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It seems that King Arthur Pendragon has “slammed” the Heritage Journal in the press (see here). Yet we’ve been very supportive of him over the years and have described him as “brave” here and “affable and amusing” here and “in his own way one of the sanest men in Britain” here.

But he has got it wrong in this case. He says “As for the Heritage Journal, calling for an end to managed open access, they’ve been doing that since they were formed in the first place.” Not so. What we’re against is damage and all we’ve ever wanted is an end to that by redesigning the event so it’s far less crowded and some proper protective control can be applied. Ten years of damage is witness to the fact we have a point and our pagan members all agree. If Arthur can stop the damage, fine, but if all he can do is tell the press “obviously we abhor the vandalism” then we’re entitled to propose measures that will end it.

There are a couple of additional points in support of our view. The latest research suggests the stones were designed to allow people to view the summer solstice sunset from outside the circle, not crowded inside it, so we’re surprised Arthur and others aren’t calling for the authentic re-enactment. It costs a couple of hundred thousand pounds to run the event in the current format and the attendees don’t pay a bean. So if most people stayed outside the circle they’d have a better view and a more authentic one and the rest of the population wouldn’t have to shell out ridiculous amounts of money to run the event. AND the damage would stop in a jiffy!

We recently managed to shame the country’s largest metal detecting shop, Regtons, into stopping selling night vision gear. It was a victory for conservation (which PAS and The Archaeological Establishment should have secured, not us) but it was only a small one, for two reasons:

First, Regtons may have desisted but lots of other detecting outlets haven’t. Just look at all the “Night Owl” gear that Joan Allen Detectors will deliver to you on a next day basis. It is difficult to believe that detector shops that sell items that nighthawks find useful are unaware of precisely what they are contributing to. What do you think?

Second, as we’ve said so often, the debate about whether nighthawks are a tiny minority or not is a damaging distraction for it diverts the public’s attention from the real scandal – that the knowledge theft that nighthawks cause is dwarfed by the knowledge theft perpetrated by the far more numerous non-reporting legal detectorists. One day no doubt Posterity will judge today’s archaeologists harshly for not shouting that simple truth from the roof tops and particularly in the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster. The fundamental reality of the British portable antiquities policy is that non-regulation of “legal” detecting causes far more heritage damage than flogging night vision equipment to criminals. It’s not a great charge to lay at the door of British Archaeology but there it is.

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Aunt Bella’s School for Nearsighted Young Women and British Archaeologists. Missing the bleeding obvious.

Aunt Bella’s School for Nearsighted Young Women and British Archaeologists. Missing the bleeding obvious.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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He wasn’t planting potatoes” said one witness of a  man seen at an Irish national monument at Carrig, Blessington, swinging a pick-axe and carrying loads of stones away in a wheelbarrow. Last Friday the Judge sentenced him. He got a €10,000 fine and an 18 month suspended sentence. So less than what it might have been  (a  fine of up to €10,000,000 or 5 years in jail) but a lot compared with over the water where it seems you can sometimes bulldoze stuff with not a lot of consequence.

That was literally true at Offa’s Dyke and it was also effectively true at Priddy where the culprit was so rich the fine and other costs were of no real consequence to him.

“No punishment for damage” is also the reality at Stonehenge where English Heritage recently revealed that the stones have been deliberately vandalised at almost every summer solstice celebration for the past ten years as well as at the latest winter one and we’re all waiting for a single one of the culprits to be punished, even by the gentlest of raps on the knuckles with a feather duster…

duster

It’s probably best that the following account of vandalism at the winter solstice should be given a wider airing than to just 14 people at the latest Round Table meeting….

damage

The bit about “it will be too expensive to have analysis done” is striking in view of the fact that each year up to 35,000 summer revellers aren’t charged (say) £10 each which amounts to £350,000 not collected. But be that as it may, since it has recently been revealed that apart from the above winter damage there has been vandalism at the stones during almost every summer solstice gathering over the past decade, would it be unreasonable to ask for something to be done to put a stop to it?

(So far as we know there was no vandalism during the lantern parade gathering so it’s clearly possible).

We’ll keep it simple. Several years ago Central Searchers hid their “Rule 11″ from public gaze. (No wonder. It said any non-treasure find worth up to £2,000 belongs entirely to the finder). We assumed they’d then quietly drop it and that would be the end of it. But no, we’ve just discovered it on full public display again but in a different place and re-named as “Rule 14″. Here it is in all its history-loving fair-minded glory:

14. Items found by any member/non member/guest can be retained by the member/non member/guest as long as its value is no more than £2,000.

Is that fair or does it suggest an acquisitive attitude towards heritage that even a Minister for Culture would be hard-pressed to describe as heroic? You decide. All we know is that more than an eighth of all detectorists and lots of PAS employees have attended Central Searchers rallies and we’ve heard not a word from them about Rule 14 being a disgrace or that they won’t attend because of it. So maybe it’s just us?

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How 50 valuable finds would be divided under Rule 14

How 50 valuable finds would be divided under Rule 14

 

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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As National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins once said (in 2008) : To accuse the Trust of being effete, a little bumbling and slow to embrace change is really to accuse it of being what its public likes it for being. ” 

Quite. Slow to embrace change, that’s the ticket, the charm, the thing that keeps the money flowing in from 4 million members. It’s “Forever, for everyone” that hooks them, and until recently the Trust has delivered. As Sir Simon recalled more recently: “When in 2011 the coalition government caved in to developer lobbyists and began to dismantle rural planning” the Trust “pivoted to militant mode.” Their stance has been not far short of heroic. So it was all the more shocking when late last year they did a screeching Top Gear u-turn at our national icon. It was like finding Sir David Attenborough is a Russian spy. Wow!

So the Stonehenge WHS isn’t as well protected as everyone thought. Yes it’s full of scheduled monuments, yes it’s covered by a UNESCO declaration but no, it’s not protected from sudden winds of change – especially if two come along at once (in this case, a perceived electoral advantage corresponding with a key guardian having a temporary brainstorm). So do we need something more robust? I noticed that in America they have something which might fit the bill. Here’s an example -

forever wild

That land is designated “forever wild” under Article 14 of the New York state constitution so it’s status can only be changed by amending that constitution. Imagine if Stonehenge had been in New York State and covered by a “Forever Sacrosanct” statute? Right now it would be – well, sacrosanct – unless and until lots of complex procedures and votes said otherwise. Trouble is, it’s in Wiltshire and a lapse by it’s key guardian and a fag packet electoral strategy plan has done for it in a jiffy. Sacrosanct, nah. Sacrificed, yes.

Not that Britain is devoid of “robust protection”, we invented it. Just last week the Conservators of Malvern Hills have said no to a cable car as they are forbidden to say yes by at least 5 statutory provisions including the Malvern Hills Acts of 1884, 1924, 1930 and 1995! (So no question up there of “but we’d get votes out of it” and “Oh go on then!”) Not that statutes are the only techniques – the Americans also have things called “forever wild deed restrictions” which owners can impose on their land. Presumably the Trust could place  a “Forever Sacrosanct deed restriction” on their land all round Stonehenge. It might not hold the line against a compulsory purchase order but it would at least show they are staunch defenders of what they hold in trust forever, for everyone, not unreliable ones. Incidentally, at Malvern the vote was 21-0 against the proposed development with one abstention. What were the voting figures at the Trust? You don’t know? Why?

Dear Posterity,  For the third time in history we've been asked to allow a visitor centre to be built at the top with cable cars up the slopes but we refused. This has been our gift to you. Enjoy. The Malvern Hills Conservators, 2015.

Dear Posterity,
We’ve been asked to allow cable cars to be built on the slopes and a visitor centre at the top but we refused as we’re not allowed to say yes and we have a duty to “keep the hills open, unenclosed and unbuilt on“. This has been our gift to you. Enjoy.
The Malvern Hills Conservators, 2015.

Before we add to our criticism of the National Trust’s recent stance at Stonehenge it’s only fair we pay tribute to how they acted until recently. This excellent piece by their chairman in The Guardian last Autumn  says it all:


“When in 2011 the coalition government caved in to developer lobbyists and began to dismantle rural planning, a body that had minded its business displaying old houses and gardens pivoted to militant mode. It recalled its founding by Octavia Hill not to preserve the homes of aristocrats but to protect beautiful landscapes for poor city dwellers.

I was amazed at the gullibility of politicians to the spurious claim that recovery from recession lay in building executive homes in meadows, not in renewing Britain’s exhausted town and city centres. Even where there might be a case for more rural building, Eric Pickles, the local government secretary, decided to let the market rip, be it for houses, warehouses, turbines or hypermarkets. Every county in Britain seemed under siege.

The result was not growth but war. My miserable duty was to be driven by planners round derelict urban acres, where factories, schools and shops were emptying while costly infrastructure was built by taxpayers in the surrounding country. David Cameron claimed this was sustainable. It was dumb.”


West Shopshie fom Tittestone Clee

The Government’s policy of an ubiquitous “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, defined merely as profitable, is the most philistine concept in planning history” [Simon Jenkins, Our Glorious Land in Peril, September 2013]

Bravo!

We forgot to add this to the previous update!

Jan 29, 2015

Thank you for your e-mail. My last update on this project had been in November last year, when the archaeological contractor had confirmed that the reinstatement had been completed but final photos were needed. I hadn’t heard anything since and as I was in the area yesterday I visited the site to see how the reinstated bank now looks. I can report that it is in good condition with a thin covering of grass. It is currently fenced off to protect it until the grass is well established.

I am awaiting an update on the publication and will contact you with details once I know more. If you have any further questions please do contact me.

Kind Regards

Mel Barge (Ms) | Inspector of Ancient Monuments

Interpol plus

Rescue said it rather well:

“Whilst this might represent a tasty windfall for the finder and the landowner, for the rest of us – the other 60 million plus inhabitants of the British Isles – it represents nothing but yet another lost opportunity to add to the knowledge we have about the Saxon period ….Unfortunately these hoards are rare, so there might never be another one and we might never be able to answer the many questions surrounding them. But you won’t read about that in the papers.”

But actually, the papers DO contain some thought-provoking quotes if you look, like the Head of PAS saying their £1.3 million funding is too low (“I’m not sure whether we’re going to be able to renew the contracts for nine of the 32 posts that we’ve got in the scheme from the 1 April”) and Ed Vaizey not addressing that but instead praising “the finders and landowners who have graciously waived their right to a reward” while failing to mention that the vast majority don’t and we pay them far more than PAS gets.

But the best quote is from the BBC for it says the payout just from the Lenborough Hoard “could be £1.3 million” – which is the same as PAS’s allowance for a whole year! (Despite the fact it was hoiked out far too fast due to pressure from people who couldn’t control themselves or be bothered to arrange for it to be guarded overnight!. Selungnorami.)

No Way 4

Compare and contrast the people who didn’t call Atif with the sort of people that are going to THIS today! (No mention or praise or reward for them then Ed!)

So it’s all there in the papers, just under the spin: Britain IS utterly bonkers. And no, our portable antiquities system is not “internationally admired” as has been trumpeted this week (who feeds Ed Vaizey these lines?). Not enough for any country, anywhere, ever to have adopted it anyway! How come? The things you’re liable to read in the papers, they ain’t necessarily so and sometimes they’re utter foutaise as my French archaeologist friend says. (Look it up, it’s rude!)

Update 17 Feb 2015
Meanwhile, look what happens when a finder isn’t selfish and self-serving. See HERE

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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