The first three articles on scheduling have looked at the general picture and highlighted the relatively small number of schedulings emanating from the Designation Department. I am often reminded that quantity is not everything and that quality should also be considered. So with this in mind it is perhaps worth looking at the content of some of the more recent examples.
A search on the “National Heritage List for England” reveals that of the 28 monuments designated up until the end of October only 6 are or contain prehistoric archaeology. Of these, three are amendments meaning that actually only three new prehistoric monuments have been added to the schedule. Foremost of these is Flag Fen, which I imagine most people thought was already scheduled – it is now. One of the other two is a pair of “Ring ditches, part of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and prehistoric field bank at Storrey’s Meadow” which were added to the Schedule of Ancient Monuments on 22nd June 2012. The site lies on the edge of West Meon village in Hampshire and English Heritage have allocated it the number 1409204 should you wish to check the details for yourself. It took me a while to find information on the site from other sources as everybody else refers to it as Storey’s Meadow with a single “r”.
Using the grid reference provided and the “UK Grid Reference Finder” website I was surprised to find a large scale excavation underway within the scheduled area. Surprised on two accounts. Firstly, there was no mention of the monument having been excavated within the EH report and this despite the fact that the excavations had been carried out in the year before the site was scheduled. Secondly, because the EH report refers to an “excavation in the adjacent field to the south”.
This must mean one of two things. Either the wrong field has been scheduled or English Heritage is unaware that much of the monument has already been archaeologically sterilised. I asked English Heritage on Monday for an explanation telling them I was planning to write this note which would be published today. I was thanked for questions and assured that “We’ll get back to you very shortly.” I have heard nothing yet so what follows must to a certain extent be somewhat speculative. The geophysical survey that accompanies a brief account of the work is available at http://www.tvas.co.uk/downloads/WestMeon_poster1.pdf does not appear to depict the features described in the scheduling documentation. Furthermore, apparently the area is now being developed for affordable housing. All this suggests that English Heritage have scheduled the wrong field. I do hope this is the case, as the alternative explanation is even more bizarre – namely that they have scheduled a building site that has already had most if not all of the archaeology removed already. Perhaps there is a third explanation and one day all will be revealed!
A couple of other things are of interest about this scheduling. The first is that “Bronze Age barrow cemeteries and Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries are representative of their respective periods and there is a presumption in favour of their designation when they survive to any substantive degree”. This compares favourably with the situation in Wales where according to Cadw only “intact and substantially intact” examples are generally considered for protection. Apparently barrows and cairns “are very common throughout Wales” and “the likelihood of a damaged site being scheduled is greatly reduced.” So no consistency between England (where Bronze Age burial sites are generally considered to be worth protecting) and Wales where they are not.
Another new development in the English scheduling documentation appears to be a section where other archaeological sites up to nearly 9km from the monument are mentioned in despatches. So helpfully another ring ditch “1km to the south east of Storrey’ Meadow” is mentioned but more surprisingly “four Bronze Age barrows near Franklins Farm, 8.7km to the south west” are also recorded. One might wonder at how the scheduling documentation for a barrow on Salisbury Plain might look in future? Pages and pages of references to similar sites within 9km will surely take some researching! More bizarrely there is also a mention of “the remains of a substantial Roman building which was excavated in Little Lippen Wood to the west of West Meon in 1905-6).” Exactly why the scheduling of this site needs to allude to a completely different type and date of site is puzzling and surely does not really enhance our understanding or appreciation of this site. Indeed in this instance there is more information on the other sites than the one that is actually being described. This approach may provide context in an area where there is clearly relatively little contemporary archaeology, but in areas where there are substantial remains this section could run for pages and pages and completely dwarf the main purpose of the exercise. This type of information surely belongs more appropriately in a parish guide rather than official scheduling documentation. Perhaps if the process was more focussed it might be possible to get more sites protected which of course is the aim of the exercise.
English Heritage have been offered the chance to comment on the issues raised in this article and hopefully in the coming weeks, months or years they will avail themselves of the opportunity to respond. In the meantime, further examples of other curious, sloppy and bizarre recent schedulings will be examined during the coming weeks. Next time I will be looking at a site where Roman settlement remains apparently survive at the bottom of a 19th century gravel quarry.
[For other articles in the series put Scheduling in the search box]