You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2012.

The EH Legal Director has tweeted….


Great idea. It has been said that “genius is the ability to act rightly without precedent” but it’s self-evident that most planning inspectors and most people aren’t geniuses and need to be guided by precedents. For instance, one inspector recently judged, without obvious reference to precedents, that a wind turbine that was 485 ft high from ground to blade tip was “unlikely to be visually oppressive or overbearing”. He had to be having a laugh. Except that he wasn’t. That’s about the same height as the Lighthouse of Alexandria – whose core function was to be visually oppressive and overbearing!

A searchable database of heritage planning and court cases might have led him to a less random assessment. And democratised the process by giving the public access to tools to challenge opinions rather than having to just accept them. In addition, although it’s probably not practical, photographs would clearly be worth a thousand planning specialists’ words, especially as the Government has just signalled a change of tune, with the new energy minister saying:  “The salience of aesthetics to discussions about renewables has often been neglected”.

One of a number of “unlikely to be visually oppressive or overbearing” wind turbines currently being erected at Mynydd y Betws – Image Credit, Sandy Gerrard. (For scale, see the pony at the base.)

Punch-up cover-up at EH Commission
We assume so anyway, because according to the minutes of their 3 hour meeting last July there was either nothing to report or nothing that could be reported – except for some apologies and the date of the next punch-up … er  meeting, sorry!
Windfarm bribe revealed.
Hot on the heels of a recent windfarm industry opinion that it was important to  tell host communities they will gain  “the benefits of change”if they don’t oppose windfarms, comes this….


Nighthawks identified!
For once, an accurate account of nighthawking:“Metal detector enthusiasts armed with spades have been targeting a historic North-East site” Metal detectorists, see? Not a different species, just people who frequent detecting clubs and forums (as metal detectorists themselves frequently admit), who happen also to go out stealing. How can nighthawks be properly targeted if that reality isn’t thoroughly understood and acknowledged? It can’t. So good.

More excellent news (though not a police matter), is the quote from Inspector Mark Harrison, national policing and crime advisor for English Heritage: such people come “to steal property that belongs to the land owners, and more importantly, they are stealing the knowledge that belongs to all of us.”

Hurrah! Although, to be really perfect in terms of informing the public he would need to add a few words:
they are stealing the knowledge that belongs to all of us, though very little compared with that far bigger group that acts legally but doesn’t report finds to PAS! Surprising. Never officially said. But absolutely true!

And finally, Congratulations to friend of Heritage Action, photographer Brian Kerr. One of the images he submitted, of Long Meg in Cumbria, has been commended by the judges of the Landscape Photographer Of The Year 2012 competition and is in the year book as well as being shown in print at the National Theatre exhibition in London.

Long Meg, Cumbria. © Brian Kerr 2012


For more Cheers and Boos put cheers in the search box

By Sandy Gerrard

Industrial archaeology is an often overlooked heritage resource. In some quarters in Wales it is not even seen as archaeology. In England, however this is clearly not the case as English Heritage have just scheduled a large C19 gravel pit!

Whilst this might appear to be good news and a long overdue appreciation of the importance of this much maligned industry, sadly this is not the case. No mention of the pit appears in the documentation and instead English Heritage seems to be under the impression that the area where the pit once stood is the site of a small Roman town worth protecting.  The scheduling documentation gives no clues to why EH believe that the shallow remains of the town have survived large-scale quarrying. Perhaps EH would be kind enough to explain why they have asked the Secretary of State to place this backfilled gravel pit onto the Schedule of Ancient Monuments?

EH’s own online PastScape describes the area as the “Site of a possible Roman settlement at Billingford represented by coins, pottery, a bronze brooch and a silver ring.” But apart from the finds mentioned above and a few “ephemeral cropmarks” there really does not appear to be anything in the scheduling documentation to strengthen EH’s own published tentative identification. Settlement remains are known to have existed in the area to the south, but there appears to be no definitive evidence that nationally important Roman remains actually survive within the scheduled area and the chances of them surviving within an area that has been quarried are surely non-existent.

There are many other peculiar aspects about this scheduling which I may return to in the future, but in the meantime EH might wish to consider why:

  • the descriptive details all relate to the parts of the site that are not scheduled.
  • the details imply that the focus of the settlement is elsewhere
  • no building materials have been found and there is no mention of post holes
  • the monument is described as “A Roman small town or roadside settlement occupied between the C1AD and c.750AD.”
  • they have scheduled an area that may have been severely disturbed. The large number of finds might be an indication that much of the remains have been disturbed. Can EH be sure that nationally important remains survive in any part of the site?
  • the continuity of settlement into the early Anglo-Saxon period and its association with the early see at North Elmham is also significant. Does proximity always mean association?
  • aerial photographs indicate pre-Roman settlement in the form of a clearly defined co-axial field system.
  • the site is described as “immediately connected to Roman roads” but what does immediately connected actually mean? Surely it is either connected or it is not?
  • the new bank adjacent to the road is not excluded from the scheduling.
  • the selected source details are incomplete

If they can come up with answers it would great if they could share them.

It would also be interesting to know why the site was rescheduled less than two years after it was first scheduled in 2010. This site was scheduled on 08-Jul-2010 and again on 27-Jun-2012 as “A Roman roadside settlement 150m south-west of Billingford Hall”. The List Entry Number is 1021458 and for those who wish to dig a bit further the PastScape No. is 130984.


[For other articles  in the series put Scheduling in the search box]

So, we now know how it went….

“You’ve been a bit naughty”
   “Mea Culpa guv. It was an honest mistake, I cocked up. Sorry?”
“Fair enough, but we’ll have to give you a slap on the wrist, for appearances sake.”
   “What say £38 grand to make things right?”
(Thinks – “you have been, me old mate!”)

Ok, so it probably didn’t go like that, much. But we can’t help thinking that a fine of £2500 for destroying a unique Neolithic monument is a joke. (Someone recently got a £2,600 fine for installing uPVC windows in a listed farmhouse!). Granted, the final cost could be as much as £48,000, but when you own a string of racehorses and a large construction plant company with a turnover of £6.8 million it’s probably small change. (And note, demolishing a house in a conservation area in the posh Borough of Richmond gets you an £80,000 fine plus £42,500 costs and doing the same in Fulham gets you a £120,000 fine.)

So let’s consider. You buy a plot of land, with stabling, and have an interest in racehorses. There’s a nice large field, but it has some pesky archaeology and natural geological features in it that could potentially be dangerous to the horses. To get anything ‘done’ will involve  months of paperwork and the end result may still be you can’t use the field in the way you’d like. So, as is now well known, Mr Penny instructed some workmen to ‘tidy up’ some gorse and scrub on his land despite having been instructed by his solicitor that the circles were there, and protected and although he now says he told them not to go near the henge they bulldozed part of it into oblivion.

English Heritage has said it is “very pleased” he has ‘agreed’ to pay £38000 for them to mull over the remains of his handiwork. Some people might think (and maybe EH are too diplomatic to say!) he has got away lightly through his magnanimous gesture. It’s worth remembering, as well, that since his digger has been seen working at Stonehenge (presumably hired by the contractors engaged by EH) he’s effectively only giving them some of their own money back! So we suspect that he’ll be very pleased with the outcome himself whereas no-one else should be. On the basis of this case and others there are two lessons being sent to potential vandals: always offer to pay a voluntary amount and always target something prehistoric not Georgian and a henge not a house and unique not commonplace and irreplaceable not the reverse!

It’s water under the bridge now but if Mr Penny wanted to demonstrate true remorse he could always move on from the damage-limitation ploys of his legal advisers and hand English Heritage say another quarter of a million pounds (the value of about one and a half of his many bulldozers) for use on general heritage preservation so as to dispel the feeling that he has rather got away with just about the worst heritage crime anyone can think of.

Done and Dusted. And the £48,000 it cost Mr Penny to create this usefully flat meadow was only a third of the cost of the bulldozer that did it…. or about a quarter of the total winnings of his most famous racehorse, the very unfortunately named “Earthmover”.

See also Lucky Penny? Did the Priddy sentence get accidentally reduced?

English Heritage has published the following press release:

“English Heritage is very pleased that Mr Penny has agreed to pay for repairs to the monument and other mitigation works at a cost of around £38,000. In addition he has been fined £2,500 and ordered to pay costs of £7,500. He will also bear his own defence costs. In sentencing the judge was clear that had it not been for Mr Penny’s agreement to pay these substantial mitigation costs, the fine would have been significantly higher. The judgement takes into account Mr Penny’s early guilty plea, his good character and his full cooperation throughout the case.                                                                                         

The outcome of this case sends out a clear message that English Heritage can and will prosecute in cases of serious damage and unauthorised works to Scheduled Monuments. The defendant and the court have recognised the great importance of these sites and the serious nature of this offence. The outcome reflects the substantial penalty offenders may expect to receive if convicted. The court has also recognised the importance of mitigating the impact to this damaged site. This will give back to the monument some of what has been lost..

English Heritage would like to thank Avon and Somerset police in particular for their assistance in this matter. Tackling these heritage crimes can only be done properly in a partnership between experts in historic buildings and sites and experts in criminal investigations. This was a very good example of that working.

Ellen Harrison, Communications Manager, Tel: 0207 973 3295″

We are pleased that this sorry affair has finally seen closure but a couple of issues arise from today’s sentence, firstly is £50,000 plus costs enough for the damage that was wrought, perhaps this should have been higher and secondly, what form will the repairs take, will we see a complete henge ever again?


See also The Priddy Sentence Dissected

A new Community Archaeology resource has been announced in the latest CBA Newsletter.

ISGAP‘, the Introduction to Standards and Guidance in Archaeological Practice is a new web site developed by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) in conjunction with the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA), and supported by English Heritage, aimed at Community Archaeology projects and which “highlights the standard procedures you will need to apply when carrying out your archaeological research and investigation. Whilst we do not provide a step-by-step ‘how to’ instruction for specific methods, we do tell you about the best practice approach. We have also included essential details about your legal obligations and a helpful guide to sources of further advice or information.

There are sections for each stage of a project, covering such areas as Stewardship, Site Evaluation, Excavation, Research and Conservation of Artefacts, Publication and Dissemination and much more. The standards derive directly from the Institute for Archaeologists’ (IfA) Standards and Guidance, and so ideally should be followed by professionals and volunteers alike, no matter what the scale or circumstance of archaeological work.

Although the ‘Using ISGAP’ page refers to downloadable modules, the only obvious download links are to associated supplementary documents which expand on the material on each page. Each section or module is a single page, so maybe that’s what is meant by downloadable? Another minor quibble – on the same page reference is made to 17 modules, but only 15 sections are listed. On the ‘Documentation’ menu link the same 15 are listed, whilst on the Documentation page and on the Home Page, a list of 18 sections is given.

Despite these inconsistencies, there is a lot of information contained within the site and ample links to more detailed information. In all, this should be a useful information resource for any archaeological project, regardless of which stage the project may have reached.

On Wednesday last week I visited Carwynnen Quoit, or at least the site of Carwynnen Quoit, as the recent excavations were being back-filled when I got there. I had arranged to meet with Pip Richards, Director at The Sustainable Trust, and was introduced to James Gossip, Archaeologist at Cornwall Council, who has been directing the excavations.

The back-filling was well under way when I arrived, but luckily I had visited the site on the previous Sunday in order to take some photos of the excavation, parts of which were flooded following heavy rain, and where I found the various stones neatly sorted by size and potential use – packing stones, uprights, the capstone, ‘field clearance debris’ etc.

The excavation pit, from the NW. © Alan S

The capstone, with sorted piles of stones in the background. © Alan S.

James outlined some of the early thoughts from the dig and I was allowed to handle some worked flints from the site, which indicated very early use. The quoit is of course of Neolithic date, but there is some evidence of Iron Age field systems around the quoit, and a lot of Iron Age and Medieval pottery was found on site, indicating that the site has been in use over an extended period of time – including as a site for Victorian-era picnics, of which photographs exist. If there are IA field systems, then this also raises the possibility of an early settlement site nearby.

The main aim of the recent work had been to identify the sites for the quoit uprights, and in this the excavation has been successful. It is hoped that the quoit will be re-erected/restored/reconstructed (take your pick) within the next three years – i.e. by 2015, though a lot of work will have to be done before then. One of the conditions of restoration is that the Sustainable Trust (owners of the site, thanks to a HLF grant) must be able to guarantee that there will be no possibility of another collapse within a 100 year period! Quite how this will be monitored, or what penalties will be incurred if it falls after 95 years have not been made clear… But thankfully, the use of concrete to stabilise the uprights will not be considered.

There is some history here, as the quoit (first?) collapsed in the 1830’s and was reconstructed at that time. This lasted until 1967 – thus beating the 100 year rule!

I asked James about publication of an excavation report – the final decision on how this will be done is yet to be made. There is the probability of a paper in Cornish Archaeology followed by a full monograph document on completion of the project, once the quoit has been reconstructed.

There is considerable public interest in the project – a recent open day saw over 350 people visit the site (which is accessible via a narrow country lane, and has no parking facilities), and there is an active Facebook Group. A dedicated website, like the quoit itself, is currently under construction (see links below). As we recently highlighted, a writer’s group has been formed and associated with the project, and other community based activities will be forthcoming.

And finally, a foretaste of what may be. During my Sunday visit, I noticed a small construction on the capstone. Someone had obviously been visualizing what the finished article could potentially look like:

Carwynnen Restored? © Alan S.

I am indebted to Pip and James, for taking time out from directing operations to talk to me.

Relevant Links
Carwynnen Quoit Facebook Group
Giant’s Quoit website (under construction)
The Sustainable Trust

You may recall that at the end of September someone reported they had seen a distinctive orange digger with “PENNY” on the side working at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre. We thought, if true, it was inappropriate but we heard nothing further. However, we’ve just seen something that strengthens the suspicion.  Here’s a picture taken from Mr Penny’s website:

and here’s a picture taken at the site of the visitor centre last month by Mike Pitts ….

The two look pretty similar, although the one photographed by Mike Pitts appears to have a white notice on it at the position where the other one says PENNY. As we said before, it would be unfortunate, to say the least, if the contractors had hired or been loaned plant belonging to Mr Penny as it would mean the man that has just been convicted of the heritage crime of the century at Priddy was earning money or brownie points  at Stonehenge! As a minimum it would be better re-painted. It would be good to have nothing orange anywhere near prehistoric henges for a few decades!

Mr Egon Face writes: “this is a nonsense story. I have been keeping a close eye on events at the visitors centre and have detailed photos of all the plant hire equipment. None of it has the word Penny on it anywhere”

Well, not detailed enough, clearly:


We have received a response from English Heritage to Dr Sandy Gerrard’s first three articles on scheduling (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). We reproduce it below in full.  We understand Dr Gerrard may wish to respond to some of the points. In addition, any other constructive comments will be welcome.


The Scheduling of Archaeological Sites: A Response from English Heritage

These posts raise a number of important points as regards the scheduling regime which we respond to below. A longer response to Sandy Gerrard’s comments elsewhere can also be read in British Archaeology 122 (Jan/Feb 2012) ( English Heritage is committed to an increase in scheduling, in order that it continues to identify and protect sites that are truly of national importance.

  1. Many of the specific points stem from the introduction of the Unified Designation System and the National Heritage List for England. These are extremely complicated systems managing large data-sets, and they are still undergoing fine-tuning. Such inconsistencies and glitches within these systems are in the process of being rectified. These systems are leading to major improvements in the efficiency of the designation process, which in turn frees up time for more sites to be assessed.   
  2. There remain great strengths in archaeological expertise within the Designation Department and areas of upskilling in terms of expertise, for example, in its knowledge of maritime and coastal archaeology. Most recently, a new Head of Central Casework and Programmes was appointed to the Department’s senior management team, and that post-holder, Joe Flatman, has extensive experience of archaeology, having formerly been the County Archaeologist of Surrey.
  3. How English Heritage chooses sites for scheduling is determined by the National Heritage Protection Plan. As of the 1st October 2012, the total number of scheduling recommendations (including additions, amendments, and deletions) submitted to DCMS in the first seven months of the 2012-13 financial year was 48, of which 19 were new sites. If the same rate of submissions is maintained for the remaining five months of this financial year, then in 2012-13 we will submit approximately 100 recommendations. The intention is to continue to increase this number. Revision of older scheduling entries will add considerably to the numbers of new designations as well.
  4. While scheduling is, was and will remain an important way of protecting archaeological sites, there are other ways of protecting archaeology beyond designation. The partnership of local authorities and communities is crucial to the protection of sites through local schemes of designation and recognition of importance. Such local schemes are often the only viable solution to the protection of archaeological sites discovered as a consequence of the development / planning system, of which only a small number of such sites have ever been suitable for inclusion on the schedule.
  5. Sandy has raised a number of individual cases with us. We shall be responding to him directly on these.


[For other articles  in the series put Scheduling in the search box]

Northumberlandia to be dwarfed?
Delegates of the EU-India Coal Working Group recently visited Northumberlandia, the world’s largest figure, 400m long and made from 1.5m tonnes of mining waste from the Shotton mine. Not the biggest for much longer maybe – the Indian delegates may well have been impressed by such a novel way of using waste and if so it’s worth bearing in mind that some of their surface mines are nearly 70 times larger than Shotton. The waste from one of those will make a seriously big lass!


The Crosby Garrett hole
It is now two and a half years since the Crosby Garett helmet came to light as it were. FLOs visiting Cumbria were shown an infilled hole. Like this one probably.

A filled hole in Cumbria

An excavation was promised so that the context of deposition could be established and studied and in fact one may have taken place a few months ago, although nothing has been announced. We’d love to know more.

So much for the ancestors living in harmony with Nature!
For more Cheers and Boos put cheers in the search box


October 2012

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 10,812 other subscribers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: