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Four eminent legal scholars have concluded that nothing gives U.S. presidents the authority to abolish, shrink or otherwise weaken national monuments. Sixteen presidents have designated 157 monuments and no president has ever tried to revoke a monument designation.

However, President Trump is determined to rescind or at least shrink monument status on 27 such sites (including the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah).


President Trump displays an executive order reviewing previous national monument designations made under the Antiquities Act at a signing ceremony on April 26.

It can be confidently assumed that over in Britain the leaders of English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust are privately dismayed. How then can they justify the fact they are actively lobbying for the shrinking of the protection and sacrosanct status given to the World Heritage Site at Stonehenge?


We’re proud to have been highlighting heritage issues for over fourteen years so we were interested to see that a special international meeting to discuss research and global policy focusing on the communication of World Heritage values is to be held (7-8 October, Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site). The event will be immediately followed (9-10th October) by the third annual conference of World Heritage UK, where practitioners will join to explore the many ways to communicate World Heritage to different audiences.

The Stonehenge World Heritage Site has straddled 3.5 miles of the A303 for 30 years and the only attempt to communicate the outstanding features of the landscape to the occupants of in excess of 8 million vehicles a year which pass through it, were tiny entrance sign at either end, signs that were unreadably filthy until replacement this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the WHS.

“Communication” is not a term that Historic England , the National Trust and the English Heritage Trust are famous for. Perhaps they will attend the conference and learn about “focusing on the communication of World Heritage values”.

It will be hard to do both: continuing to allow fox hunting on its land while marketing this ….


Watch this space in the next few weeks.

(Maybe they’ll re-think their support for damaging the Stonehenge landscape at the same time?)

Despite remaining unswerving in its support for major damage to the Stonehenge landscape The Trust has been given a golden opportunity to partly mend its conservation credentials. It arises from this news item:

“Pro-fox hunting campaigners are plotting to use a predicted Conservative landslide at the general election to repeal a 2004 ban of the blood sport, according to a report. Tory Lord Mancroft, chairman of the Council of Hunting Associations, described the 8 June vote as “the chance we have been waiting for” to overturn the ban, according to an email seen by the Daily Mirror.”

If ever there was a moment for The Trust to announce it is going to ban fox hunting of any sort on its land it’s now!



….of which Thomas Hardy wrote in 1881:

“To the south, in the direction of the young shepherd’s idle gaze, there rose one conspicuous object above the uniform moonlit plateau, and only one. It was a Druidical trilithon, consisting of three oblong stones in the form of a doorway, two on end, and one across as a lintel. Each stone had been worn, scratched, washed, nibbled, split, and otherwise attacked by ten thousand different weathers; but now the blocks looked shapely and little the worse for wear, so beautifully were they silvered over by the light of the moon.”

[ Clue: it appeared in the Heritage Journal in 2005. ]

***************   Image by Jane Tomlinson, Heritage Action

Whitehall’s spending watchdog has suggested that sixteen upgrades to England’s busiest roads could be scrapped because they do not represent value for money. See details here. Great news for Stonehenge World Heritage Site, so long as value for money is given its proper meaning…….

Is it value for money to spend £1.3 billion of taxpayer’s money on a tunnel that would cause almost incalculable  damage to a World Heritage site?

Is it value for money to spend £1.3 billion of taxpayer’s money to remove the public’s favourite free view of Stonehenge?

Is it value for money to spend £1.3 billion of taxpayer’s money on a road scheme that doesn’t include spending a single penny on direct traffic calming in the local villages?

Is it value for money to spend £1.3 billion of taxpayer’s money to grant the National Trust’s wish for a theme park walk? 

If those questions are properly asked then there’s no way spending £1.3 billion can be justified. What’s more, if the tunnel scheme is cancelled there will be no negative impact whatsoever on the cultural value of the World Heritage Site. Only a false, illusory, let’s-pretend vision will shatter. As indeed it should.

The official message of the British archaeological establishment is that artefact hunting is under control through the outreach of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is mitigating information loss by preservation by record. A decade ago, HA set out to test the validity of that claim. How many noteworthy objects are removed from the archaeological record by artefact hunters without any record of them reaching the public domain? It is strange that nobody else at that time was asking this fundamental question. The counter (currently accessible at: ticks over to suggest how rapidly the archaeological record is being eroded of recordable artefacts by collectors. The figures stand at just under six million artefacts removed since the start of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (of which the PAS has recorded just over 20%), with the overall total since the nominal beginning of the hobby of metal detecting in 1975 just under 13 million.

Seven years after the HAAEC went online, and undoubtedly inspired by Heritage Action’s pioneering attempt, the British Museum published a slim publication ‘Portable Antiquities Scheme: A Guide for Researchers’ which rather belatedly addresses the same problem. While the presentation (pages 13 and 14) is very confused, the results of the British Museum’s own estimates suggest that just over 30% of the artefacts removed from the archaeological record for personal entertainment and profit in England and Wales to feed a growing number of ephemeral private artefact collections are recorded in the PAS database.  The rest have disappeared without trace. What kind of mitigation is that?








They’re doing it for the great great grandchildren of the Shropshire councillors and they need all the help they can get. Everyone knows they won’t get any from Shropshire Council which is hell bent on allowing private developers to build a housing estate in the setting but they’re entitled to feel let down that English Heritage (whose great great grandchildren they’re also fighting for!) didn’t step up to the plate, given it’s claim that it is “inspired by a determination to put England’s heritage ahead of private interest“.

The same applies at Stonehenge where (you might feel) English Heritage ought to be standing shoulder to shoulder with the protestors, for the sake of its great great grandchildren, not supporting massive new damage to the landscape and painting it as bequeathing conservation to the future.


May 2017
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