You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2009.

Wiltshire Heritage Museum. Image credit Willow
“Wiltshire Heritage Museum has been awarded £4,500 by the Association for Independent Museums Sustainability Fund. This welcome funding boost will enable the Museum to employ a part-time fundraiser to increase its income.”
Applications for the fundraiser post are now open. The Job Description and Application Pack and the Application Form are now available online from the Documents section of  the Wiltshire Heritage Museum website. Deadline for applications is 9am on Friday, 9 October 2009. More here – 
Wiltshire Heritage Museum has also started to catalogue and digitise all the books in its Library onto the Google library – 5000 so far in five months. The fully digitised versions (Full view) are still few in number but there are also some Limited previews. Phil Harding’s YouTube has an enthusiastic introduction to the Library here –

Recently an e-petition was put on the government website regarding the reburial of bones at Stonehenge, the petition has now closed and the government response is given below.

 Details of Petition:

“There is currently a huge archaeological dig taking place at Stonehenge (The Riverside Project) August/September 2008. The Senior Archaeologists concerned – Mike Pitts, Julian Richards and Mike Parker Pearson are looking at several areas at Stonehenge including the Aubrey Holes specifically No.7 which contains the remains of up to 50 bodies – The Guardians of Stonehenge. These archaeologists have removed these remains from the ground and they have been sent away for analysis. They will give no confirmation that these remains will be returned to their resting place at Stonehenge. Much can be learned from archaeological testing but, the fact that these remains could end there days in a box is wrong. These bodies were buried at Stonehenge by our ancestors for a reason and have lain there for thousands of years. This is an issue that effects all of us the world over, there is no difference in archaeologists going into Mecca and removing the stones, or going in to Vatican City and disinterring a Pope. These are the bones of this country’s ancestors and should be returned to the ground at Stonehenge.”

Government’s response

“Thank you for your e-petition. A licence for the removal of human remains at Stonehenge was granted by the Ministry of Justice in May 2008. One of the conditions of the licence was that the remains should be reinterred within two years and that in the intervening period they should be kept safely, privately and decently. In April 2008, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement entitled ‘Burial Law and Archaeology’ to clarify the basis on which applications for the exhumation of human remains for archaeological examination would be treated – this can be accessed at This makes clear that licences would be issued with time limits for re-burial but where there was a legitimate need for remains to be kept for longer, it would be possible to apply for an extension. The Government recognises that some people have strongly held beliefs with regards to human remains, but believes that these need to be balanced against the legitimate public interest in the scientific study of ancient human remains and the educational and historic value that such remains can provide. The Ministry of Justice is currently reviewing burial law and looking at possible changes in order to reflect contemporary attitudes and sensibilities towards human remains. We expect to consult on any proposals in due course.

Article by Moss

Wayland's Smithy in Autumn 2006

Wayland's Smithy in Autumn 2006

This longbarrow was excavated by Richard Atkinson and Stuart Piggott in the years 1962-63. They seems to have uncovered two periods. Period 1; This was a barrow containing a wooden mortuary hut shaped like a ridge tent, but with a sarsen stone floor. Here some fourteen bodies had been laid, some articulated, others with limbs separated – probably due to the practice of excarnation. When the hut was full sarsen stones were placed around it, and chalk from ditches on either side was piled on top. The mound being kept in position by a kerb of boulders.
Period 11; Consists of the mound that is now visible 54.9 metres long by 14.6 m at the front tapering to 6.1. m at the back. The front facade originally contained 6 great sarsen stones, each about 9 foot high, at the back was the passageway with a chamber on either side.
In the restoration work drystone walling was used to fill the gaps between the stones. Apparently an earlier excavation in 1919, found in the left hand chamber 8 skeletons including 1 child. The latest excavation of 1962 showed that the final barrow was excavated from ditches on either side of the mound and was held in place by a continuous kerb of sarsens. Radio carbon dating at this time was between 3700 and 3400 bc.
The two missing stones beside the entrance are marked by irregular dry-stone walling. There seems to have been a rather more formalised interpretation in the ‘restoration’ work in which the flanks of the barrow were sharply revetted to form walls. Now, in 2007, the mound has acquired a graceful curve with what remains of the kerbing stone sitting comfortably in the ground. The work was done by the DoE, and it is well to remember that ‘neatness’ in the restoration work, may not necessarily give a true final picture..

The following photograph taken in 1930 shows how Wayland’s Smithy looked before restoration, a jumble of  facade stones, and it is well to remember that West Kennet Longbarrow  was in a similar state and also underwent the same work at the hands of the above two archaeologists.  Both monuments are magnificient reminders of Neolithic stone construction, so perhaps in the end we should welcome such restorations which give us a better understanding of these longbarrows.


Ref: An Archaeological Guide to Southern England; Gen.Ed. Glyn Daniels 1973.


Diary of a Dean

Being an account of the
and of
Opened and Investigated in the Months of July & August 1849
By Dean John Merewether
With illustrations
An online edition of the book is here

An ammonite set to the left of the entrance to the Stoney Littleton Long Barrow
Image credit Littlestone

The work, which has been funded by English Heritage as part of its National Mapping Programme, has created a highly detailed map of Exmoor’s archaeology.

One of the most interesting finds was a possible neolithic or Bronze Age enclosure on Little Hangman Hill, Combe Martin. Although impossible to be completely accurate as to its age, it is similar when compared with other sites thought to be around that date on Dartmoor and Bodmin.

The aerial mapping of Exmoor is a useful tool for discovering new sites, and the above prehistoric site at  Little Hangman Hill proves that there is still plenty to discover beneath these ancient moors.

Two more recent finds on Exmoor are of interest and to quote English Heritage….The prehistoric stone monuments on Exmoor are evocative monuments: geometric arrangements of sandstone slabs sited in remote combes; tall standing stones on open moor and stone rows,  they give a tantalising glimpse into a remote past.

In 2006 Celia Haddon discovered a new stone row on Exmoor, at the time only eight stone rows had been found on the moors.  The row was found at Warcombe Water, on the ridge  there were  fifteen small sandstone slabs each carefully set upright in a long line.

The other find  of a small standing stone at Codsend Moor, also reveals a prehistoric relict field system together with huts, cairns and standing stones.

As the prehistoric past of Britain slowly reveals itself in standing stones and burial cairns it is a humbling experience to realise that this small island had a prehistoric existence we know so little of,  when the only materials of the land were stone, timber and flint for tools, neolithic people carved and created not only their livelihoods from the earth but took time to erect stones, whether large or small to symbolise a meaning to them we cannot hope to catch,  and here on Exmoor caught in the tough wild grasses of the moor small stones nestle tracing a mysterious past that is lost forever.

New archaeological sites discovered on Exmoor

Image credit Heritage Action

by Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

Almost the ‘end of the road‘, the 90% completed stage, for the construction of the M3 motorway and two Irish Times articles on the subject have been highlighted by Vincent Salafia and Tarawatch.

It has been a long struggle for those who campaigned and protested, with fingers pressed desperately into the dam:

“No protesters are currently blocking or picketing any part of the motorway, and Vincent Salafia of Tarawatch said that such action is unlikely to recur. “The frontline part of the campaign is pretty much over. There are people still protesting in the area, but not on the front line of the road. At this stage any protest on the road would be a largely symbolic gesture, but that doesn’t mean the campaign is over.”

Recent changes to the criminal trespass laws had made such protests more difficult, Mr Salafia said, but he said Tarawatch was continuing to campaign against the road…”

The law, as we have seen before in the 2004 amendment to the National Monuments Act, seems mutable whenever it comes into conflict with construction interests.

The two pieces refer to the greatest foci of controversy as follows:

“…the route runs just over 2km from the Hill of Tara, and adjacent to the Lismullin national monument and the hill fort of Rath Lugh…

…The road does not go through the fort, but skirts it incredibly closely, to the extent that a “crib wall” has been constructed against the fort wall to secure the earthen structure. The road also skirts the national monument at Lismullin. As this site has already been preserved and covered by a farm access road, nothing remains to be seen.”

However, Mr Salafia has made these corrections to the information:

“- the M3 is not 2km away from Tara, but 1km from the crest of the Hill

– the M3 more than ‘skirts’ Lismullin national monument. The NRA demolished the site, despite being warned by the European Commission not to

– Rath Lugh marks the edge of the Tara complex, and the M3 ‘skirts’ inside, rather than outside Rath Lugh, which is also a national monument”

There is a great destructive force in any inundation; whether of concrete, asphalt or water and there should surely be an awareness of the full extent of it in Meath. It’s an easy option to settle the protestors in your mind as a bunch of fanatics, people who could only see the issue in black and white. Then conveniently let it slip away into oblivion. Phrases like ‘skirts closely’, ’2km from the Hill’ and ’preserved’, while indicating that something happened, fail to demonstrate the true level of demolition and hint, perhaps, that there was a bit of an overreaction. Uninformed, knee-jerk opposition to what NRA spokesman Seán O’Neill refers to as “the construction of a new, safe, value for money motorway.”

These monuments were irretrievably damaged, however, in some cases destroyed and for what? The route chosen wasn’t the only possibility, but viable alternatives were dismissed without a second look. In hindsight and given the collapse of the economy, the motorway itself may not even have been necessary. Some people obviously thought so. As has recently been revealed, Eurolink were given a minimum traffic guarantee, which surely indicates  prior consideration, if not expectation, of low usage levels.

Anyone with half an eye on national events will concede that this is a country where the elite are in and out of each others pockets, smoothing their respective ways along. You wouldn’t have to be particularly conspiracy-minded to smell something fishy in the alterations of laws when they prove inconvenient to ’progress’. Or the swift ’about-face’ of the Greens when they arrived in Government. Why was this route and project, opposed by the EU, prominent archaeologists and a significant body of the public, untouchable?

…and how much is it going to end up costing? The more I think about this issue, the more it’s bugging me.

First we have Vincent Salafia:

Mr Salafia has criticised the cost to the taxpayer of the motorway. He said this will amount to €727.4 million over the life of the toll contract with Eurolink, which ends in 2052.”

Swiftly put back in his place by our National Roads Authority spokesman Seán O’Neill:

“In fact only €250 million is being paid up front; the rest of the cost is being borne by the contractor . . . Distorting the figures doesn’t benefit the public…”

However, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General, a presumably impartial authority:

“…the tolled M3 Clonee to Kells motorway, which is due to open next year, will cost taxpayers €727.4m in total over the next 42 years.”

Does the €250 million “up front” not include the cost of maintaining the roads? Is the remainder of the €727.4 million, “borne by the contractor”, “in fact” repayable to them in instalments? How can you get from one figure to the other?

Who, exactly, is doing the distorting in this situation?


At last a chance to address some fundamental heritage problems,  hopefully

Put Your Question to Heritage Leaders

What do you think are the most important issues facing England’s heritage? Is it funding? Is it the reform of heritage protection? Is it the development pressures facing our historic towns and cities? Is it how we present our castles and country houses or how we look after local conservation areas? English Heritage invites you to join the audience for a panel discussion involving Baroness Andrews, newly appointed Chair of English Heritage, Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust, Anthea Case, Chair of Heritage Link, Tom Dyckhoff, journalist and broadcaster and Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The debate will be chaired by Martha Kearney, Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s World at One. Heritage Question Time will be at 6.30pm, Wednesday 21 October, at the Royal Institute of British Architecture, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD.

To apply for free tickets or to submit a question, please email by 9 October. People whose questions are chosen will be invited to come and ask them in person on the night. But you do not have to submit a question, you can just come and hear the discussion. Tickets will be given out on a first come, first served basis, so apply now!

For further information, please contact: Katy Payne, Events Manager, English Heritage;

020 7973 3860


September 2009

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