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Over the last two days the Heritage Journal has responded in detail to Sir Tim Laurence’s article in the Telegraph (£) about the A303 Stonehenge tunnel scheme. As Chairman of English Heritage, Sir Tim Laurence would have ‘preferred a longer tunnel’, but the Government has decided it is ‘not affordable’ and he had this to say of the short tunnel scheme English Heritage and other heritage bodies support:

‘Will there be “considerable harm to landscape character and visual amenity” in the WHS as the Planning Inspectorate’s report into the project asserted? Here I take issue with an otherwise fair and balanced report.

It seems to me that overall there will be huge net benefits to the major part of the landscape, albeit at the expense of intrusion at either end.’


UNESCO has stated the very opposite and Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS’ Final Report on the joint advisory mission to Stonehenge in 2018 states:

‘…the construction of four-lane highways in cuttings at either end of the tunnel would adversely and irreversibly impact on the integrity, authenticity and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the WHS, particularly through disrupting the spatial and visual links between monuments, and as a result of its overall visual impact.’

There we have it – UNESCO disagrees with English Heritage, the National Trust, this Government and its chief employees at Historic England and Highways England. In short, the road should not be removed from National Trust land alone if damage is to be incurred either side within the World Heritage Site.

In persisting with support for the short tunnel English Heritage has constructed a garden path at Stonehenge for the unknowing to be led up. If the charity isn’t prepared to care for the World Heritage Site as UNESCO demands and in line with the government’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention, then perhaps it is time for Stonehenge to be no longer managed by English Heritage.

Having been approached by local veterans Robert Hardie and Ian Lawes that had formed a band, ‘Duck n Cuvver’, one might think English Heritage would have a sympathetic ear to a request to shoot a music video within the stone circle at Stonehenge.

Having performed at the National Armed Forces Day the band released the track ‘Henge of Stone’ and hoped to complete a video within the monument. The request has been approved, but only if the band cough up £4,500!

We understand you can’t let anyone and everyone have Stonehenge to play with English Heritage, but this is a huge sum for these guys to find. Let them film English Heritage – and don’t be so mean to veterans.

We note with some surprise that English Heritage have launched a £50,000 appeal for remedial work to four cannon, two 18th-Century nine-pounder guns at Etal Castle Northumberland, and World War Two anti-aircraft guns at Dover Castle in Kent and Pendennis Castle, near Falmouth.

This appeal comes on top of their existing £20million budget. English Heritage (EH) has a duty to care for the nation’s collection of historic places and artefacts, and says it needs the funding to keep up with the rate of deterioration of not only the four mentioned cannon, but also many others at risk from weather erosion.

But it occurs to us here at the Journal that, given that duty of care and the need for funds for restoration work, that EH would be better off reviewing (and cancelling) their plans for work that no-one really wants and that does not fit the duty of care criteria.

The planned ‘bridge’ at Tintagel Castle is a case in point – it certainly cannot be considered to come under the duty of care heading for the site, being something that is out of keeping with the origins of the site. Indeed the bridge (planned costs of £4million) can only be seen as an unwelcome intrusion, designed purely to increase visitor numbers with no concern for the heritage of the site in question.

…and that £4million could pay for an awful lot of cannon to be restored and protected for future generations, with no need for a special appeal.

English Heritage have some explaining to do – missing from public view for five years, the plaque marking the re-dedication of the Airman’s Cross in 1996 has been found when a garden in Salisbury was being cleared by the property’s new owner.
This story begins with Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Richard Wilson losing their lives, becoming the earliest military aviation casualties in the country when their Nieuport monoplane crashed during a training flight from Larkhill airfield near Stonehenge 5th July 1912. A year to the day later, in a ceremony attended by family and friends, the monument now known as the Airman’s Cross was unveiled near the scene of the crash. The monument was funded by the comrades of these two pioneering airmen and the staggered junction at which the Cross stood, where the A360 met the A344 and B3086, was known forever after as Airman’s Corner.
In a further ceremony on 5th July 1996, a plaque was unveiled by the Friends of the Flying Museum, Middle Wallop, re-dedicating the Airman’s Cross. For almost a complete century the focus had always been on 5th July, the day of the accident, but just days before a century could be reached English Heritage oversaw the removal of the Airman’s Cross and the associated plaque on 25th June 2012, the Royal Engineers damaging the latter on two edges in the process.

In August 2015, the Heritage Journal reported on the evolving nature of English Heritage’s care plan for the Airman’s Cross monuments.
Airman’s Corner is now a roundabout and relocated alongside the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre the Airman’s Cross has an ice cream van for company, the luridly liveried vehicle being connected to adjacent permanent wiring. The plaque marking the re-dedication 5th July 1996 was nowhere to be seen. This plaque reemphasizing the loss of the two earliest military airmen and maintaining the focus on the 5th July was replaced by a new re-dedication plaque alongside the Airman’s Cross unveiled on 1st May 2015 to ‘MARK ITS ACQUISITION BY ENGLISH HERITAGE’.
Earlier this week the Heritage Journal received an email from a Salisbury resident, the plaque last seen tucked in a corner of a contractor’s site office in September 2013 had been found when clearing his garden. We salute the public spirit of Mr. M. of Salisbury, who cared enough to drive to Middle Wallop and return the plaque to the Friends of the Flying Museum. At least the plaque is now back in the hands of those that fully appreciate its importance. It is a mystery how the plaque ended up in this man’s garden, but the bigger mystery is why we allow our Stonehenge heritage to be cared for in this fashion.
English Heritage’s license to care for our monuments comes up for renewal in 2023!

We’ve spoken many times on the Journal about the lack of sensitivity when it comes to local opinion at heritage sites – Stonehenge being the prime example. And last year we highlighted several issues at Tintagel in Cornwall where the heritage of the site seemed to be taking a back seat to the need for cash generation for English Heritage’s (EH) coffers, and to hell with the history.

Sadly, once again it seems that EH’s need for finance is over-riding any consideration for the actual history and heritage of the site at Tintagel, which was the seat for several kings of Dumnonia in the early medieval period – a fact apparently of no interest to the site’s guardians. Read the rest of this entry »

Each December, English Heritage (or Historic England as we must now call it – what about Pre-Historic England?) issue their annual Heritage Counts report.  Heritage Counts is an annual audit of England’s heritage, first produced in 2002. It is produced by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum.

There are nine regions across the country, but this year only three have decided to issue a regional report. Well done to London, the North East and the South West! This compares to the total of five regions that produced a report last year. One can’t help but wonder if this is due to the ongoing financial constraints placed upon the organisation, and the need to become self-financing. Will there be any regions reporting next year, I wonder?

Why yowling moggy? Because a series of misrepresentations (5 so far) may suggest a concerted agenda….


Last month we questioned why Historic England had invited lots of prominent archaeologists to discuss “developments in conservation” (see here). To associate them with the idea conservation has changed and driving new roads over the World Heritage Site is now valid? Perhaps, for the word was then dropped and they’ll now be talking instead about “research and the potential for further discoveries” (see here).

But it’s not just archaeologists being manoeuvered. ICOMOS has been wrongly characterised as pro-short tunnel (see here) and the public are being as well (see here). Historic England’s guidelines have been unilaterally changed to say destruction is OK if there are “important planning justifications” (see here). More recently English Heritage seems intent on misleading the public by offering free balloon flights (see here) “to get a sense of how the removal of the A303 from the landscape would transform the World Heritage Site” but not mentioning it would involve cutting massive new roads over another part of the site (the elephant in the landscape as Stonehenge Alliance calls it). We suspect doing that offends every conservation instinct of EH personnel but it’s up to them to deny it.

You may well feel 5 yowling moggies are now out of the bag, each one designed to further the Government’s wishes. Will there be more? Probably, since the plain truth is that massive new roads inside the WHS cannot be justified without further disreputable tactics by Britain’s main conservation bodies. Future historians may view this as a shameful era.


[To see the others put Yowling in the search box.]

The Government says a 1.8 mile tunnel is all they can afford at Stonehenge. Conservation bodies English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust have said that would be OK and they’ll support it, even though a mile of massive approach roads will have to be driven through the UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. Logic suggests they CANNOT be right to do so but now there’s something happening to suggest that their stance is not only wrong but foolish. Britain is talking about building an 18 mile long road tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield –  that’s ten times longer than at Stonehenge!

Pennine tunnel

Someone in the Government is telling porkies about what can be comfortably offered at Stonehenge. By the same token, supporting the short tunnel there on the basis that’s all that can be afforded is going along with – and aiding – a falsehood.

And here’s a funny thing: the latest rumour is that Brexit may mean major projects including Stonehenge are cancelled. If it happens it will put English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust in a ticklish spot. Will they express regret about it, which will be ludicrous or will they welcome it, which will indicate their existing stance is ludicrous? We’ll see. They may yet come to ruefully reflect that supporting the Government is riskier than supporting what’s right – since the former may change whereas the latter never will.

Dear English Heritage,

I hear you’re looking for a Conservation Maintenance Manager at £38,000.

I’ve been reading about your policies, particularly your support for a short tunnel at Stonehenge. I think my previous experience makes me an ideal candidate for this vacancy.

Here’s me at The Great Wall of China.

eh recruit

If I’m unsuccessful could you forward this letter to the other organisations which share your conservation standards? I’m interested in The National Trust’s current vacancy for a Project Conservator or even Historic England’s vacancy for an Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments.


Kung Fu Ken

Forget what you’ve heard, it is said that King Arthur, (the real one!), was born, lived and died in Shropshire!  There are King Arthur trails to real sites connected to stories surrounding him and one historian even believes he may have found Arthur’s actual grave in Shropshire  and wants English Heritage to investigate it.

No chance, we suspect. Inter alia, Shropshire being the “Arthurian County” would clash with EH’s promotion of a zero-evidence but money-spinning Arthurian myth at Tintagel! Dr Tehmina Goskar highlights the Tintagel issue perfectly: “Why were monumental artistic interventions chosen as a method of interpretation? Would EH countenance similar interventions at Stonehenge or at other multiple-designated sites they manage? If not, why at Tintagel?” Why indeed! And here’s a funny thing: they’ve erected a statue of Arthur at Tintagel based on a myth that he was born there, but at Oswestry Hillfort, (which is also in their guardianship) they haven’t erected a statue of Guinevere – who WAS born there!

Not that we advocate cheap tourist-trapping at Oswestry Hillfort, but we can’t help wondering …. if they had a bigger financial interest in it would they have been keener to protect its setting from housing developments? Incidentally, if they did go for brandalising at Oswestry, here’s a thought for them: being public guardians doesn’t give anyone a license to impose tat on the public’s assets.




March 2023

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