it? The general public must consider the matter carefully. As ought the quiet, thoughtful wing of the metal detecting hobby.

First-time visitors to Avebury might be forgiven for spending only an hour or so there (usually in the south-east or south-west quadrants) before popping into the Henge or National Trust shops for souvenirs. More frequent visitors may have gone a little further afield, along the West Kennet Avenue, and perhaps following the sign at the bottom of the Avenue have climbed Waden Hill for that magnificent and unexpected view of Silbury from Waden’s summit. Others, who have visited Avebury many times and over many years, will have discovered more of its lesser-known features and will have shared much of that information on The Modern Antiquarian and similar forums dedicated to megalithic interests; in so doing they will have contributed to our ever-growing understanding of the Avebury World Heritage Site and surrounding area. While it is true that the whereabouts of some of the features at Avebury are perhaps best not posted on the internet for danger of theft or vandalism the same cannot be said for all of its lesser-known features.

Staddle stone supporting the old wooden storehouse at Winterbourne Monkton

Frequent visitors to Avebury will probably have seen the enigmatic figure carved on the church font there; some may also have been to the Church of St Mary Magdalene at nearby Winterbourne Monkton to see the fascinating figure carved on its font. Some visitors to Winterbourne Monkton however may not have noticed the staddle stones supporting the old wooden storehouse to the right of the church gate – a rare find these days and a feature within walking distance of the Avebury Henge itself.
In sharing with others the lesser-known features of our megalithic and non-megalithic heritage at Avebury we are not only increasing our knowledge and enjoyment of this World Heritage Site and its surrounding area we are also drawing attention to its wider importance – and in so doing hopefully also helping to ensure its long-term protection.

A vivid insight into metal detectorists’ psychology has been provided by this story


A hoard of nine silver Roman coins was found near Nailsworth by detectorist Wayne Jacobs in 2004. Now, Stroud Museum in the Park (annual budget to buy finds, £100) has launched an appeal to raise £450 to buy them for the benefit of the people of the area. (To make a donation, send a cheque payable to ‘SDC Coin Appeal’ to Museum in the Park, Stratford Park, Stroud, GL5 4AF).


The reaction to this story by detectorists on, the detecting forum where it appeared is revealing, to say the least…. One suggested a metal detecting rally should be organised (in other words, finance the retention of one cultural asset by destroying a lot more). Another complained that a budget of £100 a year for buying finds wasn’t enough. Two suggested the lottery fund should stump up the cash. And another suggested – “If members of a detecting group were to donate £5 each and provide it to purchase the coins, that would be a great PR move. News coverage would be very beneficial and could be played up” (in other words, there was a golden opportunity to persuade the public metal detectorists were heritage heroes).


Not one of them suggested the blindingly obvious solution: that Wayne should simply renounce his right to payment. Since presumably the money would be shared with the landowner who is the actual owner (and has anyone asked him if he is willing to do without the money?) the most that Wayne would be giving up is a pitiful £225.

Not a lot for a member of a hobby that swears it is in it for the history, not the money!


There was a time when everyone would have instantly donated such items to their local museum without a thought for money or personal advantage. Even now most ordinary people would be highly likely to do so. Schoolchildren, gardeners and members of local archaeology societies for instance tend not to put their hand out and force museums to raise a few hundred pounds by public subscription. But not Wayne or his detecting pals on that forum evidently. £225 is owed and must be paid. Amoral doesn’t even begin to describe it. Let us be guided by the evidence not the public posturing. 

                                                   *** UPDATE! ***

Callanish – the sky moves sideways. Watercolour by Jane Tomlinson

Megalithomaniacal artist and Heritage Action founder member Jane Tomlinson will be holding an exhibition on 2,3,9 and 10 May (12 noon to 6pm, 18 Newland Close, Eynsham, OX29 4LE, just six miles west of Oxford).

This year, as part of Oxfordshire’s visual arts festival, Artweeks, and of the nationwide Darwin200 festival. the theme will be a celebration of Charles Darwin, the natural world and earth’s magic.

You can also see a selection of other paintings by Jane, many on a megalithic theme, here


April 2009

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