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Moral Maze
Detectorists are getting upset about contaminated green waste being spread on fields. Quite rightly, if it’s a danger to food (although their interest is also to do with the fact it makes detecting impossible!). It seems they’ve got themselves into a moral muddle though. They’re putting in a Freedom of Information request to find which farms have taken the worst waste but on the other hand they’re all desperate not to specify any such farms they know about in case the farmer withdraws their permission to detect! What to do? Tell the authorities they’ve seen a threat to public health or keep quiet so they can carry on artefact hunting? Don’t hold your breath waiting to see which.

They do sometimes say hilarious stuff though….. “On the way home tonight spotted fields next to A303 in Amesbury getting the stuff delivered. If not stopped our hobby is doomed….”  Next to the A303 in Amesbury eh? So that’ll be in the Stonehenge World Heritage site or right next to it then. Perfect detecting territory then…..


Museum vandalism
Apparently, mindless vandals have smashed up the garden of Wiltshire’s Richard Jefferies museum. You might wonder why. Ironically, Jefferies himself gave an explanation long ago that seems to fit nowadays:

“Never was the distinction so sharp between the poor—the sullen poor who stand scornful and desperate at the street corners—and the well-to-do ….. It is not confined to the millionaire….. Those who only see the drawing-room side of society, those who move, too, in the well-oiled atmosphere of commercial offices, are quite ignorant of the savage animosity which watches them to and fro the office or the drawing-room from the street corner….. How easy it is to point to the sobriety and the good sense of the working class and smile in assumed complacency! What have the sober mass of the working class to do with it? No more than you or I, or the Rothschilds, or dukes of blood royal. There the thing is, and it requires no great sagacity to see that the present mode of dealing with it is a failure and likely to be worse. If you have gunpowder, you should not put it under hydraulic pressure. You should not stir it up and hold matches to it to see if it is there.”


Big AND clever!
Jug juggling! See here.


[For more Cheers & Boos, type Cheers in the search box]


As previously reported, a project is underway at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Cornwall, to reconstruct a Bronze Age log boat. The remains of three Bronze Age ships were discovered at North Ferriby on the Humber foreshore between 1937 and 1963, and design of these are being used to devise the current boat, which could be as much as 50+ feet long when completed.


The construction, which is still in it’s early stages, can be viewed by visitors to the museum. Currently, two large (3 ton) English Oak trunks are being sculpted, using nothing more than bronze axes, to form the keel of the boat. Sculpted, because the design requires various ‘blocks’ to remain attached within the body of the boat.


The block of wood on which they’re standing above, will be only 4 inches thick when completed Once the keel’s two halves are completed, a further large tree (8 tons of wood!) will be used to form the planking for the sides of the boat. The whole will be secured with flexible yew stems, and caulked with other vegetation.

Of the 14 tons total of wood, it is estimated that around 9 tons will be waste – though in the Bronze Age such a term would not be used. The chippings and off cuts would be used as fuel for fires, and possibly for insulation or packing.

As part of the exhibition about Bronze Age seafarers, the master copy of the Nebra Disk is also on show, the connection being that it is thought that panned gold, from Carnon Downs near to Falmouth, was used in it’s construction along with Cornish Tin.


The exhibit, which through until September, is well worth a visit, if only to provide some encouragement to the volunteers doing all the hard labour!

The scale and pace of destruction today is so great that the need to recover and record archaeological information is more urgent than ever before. Unless we act now our archaeological past will never be understood. RESCUE,  the British Archaeological Trust, is a registered charity and an independent organisation committed to the protection, conservation, recording and interpretation of archaeological evidence – often the only evidence – of ALL our pasts.

One of the ways in which RESCUE campaigns to save this heritage is to assist those who wish to protest against funding cuts. With an unprecedented level of threat to local authority museum and archaeological services currently being felt up and down the country, there has never been a greater need for clear guidelines, assisting those campaigning to protect and preserve local and regional heritage services.

It is with this in mind that RESCUE have published Fighting Back – a document that provides some suggestions as to how to campaign to save museums, archaeological services and the historic environment. It includes lists of contacts, template letters and other information vital to everyone wishing to register their objections to local authority and government cuts which affect our heritage. RESCUE asks people to feel free to download and use the guidelines, and distribute them further to those who require it:  Fighting Back Notes on Campaigning against cuts to heritage

Heritage Action is proud to hold Affiliated Society membership status of RESCUE. If you’ve not already joined RESCUE,  we can only ask ‘why not’?

In contrast to Wiltshire Council’s refusal to extend support for the Wiltshire Heritage Museum by  a modest £25,000 a year (a five thousandth of the Council’s budget) on the grounds it got the impression that “nobody was saying put more money into museums” the museum has been given a huge national vote of confidence from elsewhere in the form of a £370,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It will pay for a new Prehistoric gallery that will enable Wiltshire’s unique gold and amber finds dating back to the Bronze Age to be displayed for the first time in generations. The new facilities will form part of an integrated “Stonehenge Museums Partnership” (along with the English Heritage Visitors Centre and the Salisbury Museum) “to tell the story of the people who built and used the world renowned monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury” – and of course to bring huge amounts of tourist pounds and dollars to the County.

Keep in mind the grant is for new galleries not annual running costs. The future of the museum still remains uncertain as a result of Wiltshire Council’s budgetary choices. If you’d like to point out to them their decision has just been made to look massively inappropriate as well as economically foolish you can contact Councillor Alan Macrae, portfolio holder for Libraries, Heritage and Culture via and Jane Scott, leader of the Council via

As we reported recently, Wiltshire Council have refused to increase their support for the museum by £25,000 a year on the grounds that “nobody was saying put more money into museums, they were all saying take money out of museums to keep other things open

However, we think we’ve found a solution in the council’s Business Plan 2011/2015 in which the Council says “We want people to have a real say on decisions that affect them and their communities“. That’s good, as it seems clear that what has happened is that the Council has accidentally failed to give the public a “real say” because it has failed to explain the true implications of failing to support the Museum. We doubt the public wishes to see the Museum actually put at risk yet the Council is acting as if they do! So that leaves a simple way to settle the matter. The Council should ask the public (on their website, straight away) the specific question:

Do you wish to prejudice the future of Wiltshire’s world-famous Heritage Museum for want of £25,000 a year that we the council have deduced that you the public doesn’t want us to provide Yes/No ?

Watch this space.

[To support this suggestion you can contact Councillor Alan Macrae, portfolio holder for Libraries, Heritage and Culture here and Jane Scott, leader of the Council here]

Councillor Alan Macrae, portfolio holder for Libraries, Heritage and Culture, recently commented:
It was interesting to see the recent road shows regarding public money in the run-up to our budget, nobody was saying put more money into museums, they were all saying take money out of museums to keep other things open, to fix roads, to keep children’s centres open and so on. “I would love to support them but I regret that it’s impossible at this time to meet any requests for an increase.

Come off it Councillor, it’s not about a public clamour for Wiltshire Heritage Museum to go to the wall, it’s about choices the Council has made – and could easily reconsider. For instance, we see you were jolly pleased to boast that the new budget had introduced free swimming for young people during school holidays. Hurrah! But come on Councillor, a couple of quid per child per week through the summer would break no parental bank and if transferred to the museum account would provide the support that the jewel of Wiltshire’s heritage needs to keep going – without affecting the Council’s budget one iota.

So how about it Councillor Macrae? Your Council leader Jane Scott said: “Our priority at Wiltshire Council has always been to deliver what’s best for the people of Wiltshire“. What could be better for the people of Wiltshire than ensuring it’s children are culturally aware as well as good swimmers? And all at zero cost to the Budget!

Anyone who would like to politely put this or similar points to Councillor MacRae can contact him here

Rescue, the British Archaeological Trust (same instincts as us but from the viewpoint of professional archaeologists) has been charting the decimation of the heritage sector through funding cuts for the past several years (see their map of the latest ones here).

Now they have published Fighting Back , some tips on how to campaign to save museums, archaeological services and the historic environment. As they say –
“These notes are intended to provide some guidance in campaigns to protect and preserve local and regional archaeological services, museums and heritage services from cuts which will damage the service they deliver to the profession, to academia and to the public at large. They are based on the experience of members of the committee of RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust and on advice we have received from other campaigners.”

Anyone thinking of applying some of the advice they offer could do worse than start by using it on Wiltshire County Council regarding the Wiltshire Heritage Museum!

Recent calls by the Wiltshire Heritage Museum for a funding increase of £60,000  seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Despite currently giving only £35,500 per year (obliging the museum to be run on a shoestring despite its national importance) the Wiltshire Council has just refused any increase.

As if to rub salt into the wound, “Nobody is losing out”  soothes Council leader Jane Scott speaking of the austerity programme. “We’re becoming more efficient by taking waste and bureaucracy out of the system.”

We beg to differ. Everyone loses out if the Museum isn’t supported. Archaeology is Wiltshire’s greatest asset and attracts countless millions of visitors and tourist pounds. The Museum contains the best Bronze Age archaeology collection in Britain. Plans are in hand for new lottery-funded galleries at the Museum to house some of its iconic items from Stonehenge and elsewhere and for that development to be run in co-ordination with the new English Heritage Stonehenge Visitor Centre and new galleries planned by Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. The pivotal importance of the Museum in terms of bringing massive future tourism benefits to Devizes, Wiltshire and Britain is clear for all to see.

And yet….having just agreed a budget of £330m for the coming year Wiltshire Council is refusing to allocate less than a five thousandth of it to ensure the financial viability of the museum !

Cultural institutions are being closed or squeezed all over the country but this is surely the most egregious example – and is in the last place one might expect. Archaeologists protested bitterly about the cultural philistinism and short-sightedness recently displayed by the Fenland District Council. Let’s hope they make even more fuss over this – and force a re-think.

Part of an Iron Age clay wall from Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Archaeologists in Saxony-Anhalt have discovered a 2,600-year-old wall painted in bright patterns. It reveals that Iron Age houses were not the drab constructions they were once thought to be. The State Museum for Prehistory in the eastern German city of Halle put part of the prehistoric clay wall on display on Monday. The wall was apparently part of a sprawling, Iron Age human settlement. “We know now that prehistoric times were not grey but rather that prehistoric houses were colourfully painted,” Saxony-Anhalt state archaeologist, Harald Meller, said. It was the greatest Iron Age wall painting discovered north of the Alps, he said.

The dominant colours are red, beige and white. For pigments, the prehistoric painters used substances such as iron oxide, which gives the reddish, ochre colour. The design shows typical ornamental patterns from the Iron Age such as triangles and S-shaped hooks, but also symbolic characters.

Full article here.

After sporadic vandalism to its buildings, and on-going fears that the Richard Jefferies Museum might be forced to close its doors, the Swindon Advertiser now reports that –
The birthplace and home of nature writer, Richard Jefferies will be open to the public every Sunday from the beginning of May to the end of September from 2-5pm as well as the second Wednesday of the month from 10am-4pm thanks to volunteers from the Richard Jefferies Society. This is the first year that the Museum will be open every Sunday and there is no admission charge.
One of the reconstructed rooms at the Richard Jefferies Museum
The boy on the bed is a mannequin, and is perhaps based on Jefferies’ most well-known book, Bevis
Image credit and © Littlestone

Moving up the sweet short turf, at every step my heart seemed to obtain a wider horizon of feeling; with every inhalation of rich pure air, a deeper desire. The very light of the sun was whiter and more brilliant here. By the time I had reached the summit I had entirely forgotten the petty circumstances and the annoyances of existence. I felt myself, myself. There was an intrenchment on the summit, and going down into the fosse I walked round it slowly to recover breath. On the south-western side there was a spot where the outer bank had partially slipped, leaving a gap. There the view was over a broad plain, beautiful with wheat, and inclosed by a perfect amphitheatre of green hills. Through these hills there was one narrow groove, or pass, southwards, where the white clouds seemed to close in the horizon. Woods hid the scattered hamlets and farmhouses, so that I was quite alone.
 I was utterly alone with the sun and the earth. Lying down on the grass, I spoke in my soul to the earth, the sun, the air, and the distant sea far beyond sight. I thought of the earth’s firmness–I felt it bear me up; through the grassy couch there came an influence as if I could feel the great earth speaking to me. I thought of the wandering air–its pureness, which is its beauty; the air touched me and gave me something of itself. I spoke to the sea: though so far, in my mind I saw it, green at the rim of the earth and blue in deeper ocean; I desired to have its strength, its mystery and glory. Then I addressed the sun, desiring the soul equivalent of his light and brilliance, his endurance and unwearied race. I turned to the blue heaven over, gazing into its depth, inhaling its exquisite colour and sweetness. The rich blue of the unattainable flower of the sky drew my soul towards it, and there it rested, for pure colour is rest of heart. By all these I prayed; I felt an emotion of the soul beyond all definition; prayer is a puny thing to it, and the word is a rude sign to the feeling, but I know no other.
 By the blue heaven, by the rolling sun bursting through untrodden space, a new ocean of ether every day unveiled. By the fresh and wandering air encompassing the world; by the sea sounding on the shore–the green sea white-flecked at the margin and the deep ocean; by the strong earth under me. Then, returning, I prayed by the sweet thyme, whose little flowers I touched with my hand; by the slender grass; by the crumble of dry chalky earth I took up and let fall through my fingers. Touching the crumble of earth, the blade of grass, the thyme flower, breathing the earth-encircling air, thinking of the sea and the sky, holding out my hand for the sunbeams to touch it, prone on the sward in token of deep reverence, thus I prayed that I might touch to the unutterable existence infinitely higher than deity.
From The Story of my Heart by Richard Jefferies.
More information can be found on the Richard Jefferies Society website  or by phoning the Secretary on 01793 783040.


May 2023

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