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Heritage in peril

The late 1920s were a time of calamity for Britain’s heritage. Beautiful landscapes were being bulldozed for the construction of suburbs and roads – at this time there were no laws to restrict their development. Many historic buildings were being demolished or allowed to decay, and Stonehenge was endangered.

The nation rallied, and in the summer and autumn of 1927 there was a campaign to save the landscape surrounding the ancient stones. The monument itself was in good condition – since Cecil Chubb donated it to the nation in 1918, there had been a major programme by the Office of Works (a predecessor of English Heriitage) to restore and excavate the site. But although the stones themselves, and the triangle of land immediately around them, were now preserved, the same was not true for the surrounding chalk downland.

That “time of calamity” was in the late 1920s. Now, in the 2020s we are facing a new “calamity for Britain’s heritage” for the Stonehenge landscape is in danger of “being bulldozed for the construction of roads”. The 1920’s situation of “no laws to restrict their development still applies, although only because English Heritage et al have chosen to ignore Britain’s obligations to protect the place under the World Heritage Convention.

Finally, most ironically of all, they say “In the 1920s a campaign to save the landscape around Stonehenge captured the imagination of the public, enabling the land to be bought and donated to the National Trust.” Yes, that same National Trust that has now agreed that a mile of new dual carriageway can be driven across that same land!


“Fergusons Gang” – a group of young women who battled to save some of England’s threatened buildings and landscapes in the 1920s – now celebrated by English Heritage without the least sense of embarrassment!


October 2020

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