You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2012.

Is the world going to end tomorrow? Probably not, but it may well turn out to be a bad morning for someone in English Heritage at Stonehenge.

The usual tight and increasingly odd winter solstice restrictions apply; Access only permitted at 7.30am in time for sunrise, with attendees to leave by 9am so the gates can open for paying customers at 9.30am as usual. But this year being potentially apocalyptic, further concessions have been promised for the actual point of solstice at 11.11am. The solstice observants who’ll be thrown out at 9am will be allowed back in at 11am for a short period “if conditions allow” after hanging about for 2 hours.

Of course the recent survey showed that if the original users of Stonehenge used it to observe Solstice alignments, it would most likely have been the winter sunset from the Avenue, not sunrise and the idea of bronze age man observing the exact point of solstice verges on the lunatic fringe. But we’ll save all that for another day.

Still from Stonehenge Apocalypse -2010

“Stonehenge Apocalypse” – 2010

Attendance at Stonehenge for the winter solstice sunrise has been growing rapidly over the past few years with 600 attending in 2009, 2,000 in 2010 and 5,000 last year (figures are estimates from BBC news articles). All the indications are that this year will continue the trend, in fact English Heritage were warned at the Stonehenge Round Table meeting back in November that this is looking like a bumper year. Its slightly worrying then that Peter Carson (Head of Stonehenge) has said that “we are not able to accommodate any more people than last year”. Are there contingency plans if 10,000 turn up? What about 15,000? Hopefully someone has worked out what to do if several thousand people refuse to leave the stones for the 2 hours between 9am and 11am, let alone what will happen if 15,000 people are denied access to the monument at all because “the ground conditions are considered poor or if it is felt that access might result in severe damage to the monument”.

If you are planning on attending, English Heritage would like you to go by bus as parking will be highly limited, especially if numbers exceed last years by not very much at all. There will be a special bus service from Salisbury bus station at 6.30am which will drop off at the existing visitors centre. Again, hopefully plans are in place if several thousand people turn up for the buses.

The most recent weather forecast is predicting a dry and fairly mild night, probably not the only prediction that English Heritage don’t want to come true tomorrow.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site


Recalling William Beveridge at Avebury


With December 2012 seeing the seventieth anniversary of the Beveridge Report, the blueprint of the welfare state, it can be recalled that the author had at that time a long association with Avebury. It came about in 1928, with the rental and eventual purchase of a cottage and outbuildings on Green Street by Beveridge’s partner Jessy Mair. The cottage was extended, adjacent land was purchased from Lord Avebury and a neighbouring farm, and John Rawlins routed electricity to the property from his garage which then stood within the henge near the Cove stones. Thus it was that each summer in an Avebury hay loft converted into a study, sat at the desk he had inherited from his father, William Beveridge worked on various influential reports and publications from unemployment insurance to rationing for over a decade. The Green Street cottage was turned over to RAF officers serving at Yatesbury during the Second World War, and sold when peace eventually returned. It is not known how often, if at all, that Beveridge visited his desk in the hay loft in this period, during which of course he published the founding text of the welfare state in 1942. That same year Beveridge and Jessy married in London.
B. E.

Lord Beveridge (1879 –1963) was an economist, a leading authority on unemployment, and Director of the London School of Economics. He is best known for publishing Social Insurance and Allied Services (1942), otherwise known as the Beveridge Report.

This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

The latest in our occasional series takes a peek Inside the Mind of Lorna Richardson, well known to many archaeology users of Twitter.

Brief bio:

Lorna is a PhD candidate at the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, and an Honorary Research Assistant at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, where she researches the intersection of Public Archaeology and digital technologies.  Lorna is the co-founder of the Day of Archaeology, a global blogging project for archaeologists, who record a day in their working lives and share it online on one day in the summer.  She is also a member of the advisory committee for CASPAR (the Centre for Audio-Visual Study and Practice in Archaeology) and a member of the council for the British Archaeological Trust (RESCUE).


The Ten Questions:

What sparked your interest in Archaeology?

Regular visits to Norwich Castle museum, and living in a landscape rich in archaeology and history.  I grew up with a Neolithic monument complex, a Roman fort, 2 Medieval castles, umpteen Medieval churches and a standing stone, all within spitting distance.

How did you get started?

I joined the YAC in my early teens, I volunteered at the Castle Mall excavation in Norwich when I was in the sixth form, and got involved with the field walking by Norfolk and Norwich Archaeology Society.  I then did a degree in Medieval archaeology with Martin Welch, James Graham-Campbell and Gustav Milne.  I still have all the reading lists from the Medieval archaeology courses Martin taught – Goths, Huns and Lombards was my favourite.

Who has most influenced your career?

Mum and Dad for encouraging me to go to university in the first place – the first in my family to get any qualifications!

Tim Schadla-Hall and Don Henson are great inspirations and have helped me immensely.

And I owe everything to Guy Hunt, Andy Dufton and Stu Eve at L-P Archaeology, who gave me the opportunity to do my first ever digital Public Archaeology project at Prescot Street.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

The Day of Archaeology. It sprang from a Twitter conversation of all things, and has become a huge project, drawing from almost all continents, and it’s all organised and run for free with huge passion from everyone involved.  I hope it continues to grow in years to come, and that it shows the world the variety of interesting and important work happening in archaeology.  There is so much more to do in the next Day of Archaeology iterations. It’s exciting, heart-warming stuff with so much scope to involve new audiences.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Burgh Castle on the river Waveney in Norfolk.  It has an amazing landscape setting,  and my many visits there as a child really sparked my imagination about the Saxon Shore. It’s cold and windy, but a great place to exercise your archaeological imagination!

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

That archaeology is not part of the National Curriculum.  Yet.

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

I would enshrine protection for HER officers in local authorities– too much expertise has been lost already.

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

If you want a longer narrative of British history in the curriculum, better educational opportunities for children outside the classroom, opportunities for people to get active outdoors, points of focus and cohesion for communities, and a vibrant and profitable tourism industry, stop cutting budgets for heritage and start supporting a part of the economy that a) actually attracts paying visitors to this country  b) can be used in numerous ways in the National Curriculum and c) is unique, at risk, and deserves protecting.

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

I would be a mental health nurse.  I trained as a nurse at Barts after finishing my first degree in the mid-90s, and it is my eternal regret that I never finished the last six months of the course due to illness.  Perhaps I will get a chance to combine Public Archaeology and therapeutic work somehow in the future.

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

I walk my dog, watch films, read books and row for my local rowing club. That, and drink plenty of real ale.  Archaeological tradition.

Many thanks to Lorna for taking part and providing her answers. Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind of’.

If you work in community archaeology and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

by Sandy Gerrard

English Heritage have kindly responded to last week’s scheduling article which looked at yet another example of scheduling being described as listing. It is encouraging that EH have taken this concern seriously and their positive and forward looking attitude is to be commended.  In order to avoid misrepresentation it is repeated in full:

“Having looked into this case it was a simple clerical error and nothing more. It was made by a member of the IMT Resources Department, not Designation. The officer in question accidentally blended the letter templates for scheduled and listed sites. It was a genuine mistake, and the manager in question has reminded all officers in question to check carefully that they refer to the appropriate form of designation throughout any correspondence.
While English Heritage, like all organisations, strives to avoid such mistakes, unfortunately they do occasionally occur. We remain committed to protecting and managing sites where appropriate through scheduling, and are determined to do more work in this regard, both expanding and improving the scheduled element of the designation base. There is no deep seated problem with the archaeological element of our role as you appear to fear.”

 My reply to English Heritage stated:

“Thanks for looking into this.  I think the evidence and my own experience indicates that there is more of a problem than you currently wish to admit to.
I note your commitment to expanding and improving the archaeological designation base and this I obviously welcome. However 10 years have now passed since these promises were first aired by the newly formed Designation Department and still there is no evidence to demonstrate any progress – instead only promises of better days ahead and increasing numbers of mistakes.”

Looking at a couple of aspects of the English Heritage response in a little bit more detail it is perhaps worth emphasising that this is the second occasion in this single case that this very same mistake has been made. So perhaps these mistakes are not as occasional as EH would like us to believe. A detail perhaps confirmed by the inordinate number of mistakes in recent scheduling documentation.  Just how many mistakes will be notched up before the management at EH have to admit that there is a fundamental problem and seek to address it?

I love the idea of letter templates being blended. Surely the purpose of template letters is that there is one for every occasion. Perhaps the scheduling one is so rarely used that they had forgotten it existed!


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

Its good to hear that the police have just had what is described as their “biggest success in the fight against British heritage crime.” Six men from Lincoln who stole lead from church roofs across three counties have been deal with very severely: Vidas Andruska was jailed for seven years, Andrius Cereska, Tadas Andruska and Andrius Kvedavas were jailed for four years each and Nerijus Razmas was jailed for 22 months. It’s a fair bet that none of those gents will ever go on a church roof again, nor will their friends!

And yet…. in the event that you get caught ploughing out a barrow, motorcycling on a hillfort,  nighthawking on a scheduled site or damaging a standing stone, you can confidently anticipate a very modest fine or costs, a telling off and a conditional discharge.

So why the difference? Are church roofs more precious than those things? Who knows, but the inconsistency is even more striking when you reflect on a remark by the judge at Lincoln that he had borne in mind that repairing church roofs imposes a heavy financial burden on local communities. In contrast, if you plough out a barrow, motorcycle on a hill fort, nighthawk on a scheduled site or smash a standing stone there’s no financial burden whatsoever – because the damage can never be repaired!

Smashed stone at Twelve Apostles Circle: no repair costs incurred.

Smashed stone at Twelve Apostles Circle: no repair costs incurred.


Tristan Stone on the move? Again?

An ancient stone monument marking the grave of a king’s nephew who inspired one of the greatest love stories in British history is to be moved – to make way for a housing estate. Local Councillor Biscoe has condemned the decision to shift the ancient obelisk as ‘cultural violence’ and one of the ‘worst attacks on heritage in the world’.

Whilst that may be considered by some to be overstating the case, sadly this isn’t the first time that the stone has been relocated, and we can’t help but think that every move sets a precedent that chips away at the importance of the heritage behind the stone.

Bedd Morris back in place

In better news, the Bronze Age stone of Bedd Morris near Newport, Pembrokeshire has been restored to it’s rightful place after being toppled in an incident with a car earlier this year. The Bedd Morris stone on Dinas Mountain near Newport has been a landmark for around 3,500 years.

Planning Minister goes mad!

Building on 1,500 square miles of English countryside will not make much difference says Nick Boles, Planning Minister, son of a previous Head of the National Trust.

Mr Boles is also famous for calling for all pensioners to be stripped of their winter fuel payments, free prescriptions and bus passes – presumably on the basis that also wouldn’t make much difference – and for charging the taxpayer for his lessons in Hebrew so he can communicate better with his Israeli partner – which would presumably make a big difference to his breakfast-time conversations.

So where shall we start building on this 1,500 square miles Nick? Surrey? Your constituency in Lincolnshire? The Lake District? Avebury? Just tell us, precisely, don’t speak in generalities.



This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Below is the first in a series of short “postcards” that we hope will be submitted by anyone that has something to share, whether that be a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Whilst the origins of Stonehenge and Avebury remain shrouded in the mists of prehistory, the public has much to offer in the way of observations and memories, photographs and drawings, family and community stories, poems and songs, notes and diaries. Whether an old favourite or a gem that has remained unnoticed in the home, a snippet from a journal or something encountered in a museum collection, a much photographed monument or an uncelebrated view encountered in the landscape: this collective story of Stonehenge and Avebury has never been told so please do join in by sending your postcards to

Stonehenge and Avebury: William Stukeley awakened by Britannia!

A smiling Britannia appears to a figure attempting to rise from a fallen capital of an adjacent classical column, the base of which portrays his facial image in relief. The awestruck figure is an eighteenth century antiquary, William Stukeley. Britannia has awakened Stukeley to an ancient past that had been overshadowed by attention devoted to Roman remains. It was high time indigenous monuments were sought out to be celebrated in their own right, and with his bare foot planted on soil at the edge of the shadow cast by the pillar, Stukeley was about to rise and champion their cause.

A detail from the frontispiece of William Stukeley’s Itinerarium Curiosum: An Account of the Antiquitys and Remarkable Curiositys in Nature or Art Observ’d in Travels Thro’ Great Britain, published in 1724 and publicly accessible in the library of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum.

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

A man has just been prosecuted for scaling a 19th Century Whitehall statue of a Grade II listed statue of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (pictures of him doing it here), causing £5,000 worth of damage by breaking off its sword.

According to Wikipedia, the Duke (who some might think was a bit of an embarrassment to the modern Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, who is both a modern man and an army officer ) earned a reputation for being resistant to doctrinal change and for making promotions based upon an officer’s social standing, rather than his merit. Under his command, the British Army became a moribund and stagnant institution, lagging far behind its continental counterparts” and the statue is “ somewhat ironically, positioned outside the front door of the War Office that he so strongly resisted”. So not London’s best loved statue then!

The suggestion that the man, who has a degree in tourism, had mental problems was rejected even though, despite the cold weather, he stayed up there completely naked for 3 hours and he broke his own teeth biting the statue. Next month, no doubt, the sword will be mended and the statue will be made as good as new but the man has been jailed for 12 weeks.

No point in labouring the issue but it is surely worth asking how does that all fit in with Priddy where rather more than a sword was broken, there is zero prospect of any repair and the monument was vastly more significant and well-regarded and four thousand years older?

by Sandy Gerrard

I recently received an e-mail from English Heritage asking me if they could reveal to someone that I had asked for Bosiliack prehistoric settlement to be scheduled. It’s no secret and I am happy to admit to anyone that it was indeed Bosiliack that launched this mini-series of scheduling articles. Bosiliack is an incredibly important monument and it would appear that English Heritage agree, as it has now been added to the Schedule of Ancient Monuments.

The alarming thing about the English Heritage letter was that it stated:

“English Heritage has received a request for the release of the identity of the listing applicant for Bosiliack prehistoric settlement.  I am writing to you because I understand from our Local Office that you requested that we consider the property for listing.”

So English Heritage who are the heritage designation experts still seem incapable of telling the difference between listing and scheduling. I asked for the site to be scheduled and this is what has happened, so why call me the listing applicant and the monument as “the property for listing”? Why is it that England’s leading heritage organisation seems unable to tell the difference? Does it matter that EH can’t tell the difference between scheduling and listing? Do these constant failings on the part of the organisation imply some form of deep seated problem with the archaeological element of their role?

The evidence is certainly piling up to indicate that all is not well within Designation Department at EH.  We are all capable of making the odd mistake, but EH appears to have taken this to a new level where mistakes are becoming the norm.


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


December 2012
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