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Lord Avebury at Silbury

As we all know the late Eric Avebury was a true friend to Avebury and Silbury Hill. He regularly visited and some lovely photographs will be found online of Eric and his family enjoying visiting the monuments his grandfather helped save. This conservational trend was certainly extended by Eric, who in 2004 successfully appealed against the government designating Silbury Hill as ‘Open Access’ under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000. It was that same year of course, 29 May 2000, that Silbury Hill suffered a catastrophic collapse, and Eric took a detailed interest in plans and repairs that were finally completed in 2008.

Eric is pictured here in October 2003, visiting Avebury with (on his left), the Ven. Khemadhammo Mahathera OBE, Abbot of The Forest Hermitage and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Angulimala, and two other monks.

Eric is pictured here in October 2003, visiting Avebury with (on his left), the Ven. Khemadhammo Mahathera OBE, Abbot of The Forest Hermitage and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Angulimala, and two other monks.


RIP Eric. Our sincere sympathy to the family.

It was with  very heavy hearts that we heard the news yesterday of Mick Aston’s passing.

Mick Aston

No doubt there will be many worthy obituaries over the coming days, as befits a man who inspired so many. But mere words cannot do justice to his work. In reaching out to millions of viewers on Time Team, he has left a very tangible legacy for generations of landscape archaeologists. Rest well Professor, our thoughts are with your family and friends at this difficult time..

Hugh Denis Charles FitzRoy, the 11th Duke of Grafton, who died aged 92 on 7 April, devoted most of his working life to saving the architectural heritage of Britain.

“An eloquent champion of conservation, he lectured all over the world and sat on a breathtaking array of architectural and amenity bodies. He was chairman and later president of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and also chaired at various times the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, the Architectural Heritage Fund, the Church of England’s Cathedral Advisory Commission and Sir John Soane’s Museum.”

More here –

By Moss, Heritage Action.

Isobel Smith: Archaeologist (22 December 1912-18 November 2005).

Google her full name with the word “archaeology” and you will not find too many entries. Isobel Smith, who has died aged 92, would have giggled delightedly, but her contribution to archaeology will one day be recognised. She linked archaeologists of the early 20th century working at the world heritage site at Avebury, in Wiltshire, with those of today – salvaging her predecessors’ work and inspiring her successors. Thus our understanding of one of Europe’s two great stone circles is assured; the last century was less kind to Stonehenge.

Guardian obituary by Mike Pitts. 17th January 2006.

Though today we are more aware of woman archaeologists working in this science, through the medium of television and radio, but it was not always so.  As a profession,  archaeology has been mostly male dominated  from the 18th century onward, and it was not until the latter half of the 20th century that we begin to see the emergence of women archaeologists on a more equal footing!

Isabel Smith had a long life, born in Canada she became a British citizen in 1953, after doing a part-time diploma course in archaeology and a PhD under the supervision of Vere Gordon Childe, she was offered the job of writing up Alexander Keiller’s extensive notes on Windmill Hill, which was published in 1965 – the book was called  Windmill Hill and Avebury: excavations by Alexander Keiller, 1925-1939, now of course out of print.  It seems that after all this hard work she was rewarded with a permanent position with the Royal Commision on the Historical Monuments of England, and she stayed there until her retirement in 1978.

She lived in a small cottage in Avebury  after her retirement, and it is here that we must bring her back to our future, for she was very protective of  Avebury and its surrounding environment championing three causes which were set up to defend the intrusion of inappropiate development in the Avebury area.  The first was the building of a ‘themed’ hotel near to the Sanctuary circle in place of a transport cafe. The second, another large hotel to be built and replace West Kennet Farm (under which is a Neolithic monument) and the third cause was to join the opposition to the ‘Elizabethan themed park’ at Avebury Manor.  We need her again  today to champion the cause of yet another ‘development’ in Avebury by the National Trust.  There are rumoured plans afoot to turn a building in the High Street into ‘tearooms’ or at least an establishment serving food.                  

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Many tributes have been paid to Lord Kennet (Wayland Young) who recently died. His influence extended far beyond the core issues of his parliamentary and ministerial roles to many conservation areas including chairmanship of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, campaigning for listed buildings including St Pancras station, supporting the Redundant Churches Fund and patron of Action for the River Kennet.

He was also passionately concerned for the welfare of both Avebury and Stonehenge. He was a chairman of the Avebury Society and a staunch opponent of inappropriate development both there and at other World Heritage sites. In addition he was first chairman and patron of the Stonehenge Alliance and was for many years at the forefront of defending our national icon from a succession of schemes that would have disfigured it forever.

The day after he died it was announced that a new visitors centre for Stonehenge was to be constructed, well away from the stones. The fact that massive new highways will not be driven across the World Heritage landscape is due in no small part to his ceaseless opposition to such plans. He said of them that they were “…barbaric… No other country in the world would contemplate treating a site which is a world icon in such a way.” Now, they are abandoned, hopefully forever. It was a close call however and in the modern fashion his passing should be greeted with respectful applause.


June 2023

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