You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2013.

By Sue Brooke.
Sue is our newest member and has joined us as Diary Editor and Feature Writer.
[NB All images are the author’s own]

Introduction

I was brought up in the Caerau area. I went to school here and brought my children up here. As a kid I used the Caerau Hillfort area many times as a short-cut to what I now view as beautiful walks towards Michaelston-le-Pit. I had no idea what this area contained until many years later when I moved to a new house built in to what I now know are the Iron Age fortifications of Caerau Hillfort. I’ve spent quite a few years finding out about this hillfort and, on the way, have collected quite a lot of bits and bobs of research. I started to write this down and it has grown and changed many times as my knowledge increased. Many people have helped me with this – I haven’t done it on my own.

The area has been the target of vandalism, particularly to the old church which stands in one of two, possibly medieval, ring works. One day I was there with my son moaning on about the damage that kids had done – I knew it was kids as they had kindly left their names written in marker pen on the remaining archway. My son pointed out that the kids just didn’t know the value of the site. How could they as no-one had told them. That was fair comment. This has been written just as a brief look at what happened in order to do just that and what was to lead eventually to the site starring in its very own Time Team episode. So this is how it all started…

Over the garden fence

During 2007 I had an operation on my foot. Elevate it above heart height, and come back in three weeks was the medical advice. So I did just that. Well, to be honest I had no option as it hurt so much. Sitting here nearly drove me to distraction until I began to wonder about the woods, over the garden fence. It’s hard to describe the garden really. Nice but unremarkable patio area, a wall about four feet high holding back a rough grassed area then a stone wall effect that holds back the trees. Not really its best selling point as Mr B fretted about the woods sliding down over the retaining wall. However, buy it we did.

The view over the garden fence

The view over the garden fence

So here I was, wondering what was on the other side. I recalled the area from my teen-aged years – having been brought up in the surrounding area. I remembered there was a church up there and that it was possible to walk right across to the ‘White Village’. In fact it was a standing joke that I shouldn’t even be seen here. During my late teens I was found with a group of lads on the road through the White Village when, to my horror, the local police arrived (in a Mini!).  They gave chase, we ran, I jumped this low wall only to end up waist deep in water. Mr Policeman placed me, soaking wet, into the back of the Mini and escorted us back to the lane. I was left, soaking wet, with the warning that ‘we will be around to see your mother – don’t let us find you here again.’  This was one of the moments in your life where you have to make a decision. Do you go home and confess or, do you make the decision to keep quiet until they come. I took the latter option but lived with the fear for many years. They didn’t come. Taught me a lesson though, and I’ve never forgotten it.

So, here I am. Leg elevated and laptop at the ready. I recalled the scary building that was here when the nice local plod deposited me back in the lane. It was a hospital. OK, let’s start with that and go backwards. Bear in mind that I had absolutely no interest in history at all. I was simply bored but now on a mission. I found very little information on-line. I’d seen many Time Team programmes so had picked up some tips from the late, and to my mind great, Robin Bush, their resident historian. I had a fair idea of how he went about it, old papers, books, maps, records etc., so I followed his lead.

I googled to my heart’s content and started random internet searches, using the name of the church as the focus. It was really quite amazing what was available online. But, still, my focus was the Caerau Isolation Hospital, of which there was very little available at that point. It doesn’t help that there is another Caerau nearby but in a completely different area. So, I wrote a letter. I actually put pen to paper and sent it off to the local paper. Then I waited. I actually got responses. In fact, some people were kind enough to drop me a line personally. I began to get enough information to enable me to start my backward search through time.

The words ‘Roman Fort’ kept cropping up. This is found in lots of old papers and maps and is even reflected in street names locally. Then I found an old planning application for the construction of the houses in which I now live. There were some objections from the local Councillor in relation to protecting the trees which were actually ancient woodlands. This gave me something a little bit more up-to-date. The woods here are registered as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Well, there you go. Why was that then? Well, it appears that it was because they can be found within the ramparts of a possible Roman encampment.  Well, that was it, time to squeeze this foot into some boots and get up there and have a look. So I did.

Mr. B has been very patient over the years, as has Brooke the dog who has accompanied us on many trips in and around the local area. It’s often easier to look like a dog-walker than some eccentric person who thinks she has found a Roman Camp. Nonetheless we walked the horrendously steep, wet and muddy access up to the site. We walked through the gate toward the Norman church. And there was a ring work.

Caerau2

The ring work entrance with the remains of St. Mary’s Church in the background – taken from within the ring work

As a kid I had never ever noticed this before on my trips through to the ‘White Village’ (actually Michaelston le Pit).  I’ve seen enough Time Team episodes to understand this may be perhaps a little bit special, particularly as there are actually two ring works here, with the old church being built within one. Then we walked through a gate towards a large field behind the church itself. And there it was.

to be continued…

By Graham Orris
This is the first in a series of articles on how to find “hard to find” sites.

My wife and I have been regular visitors to Cornwall for over a decade now, and have explored some areas in great depth, while other areas remain uncharted for us.

A site that particularly appealed to us was the so-called “Bosporthennis Beehive Hut” – a seemingly well-hidden mysterious gem of a site which has, by all accounts, eluded many people. I must admit the appeal of seeing this with our own eyes was heightened by the fact that not many people could find it!

The Beehive Hut as seen from the angle of approach.

The Beehive Hut as seen from the angle of approach.

It took us 3 attempts on 3 separate visits to find it, but when we did, the route we took was astoundingly simple.

Attempt number 1 was a non-starter due to my own terrible map-reading “skills”, and had us ending up in Bodrifty. Ahem. 😉

Attempt number 2 found us looking at a footpath from the Nine Stones of Boskednan stone circle (approx OS map ref SW435351). The path took us from the circle down the side of the hill (in a very roughly North-Easterly direction) toward a cottage marked on the OS map as “Brook Cottage”. As we approached the end of the road, a friendly resident appeared and very happily pointed us in the right direction for the continuation of the footpath through a field and over a style. The path on the other side of the style was completely overgrown with ferns that must have been over 7ft tall! We pushed our way gingerly through, but decided it was a non-starter as we simply could not see where we were heading. Cue the end of attempt number 2!

Attempt number 3 was an altogether different approach. We found a footpath which starts beside the Treen – Newmill road (approx OS map ref SW437373). Basically, if you have an OS map you should simply follow the footpath, across fields and through styles (you can generally see the next style/footpath sign from the one you’re at) and in around 25 minutes’ time you will see the beehive hut! It’s not hidden, it’s just… there! (Approx OS map ref SW437360) The feeling of actually finding it after several aborted attempts was amazing. But having seen how easy it is to find, it was also annoying that we’d not found it sooner! 😀

The walk is fairly even, and not too strenuous (if a little muddy), although not wheelchair-friendly and *possibly* navigable with only the sturdiest of pushchairs (with plenty of carrying) if taking young ‘uns. The overall walk is around one and a half miles and took us about 25 minutes at a fairly leisurely pace.

This is largely from memory, so please forgive any inaccuracies. If in doubt, just keep an eye out for the footpath signs on the styles or gates and you shouldn’t go wrong:

Starting at the road, enter the field by the footpath sign (approx OS map ref SW437373) heading SSE(ish)
Continue straight ahead to the next style at the far end then straight ahead again to the style in the far corner
Follow the wall along to the next style in the corner, now heading almost due South
Go straight ahead for the next 3 fields, curving slightly SSE toward the corner of the wall that juts out
Head roughly due South again for the next 2 or 3 fields until you reach a road/path that takes you over a stream
Follow the stream for about 2 fields until you find the footpath sign again
Head straight through the field to the far corner
In the next field, curve around to the next gate in the SE wall
Again, curve around to the SW, through the next gate, then due South
A short distance past this gate to the SW and you will see the Beehive Hut at the far end of the field.

Due to the amount of fields/styles/gates you go through it sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. Some fields are very small and therefore I may have missed some out! If anyone manages to use these directions to find the site, please let me know. And please do let me know of any inaccuracies! 🙂

by Sandy Gerrard

In March last year 18 questions relating to the archaeological situation on Mynydd y Betws were asked. During May the answers provided by Cadw were published here. I also asked my local Assembly member (Mr Rhodri Glyn Thomas) to ask the Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT) the same questions and he kindly did this on my behalf. Having had no response in October I asked Carmarthenshire County Council for a copy of the DAT response and this was passed to both Mr Thomas and myself shortly afterwards. A commentary on the DAT response was then produced and sent to Carmarthenshire County Council. This series of articles present DAT’s responses in black and my own comments upon them in green. See part 1 of the series here.

GENERAL POINTS (continued)

In terms of the planning responses made by this Trust it is important to remember that the stone alignment, which is at the heart of Dr and Mrs Gerrard’s concerns, was not discovered until early January 2012. The original field work was carried out much earlier.

This recent discovery was only achieved because of mountain fires the previous summer and we are certain that the stone alignment, buried in tall heather and vegetation, would not have been discovered earlier if it had not been exposed by fire.

This issue is central to the whole debate. I believe that once planning permission had been granted the substantial area highlighted for destruction should have been looked at thoroughly and to do this vegetation that was going to be lost anyway should have either been cut or carefully burnt. This would have provided both archaeological and ecological benefits. The area could have been checked for “hidden” archaeology and the resultant fire-break could have represented the start of more positive management of the heather in the area. Instead no search was conducted of an area which was about to be destroyed and which both the Trust and Cadw had previously described as archaeologically important. Whether the stone alignment is prehistoric or not is not the main issue. The main issue is that no attempt was made to locate or record archaeological remains of ANY date in advance of a permitted development.

It is wholly wrong of Dr and Mrs Gerrard to criticise many other field archaeologists from a number of organisations for failing to make this discovery in the prevailing circumstances of dense vegetation cover. By January 2012 the stone alignment was very clear in a charred landscape and would have been easily observed by anyone walking in the area.

I am not aware that I have criticised anyone for failing to see the stone alignment in the “dense vegetation”. I have challenged the evidence for the hill being covered in dense vegetation as photographs taken at the time indicate a mosaic of different vegetation conditions. I have also asked on several occasions why a proper search was not conducted. My criticism is that nobody looked for or was asked to look for earthworks in these areas. Is dense vegetation seen as a valid excuse for not conducting a thorough search of areas about to be destroyed? Why is it wrong to criticise when such work was clearly not done? To do such work in future would mean more employment for fellow archaeologists and ensure such mistakes do NOT re-occur. If as fellow professionals it is wholly wrong to criticise how will understanding ever progress? Academically in ALL fields of research criticism of currently widely accepted views has shown they are often inaccurate. This comment is therefore blatantly insulting and shows scant regard for an understanding of how knowledge is obtained. Also to then add ‘anyone’ walking in the area would have spotted it after burning is clearly intended as a put down, but actually reinforces the main point I have been making from the start. If they had removed the vegetation obscuring the archaeology then indeed according to DAT it could have been spotted by “anyone”, but instead they choose to “sign off” the area without a proper examination simply because it happened to be covered in dense vegetation on the day allocated for the fieldwork. This is what is wholly wrong. Just because they didn’t bother to look for archaeology in the areas covered in dense vegetation, does not give them an excuse to treat with contempt those who did make the effort to have a look and honestly report their findings before it was too late. The fencing contractors and other operatives also failed to notice it, but of course anybody could….

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

See also this website and Facebook Group

A guest post by Philip I. Powell. First published at
http://www.facebook.com/megalithicmonuments.ireland, reproduced with permission.

TOORMORE WEDGE TOMB

RMP No. CO148-001

A colleague, on a recent visit to a wedge tomb in west Cork, was shocked to find it being used as an out-house, containing trash bins, old rubbish and strewn with litter. I find this totally unacceptable, to see such callous disregard for a national monument and deeply concerned about what we really think about our national heritage. Is it that, unless it is given national attention via the state & independent media networks, we actually don’t care! Or are we saying that certain monuments deserve protection and others are perhaps not worthy of such protection.

Toormore Wedge Tomb

Photo by Michael Mitchell

All recorded archaeological monuments are protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930-2004 and this applies to every single one of them and not just the high profile monuments such as Newgrange,  Poulnabrone, the Hill of Tara and many, many others. It is for that reason that each monument is entered in the Record of Monuments and Places (RMP) as established under Section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994. A unique identifying number is assigned to each monument and place in the record and, as such, gives it legal, statutory protection. When the owner or occupier of a property, proposes to carry out, or to cause, or to permit the carrying out of any work at or in relation to a Recorded Monument, they are required to give notice in writing to the Minister 2 months before commencing that work. This is to facilitate the NMS (National Monuments Service) time consider the proposed works and how best to protect the monument in question. Breach of these requirements is an offence. It is also an offence under the National Monuments Acts to dig or excavate anywhere near such monuments without a licence.

Toormore Wedge Tomb

Photo by Michael Mitchell

It should be a personal privilege to have any such monument on your property and not some sort of burden and yet some regard it as an inconvenience, which infringes on their lives. I, for one, would love nothing more than to have that privilege or as some may see it, that inconvenience. Our heritage and our national monuments are not just for the here and now. They and it are for the generations that follow us, not just on our island but for the whole world. This island of ours is one of the richest places on earth for prehistoric archaeology and is regarded by eminent archaeologists worldwide, as a haven for the study of the development of human society from the early Neolithic period to the late Iron Age and beyond.

The NMS is reliant on landowners and the general public, to help it fulfill its role in the protection and preservation of our national monuments & our archaeological heritage.

If you wish to report possible damage to a monument please contact the National Monuments Service by phoning 01 8882000 or e-mailing nationalmonuments@ahg.gov.ie as soon as possible. Thank you folks.

Crime and Puzzlement
A graffiti vandal has been given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £285 compensation  to English Heritage to cover the cost of specialist cleaners. Is that right? So that means he was asked to pay for the damage but not actually punished? That seems surprising. Although didn’t much the same thing happen at Priddy?

Kosher deals
The Cleveland Museum of Art has just hired a full-time “provenance researcher“. Seems a good idea. She can make sure they have nothing they shouldn’t. So should all museums and collectors use someone similar to make sure they don’t buy in dodgy gear? Or would it be simpler for them to just make every supplier sign a piece of paper giving the name, home address and telephone number of the person they got it from? Or if they dug it up themselves, the name, home address and telephone number of the landowner on whose land they found it, together with a letter from him saying he knows about the sale and the price being paid?

Best possible taste?
We’re saying absolutely nothing. But do watch out for this on the telly!

Britain’s Scary Future
Abroad the headline “LiDAR survey allows public to discover new sites”  would be a cause for huge celebration but maybe not here. The survey carried out in a small area of Caithness in advance of a wind farm development is certainly spectacular…. a billion points of light captured, showing field boundaries, walls and ancient monuments in unparalleled detail, even in heavily forested areas (no chance of missing a prehistoric stone row there then!) 300 new sites were discovered in the small area addressed by the survey and the images obtained are truly stunning. A dedicated website has been set up to showcase it all (paid for no doubt by the wind farm developers – Gawd bless you Sirs for your selfless kindness to the ‘umble public!)

But here’s the scary bit. The website account talks of archaeologists already working on the next project to open up data recovered from projects such as this to “citizen scientists across the globe.” Sounds great. But not in the British context sadly. Here we don’t just have citizen scientists looking to discover new sites do we? Uniquely, we also have a huge army of legalised “citizen artefact hunters” who have repeatedly shown they are more than happy to utilise every last bit of data archaeologists make available to them in order to locate, target and exploit for pleasure or profit every non-scheduled site they possibly can.

Imagine a future in which lots of unselfish developers provide ever-more sophisticated means for thousands of unselfish people to unselfishly help themselves to the contents of the archaeological record! That’s what you get if you leave a dodgy laissez faire policy unchanged for 15 years – technological advances (such as LIDAR and deep-seeking detectors) come along and make your policy look shameful and stupid in the eyes of the rest of the world!

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

henslow

On this day in 1857, Charles Darwin received a visit from Robert FitzRoy, captain of HMS Beagle. In respect of his voyage twenty years before, Darwin had been recommended by his mentor, John Stevens Henslow (1796-1861), not undertaking the mission himself in order to stay at home with his family at Hitcham Rectory – the grounds of which witnessed a Stonehenge first in 1856.

Darwin had written to Henslow 12 October 1855, thanking him for the programme his mentor had sent him of the for the sixth annual Hitcham Horticultural Show, indicating that he had also read the brief account in the Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette. The magazine article mentioned that these occasions featured a museum set up in a marquee (Henslow had become President of Ipswich Museum), it encouraged villagers to add their finds and treasures alongside a learned display (community archaeology is nothing new!), and Henslow would address the crowd outlining the history of the various exhibits. The following year would see a particularly extraordinary display. Henslow was very excited about the arrival of the first giant trees in Britain named Wellingtonia, following the death of the Duke. Wanting to illustrate the size, and with the new museum at Kew scheduled to open in 1857, Henslow had a carpenter construct what in effect was a giant wooden barrel 31 feet in diameter to represent the trunk of the giant trees. It was an imaginative construction, where one could walk inside the trunk as if surrounded by the bark.

One giant idea sparks another and the  Hitcham Horticultural Show that year featured a first: a giant timber frame draped in canvas representing the actual size of one of one of  Stonehenge’s largest stones. Accompanied by a miniature scale model of  the site, this was perhaps the earliest known example of a full sized  exhibition replica of a Stonehenge megalith.   

B. E.

Above extracted from research with the working title: ‘Models, Megalithic Emissaries, and the Popularising of Stonehenge 1716-2016’. For the model of the tree see S.M. Walters and E.A. Stow, Darwin’s Mentor: John Stevens Henslow 1796-1861 (Cambridge University Press, 2001) pp. 248-9.

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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 theheritagejournal@gmail.com

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

The latest in our occasional series takes a peek Inside the Mind of Tom Goskar, Digital Archaeologist.

Brief bio:

Tom Goskar is an independent archaeologist and digital heritage specialist living in west Cornwall. After a decade working for a commercial archaeology unit, he now works freelance.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The Ten Questions:

What sparked your interest in Archaeology?

I grew up in rural Cornwall and was fascinated by the ruins of old tin and copper mines, abandoned clay workings, and anything old. Family picnics on Bodmin Moor near stone circles, and days out to Truro visiting the Royal Cornwall Museum (especially the mummy of Iset Tayef Nakht) got my imagination racing. I can remember being 9 years old and wanting to be an archaeologist. That wasn’t a fashionable ambition to have in the playground, when everyone else wanted to be a fireman or racing car driver, but I stuck with it.

How did you get started?

After college I studied archaeology at Southampton University. During the degree course I volunteered for whatever practical work I could, from cataloguing pottery to geophysical surveys, to digging test pits. I loved it. After finishing the degree I worked at Surrey History Centre for a year, helping people undertake research and answering written enquiries about the archive’s holdings. Then I returned to Southampton to embark upon the MSc in Archaeological Computing. It was hard work, but very rewarding, helping me learn to deal with large quantities of archaeological information, digitise, and interpret it. After the degree, and a bit of piecemeal work for the Archaeology Department, I got a job at Wessex Archaeology doing monument condition assessments. I was suddenly a professional  archaeologist!

Who has most influenced your career?

I’ve worked with some great people over the years, in many different areas of archaeology, and it would be tough to weigh everyone’s influence on me to list here!

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

The laser scanning and analysis of three stones at Stonehenge back in 2002-2003 was just fantastic. We discovered previously undiscovered rock art and demonstrated the potential of 3D technologies at Stonehenge to a global audience. From the initial “wow” of the discovery to the crashing of our website due to the sheer number of visitors, and the publication of my first article, I will always remember it. Recently I have begun to record medieval inscribed stones in west Cornwall, getting me out into the open again, capturing my own data. I’m testing some new methodologies for digitally enhancing 3D surface detail. Testing past interpretations and maybe lining up some new ones. That’s what’s exciting and gripping for me right now.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Chysauster, which is a courtyard settlement in west Cornwall. The excellent preservation of the houses and a ‘street’, coupled with the incredible views over Mounts Bay, make it a stunning place to visit (in good weather!). There’s much to wonder about – and being able to walk into rooms built around 1,800 years ago – can still set the imagination going.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

Upon leaving university, access to journals and mapping data becomes difficult, and I’m certain that it causes the unhelpful division in the archaeology sector between academic and commercial archaeology
(and anyone else for that matter). I am looking forward to the change towards open access, and further democratisation of information.

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

I would make Historic Environment Records statutory. I would also make all information held by them publicly accessible via the web using open formats, for good or for bad. Heritage in general needs to be protected and enjoyment of it encouraged, and open information about it is key.

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

I would remind the House that heritage is a huge draw for millions of tourists visiting the UK each year, who in turn generate billions of pounds for our economy. It’s time to fund archaeology and heritage accordingly.

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

I would probably be working in an antiquarian book shop, designing theatre lighting, or be involved in television production. Although I have managed to do the latter two within an archaeological context…

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

Listening to lots of music, reading, cooking Indian food, learning to play the Irish Bouzouki, staring out to sea, and drinking scrumpy. I also like to walk the West Penwith footpaths when the weather allows, but living here, it invariably involves archaeology somewhere along the way!

As always, thanks are due to Tom for answering our questions. We hope to take one of those walks with him later this year.

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.

morris

The argument over Stonehenge solstice access seems endless. As one campaigner recently wrote: “It is so upsetting watching EH repeat themselves over & over again rejecting sound ideas , My opinion of them won’t change until they actually move forward on the access issues”. For “moving forward on access issues” we can perhaps read “give us what we want, increased access”. Against that is EH’s position, also recently on display – through the words of Peter Carson, their Head of Stonehenge (but you have to read them carefully): “To see the sun rise over the site on the longest day of the year in the same way our ancestors would have done is a very moving moment ….. people come to do their own thing within the landscape”.

That seems to be an effective acknowledgement people have a right to celebrate the solstice at Stonehenge, in line with the Court of Human Rights ruling (that members of any genuine religion have a right to worship in their own church). The campaigners can perhaps take it as good news for it suggests EH aren’t currently minded to seek a reversal of the ruling. However, they should also note that he also talks of seeing the sun “rise over the site”….. “in the same way our ancestors would have done” and people doing “their own thing within the landscape”. You can’t see the sun rise over the site from inside the stones, only from further back in the landscape, and he says doing that is moving specifically because that’s what our ancestors celebrated. The message seems to be: EH does not currently dispute a right to celebrate solstice at Stonehenge but it does feel the authentic way to do it is from outside the stones.

That view has recently been boosted by their 3D laser scanning  which suggests midwinter sunset had special meaning for the builders and that they made deliberate efforts to create a dramatic spectacle for those approaching from the north east. As Susan Greaney, EH’s Senior Properties Historian said: “It has given further scientific basis to the theory of the solstitial alignment and the importance of the approach to the monument from the Avenue in mid winter”. Thus EH is in a difficult position: it faces constant demands for increased access to the interior of the circle at solstice sunrises while it’s own research is telling it “outside at sunset” not “inside at sunrise” is what mattered to the builders. It is being asked to expand a celebration whose time and place it increasingly sees as erroneous.

Would the Court of Human Rights have ruled differently if the laser scanning report had been published at that time? Who knows? However, while the current situation is that EH has no right to oppose the celebrations, it is less certain that opposing an expansion of the celebrations would be invalid. Article 11 of the Human Rights Act says: “No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights [of members of a religion to worship in their own church] other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” There has to come a point where the number of attendees inside the stones has health and safety or public order implications and EH might well suggest that the critical point has already been exceeded as evidenced by the fact they are biannually shown to be powerless to prevent many people climbing on the stones.

In essence then, EH’s “failure to move forward on the access issue” as the campaigners see it may well make perfect sense from EH’s perspective for it may see the celebrations as a false expression of the purpose of the monument and prejudicial to it’s statutory duty to safeguard the monument and the public – and indeed constantly damaging to it’s own reputation as a statutory guardian.  If so it is highly unlikely to be sympathetic to calls to expand proceedings in either scale or duration. In addition it may consider it has a strong legal case to refuse such calls. For their part the campaigners are unlikely to win either the academic argument (that celebrating inside the circle is “authentic” – and it would be strange if they sought to) or the legal one (that a bigger celebration wouldn’t bring bigger health and safety risks) so their calls are unlikely to ever be successful. Better perhaps to engage with EH to change the celebrations to something more akin to what the builders intended? That at least might involve pushing at an open door rather than one that may always stay firmly locked.

door

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More about ways the solstice celebrations could be reformed here and here and here and here

A clue….
DeepPlough

An interesting English Heritage document, Heritage Crime Research: The Size of the Problem seeks to evaluate the damage caused by various crimes and in our particular sphere of interest (scheduled monuments and other designated historic sites) simple antisocial behaviour is the single most common heritage crime. Illegal detecting and off-roading are also problems but metal theft is less common than it is with other types of heritage assets.

However, viewing damage through the narrow prism of heritage crime can distort the reality and none of the crimes quoted in that research document cause anything like as much damage as is caused legally by agriculture, as highlighted in another English Heritage document from 2003 – Ripping up History.

Some quotes:

Modern ploughing has done more damage in six decades than traditional agriculture did in the preceding six centuries. Among the sites being actively ploughed are nearly 3000 scheduled monuments, sites recognised as being of national importance to our heritage.

We are, quite literally, ripping up our history.

Farmers are not at fault.They have done what society has asked them to do and past agricultural policy has dictated. However, if this important inheritance is to be better protected in future, it is essential that government, archaeologists and farmers now work together to find a new and more sensitive approach.

Over 10,000 wetland monuments are estimated to have suffered damage in the last 50 years …….. An estimated 94% of East Midlands ridge and furrow has been destroyed …….. Ploughing is damaging over 100 Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in Norfolk and Suffolk …….. Fewer than 10 out of 1200 burial mounds in Essex now survive as earthworks …….. Over a quarter of the nationally important scheduled monuments in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site are under damaging arable cultivation.

At that time EH suggested 3 key actions were needed: an expansion of Environmental Stewardship schemes, further protection legislation and further policies to lessen the amount of grassland over protected archaeology being turned over to arable cultivation. That was almost ten years ago and some progress towards those aims has been made, particularly a big expansion of the Stewardship schemes (70% of agricultural land is now in schemes). However, perhaps the best hope for greater protection in the next few years will come from something that wasn’t specified back then: the Government is to move towards paying farmers to adopt “min til” (minimum tillage) – the low impact farming system that replaces ploughing.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

vic

In October 1830 the Princess Victoria visited Stonehenge after attending a service at Erlestoke church, the service being conducted by the rector of nearby Poulshot, the Revd. William Fisher, a domestic chaplain of Victoria’s mother the Duchess of Kent. Seven years on from the visit to Stonehenge Victoria acceded to the throne, and when it was suggested that William Wordsworth pen a national anthem for the coronation he passed the task on to his second cousin Emmeline Fisher, aged twelve, eldest child of the same William Fisher and his wife Elizabeth. Emmeline’s five verses were never adopted, but Queen Victoria sent her a writing set in appreciation. Emmeline would later publish poetry and would write ‘Lines on the Opening of Silbury Hill’, the original of which was buried inside the mound in 1849 and recovered in 1968.

Hampshire Advertiser 30 October 1830 p.3; Anon, Anecdotes, Personal Traits and Characteristic Sketches of Victoria the First (London, William Bennett, 1840) pp. 153-4. N. Hinxman, ‘Emmeline Fisher, a forgotten Wiltshire poet: her links with William Wordsworth and the national anthem,’ Hatcher Review 37 (1994) pp. 16-30.

B.E.

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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 theheritagejournal@gmail.com

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

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