You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2012.

Campaigners have said allowing people access to the Thornborough Henges is crucial to safeguarding their future. Dr Jan Harding, senior archaeology lecturer at Newcastle University, said:

“Despite being of unique cultural value and being described by English Heritage as the most important prehistoric site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys, it is closed to visitors, lacks educational information and sits in an extensively quarried landscape. At the moment, there isn’t even a display board. Getting some kind of formal access for the public is vital.”

Thornborough Henges, North Yorkshire. Image credit Jane Tomlinson, Heritage Action

It’s a while since we at Heritage Action went there (as part of our campaign against Tarmac PLC’s application to quarry its surroundings) but we do recall it was very visitor-unfriendly with no signage, parking or access. We also remember two more things that might be helpful:

In 2006 (while Tarmac was trying to get permission to extend their quarry) the landowner announced he wanted to make the monument into a tourist attraction with a car park and visitor centre and Tarmac were supportive: “We see no conflict in principle between tourists visiting the henges and continuation of our quarry at Nosterfield with the useful employment it provides. [Nidderdale Today, March 2006]

And earlier, in 2005, Tarmac offered to give 60 acres of land next to the Henges to a charitable trust on behalf of the Nation to protect it for all time from further exploitation, saying (in the words of their Area Director, Simon Phillips): “The preservation of the henges is vitally important to us all, and we look forward to working with English Heritage and North Yorkshire County Council to develop this charitable trust.” [Ripon Today, June 2005]

Ah the benefits of a good memory! That might be the answer. Tarmac were both supportive of tourism and anxious to protect the Henges before they got permission so they’ll hardly be less supportive of tourism or less anxious to protect the Henges now they have got permission will they?  Nor less generous – the gift of the land would have been worth over a third of a million if it had happened would it not? So they’d hardly now refuse to finance some formal access, carparking, the best information boards money can buy and a fund to provide a Rolls Royce interpretation facility in the local village, as befits the most important prehistoric site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys. £350K would cover it splendidly.

Please help by reminding Mr Phillips about what he said (you can contact him via the press relations department of Tarmac pr@tarmac.co.uk and/or their parent company Anglo American james.wyatt-tilby@angloamerican.com) Hopefully he’ll remember, but just point him to this article to make sure. We’re confident both Tarmac and Anglo American, being honorable, honest companies, ever anxious to protect their reputations and help local communities will agree to donate the money without delay. Please let us know how they respond.

There are many ways to enjoy a visit to any one of the thousands of ancient monuments in the UK. This article outlines some ideas about ways to enhance your visit and experience of the site, wherever it may be.

Equipment
When visiting any ancient site, it’s as well to be prepared for your experience. Clothing, food and drink suitable to the terrain and weather is an essential, as is a good (OS 1:25000 or better) map of the area. To get the most out of your visit though, some additional items will be needed.

  • Sketchbook and /or notebook and writing materials – for taking on the spot notes of observations and experiences.
  • GPS Unit and Compass – Most Smart phones have these included as standard these days, and free apps are usually available to make best use of them.
  • Camera – again at a basic level, most smartphones have decent (5mp or greater) cameras these days. Compact cameras are light and easy to pack, some SLRs need a bit more muscle power, particularly if a long trek is involved!
  • Binoculars – can aid with intervisibility – is that a tumulus, or just a bump on the horizon?
  • Torch – useful if examining chambered tombs.
  • Spare batteries for cameras and other electronic equipment.
  • Rubbish bags to remove any tat and rubbish left at the site by less-respectful previous visitors.

Make sure you take everything you'll need!

So, being fully equipped, what should you look for when you arrive?

The View
Consider why the monument was placed where it is in the landscape – why here? Remember that the landscape changes considerably over time – tree cover may be totally different to when the site was built, field boundaries in the main are relatively recent compared to most sites, modern roads may follow much older trackways, but many have been damagingly carved through pre-existing landscape features (eg, the M3 at Winchester, the A34 at Newbury etc)

Nearby sites
Are there any other sites in the vicinity? Signs of ancient settlement nearby, hut circles, cairns, barrows etc? What about further away? Is the site within easy distance of e.g., a hill fort or other defensive postion? What about water sources? Many prehistoric sites (from standing stones to hillforts) have a relationship with water either in the form of springs, streams, rivers or coastlines.

Alignments
Having considered the placement of the site, and looked at possible nearby related sites, are there any obvious alignments that could be of significance? This is an exercise that may be better performed as part of the pre-trip research, or indeed, after the visit is over and measurements such as compass bearings, GPS readings etc have been taken (you did remember to take your notebook and pen on the visit, didn’t you?) Don’t forget that later religious buildings such as churches and abbeys may have been built on sites of earlier significance, so consider those too when looking for alignments which may show ancient pathways – Alfred Watkins’ book, the The Old Straight Track was actually based on the reasonable assumption that the shortest way between two points is a straight line.

There may also be alignments to celestial markers, such as the well known solstice shafts of sunlight at Maes Howe and Newgrange. Often, to find these accurately, a computer software program may be required to ‘turn back the clock’ to a given date/time and direction. There are several free ones out there (e.g. Stellarium) which can help with this exercise.

Restoration
Has what you see today been tinkered with in any way by restorers? There are lots of examples of this, where work is obvious – the skylights in West Kennet Long Barrow (Wiltshire), the brick supports at Tinkinswood (Glamorgan) or Bodowyr (Anglesey) are good examples. Other restoration work may be less obvious – Waylands Smithy (Oxfordshire) has been largely reconstructed, as has the Merry Maidens circle (West Penwith). Consider what the site may have looked like when originally built.

…and finally
Remember to leave the site as you would hope to find it. Clear up any litter, and do not damage the site in any way – ‘take only photographs and memories, leave only footprints’ is a tenet espoused by many groups. We would suggest not even leaving footprints if it can be at all helped!

These are just some simple ideas to get ‘more’ out of a visit to a heritage site. If you have your own ideas, please tell us about them in the comments.

Tree felling on the Malvern Hills is understandably causing considerable upset to some of the locals.  As one lady has just been quoted as saying:

“We were horrifed to find tractors and trailers churning up the native bluebells, contractors felling trees that have been never been touched in generations. My daughters were extremely upset and have asked me why they were cutting down trees as it goes against everything they are taught.”

Midsummer Hill Iron Age Fort – Wikimedia/Creative Commons

The trouble is, they haven’t been taught the whole picture. It’s not good to lose the trees but it’s also not good that the trees are damaging the Midsummer Hill Iron Age Fort. Trees growing on ancient monuments – sometimes deliberately planted – are usually regarded as acceptable but sometimes the roots are causing such major damage that removal is the best option.

Jennifer Grantham, the Conservators’ deputy conservation officer, summarised the conservation cleft stick that often arises:

“Midsummer Hill is designated as both a Scheduled Ancient Monument by English Heritage for its archaeology and a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Natural England for its wildlife value.

I can appreciate that the work may be shocking but I can assure you that the work is a result of advice and consultation with various partner bodies including Natural England, the National Trust, owners of the Hill fort and their archaeologist, the county archaeologist, English Heritage and a local ornithology expert.”

The aim of the work was to clear the less ecologically important trees to protect the archaeology from root damage and thus improving the long-term stability of the Iron Age hill fort so that future generations can enjoy it.”

UPDATE:

The following Comment has just been posted by “Credashill” –
I’ve visited the site and I’m deeply concerned that the work hasn’t followed established guidelines.
The operation was undertaken in wet weather using heavy machinery and has resulted in soil disturbance and deep rutting on the site, especially on the track through the southern gate of the hillfort. In addition to this, brash has been burned in a number of different locations on the site including the summit and the ramparts.
I’ve taken several photo’s of the site (which you are welcome to reproduce) and would be very interested to hear your opinion: http://www.flickr.com/photos/credashill/

Further detailed criticisms have been added by ” Evendine” and several others.

Following on from Part 1 here is the second part of the article by Nancy Wisser,  founder of Clonehenge.

Another replica that is special to me is the Spanish monument at A Coruña in Galicia. It is a beautiful sculpture modeled after Stonehenge, with a poem carved into the lintels, commemorating those who died at the hands of the Franco regime. It is positioned on a hill above the sea and all in all seems very evocative of human sorrow and longing but with a tinge of hope. I would love to go there! Maybe someone on the History Channel or BBC would like to do a show in which once a week I visit and talk about one of the large permanent replicas. Lol!

photo by Jacobo Fraga, aka Lewosky

Because the blog has been around so long, we were able to follow the long process that resulted in the building of the pink granite Stonehenge replica in Esperance, Western Australia. Now we (when I say we I mean me, but the Clonehenge persona is not actually my personality. I invented a voice for it and that voice uses the editorial we) are following developments on the Achill henge story. People post news on the Clonehenge Facebook group wall, usually, before I search and learn about them myself.

The Facebook group caught on much more than the Twitter feed or the Clonehenge Facebook Page. Although, I must point out, the Clonehenge Twitter is followed by no less illustrious a personage than Mr. Mike Pitts, along with other people who research, think, write and tweet about Stonehenge, including Arthur Pendragon and some bloke called Heritage Action. Who would name their poor child that, I ask you?

While blabbing on, I have been trying to think of the worst henge. Not easy because I love them all in different ways. There is one, claimed to be made of clay but that actually looks as if it is made of dog excrement allowed to dry until it is white. Also, of course, there are so many that are accompanied by Easter Island moai, those heads, you know. This has always grated on me a little, much as it has always bothered me that penguins and polar bears are often depicted together in wintry scenes on pajamas, for example, or in children’s toys, while the fact is, they live as far apart as you can get on this globe. Stonehenge and the heads, too, are on opposite sides of the earth, but in the popular mind they are almost the same thing.

And in the not-sure-if-it’s-terrible-or-good department, there is a Stonehenge in a huge cemetery in Japan that has a Buddhist shrine in the middle. I think it has moai nearby as well, so it is kind of special. Probably the actual worst is the one in Kennewick, Washington State.  Pathetic, really, just something a pensioner built in his front garden, but how can you judge it against these other ones? The beautiful white limestone replica in Montana was built by a millionaire. In a way, the smaller one required more dedication to the idea than that did.

I could go on. There are fountains, sculptures, planetarium replicas, and more, from Brazil to Malaysia. One I just recalled, a beautiful set of large sculptures called Caelum Moor,  is in Texas also. It is the most controversial, with some right wing Christians calling it demonic, wanting it removed and claiming it will be used for Satanic worship. I guess that’s what I didn’t expect when I started this: how many different topics I end up discussing as I post about these replicas, from religion to the environment, conspiracy theories in connection with the Georgia Guidestones,  war, politics, food, movies–it goes on and on. I never thought anyone would be arrested for building a replica, but recently Joe McNamara was. It is another door into the complexities of human nature. One small henge is made of wool sheared from seaweed-eating sheep. It’s all very curious.

That’s way more than you asked for, but usually no one asks me about this and it has been a journey of years now, shared with almost no one, so it is fun to reminisce a bit and talk about the experience. Thanks for asking. There are still many small and temporary replicas being made and I could be posting a lot more than I do these days, but I have moved on to other projects and rarely have the time or inclination. I wouldn’t be posting at all if people were not still submitting.

What is it about? What is it about Stonehenge that makes people want to reproduce it in every size and material possible? I think of the character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, building that mesa in his basement. The compulsion seems to strike people much like that. Does it have some subconscious meaning? Who knows? But it has kept me seeing the good side of human nature, the playful side, the curious side, the side that thinks of the ancients and looks at the stars. Just being reminded that mankind has a good side makes it worthwhile in the end!

So says The Irish Times thereby treating as news what has long been blindingly obvious to all.

Tara, with claw marks of a Celtic Tiger, now deceased

Still, the article highlights some successes and at least acknowledges a change in approach would be beneficial – for the country itself, not just its heritage:

“Progress has been made in developing and promoting a number of particularly important sites, such as Céide Fields, the Boyne Valley, Clonmacnoise and Glendalough, where the Office of Public Works provides interpretative centres.

Many hundreds of other sites are marked, however, by a black 1950s-style plaque with a harp on it, declaring the structure to be a national monument and warning against vandalism. The importance of the site and its local relevance is rarely mentioned. In today’s world of near-instant communications, such an approach is no longer acceptable.”

By Sandy Gerrard

A recent response regarding the stone alignment on Mynydd Y Betws dated 17/2/2012 by Dyfed Archaeological Trust has come to my attention.  It is worth repeating it in full here (in blue) with my own commentary added at intervals (in italics).

“Recent paper articles are giving information from one side of the argument only.”
The reason that “one side of the argument only” has been heard to date is because “the other side” has hitherto been unwilling or unable to engage in debate.  A reasoned debate is what I have been seeking from the outset and the very first article in the Heritage Journal invited a response. When we met on Monday 16th January the Dyfed Archaeological Trust Officer promised to keep us up to date with developments, a promise re-iterated by Cadw.  Neither party has seen fit to keep their promises in this matter. Dyfed Archaeological Trust have not contacted us and Cadw have failed to respond to two e-mails.  I only went public after it became clear that both parties were not going to involve us in the matter.

“The facts are these:
1.  This Trust and Cadw recommended refusal of the application both to the Planning Authority and at the subsequent Planning Inquiry. We were concerned about the impact of the development on the scheduled ancient monuments and the wider historic landscape.”
Neither party was apparently concerned enough however to carry out a robust defence of the archaeological case and this omission was compounded by the fact that, as The Planning Inspector’s Report notes, “The archaeological assessment seriously underestimated the impact as a result of the lack of appreciation of the function and settings of the Monuments. There were serious errors in the measurements and archaeological assessment.” Elsewhere he notes that “There are a large number of monuments within the overall application site.  Some are Scheduled Ancient Monuments, some are of more local significance and it would appear from the site inspection that some are not specifically recorded.”

“ 2.  The Inspector however granted consent, putting in place a condition to ensure archaeological work is carried out by the applicant.”
I am sure that the Inspector had in mind that the unrecorded sites mentioned in his report should be identified and recorded whilst the serious errors were remedied. The Written Scheme of Investigation instead focused entirely on what might survive below the ground and no attempt was made to look for the unrecorded archaeological remains noted by the planning inspector. This approach almost certainly explains why: the stone alignment, three stony mounds, a hollow way, a ditch with associated bank and the northern mining pits all obvious on the surface and within the development area were not examined during the archaeological work carried out by the applicant.

“ 3. We at the Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Cadw have been acting as advisors to the planning authority to ensure compliance with this condition.”
No watching brief was being carried out on deposits adjacent to a Scheduled Ancient Monument when I visited the site on 16th January. Clearly there must have been no archaeological input into the positioning and erection of the fence on the edge of the same monument or else the row would have been identified. Cadw have made it clear in earlier correspondence that Dyfed Archaeological Trust are acting as their archaeological curators, and are, in part, acting on their behalf. They are responsible for overseeing and monitoring archaeological works. There is nothing to suggest that any monitoring of the fence erection or other works immediately adjacent to a scheduled ancient monument was conducted prior to the discovery of the row and other archaeological features.  

“ 4.  The stone alignment is a new discovery as a result of grass fires on the mountain. It is over 700m long and the development access roads have taken out about 10m. Here archaeological excavation has taken place, which could provide important information on the stone alignment and this can be used by Cadw in due course to judge whether or not the site merits statutory protection. We await the report on the excavations.”
The figure of 10m is twice that previously quoted by Dyfed Archaeological Trust and the use of the words “taken out” is clearly a euphemism for destroyed. None of it needed to have been “taken out” and indeed in England at Rotherwas near Hereford a linear archaeological monument of uncertain character and date was protected from damage during road building works.  Despite reference to the stone alignment as a “new discovery” and a result of grass fires on the mountain” it is clearly visible on Bing aerial photographs taken in around 2001. The hollow way, ditch with associated bank and northern mining pits are similarly apparent on all satellite photographs and these too were overlooked by the archaeological work carried out by the applicant.

“ 5. The vast majority of the stone alignment is not affected by the development at all.”
True, the vast majority of the stone alignment has not been physically damaged by the development, but its setting has been substantially altered.  I think it is somewhat disingenuous to suggest that it has not been affected “at all”. Surely in law the impact of a development upon the setting of nearby monuments and the wider historic landscape is as valid a matter for putting forward for consideration by the Inspector as any physical impacts? Certainly the non-physical impact was seen as important by the Trust in it’s first statement of “the facts” above: ” We were concerned about the impact of the development on the scheduled ancient monuments and the wider historic landscape”

“ 6.  We, and other professional archaeologists, have reservations about the prehistoric date and function suggested for this feature as other interpretations can been suggested. However, we have dealt with the stone alignment as if it is a major prehistoric find.”
This point is very difficult to contest as no other interpretations have been offered.  It is usual practise when challenging another party’s interpretation to offer a plausible alternative.  On the basis of field inspection alone it looks like a 700m long alignment of stones terminating at a cairn.  Furthermore it is associated with a large number of cairns some of which Cadw have already scheduled and considered without excavation to be prehistoric.  Alternative interpretations are awaited with interest.  

“ 7.  To date the developer has done everything required of them under planning requirements.”
Agreed.

“ 8.  Irrespective of our views on this windfarm, or indeed others, it is permitted development and it is in this context and the attached planning condition that this Trust is using its good offices to protect historic environment interests.”
It is indeed a permitted development.  Some might say that permission might not have been granted if a thorough survey had been carried out before the planning decision was taken. This said, it is surprising that most of the previously visible archaeology within the development corridor has not been recorded prior to destruction and perhaps it was not too helpful to allow the diversion of surface water from the new road into a channel leading across the stone alignment which is hardly a good example of the Trust using its good offices to protect historic environment interests.  An explanation of how these situations have come about would very much be appreciated.

_____________________________________

For previous and subsequent articles put Mynydd Y Betws in our Search Box

See also this website and Facebook Group

By Nigel Swift

Over in the States a 13 part TV series called American Digger is about to be aired. Former professional wrestler Ric Savage and his team of relic hunters “scour target-rich areas, such as battlefields and historic sites, in hopes of striking it rich by unearthing and selling rare pieces of American history”. As the publicity guff says, there are millions of historical relics  waiting to be turned into profit and American Digger hopes to claim “a piece of that pie”.They’ll pinpoint “historical locations such as Civil War and Revolutionary War battlefields” and use “state-of-the-art metal detectors and heavy-duty excavation equipment” and sell the finds “for a substantial profit” which they’ll share with the property owners.”

Pretty crude. Lots about artefacts and money, nothing about context or knowledge loss or archaeological vandalism. Do Americans have the term oik? Dunno. But how could American Diggers impact negatively on us here in Britain?

Well, hundreds of them come over here on organised “detecting holidays” each year so with a TV show about to claim historical relics can be turned into big profits it seems probable there’ll be a spike in the British detecting holiday industry with the current hundreds of customers perhaps becoming thousands. In addition, if the format works well over there it’s surely a fair bet it will happen here in due course – “British Diggers” – why wouldn’t it, it’s legal innit?! So in my view, apart from expressing a snooty distain for America’s trash TV the British should be very concerned how the programme might affect us here.

Oh, but finally……
We British can forget the snooty distain. Hundreds of mass detecting rallies take place over here and a lot of the loot is secretly not reported or openly flogged. So what’s different? Well, we do it worse. Here,  archaeologists ATTEND such events and  don’t openly admit they oppose them. That doesn’t happen in the States. And as for TV programmes, we’re way ahead of the Yanks. Years ago we televised a mass detecting rally on a Roman site at Water Newton. On several occasions. Nationally.  Live.  At peak time.  And archaeologists were present, lending it a false veneer of respectability, and it reeked of heroic triumphalism and  the local archaeologists who bitterly opposed it weren’t put in front of the cameras. Whereas none of those things are happening in America. They’re merely crass over there. 

So it seems to me – and I’ll be happy to be shown how I’m wrong – that far from looking down on them we need to regard their crassness as  something we British can only aspire to. God Bless America, where an entrepreneurial or vandalistic spade is called just that, where people dig destructively for money or self and make no bones about it, where archaeologists object to them doing so and make no bones about it and where detector manufacturer Minelab has just donated $41,000 to fight attempts to prevent the destruction and makes no bones about it.

How much less morally repugnant that is than the public hypocrisy that blights Britain – where detectorists all claim they report all their finds even though most of them don’t, where archaeologists pretend to believe them despite knowing the statistics show it’s not true and where not Minelab but you the taxpayer pays not $41,000 but £1,500,000 a year to sustain the activity in it’s current unacceptable form. And to employ a battalion of archaeologists who, whenever the subject arises, tell your hapless fellow citizens it’s just fine to let absolutely anyone (including ex-professional wrestler Rick Savage – why not?) onto their fields so long as they say they’re “responsible“!

_____________________________________________________________

More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

_____________________________________________________________

It’s three years since we featured Clonehenge, the website about replica Stonehenges – see our article here. Since then the site has gone from strength to strength so we asked its founder, American Nancy Wisser to fill us in with a few details. She did better than that. Here is Part 1 of her fascinating account.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Clonehenge all started because of a running joke on the Megalithic Portal. Andy Burnham and some others were always metaphorically–and probably actually–rolling their eyes whenever a site somewhere was called the Stonehenge of the North or the Russian Stonehenge, Brazilian Stonehenge, etc., as if there were no standing stones in the world but Stonehenge and as if, let’s face it, any other site truly resembles Stonehenge.

Somewhere along the line, just for laughs we started posting links to Stonehenge replicas in a chat dialogue box the Portal used to have on the left hand side of its main page. I think Andy took that down now. We were finding the silliest ones we could, made of the most ridiculous materials, but I began to see how many there were, not only the silly ones (well, the more silly ones–to me at some level every Stonehenge replica is a bit silly), but those built by people taking great pains.

It amused me that although they were all imitations of the same thing, they were all so different, depending on who built them and why. Scientists built them as astronomical observatories. Artists built them as sculptures. Curiously, few were made by pagans. Some people tried to make replicas of Stonehenge as it was thought to have been at its height and some tried to capture the modern state of disarray. There were large ones, small ones, in different proportions and with different ideas of how the stones should be shaped. I was dazzled by the sheer numbers of them and the diversity, plus amused by how each person that made one thought his or hers was the only one or one of the few.

I started saying, there must be a blog about this. When I couldn’t find one, I started saying, someone should do a blog about this. Finally I realised it was going to have to be me. At the time, I believe it was November, I thought it would not last past New Year’s day, posting one or two a day. I just didn’t think there were that many.

But of course I just kept finding them, and as I did, I posted them. I couldn’t stand the thought of a major Stonehenge replica being out there and not being listed on the blog. For some reason I kept thinking of a theoretical child who decided to do a report on Stonehenge replicas and who would count on me to have them all. I did find that when it came to small ones, I could not, for example, post all of the Stonehenge replicas made of beach stones or of cheese. There were just too many. I tried to choose the nicest ones or the ones with the nicest pictures. It was always amusing, though, to see how each builder thought he or she was original and alone in the world.

You can imagine, I soon grew tired of Spinal Tap jokes. People continually thought they were the first to think of them.

And, I don’t know–it went on and on. I favoured the stranger and sillier ones, but I tried to post them all. My personal favourite and the funniest may be the one at Taipei in Taiwan, the interactive Stonehenge street sculpture that detects and speaks to visitors, see below. It is small and white and curvy, sort of like Stonehenge in a larval state. I think it is very funny–so far from the original in every way and yet it has one thing in common with it–it was placed by the authorities to impress and get the attention of the common people. Many of the large ones don’t have that quality–they are not for the public.

Taipei’s Interactive Larval Stonehenge, Taiwan

[photo from the Taipei Public Art section of the Taiwan government site]

Of course one that gets a lot of visits on the blog is the one at the German spa, Therme Erding.  That is because it has the words “mandatory nudity” in it. Amazing what that can do for your numbers. You should try it! Wally Wallington gets a lot of attention, as if he solved all of the mysteries of Stonehenge! I don’t think he ever built more than one trilithon. Carhenge is very popular, and for sale right now. Wiltshire Heritage should consider bringing it over. One thing I love at the large replicas is when people say they are better than the original. :-) I think that is missing the point a bit!

In my opinion, the most under-noticed replica is the one in Odessa, Texas. The other big Texas one, often called Stonehenge II, is very inferior but gets a lot of notice. The Odessa replica is very nicely done, beautiful and impressive. I like to think that I am the only person in the world who can identify every large permanent Stonehenge replica standing today from any tiny thumbnail photograph of it, but from the right angles and in the right light, I can still be tricked by the Odessa henge. I would love to actually see it, but I probably never will, because it is the only reason I would want to visit Texas. I don’t like the heat.

The last and smallest of the English regions, Greater London is also the most densely populated region. It spans the City of London and the 32 London Boroughs. This density of population is reflected in the number of archaeological societies available, a selection of which is listed below.

Greater London (Creative Commons)

Instead of forming a single political unit, London is divided into the small, interior City of London and the much wider Greater London. This arrangement has come about because as the area of London grew and absorbed neighbouring settlements, a series of administrative reforms did not fully amalgamate the City of London with the metropolitan area, and its unique political structure was retained. Outside the limited boundaries of the old city, a variety of arrangements governed the wider area since 1855, culminating with the creation of the Greater London administrative area in 1965. (Wikipedia) This history of growth, development and redevelopment provides many archaeological opportunities.

London and Middlesex Archaeological Society

The society was founded in 1855 ‘for the purpose of investigating the antiquities and early history of the Cities of London and Westminster and the Metropolitan County of Middlesex’. Its activities include:

  • arranging lectures and conferences (2012 Conference details – 24th March)
  • publishing research on the history and archaeology of London and Middlesex
  • helping to monitor the state of historic buildings and monuments in Greater London

The society is keen to stimulate the interest of London’s children in the fields of archaeology, local history and historic buildings, and supports the work of the Central London Young Archaeologists’ Club, which organises a wide range of children’s activities.

Membership (£15 for ordinary members) brings a copy of the Transactions (usually published in December), a 4-monthly Newsletter, discounted entry to the Conference and a series of Lectures.

Carshalton and District History and Archaeology Society

Covering the London Borough of Sutton, the society, originally called the “Carshalton Society” and later  the “Beddington, Carshalton and Wallington Society”, was formed in 1920 “…for the purpose of extending knowledge of local history …placing archaeological finds in safe keeping, visiting places of interest and providing instructive lectures”. These remain the aims of the society today.

Membership is £8, monthly meetings are held (non-members are welcomed for a small fee), a range of publications are available at reduced rates, and several visits are arranged throughout the summer months.

Enfield Archaeological Society

Enfield Archaeological Society is active in carrying out research and fieldwork in Enfield, in order to understand the archaeological past of the Borough.

Its main aims are: to promote the practice and study of archaeology in the district; to record and preserve all finds in the district and encourage others to allow their finds to be recorded by the Society; and to co-operate with neighbouring societies with similar aims.

The Society has a Fieldwork and Research Group led by a professional archaeologist. The group works closely with the Borough of Enfield and English Heritage, carrying out surveys and excavations especially on the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Elsyng Tudor Palace in the grounds of Forty Hall.

Ordinary Membership is £9, there are 9 lectures held through the year and a quarterly bulletin (published in March, June, September and December) is free to members, giving details of forthcoming events, reports of past meetings, news of local archaeological discoveries and the results of research by members. A range of publications produced by the society is available.

Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society

Somewhat outside the usual ‘Heritage Action’ prehistory remit, the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society (GLIAS) was founded in 1968 to record relics of London’s industrial history and to deposit these records with national and local museums, archives, etc; also to advise local authorities and others on the restoration and preservation of historic industrial buildings and machinery.

Membership is £12, and benefits include an extensive number of walks and lectures, and a bi-monthly newsletter to keep members in touch with events in industrial archaeology, in London and across the country. There is also an award-winning database with images, articles, glossary entries, biographies and company histories.

Hendon and District Archaeology Society

The society (Hadas), is one of the most active archaeological societies within Greater London. Hadas was founded in 1961 by Themistocles Constantinides with one aim: to find and prove, on the ground, the Saxon origins of Hendon. Since that time the Society has expanded in area, today encompassing the whole of the London Borough of Barnet and excavation and research now covers all archaeological periods. The Hadas Working Party actively conducts field walking, surveying and excavations. There is also a programme of outings and lectures throughout the year. An ongoing project is the digitisation of the society’s Newsletter Archive.

Full membership is £15, and this includes access to an on-line discussion group.

Islington Archaeology and History Society

The society organises lectures, walks, visits and outings throughout the year.  It also arranges regular archaeological site visits for members, usually in the City. It also aims to document archaeological findings in the Islington area. It delights in offering local literary and historic walks by arrangement, from school groups to U3A members.

Membership (£10) brings with it a quarterly Newsletter, incorporating Islington History Journal, and seminars from ten guest lecturers a year.

Orpington and District Archaeological Society

Founded in 1975, the Society promotes the study of archaeology in the Upper Cray Valley by undertaking excavations, carrying out research into the archaeology of the area and encouraging public interest through meetings and visits.

Individual membership is £11.50, and provides the following benefits:

  • quarterly publication, ‘Archives’ – news and articles – free to members
  • assist in excavations
  • help process finds
  • take part in members-only events
  • invitation to join outings
  • social events
  • priority access to public events, often very popular

Richmond Archaeological Society

The Richmond Archaeology Society originated as the Archaeological Section of the Richmond Society in 1977 when a group of enthusiasts decided that there was a need for a local society focusing exclusively on archaeology. Membership of the society now ranges from professional archeologists to interested amateurs It is mainly known for a lively programme of lectures on all aspects of archaeology. It also organises excursions and acts as a forum for local activities.  For those who like to get their hands dirty, the society supplies volunteer support to local activities such as: –

  • Excavations by the TV programme ‘Time Team’ at Syon Abbey and the royal palaces of Richmond and Kew.
  • The Museum of London project to survey the Thames foreshore.
  • Provision of guides for the excavations at Syon House.

Membership is £10, and as well as all of the above, provides a quarterly newsletter.

Useful Links

London and Middlesex Archaeological Society
Carshalton and District History and Archaeology Society
Enfield Archaeological Society
Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society
Hendon and District Archaeology Society
Islington Archaeology and History Society
Orpington and District Archaeological Society
Richmond Archaeological Society

Kingston Upon Thames Archaeological Society (KUTAS)
Merton Historical Society
Ruislip, Northwood & Eastcote Local History Society

Here is Sandy Gerrard’s preliminary report on the archaeology he has found as a result of a rapid survey he has carried out in a small area immediately adjacent to the newly discovered stone row over the past few days. It illustrates why he is concerned that permission was granted to build the wind farm without any earthwork survey being conducted.

The essence of his report is that:

“To all intents and purposes this looks like an important ceremonial/ritual landscape with the stone row forming its focus. This impressive landscape now has a large road cutting right through its heart and shortly will have two substantial wind turbines towering 110m above it……  No earthwork survey was ever conducted and as a result archaeological remains of many periods have been lost before they could be recorded……. A survey of the area would have surely avoided this situation.”

*************************************

In recent days much has appeared in the press about the stone row on Mynydd Y Betws.  Some of the reporting has been slightly inaccurate and this may in part be a result of a misunderstanding of the character of the archaeology and development on the mountain.  The development is vast, extending over 5km from end to end and the discussions have centred around a relatively small area on the slopes of Bancbryn along which the stone row runs.  Over the past few days I have been carrying out a rapid survey of the remains in this small area using a hand held GPS unit.  The result is a map showing in broad terms the character and disposition of archaeological remains in the vicinity of the row. I have spent only about two full days in the field and further work will inevitably enhance the results. Hopefully the map highlights why I am concerned that permission was granted to build the wind farm without any earthwork survey being conducted. 

The map also shows (in yellow) the position and extent of the scheduled archaeology.  The scheduling mapping is based on the maps submitted with the planning application and may not be entirely accurate, but hopefully gives a helpful insight into the extent of nationally important designated archaeology at the time when the planning permission was granted.  The mounds on the map are shown in two different colours. The red mounds have no associated hollow and are therefore most likely to represent cairns.  The grey mounds have an associated hollow and therefore may be prospecting pits, the result of trees being blown over or less likely, barrows. These earthworks are not of uniform size or character and may therefore owe their origins to a variety of causes.  Perhaps of significance is that they are generally associated with structures that do look like cairns.  Perhaps work in the future will provide clarification or at least some further clues.  Anyway, there are a large number of mound type earthworks and broadly they fall within three main clusters with occasional outliers.  To all intents and purposes this looks like an important ceremonial/ritual landscape with the stone row forming its focus. This impressive landscape now has a large road cutting right through its heart and shortly will have two substantial wind turbines towering 110m above it.  The proximity of these two turbines to the scheduled area clearly illustrates that archaeology is not safe from this new threat to upland archaeology. The setting of this significant landscape will be compromised for years to come and even after the turbines have been dismantled the archaeology lost in their construction will be gone for ever. It is just not possible to replace archaeology once it has been destroyed and for this reason and quite rightly so there are legal constraints in place to ensure that archaeology is recorded before it is destroyed.  This has not happened at Mynydd Y Betws.  No earthwork survey was ever conducted and as a result archaeological remains of many periods have been lost before they could be recorded. Some form of hurried last minute archaeological excavation work was carried out on the stone row before the road was built and the results are awaited with interest.  

This is very reminiscent of the “bad old days” when archaeologists were granted a short time to scrabble about as the bulldozers hovered with their engines revving nearby. A survey of the area would have surely avoided this situation.  Interestingly the Evaluation Report would seem to indicate that a trench was cut across the line of the stone row, but nothing was found. This same trench was also close to the obvious linear hollow labelled on the map as a hollow way. Given that a length of this earthwork was going to be destroyed by the new access road why was no trench actually placed across this very obvious earthwork and instead positioned on apparently level ground next to it? The same question should be asked of another trench that was placed on level ground next to the three cairn-like features within the development area?   A further linear bank and ditch earthwork of historic type to the south of those mentioned above has also been cut through by the road and is clearly visible in the section formed by the newly constructed road ditch.   An evaluation trench was excavated in this location, but there is no specific mention in the report of a ditch and bank even though these features are now clearly visible in the road cutting. Why was the trench not excavated on the site of the earthworks?

A large amount of documentation relating to the pre-construction archaeological aspects of this development can be found at http://online.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/eaccessv2/    This makes very interesting and enlightening reading and confirms that despite the richness of this landscape no attempt was ever made to look for surface remains. The reference number you need to enter is E/10446. Then click the documents tab at the top. This will reveal 6 pages of tables of linked information.

The most useful ones are:
E.S. VOL 3: FIG 18 ARCHAEOLOGY MAP FINAL
E.S. VOL 2: APPENDIX F – ARCHAEOLOGY
ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT: VOLUME 2 WRITTEN STATEMENT
Written Scheme of Investigation ~ August 2010
Archaeological Evaluation ~ March 2011
Archaeological Watching Brief

Taken together these papers provide a clear explanation of why archaeological remains in the area were not fully taken into account during the planning process and why the subsequent Scheme of Investigation failed to identify important archaeology within the development corridor. I hope you now appreciate why I feel that this important archaeological landscape has been sadly neglected.  

_____________________________________

For previous and subsequent articles put Mynydd Y Betws in our Search Box

See also this website and Facebook Group

Archives

February 2012
S M T W T F S
« Jan   Mar »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829  

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,101 other followers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: