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“STONEHENGE, the grandest prehistoric monument in the British Isles, is at last in sight of the end of its troubles….”
– The New York Times, October 16, 1927.

A major stage has been reached in the process of returning Stonehenge to a more appropriate setting. Wiltshire Council has accepted the Inspector’s amended recommendations so there is now no legal impediment to plans to close the lower section of the A344 completely. However, not everything has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction because the Inspector recommended closure of the A344 but NOT the byways. Thus the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport has accepted the Inspector’s report and has decided that the traffic restriction should be made to apply only to the A344 and not the Byways.

That is a source of satisfaction to some off-roaders and others who feel they have spiritual rights extending to a right to both drive and park close to the stones. However, it doesn’t please English Heritage or perhaps most people as a right to drive and even park within the Landscape close to any of the monuments would seem to be against the whole point of the improvements.

It seems that various practical and legal problem remain, not the least of which is the fact that the Management Plan says “Vehicular access to Byways within the World Heritage Site should be restricted apart from access for emergency, operational and farm vehicles.” It’s to be hoped something can be done. A project to return Stonehenge to “splendid isolation” ending with off-roaders in 4×4 vehicles retaining the right to drive across the World Heritage Site? Surely not?

Splendid Intervention.... ?

Next up in our series taking a brief peek into the minds of archaelogical personalities is Professor Martin Carver, current editor of Antiquity magazine. Many thanks to Martin for his responses.

Brief Bio:

Professor Martin Carver was an army officer for 15 years, a free-lance archaeologist for 13 years and has been an academic for 20 years.

He was elected as the first secretary of the newly formed Institute of Field Archaeologists in 1982 and Vice President of the Society of Antiquaries in 2002. He was appointed professor of archaeology at York in 1986 and was Head of Department from 1986 to 1996.

He has an international reputation for his excavations at Sutton Hoo, on behalf of the British Museum and the Society of Antiquaries and at the Pictish monastery at Portmahomack Tarbat, Easter Ross, Scotland. He has undertaken archaeological research in England, Scotland, France, Italy and Algeria.

Martin Carver’s current principal activity is Editor of Antiquity. He was appointed Professor Emeritus in 2008.

The 10 Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

A love of early Celtic poetry got me interested in researching the Dark Ages while I was in the army. I have never been much interested in heritage protection.

How did you get started?

By reading Antiquity (which I now edit) in the 1960s. I left the army in 1972 and volunteered at Winchester and Chalton, before spending my gratuity on a course on Anglo-Saxon studies at Durham.

Who has most influenced your career?

My close friends, particularly Madeleine Hummler, Sue Hirst, Cecily Spall and Catherine Hills, and now my children, three of whom are archaeologists.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

Research and excavation at Sutton Hoo, resulting in numerous publications, a TV series and an onsite museum.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Portmahomack, Easter Ross. This is the site of the first excavated Pictish monastery and church of St Colman (now a museum). It lies a long way from the main road on the Dornoch Firth in NE Scotland with a beautiful beach and view.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

That students who learn to love archaeology together at university are split into different sectors (academic, government, commercial) by our system of procurement.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

The object of the legislation should be to maximise new knowledge, not to record endangered deposits.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

The purpose of archaeology is to find out about the past. Our product is new knowledge. University research, government and local government conservation, commercial mitigation and museums are part of a single project and should be supported and enabled by a single ministry (not three).

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I would be a retired field marshall, or an impoverished novelist.

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

Play golf, play the flute, party.

Thanks once again to Martin for his responses.

National Trust Chairman Simon Jenkins recently pulled no punches about the Government’s planning proposals. An approximate summary of what he said appears on the NT Blog. It’s almost withering. The original must have been quite a presentation! Let’s hope it has an effect.

“We don’t make a habit of criticising Government, but we couldn’t avoid making our position clear on the changes that were taking place in England as a result of the Localism Bill (now an Act) and the National Planning Policy Framework. And the response was amazing – we’ve received more signatures to our public petition than there are members of the Conservative Party.

The planning reforms at stake are ill-conceived and they’ve come about as a consequence of serious lobbying by developer interests. They are a denial of planning in its traditional sense. You can’t abandon planning in favour of just giving planning permission. The presumption in favour of sustainable development is particularly ill-defined – it gives a green light to all sorts of developments that would not otherwise be given the go-ahead.

We’ve tried to be a helpful voice in the debates, while at the same time using all our influence to present a clear challenge to the proposals as they stand. This is not always an easy balance to make. It’s hard to tell where things stand exactly at present, now the consultation has closed. If a poor version of the NPPF is the end result, we are preparedto make a large public noise again. 

At present, the draft NPPF just doesn’t meet its own criteria. It doesn’t ensure localism, and it won’t promote growth – and these two objectives might in some ways be antithetical. We need to re-establish the sovereignty of the plan, to ensure sensible decisions are made about the future of the country.

Beautiful and ugly are words going out of fashion – we should be open about the need to protect things on aesthetic grounds as well as simply because they are old.  Listing the countryside would be one possible option, using the evidence we have about the character of the nation’s landscapes. Then we would know more clearly which bits of the countryside would tolerate development.”

If you haven’t yet added your voice the National Trust  suggests you can sign their petition and write to your MP via Planning for People. You can also follow them on Twitter and join the #planning4ppl debate and *like* them on Facebook .

The second region in our brief roundup of Archaeological Societies is the SouthEast. For the purposes of our summary, this includes the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex.

South East Region (Creative Commons)

Containing some of the most densely populated areas of the country, the SouthEast has a plethora of societies, from small local village societies, up to organisations covering entire counties (Sussex Past is purported to be the largest county society in the country).

Berkshire Archaeology Research Group

The Berkshire Archaeology Research Group (BARG) conducts archaeological research in Berkshire and is open to anyone with an interest in archaeology. If you combine a curiosity about man’s past with an interest in working both outdoors and indoors in pursuit of evidence by archaeological methods, this could be the Group for you. A voluntary group with an interest in uncovering evidence for human activity in the Royal County across a broad period from prehistoric times right through to the post-medieval and modern periods. Membership at £12 provides a quarterly newsletter and opportunities to join in the group’s activities, practical archaeology and projects.

Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society

Founded in 1847, and one of the oldest societies in the country, the BAS covers the old county of Bucks from Milton Keynes in the north, to Eton in the south. Members receive an annual Journal (and are invited to contribute articles) and two newsletters a year, and can take part n a wide range of activities including winter lectures and year round visits. A reference library of books, pamphlets and archive material is available for use. Individual membership is £12, other rates are available.

North Bucks Archaeological Society

An active amateur organisation based in the North Bucks area. Aiming to provide a forum and a focal point for people interested in archaeology, their ambition is to broaden the popularity of archaeology by arranging talks and lectures, as well as increasing the known archaeology of North Bucks by carrying out practical work such as digs and field walking. Membership is £20 and activities include lectures, site visits,  research and practical work as well as social activities.

Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society

The society aims are to investigate the history and pre-history of the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane, and to stimulate interest in archaeological and historical studies. Membership (£16) provides entry to the Society’s lectures, and a copy of the regular Newsletter containing details of the Society’s activities.

North East Hampshire Historical & Archaeological Society

With an interest in historical and archaeological matters relating to North East Hampshire, members are encouraged to take part in research, field work and excavations. No previous experience is needed to join the Society as guidance and training can be provided. Regular twice-monthly meetings are held, and at least three newsletters a year are published. A substantial library is available for members’ use.

Kent Archaeological Society

The aims of the society are “To promote the study and publication of archaeology and history in all their branches, especially within the ancient county of Kent.” Much of the County has been lost to London since 1857 so the “ancient county” is treated as including the London Boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham, as well as Medway and the administrative county. The Society’s interests are not confined to fieldwork. Its objects cover archaeology and local history in the widest sense. They include historic buildings, genealogy, industrial archaeology and local history though it is not always active in all these fields.

The Society has over 1,500 members, many outside the County or overseas, and welcomes new members who support its objects. Individual membership is £25 and provides an approximate 300 page hardbound annual journal, Archaeologica Cantiana, a newsletter 3 times a year, use of the society’s library and discounts on society publications. Some back issues of the Newsletters are available for viewing on the website.

Surrey Archaeological Society

The Society was founded in 1854 for ‘the investigation of subjects connected with the history and antiquities of the County of Surrey‘. Training digs are organised to help beginners and the Society owns geophysical and other equipment for use by the field survey teams.

Ordinary Members pay an annual subscription of £25.00. They receive the annual Collections (which contains excavation and fieldwork reports) and the Bulletin (a bi-monthly newsletter); have use of the Society’s Library; may attend lectures, visits etc, usually at a discounted rate; and may attend all general meetings of the Society.

Sussex Archaeological Society

In addition to opening historic properties and museums to the public, the society (the largest county society in the Uk) is active in the fields of archaeological and historical research in Sussex.

Individual membership at £32.50 is a little higher than most societies we’ve listed here, but in addition to the usual membership benefits of journals and newsletters provides free access to the society’s own properties. Also, half price entry to selected English Heritage properties in the area is available.

Useful Links

Those societies mentioned above:-

Some other societies in the area:-

A new ‘app’ appeared recently on the Apple App Store, entitled ‘The Stonehemge Experience‘. The app is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and requires iOS 4.2 or later, and currently costs £1.99.

The app consists of a series of narrated videos providing an overview of the layout and construction of the monument, and the solstice alignments. The clever part is that the videos are fully interactive, in that you can use iOS pinch and swipe manoeuvres to move in and out or around the monument as you wish. The app also uses augmented reality technology to be aware of your location, direction and device angle so if you’re actually at Stonehenge and point your device towards the stones it layers into view a high quality computer generated reconstruction of the monument. In one section the viewer is invited to connect a headset and speak, to hear how they would have sounded when (if?) the monument was complete.

All phases of the monument are covered, from the initial bank and ditch henge through to the completed monument. There are a couple of glitches, where lintels seemingly defy gravity whilst awaiting an upright support, but overall the video effects are quite good.

The presentation finishes with a satellite view of the area, with various points of interest marked, from the Amesbury Archer in the Southeast, to Woodhenge and Durrington in the North, and Winterbourne Stoke barrows in the West. Again, the image is fully zoomable and movable, and each of the pins when tapped identifies the location and leads to further video or textual information about the location.

Is the app worth the price? I would guess that if you’re actually visiting the monument, then the augmented reality aspects could be quite useful. If you’ve never visited and only know a little about Stonehenge, then it provides a very good interactive ‘armchair view’. If you’re at all familiar with the Stonehenge area, then you still might learn something from this app. If you’re very familiar, then it might be a ‘watch once and forget’ app that sits on your device gathering dust. As the saying goes, “you pays your money and takes your choice…”

The Ancient Monuments web site  “aims to list every scheduled monument in the British Isles.”

It’s a bold aim, and hopes to ‘crowdsource’ information on the sites including photos and notes, and the overview map shows just what a large task this is.

What makes this site different is that it has no boundaries as to timescale, unlike eg The Modern Antiquarian (link on menu at left, mainly pre-Roman) or The Megalithic Portal (link on menu at left, includes Dark Ages sites) websites. If a monument is Scheduled, then it’s included, regardless of age. This of course makes the map very busy and difficult to navigate if you’re searching for a particular period. Search is limited to a text string, or a Postcode, but monuments are also listed by area, so it’s possible to narrow the focus in that way.

Information is currently quite sparse on most of the megalithic monuments I checked, mainly giving location information via OS Grid Reference, Lat/Long and Postcode, with unitary authority information; County/District/Parish etc also given. The source of the data is also shown, and there is a facility for users to add their own notes and photos to any site. It is not made clear if this is subject to moderator’s control.

It’s not entirely clear as to what this site provides that others such as PastScape cannot, though the ability to upload information is an obvious bonus. There are two companion websites also available: British Listed Buildings,  – which is largely outside the prehistoric remit of Heritage Action but which is of a similar design and concept to the Ancient Monuments site, and a Heritage Forum which is a talking shop for the other two websites’ users to discuss issues. The forum categories show the main focus of the sites is on built heritage

All in all, a potentially useful addition to the megalithic researcher’s toolkit. With time and user contributions, this could develop into a very useful resource.

(Original image courtesy of Stonehenge News and Information)

First up in our new series on modern archaeologists is Julian Richards, probably best known amongst the general public for his ‘Meet the Ancestors’ TV series which, in his own words: “despite there being some great stories out there, is long gone“. So over to Julian, with our thanks for his responses.

Brief Bio:

Julian Richards, born Nottingham where after a disastrous school career I was introduced to archaeology in the late 60’s. Degree at Reading University then straight into field archaeology first with Berkshire Unit and later with Wessex Archaeology. Directed the Stonehenge Environs Project 1980-90 and became an unwilling project manager before leaving Wessex to co-found AC archaeology. Three years here involved in all aspects of commercial archaeology before leaving to work as a fieldworker on EH’s Monuments Protection Programme (MPP – 1994-1997). Then devised BBC’s ‘Meet the Ancestors’ series and ended up presenting it. This led to 7 years of work in broadcasting on TV and radio (1998 – 2004). Since then have been writing, occasionally broadcasting and becoming more involved in conservation and in museum and heritage education projects, particularly involving schools. Currently doing more broadcasting and will shortly be working on a major community archaeology project in the Stonehenge area. Still full of energy and ideas.

The 10 Questions:

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

My interest in archaeology was sparked by the first dig I went on  – 3 months of urban excavation in winter was a baptism of fire but I immediately loved the sense of discovery and the realisation that the objects that you found could tell stories.

How did you get started?

This first dig which I ended up on by accident as I was hoping for a temporary job at the local museum. They hadn’t got any work and sent me along to the dig – and that was it.

Who has most influenced your career?

Richard Bradley who, at Reading,  gently steered me away from medieval archaeology and into the wonderful world of prehistory.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

I suppose I should say the Stonehenge Environs project, which was wonderful but I wouldn’t do it in the same way today. So really I think it is the BBC series Meet the Ancestors as it gave me the opportunity to talk about archaeology to such a wide audience and also to get over the idea that the real story only emerges after the dig is over.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Stonehenge of course – and do you have to ask why?

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

Having to watch a wonderfully preserved Iron Age/Romano-British settlement in the Cotswolds  – this was earthworks not just cropmarks – disappear into a gravel pit with a far from adequate record. It should have been preserved.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

I would find a way to stop the continued ploughing of Scheduled Ancient Monuments. It was dreadful to see the constant destructive erosion of sites while I was working on the MPP and know that nothing was going to change. And it’s no use saying we need more experiments or spending more energy talking about it (as we have been for over 30 years). Ploughing wrecks sites. We need action.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

I would ask why school pupils in this country are taught nothing about their pre-Roman heritage and then probably have a rant about the worrying consequences of watering down the current planning guidelines.

 If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I would either be working at Sotheby’s in their ceramics department and making regular appearances on the Antiques roadshow or, more likely, working as a primary school teacher.

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

Not very good at relaxing but the nearest I come to it is at a historic motor racing event on a sunny day with the sound of old cars on a track, a Spitfire overhead and a bag of chips in my hand. Bliss.

Thanks once again to Julian for being such a sport! 

As predicted, the occasion was a great success Thanks to mild weather a record number of people turned out but as Peter Carson, head of Stonehenge at English Heritage, said, it was “an extremely busy but enjoyable and peaceful event for the record 5,000 visitors who came along. The record numbers were rewarded with a wonderful sunrise and this builds on the success of the celebrations of previous years.”

So there’s the proof, it’s all down to numbers. We now know that up to 5,000 is manageable whereas 20,000-plus isn’t and we’re well on the way to knowing what is the optimum manageable figure in the Summer. All that will then be needed is to publish it and find ways to ensure it is kept to!

The event was very notable for something else as well ……

AN ancient tradition could be making a permanent comeback after the first one to be held in 5,000 years proved a huge success…… more than 500 people took part in the Amesbury Lantern Parade to mark the mid-winter solstice, walking from Stonehenge to the nearby town along the original processional route of the Avenue carrying glowing lanterns.

According to Mayor Andy Rhind-Tutt: It was an incredible sight, to look back as we walked away from Stonehenge to look back and see all the lanterns leading back towards Stonehenge. I wasn’t sure if it would go that well but everything fell into place, the weather was good to us and everyone seemed quite overwhelmed by how good it really was.”

Joining people from the local area were those who had read about the plan online and joined the occasion from as far away as Bolivia, Australia and the USA. Mulled wine, mince pies, craft stalls and plenty of festive cheer greeted them as they arrived in Amesbury, complete with a Solstice Lantern made for the occasion by art students at Avon Valley College.”

Of course, the evidence for such a parade 5,000 years ago is zero. (But since when did lack of evidence for previous usage have a bearing on any celebrations at Stonehenge?!) More to the point it “might” have happened in ancient times. And even more to the point it obviously hugely appealed to people – including us! Here’s our prediction: it is the birth of a tradition that will carry on into the far distant future!


It is now some time since the launch of ARCH, The Alliance to Reduce Crime Against Heritage and a progress report  has recently been issued. It seems that the concept, along with a memorandum of understanding between the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Crown Prosecution Service, English Heritage and participating local authorities has really borne fruit. Over 150 incidents have been investigated including these notable – and satisfying – operations:

Operation Arsenic and Godiva – Kent and Essex Police working with the Receiver of Wreck and English Heritage executed five search warrants as part of an investigation into unlawful salvage from protected wrecks.

Operation Totem – Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire Police working with English Heritage and experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, arrested a male on suspicion of illicit metal detecting in Lincolnshire.

Operation Denby – Kent Police working with French Customs, English Heritage and the Army to disrupt and deter the importation of artefacts, including live ammunition from Great War battlefields.

Operation Quartile – Northamptonshire County Council, Northamptonshire Police, English Heritage and finds experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme investigating illicit metal detecting and damage to a scheduled monument. Two men are assisting the police with their enquiries.

Collaborative work between the Environment Agency, Surrey County Council and English Heritage to investigate and enforce unauthorized tipping and damage to a scheduled monument which also involves a planning breach.

There have also been a number of successful prosecutions involving metal thefts and graffiti affecting listed buildings where the police, English Heritage and local authorities have worked closely.”


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