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Calls for “Free Stonehenge” are legion, usually citing that the donor, Sir Cecil Chubb, stipulated that “the public shall have free access to the premises”. It’s a bit academic as his covenants are no longer enforceable but let’s pretend they are and consider if the campaigners have a moral case at least. Their wish for “free access” can mean one or both of the following:

1. Access for free
In other words, free of charge. But look what the Deed actually says: “the public shall have free access to the premises on the payment of such reasonable sum per head not exceeding one shilling for each visit.” So it wasn’t access for free, it was access for payment, up to a maximum of 1 shilling – at a time when the average weekly wage was 30 shillings. Nowadays, a thirtieth of average weekly earnings is about £16. People can continue to claim they have a right to be let in for zero shillings or that every generation for evermore must be tied down to a tiny entrance fee, but unless there’s a chance a Court would support them, which seems unlikely on either legal or practical grounds, it’s probably time that dead horse had a decent burial. (That’s not to say people are likely to be charged at summer solstice. There are many who would react badly so it will probably never happen, for that reason and that reason alone).

2. Free access
In other words, the claim that people have the right to go there at will, without restrictions. But again, Sir Cecil neither conferred nor meant to confer any such right: “the public shall have free access to the premises…subject to such conditions as the Commissioners for Works in the exercise and execution of their statutory powers and duties may from time to time impose”. Those duties, which now fall to English Heritage, include protection against harm so if anyone can persuade a Court that either giving 1.1 million people a year free range or allowing a limitless number to gather inside the stones in the dark are compatible with that statutory duty then fine. But if not then it’s time the second dead horse went off to meet Shergar.

Finally…
The cost of visiting will shortly go up sharply to £13 (justified by the added value of the new visitor centre presumably). There will be outrage. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that in comparative terms that’s a lot cheaper than Cecil Chubb specified. His status as the darling of the free Stonehenge campaigners might need some serious examination!

Sir Cecil "make 'em pay" Chubb

Sir Cecil “make ’em pay” Chubb

188 houses to be built next to Stonehenge
A Councillor said: “The latest proposal seeks to strike a balance between preserving and improving this historic landmark, and meeting the local need for development”.
Not Stonehenge actually. Old Oswesty Hill Fort. Still….

Aliens being crowded out by humans in Wiltshire
According to the Crop Circle Information and Coordination Centre there have been only 25 crop circles in the area so far this year – 15 fewer than usual. However, far from wishing there were more they want there to be less. Charles Mallet, from the centre, said he wished amateur crop circlers would quit because they were “clouding a genuine and real phenomenon”. Quite how many crop circles would be left in Wiltshire if the ones made by humans were eliminated hasn’t been made clear..

Stonehenge subjected to sensibleness!
Visitors wishing to celebrate the Autumn Equinox at Stonehenge this year (on Monday 23 September) will be given access into the monument “when it is considered sufficiently light and therefore safe to do so”. This is likely to be from approximately 6.15am, about three quarters of an hour before sunrise. http://blog.stonehenge-stone-circle.co. … inox-2013/ It naturally prompts the question: should the same approach be adopted at the Summer event as well where the safety issues are far greater? What is the point of tens of thousands gathering there for hours in the pitch dark?

by Sandy Gerrard

The Method Statement presumably agreed by the local planning authority as a condition of the wind farm development at Mynydd y Betws makes sobering reading. The first thing of note is that there is no mention anywhere within its 19 pages of the stone alignment. Instead each page of the statement refers to 82 Gretton Road, Winchcombe. This may in part explain the content of the report and its failure to mention the heritage asset that had precipitated activation of the planning condition.

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Amongst my “favourites” are the details of staffing and the timetable for the work which state: “The field team for will consist normally consist of up to 15 staff (1 Site Manager/Senior Project Officer; 3 Project Supervisors and 11 Archaeologists” and“It is envisaged that Stages 1 and 2 of the project will require approximately six weeks fieldwork. Analysis of the results and subsequent reporting will take up to a further three to four weeks.”

Given that the examination of the whole of the stone alignment was actually completed by a couple of people in a couple of days this anomaly is perhaps something that should concern those that signed up to this agreement. Bearing in mind that the written agreement asked for by the Planning Inspector states that 450 person days of fieldwork will be carried out and instead only a maximum of 7 days were actually taken this would seem to be a discrepancy too far.

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See Part 1 here

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

See also this website and Facebook Group

I visited (and wrote about) the Norton Community Archaeology Group’s (NCAG) Open Day last year. The weather for thIs year’s event last weekend could not have been more of a contrast! Whereas high factor sunblock and sunshades were the order of the day last year, waterproofs and galoshes were a definite requirement this year as the rain was light but continuous the whole time I was there.

My timings were all out (I thought the event started earlier than it did), so preparations were still under way among the hardy volunteers when I arrived on site. I am therefore deeply indebted to Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, North Hertfordshire District Council’s Archaeology Officer, who took time out of his busy schedule to give me a little one-on-one time and explain a little of what has been found this year.

The main trench across the henge ditch

The main trench across the henge ditch

There were three main features within the excavation immediately apparent, the largest of which was the trench shown above. This was cut across the line of the henge ditch and bank, and most excitingly, some evidence has been found of a possible earlier causewayed enclosure. Keith had previously suggested that the henge monument was of an early ‘formative henge’ type, but the discovery of a possible causewayed enclosure is icing on the cake.

At the eastern entrance to the henge, compressed chalk pits have been found, ideally sized for inhumation, but with no significant finds within them.

The chalk pits at the eastern entrance to the henge.

The chalk pits at the eastern entrance to the henge.

Whilst the possible causewayed enclosure is icing, there’s a cherry too! A neolithic ‘plank house’ feature has also been identified, close to the ditch.

Excavation of the plank house feature

Excavation of the plank house feature

Mike Parker-Pearson has recently visited the site and corroborated Keith’s interpretation of the findings, which makes this quite an important site, possibly nationally important, as the easternmost henge found to date.

Preparations for the Open Day were ongoing, and with the site due to close down on Sunday, Keith was getting heavily involved in what work remains, so I thanked him once again for his time and left him to it.

Investigations on site have been ongoing for a few years now – Full site diaries can be found on the NCAG blog and wider information about the group can be found on the main web site – but there will sadly be no dig next year, as Keith will be involved in another project elsewhere. Scandalously, it appears that the site may be given over to allotment use. The Group Chairman, Chris Hobbs introduced himself to me as I was leaving and stressed that he hopes to find out more about the potential plans for the site in the coming weeks.

Keith (in shorts), directing operations in the rain.

Keith (in shorts), directing operations in the rain.

So while the Stapleton’s Field site obviously has much more of a story to tell (and an interim report will be published in due course), the future is uncertain – it’s a case of watch this space.

Note: Apologies to all involved for any inaccuracies in my account above, I was working from memory rather than notes.

All pictures above © Alan S.

Someone has dumped rubbish right in front of two notices that warn the penalty for so doing is up to £50,000. So what?

notice1

Well, the adjoining field happens to be where the Staffordshire hoard was found. The only warning notice there is shown below. It doesn’t quote the penalty for stealing any remaining artefacts – but it’s not £50,000 it’s £5,000.

notices2

As you can see, the crop has just been cut. It’s peak time for the use of detectors. Some artefacts probably remain (archaeologists found a lot the second time they looked and intend to go a third time). Meantime there has of course been illegal digging there (some of which we photographed). It’s hardly surprising. If some people risk a £50,000 fine to save a £60 landfill charge others will risk a £5,000 fine to detect at a spot which could contain riches.

Perhaps hidden security is in place, we don’t know, but self-evidently it’s insufficient – and as for visible measures, a single, currently overgrown notice at the site of the world’s greatest Anglo Saxon assemblage is surely inadequate? Will anything be done? Probably not but if more holes appear we’ll publish photographs of them and mention the matter again.

Amazingly, Worlingworth Local History Group are pleased to host a metal detecting day in Worlingworth, Suffolk, on Sunday, 29 September 2013. Sometimes someone says it all and there’s nothing to add, as Paul Barford has here.

Except to say, as he will know:

1. It’s not really the worthy group of local amateur archaeologists pictured below that have set this event up, they’re not into taking stuff for themselves, or indeed doing anything at all that might attract criticism.

meeting

2. PAS will be attending. It’s well known what they think of rallies and that they go because if they didn’t they’d go ahead regardless. But WHY didn’t they have a quiet word with the members of the Worlingworth Local History Group who then most certainly wouldn’t have gone ahead regardless. Have PAS got it into their heads that amateur archaeologists think and act like detectorists? How insulting. They don’t. Perhaps they could have that quiet word now.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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It seems English Heritage has launched a new push to get more volunteers ….

EH Volunteering@EHVolunteering 28 June

Welcome to the official English Heritage volunteer twitter! Follow us to find out about volunteering at English Heritage 

Good luck to them, they have always relied on an army of dedicated volunteers. But note the timing, 28 June, just 2 days after Simon Thurley’s upbeat message to members announcing how he was “delighted” that half of EH was to be floated off as a charity. EH can’t say so of course but things are going to be very tough for them. It doesn’t need much working out to know the sums won’t add up unless the number of unpaid workers is increased and even then they won’t add up (there’s a limit to how much more you can charge for already over-priced carrot cake!)

On the same theme (that the Big Society actually means if it doesn’t get done for free it won’t get done at all), see this http://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=1010822 : Are you a trained curator with an appropriate postgraduate qualification? Want a part time job at a salary of £0 p.a. ?

Perhaps it’s precisely because there are so many people willing to give their time for free that the Government has dealt so severely with EH and the heritage sector, who knows? It seems as if a massive earner of tourism revenue is becoming largely manned by Middle England for a lot less than minimum wage!

FactWelcome to a new occasional series of Fascinating “Facts”, in which we’ll endeavour to  present short snippets of history, folklore and news about Britain’s prehistoric heritage sites. Each article will be brief and to the point, and we’ll be looking to our readership (that’s YOU!) to provide some insight into a site that may be local to where you live or work, or that you’ve had some connection with in the past. Please get in touch with your own Fascinating “Facts” and we’ll publish them here.  So without further ado, the first Fascinating “Fact” concerns:

Zennor Quoit, Cornwall

This chamber tomb, having stood for thousands of years on a hilltop overlooking the parish of Zennor on West Penwith’s north coast road, was threatened with destruction in 1861. A local farmer proposed to convert the monument into a cattle–shed by removing one of the uprights and drilling a hole in the sloping capstone.

Zennor Quoit in 1769, drawn by WIlliam Borlase.  Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Zennor Quoit in 1769, drawn by WIlliam Borlase. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Luckily, the plan was disapproved of by the villagers of Zennor (an early case of NIMBYism?) and the local vicar, William Borlase – a great grandson of Dr. William Borlase the antiquarian – offered the farmer an incentive of five shillings (25p in today’s money, though worth considerable more then) to build it elsewhere. The farmer had already started on construction of the barn, and three stone posts which he’d erected can still be seen today, next to the quoit. Traces of drill–holes can also still be seen in the capstone.

A poem commemorating the incident, “Zennor Quoit Preserved”, written by local postman Charles Taylor Stephens can be found in Issue 10 (pg 73) of the Transactions of the Cornwall Archaeological Society.

Zennor Quoit today. © Jane Tomlinson

Zennor Quoit today. © Jane Tomlinson

Who knows what the site would have looked like today if William Borlase hadn’t stepped in on behalf of the villagers?

by Sandy Gerrard

For over 18 months mystery has surrounded precisely what happened to the stone alignment on Mynydd y Betws. It is beyond doubt that part of it was destroyed during the construction of windfarm access roads but other details have been rather sketchy.

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The original planning permission stated:
“in the event of any previously unidentified or undisclosed archaeological remains being identified during the course of the development the works on the Site which may affect the said remains will cease until a further programme of works in respect of the said remains has been agreed in writing between the local planning authority and the developer and that scheme shall thereafter be implemented.”

This seems fair and may reflect the Inspectors concerns expressed elsewhere that he was not entirely happy with the work that had been conducted to date. After several requests and considerable persistence and ultimately the intervention of the Information Commissioner the written agreement asked for by the Planning Inspector has been released and it makes interesting reading. In the first part of this article selected contents of the e-mail that accompanied the Method Statement are presented below in italics:

“Technically the works are already covered under the previously approved 2010 Dyfed Archaeology WSI, with the subsequent variations supplied by CA in 2010.”
This comment surely contradicts the Planning Inspectors Report which clearly states that development work “WILL CEASE UNTIL A FURTHER PROGRAMME OF WORKS IN RESPECT OF THE SAID REMAINS HAS BEEN AGREED IN WRITING BETWEEN THE LOCAL PLANNING AUTHORITY AND THE DEVELOPER” It is difficult to see how a WSI written in 2010 would meet these very clear instructions. The Inspector has asked for a fresh written agreement and yet for some reason the developer’s archaeologists appeared reluctant to carry this out. It might also be worth pointing out that this was not a request it was actually one of the stipulations he laid down as a condition of planning permission being granted.

“As agreed between all parties yesterday (Dyfed, ESBI & CA) the area where the stone alignment crosses both the main access route & the access track to Turbine 16 will be fenced to restrict any construction groundworks to the 6m wide corridor required for the proposed roadways.  CA will  hand and mechanically strip the road corridor in advance of any construction works to determine the presence/absence of further stones.  Should further stones be present, CA will undertake full archaeological excavation and recording to mitigate their subsequent loss.”
There is no mention of machine stripping in the excavation report but this methodology would certain explain how the alignment was excavated by a couple of people in a couple of days. Machines most definitely have an important role to play in modern excavations, but should they be used so readily in an area of known shallow stratigraphy and potentially incredibly important archaeology? I wonder how many other method statements designed to examine a stone alignment include machine stripping of the row itself as part of the Project Design? So perhaps another ignominious first for Mynydd y Betws!

Parts 2 and 3 will follow shortly.

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

See also this website and Facebook Group

Here’s an Environmental Impact Assessment (not sure for whose benefit, everyone’s presumably.)  It has “been carried out in accordance with the English Heritage Guidance Document  – The Setting of Heritage Assets” but it has used a particular scoring system to assess “kinetic” views. It’s a very long document, not easy for amateurs or councillors to follow but Page 62 is nice and clear for them, and soothing ….

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Page 62.  Summary of Impacts on Key Views

The scoring system adopted follows the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges Cultural Heritage Environmental Impact Assessment methodology, as adapted by ICOMOS for assessing impacts on the outstanding universal value of World Heritage Sites

[But is that entirely the most appropriate scoring system to use here? I guess that will become clear from the results it throws up. – Ed.]

The Assessment of the proposed masterplan development shows that the impact on key views will be as follows:
Slight beneficial 1
Neutral 6
Slight adverse 2

[Aaah. Ed.]

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