This is the first in a series of short articles in which Dr Sandy Gerrard draws upon his long experience with English Heritage to reflect upon the scheduling system and poses some pertinent questions in the hope that there will be some public debate on the issues including some responses from EH themselves.
Does English Heritage know what archaeology is? A letter I recently received from the Designation Department strongly suggests that they do not. In January I submitted a request for a prehistoric settlement, field systems, entrance grave, cairns and later tinworks in Cornwall to be scheduled. The letter recently received was an invitation to comment on a Consultation Report that had been prepared for these sites.
This letter states “Further to our previous correspondence, I am writing to advise you that we have completed our initial assessment of the above building to consider whether it has special architectural or historic interest.”
I have previously expressed my concerns at the lack of engagement by English Heritage (EH) with the archaeological parts of its designation role and was assured that this was recognised and that EH would “wish to see an increase in the national designation of archaeology” and in January 2012 the Head of Designation stated “The best way of judging us is by actions.” So let’s spend a little time doing just that…
Well it would certainly appear that within the EH Designation Department there is still some room for improvement. It must surely be obvious that field systems and tinworks are not buildings possessing some sort of special architectural interest and it would, therefore surely make sense to update the pro-forma letters accordingly in order in avoid any future misunderstandings. Previously I have pointed out that the National Heritage List for England referred to all heritage assets as buildings so for example the Battle of Hastings and Maiden Castle were for a while referred to as buildings. This unfortunate mistake has now been rectified and I look forward to the present oversight being remedied with equal alacrity.
However why does the EH Designation Department seem to be making a habit of referring to all sorts of heritage assets as buildings? Does this error tell us about the culture within the Designation Department at EH? Do they assess so little archaeology that the new IT system simply ignores it?
[For other articles in the series put Scheduling in the search box]