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The Palace Theatre (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).

Next month will see a glittering cast of stars on stage at the Palace Theatre in London, as we join Andrew Lloyd Webber to celebrate the unsung anti-heroes of the heritage world – and you’re invited.

The ‘Heritage Devils’ 

Judged by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Simon Thurley – Chief Executive of English Heritage – and a high profile panel, the awards will recognise those scumbags who have worked so hard behind the scenes to destroy heritage for their own financial benefit. Experience the glitz and glamour of the occasion and hear inspiring stories of fascinating buildings and archaeological sites damaged or destroyed – and the individuals who have worked tirelessly to do it.

“This is a chance to recognise people who work so hard to wreck our cultural heritage and I am delighted to be a part of that. The fact is that my first passion was architecture, not music. From the age of six I used to drag my long-suffering parents off to see a ruined castle or abbey, and one summer I persuaded them to rent a house near Port Talbot just so I could see Margam Abbey.” – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Your Invitation:
Book your tickets now for the star studded event, which starts at 11.30am on Tuesday 32 October at The Palace Theatre in London.

[With apologies to English Heritage for taking ironic liberties with their own very worthwhile event.]

In the first of a short series in which we intend to highlight several Cornish Stone Circles, we start in deepest West Penwith with Boscawen-ûn.

Boscawen-ûn is a Bronze age stone circle in St Buryan, some 4.5 miles from Penzance. Boscawen-ûn is a Cornish name, containing the syllables bod (farmstead) and scawen (old tree). The suffix -ûn denotes an adjacent pasture. Therefore the name translates as the ‘pasture of the farmstead by the old tree’.

It is considered to be one of Cornwall’s most popular prehistoric ceremonial centres as well as one of extreme aesthetic beauty. It lies beneath the southern slopes of Creeg Tol. Several years ago, the circle was almost totally obscured by gorse and bracken which had got out of control, but the site is now maintained by the good people at CASPN  for everyone to enjoy.

Boscawen-un from the NW © AlanS.

To visit the site for the first time is a journey of discovery. There are two main access routes, from the East via the farm track to Boscawenoon Farm and from the A30 to the North via Creeg Tol. On both routes, the circle is largely hidden from view as it now sits within a gorse covered circular bank, although glimpses can be seen from Creeg Tol if you know where to look!

Up until 1862 the circle was disected by a hedge until the landowner, Miss Elizabeth Carne, in an early example of archaeological conservation had it removed, replaced some fallen stones and built the enclosing hedge wall that can still be seen today.

Plan (taken from Victoria County History)

The circle consists of 19 upright stones in an elliptical pattern roughly 25×22 metres, with another stone with a pronounced lean just south of the centre. This stone leans towards the north-east sector of the circle where an arrangement of stones may represent an earlier, possibly contemporary cairn or cist. There is a west-facing gap in the circle, which may have formed an entrance. Most of the stones are of local granite, but one in the WSW is made of quartz which feels quite cold to the touch, even in the summer sun.

The Victoria County History states:

The very first reference to this circle that we find is in a Welsh triad, quoted by the Rev. John Williams ab Ithel. It runs as follows :

The three principal Gorsedds of the Isle of Britain :
the Gorsedd of Meriw hill ;
the Gorsedd of Beiscawen ;
and the Gorsedd of Bryn Gwyddon.

This the author quotes as among the ‘Triads of the Bards the Triads of Privilege and Usage,’ from the book of Llywelyn Sion. Sion was born about 1516 and died about one hundred years later ; he had access to the Welsh MSS. of the earl of Pembroke, stored in Raglan Castle, which were destroyed during the wars of the Commonwealth, and he is supposed to have compiled his book from these. There is no certainty that he did not compose the triad himself, but its topographical character makes this unlikely, and without doubt this reference to Boscawen-un is not later than the sixteenth century, probably much earlier. Gorsedd means ‘a great seat,’ or ‘a session,’ such as is held by the bards before an eisteddfod to declare it open, and the use of the word here implies that Boscawen-un was a traditional meeting place for secular or religious ceremonies, perhaps both.

Certainly the circle is still an important spiritual meeting place for local Pagan groups and ritual offerings are often placed here beneath the leaning stone.

Archeoastronomers, Dowsers and Ley-Hunters all have an interest in this site, and an internet search on these subjects will prove fruitful for those interested in these areas.

The Wrekin in Shropshire is visited by countless thousands of people and erosion due to footfall is an ongoing problem. Particularly affected is “The Barrow between Heaven and Hell’s Gate” close to the summit. Volunteer restoration teams have recently been at work to protect it.

               (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Pete Lambert, from Shropshire Wildlife Trust explained: “We are covering it with matting and then sowing it with grass seed to protect it from further damage. It was starting to become very exposed so we needed to seal in that bit of archaeology.”

The Wrekin was once home to the Celtic Cornovii tribe which built the fort and called it their capital. It sprawled the summit of the hill and covered about 20 acres. Mr Lambert added: “Hell Gate, the earthwork entrance created by the Cornovii, has also suffered extensive erosion and is being restored“.  More here.

It seems the Bedd Morris stone isn’t the only North Pembrokeshire ancient monument that has been damaged recently. A stone comprising part of the legendary Bedd Arthur (which also dates to the Bronze Age and overlooks Carn Menyn, possible source of some of Stonehenge’s bluestones) has had names scratched into it.

In addition, according to Park Ranger Richard Vaughan – A car was driven up an old trackway below the Iron Age fort of Carn Ffoi on Carn Ingli mountain and abandoned. The sump broke and a 200m black slick of oil contaminated a Site of Special Scientific Interest…  I’ve also had to clean up a popular parking site on Dinas Mountain covered in empty bottles and smashed glass on the surrounding rocky area. There are grazing animals in the immediate area, and potential for harm to walkers.

Further problems have been caused in the National Park by an increase in off-roading, the dumping of household waste and even toxic waste such as asbestos.

More here –

A recent edition of Meyn Mamvro magazine included an article about this stone near to Coverack on the Lizard. Having previously documented many of the ancient sites on the Lizard, it seemed only right that I visit this latest addition to the list and report on it here.

The stone is quite easily found by heading SW from the junction near the Crousa Common stones. Continue down the lane for about half a mile. If you come to a small collection of houses on the left, you’ve passed the stone!

The Tide Stone sits in a small piece of rough ground and is accessed via a small wooden garden gate set into the hedge. The stone can be seen from the road, though I imagine it would be quite hidden in high summer.


Tide Stone gate


Tide Stone approach

On approaching the stone, it appears as an earth-fast triangular lump, and up close, on the rear left hidden from the approach view is the reason for the name of the stone.


Tide Stone

A depression contains a quantity of water. It is said that the level of the water rises and lowers with the tides. On my visit it looked as if the water was lower by about an inch from it’s highest mark within the depression, indicating a falling tide at the coast a mile or so away.


Tide Stone basin

There is apparently a perfectly sound geological reason for this phenomenon, to do with water tables and underground pressure, as documented in the original article, and the strange behaviour is not unique to this stone or indeed to this area.

It would be interesting to speculate on whether ancient man in prehistory would have been aware of such tidal stones, and if so, what use would have been made of them.

If you are aware of any similar stones, please let us know in the comments.

(All photos © Alan S.)

Bedd Morris stone before being toppled
Writing in the Mail Online Simon Tomlinson reports that –
It had been a landmark for 4,000 years – ever since our ancient ancestors hauled a two-ton 6ft stone to the top of a Welsh mountain. Until a bungling driver decided to do a three-point turn, that is. The monument, which is as old as Stonehenge, was flattened when a day-tripper reversed his car onto the grass verge alongside the narrow country road where it stood.
Experts were called in to investigate the damage to the Bronze Age stone, which was put up on Dinas Mountain, near Newport, Pembrokeshire, beside the Ffordd Bedd Morris road. The monument is a bluestone – the same as those at Stonehenge 150 miles away on Salisbury Plain.
Bedd Morris stone after
More here. See also our feature on the Avebury Diamond Stone.

The CBA Conservation Update for February this year made encouraging reading. Although most people suspect talk of a Big Society is Con-code for a Small State we agree with the CBA that it also has some very good elements (intended or not). We were particularly struck that CBA wanted to support local communities to become active stewards of their archaeological heritage and that they said whether it is monitoring a site at risk, campaigning to save a threatened local landmark or keeping an eye on the weekly planning lists, there are things that everyone can do.

Absolutely! Trouble is, that was in February. Since then the architects of the Big Society have served notice they intend it to operate in a brand new and unsuspected environment in which there is to be “a presumption in favour of sustainable development” and other coded removals of safeguards in the name of economic growth. (Anyone heard an independent economist say the key to growth is a planning free-for-all? Since California was settled anyway? Thought not!) The one certain effect, apart from releasing wonga by the building of executive homes in nice places, is that many of those “sites at risk” and “threatened local landmarks” will be even more at risk and even more threatened – presumably hundreds of them every year – so amateurs keeping an eye on the weekly planning lists will be the very sharp end of conservation action nationwide.

It seems likely that when the CBA said the means by which local people are informed and empowered had to change they were unaware of just how urgent that was about to become. A “How To” pack on how to challenge developers and very particularly to argue that monuments deserve contexts and that “sustainable development” shouldn’t simply mean “leaving them untouched but surrounded by lucrative housing” would probably be a great help towards conservation of heritage against a looming tsunami.

If you haven’t signed the National Trust’s Planning for People petition protesting against that looming tsunami please consider doing so. It’s here

Metal detecting: guilty, M’Lud…

Comment from Lord Avebury on our Contact Us section (first posted 17 April 2010): 

“Is there any consensus on how the law needs to be changed to stop mass detector plundering?”

Yes, Lord Avebury, there is indeed a worldwide consensus that the way to prevent it is to make it a crime. Except in Britain where the official position is  that most detecting is “responsible” so most detecting should be applauded. We believe it is high time parliamentarians took a close look at both  parts of that claim as it seems very clear to us that the official statistics indicate most finds go unreported and are lost to science. (See our Erosion Counter).

On the other hand, whatever does or doesn’t get reported it is entirely unclear to us how the progressive removal of a fragile and finite resource for personal recreation or profit is ethical or in the national interest and how such a policy, so at odds with policy elsewhere, can be defended.

Metal detecting: Please, Dr Heyworth…

In the meantime it’s a visible secret that some professionals are increasingly unhappy with the policy. The most recent instance is Mike Heyworth of the CBA writing in the latest British Archaeology. He is to press the government to take a stricter line with detecting rallies held on DEFRA scheme land. Fine, no-one can seriously deny rallies are damaging, but we strongly doubt whether focusing on them in particular is wise. After all, focusing on nighthawking was a real gift to irresponsible detectorists as it completely deflected attention from the fact that the overwhelming proportion of damage is caused by them, perfectly legally. So wouldn’t focusing on rallies do the same thing? It’s all to do with the numbers involved. In the case of rallies, in a week when a 200 person rally takes place there could be up to 10,000 regular detectorists out in the fields and there is simply no evidence that either their behaviour or their propensity to report finds or their choice of venue is on average any different from those of rally attendees. Detecting is all about maximising the chances of finds so there can be hardly a detectorist that doesn’t deliberately target areas of archaeological potential (of which there are about a million legally available to them).

Does anyone have evidence therefore to reject what seems a logical conclusion, that if Dr Heyworth persuades the government to reduce the damage caused by rallies he is asking them to address perhaps only a fiftieth of the damage that is caused by detecting? It wouldn’t be the first time professionals have missed the target in such a way – the highlighting of nighthawking had exactly the same effect, giving the opportunity for people to outrageously claim that the non-nighthawking majority must all be responsible by default. Are the public to be given the impression that doing away with rallies would do away with the damage caused by detecting? It is to be hoped not for in the absence of evidence we have to be guided by logic and on that basis it would leave 98% of the damage ongoing. Dr Heyworth will be asking “for more research to be carried out on the damage to archaeological sites and lost knowledge due to rallies”. Fine. But please, please, don’t tell people that’s other than a very minor part of the problem.

He is also calling for people to send him “examples of “treasure hunting” causing damage to archaeological sites” so he can build up a portfolio of examples to present to the government. That’s problematical too, for physical evidence is likely to be hard to come by. If someone mines a non-scheduled Roman “hotspot” weekly for two years and tells no-one a lot of damage will be done yet where is the evidence of damage to present to the government? Perhaps only the culprit will know it’s a hotspot, and once it is gone it won’t be. No, portfolios tell a tiny tale, far better to present to the government the massive statistical evidence held by PAS that such things MUST be happening: millions of artefacts removed and most of them not reported. That’s what they really need to be told.



Or solitary, legal detecting?

Why worry about the first two when the last causes fifty times more damage?

Metal detecting: And please, Prince Charles…

What the Hell are you up to Your Holiness, flogging off licenses to metal detect on your beaches with the caveat “Applicants should be members of an organisation which  endorses the Code of Practice for Metal Detecting in England and Wales such as the Federation of Independent Detectorists or the National Council for Metal Detecting”?  Don’t you understand that both the NCMD and FID codes studiously avoid asking adherents to report what they find to PAS and are just a vehicle designed to allow the non-recording yobs amongst them to bamboozle farmers into thinking they will? And Princes, evidently. If you have been told those two organisations seriously support the official Code of Practice for Metal Detecting in England and Wales why don’t you ask them why they don’t insert THAT Code on their front pages and into their Constitutions and delete their own! Sort it out please. We wouldn’t want to report you to Mike Heyworth or Lord Avebury as an egregious example of how destruction is being unwittingly facilitated up and down the country because landowners are being misinformed and misled.


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting



Plan of the early burial mound with sky constellations. Image courtesy of Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum


The ScienceDaily reported recently that – A huge early Celtic calendar construction has been discovered in the royal tomb of Magdalenenberg, nearby Villingen-Schwenningen in Germany’s Black Forest. This discovery was made by researchers at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum at Mainz in Germany when they evaluated old excavation plans. The order of the burials around the central royal tomb fits exactly with the sky constellations of the Northern hemisphere.

Whereas Stonehenge was orientated towards the sun, the more then 100 meter width burial mound of Magdalenenberg was focused towards the moon. The builders positioned long rows of wooden posts in the burial mound to be able to focus on the Lunar Standstills. These Lunar Standstills happen every 18,6 year and were the ‘corner stones’ of the Celtic calendar.

More here –

Trying to sell a second-hand henge on the eve of the Roman invasion
Reproduced with the kind permission of Mattias Adolfsson © Mattias Adolfsson

Mattias is a freelance illustrator living in Sweden with his wife and two daughters. Visit his website here.


October 2011

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