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It seems that the likelihood of a short tunnel at Stonehenge has increased now that Historic England has published guidance which legitimises major works at World Heritage sites if there are “important planning justifications“.  Such a proposition, which is little more than an assertion of central power, is likely to be frequently heard during any public consultation period. It is not a proposition that will necessarily play well beyond Britain. Will the Government be able to quietly persuade UNESCO to say a short tunnel is OK? It may not be easy, as shown by the following excerpts from two ICOMOS publications. The idea of UNESCO being “got at” is a controversial and disrespectful one, for which we apologise, but almost every word below suggests they are themselves acutely aware there’s a real risk:


It hasn’t happened so far (Lord Ahmad has revealed that Highways England’s preliminary planning for the tunnel scheme has not included any consultation with ICOMOS-UK). But UNESCO will have to be formally approached sooner or later. What if they won’t play? Well, we could defy them and let them chuck us out. Or we could withdraw on the pretext they were wasting money, like we threatened to do 5 years ago. Or we could actually withdraw, citing anti-Western bias and financial mismanagement like Margaret Thatcher did in 1985. It seems certain that one of those three consequences would have to come about. What is less certain is that UNESCO would disregard it’s own ethical safeguards and give the short tunnel (or a pragmatic compromise version of it) it’s blessing. It’s not that sort of organisation.


Addendum: Incidentally, we notice the Head of International Advice for Historic England is about to deliver a public lecture in Birmingham. The introductory text says the UK can sometimes find itself at odds with the broad consensus view about how best to manage and protect WHSs. In particular the concept of “constructive conservation” can clash with less flexible approaches to protection.”

One has to wonder whether that puzzling term “constructive conservation” is another phrase we may be hearing a lot of during the short tunnel consultation period?

Addendum 2: In addition, last month the Principle Inspector of Historic England spoke at an academic conference on “Constructive Conservation at the Heart of Place Making”. Something’s definitely up! But will UNESCO get on board?

We have nothing useful to add to the widespread indignation expressed about Channel 5’s decision to air a re-branded version of “Nazi War Diggers” tonight.

Update: it has now happened. Two excellent accounts of it are here and here. Quotes of the night from the participants, surely: “There’s black diggers over there. We’ve got to be thorah as if we leave anything they’ll ‘ave it!” and from his colleague (who sells Nazi memorabia for a living: “they want to get the artifact out of the ground, History be damned and go sell it and I have a problem with that”. Idiots indeed (and ditto the universal mindless praise coming from detecting forums. Are you watching, Mr Government?)

So instead, here’s a lighthearted January puzzle to take everyone’s mind off all self-seeking grubbers!

january puzzle 1.

(Answer next week!)

The Institute of Art and Law blog has published a review by Richard Harwood QC of the recently introduced Historic Environment (Wales) Bill. Two matters struck us as particularly significant:

1. In the case of damage to a monument the bill proposes that any defence should require due diligence to be demonstrated, not just lack of knowledge. 2. A remark by Mr Harwood: “Perhaps the most significant amendment that could be added to the Bill is to introduce a statutory duty to have special regard to the desirability of protecting scheduled monuments and their settings, to match the greater protection already given to listed buildings.

We can’t help reflecting that such provisions would have great benefits on both sides of Offa’s Dyke. In fact, the Journal would have a lot less to write about!

Dear Santa,


.       All I want for Christmas is a neolithic flint sickle from Ramsgate!


.              Season’s Greetings to all our contributors and readers!



We didn’t quite believe it when we first heard it, but we’ve found a video of it. Look what happened at this years soltice gathering:


The shock isn’t the one person dancing on top but the thousands cheering him. They clearly aren’t druids or pagans or megaraks or archaeologists or EH staff or anyone that gives a damn about Stonehenge, they’re just there for a laugh. That would be OK if the number allowed into the circle was just at the level that allowed EH to exercise some control to prevent not just that sort of incident but also other things that happened this year – chalk, candle wax and resin on the stones and excrement near them.

Next year solstice will be at a weekend so numbers will be higher still so here’s an idea. Why not cancel all those “Round Table” sessions and let all who care for Stonehenge (Druids, pagans, megaraks, archaeologists and EH staff) have a single meeting to decide the reduced number of people inside the stones they will all co-operate to bring about next June? That would certainly deliver increased protection to the stones, an enhancement to the reputation of genuine druids and pagans and a boost to EH’s international image as an efficient guardian of a world heritage site. It’s pretty simple, if you oppose “restricted access” you are putting the welfare of Stonehenge second. Who can deny that’s true?

The Long Barrow at All Cannings is a columbarium or place for cremated remains in urns to be kept. It is being built in 2014 in the style of a traditional long barrow in natural materials, but made relevant for today in its internal layout. It is aligned to the sunrise of the winter solstice when the sun will illuminate the internal stone passageway.

The long barrow is for anyone. It is for those of any religion or none. The field it is in is being restored to native chalk grassland and will be kept as natural as possible for visitors to enjoy its beauty and solitude.

All Cannings.

See more here.

It’s nearly a week since we pointed it out but Regtons, Britain’s largest metal detecting shop, is STILL advertising a range of sophisticated night vision gadgets and describing them as “metal detecting accessories”.

Are you happy about that? Are you convinced that legitimate metal detectorists need such things? If not, you might care to ask anyone who knocks on your door this weekend asking for detecting permission if they’ve contacted Regtons to protest.

You could ask them to leave a comment here on The Heritage Journal confirming that they have. (So far, out of 8,000 metal detectorists, not one has – although some have left messages abusing us.)



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


NOTE: Established 2500 BCE !

NOTE: Established 2500 BCE !

Saturday 26th July:

Chipping Norton Amateur Archaeology Group presents Exploring the astronomy of special places.

—1.00pm Tours of the Stones and Dowsing (led by members of The Rollright Trust)
1.30—4.00pm Talks about astronomy, folklore & ancient sites (Venue: Long Compton Village Hall SP2885 3230)
1.30pm Introduction
1.40pm A Story Walk through the Heavens, Lizzie Bryant. (Professional storyteller)
2.20pm Archaeo-astronomy: finding out how and why heavenly bodies mattered at the Rollright Stones and other special places, Professor Clive Ruggles (Leicester University, expert archaeo-astronomer)
3.00pm, Astronomy: discovering special places in the heavens, Dr Chris Lintott [TBC], (Oxford University, presenter of BBC’s Sky at Night)
3.40pm Questions
4.30—6.00pm Demonstration: Site surveys for astronomical alignments (led by Clive Ruggles Venue: The Rollright Stones)
All Day Demonstration: Telescopes and other astronomical equipment (led by members of CNAAG Venue: The Rollright Stones)



The above is what someone has just done to Lia Fáil, “The Stone of Destiny” which stands on top of the Hill of Tara.

Mr Jimmy Deenihan, Ireland’s Arts and Heritage Minister, has made all the right noises on behalf of his Government: “This act of mindless vandalism, on one of our premier archaeological sites, is truly shameful …. The national monuments at Tara, which include this standing stone, form part of our national heritage and history.

But you can’t help reflecting that the Irish Government hasn’t always treated Tara with such reverence. Not long ago there was a little matter of them driving the massive M3 Motorway past it! And remember this …

The trail of the M3 works, from Rath Lugh back to Lismullin - The huge Iron Age enclosure was recorded and then, incredibly, destroyed.

The trail of the M3 works, from Rath Lugh back to Lismullin – The huge Iron Age enclosure was recorded and then, incredibly, destroyed.

(See also the previous Journal article by our colleague Gordon Kingston – Tara, the damage forever done)

Could it be that Governments (on both sides of the Irish Sea) are a bit selective about which bits of heritage they cry about? Culture Minister Jimmy Deenihan certainly seems to be. In 2012 he led a Government deputation to Europe arguing for the interests of turfcutters rather than heritage on a protected bog, saying: “My sympathies are first and foremost with the turfcutters, including members of my own extended family on Moanveanlagh. Part of me wishes that the portfolio had been kept to arts, sports and tourism, but that wasn’t the case and I have to accept responsibility on behalf of the Irish State on this issue.


It’s not the first time that the Lia Fáil has been vandalised. Two years ago someone attacked it with a hammer and took pieces away. There were plenty of official noises about that too but the best and crucially most sincere commentary on it appeared in The Herald. It’s not clear who wrote it but the level of sincerity and passion suggests it wasn’t anyone from the Irish Government. (Or the British one – can you imagine the Environment Minister and MP for Oswestry, Owen Patterson, speaking with such passion about the vandalising of the setting of his local hill fort?!)

“The stone carried writing from a time we can barely imagine. A time when Ireland was filled with mystery and myth. It caused visitors to realise just how small they are, in the long, long story of this island.

Until someone took a lump hammer to it. Some anonymous vandal struck the monument at least eleven times. Oh, the power that vandal must have felt, destroying history with each blow. And the secret power the vandal may still feel, clutching some of the pieces chipped off the stone. Souvenirs to be boasted of with drinking buddies, or maybe just savoured in private to prove how heroic the vandal is, in his own eyes.

For many, this was a “whatever” moment, rather than a shock-and-awe issue. And now, some expert will assess what can be done and the majority will forget about it, because we have more immediate fish to fry. We’ve lost monuments before and their loss hasn’t done us enormous harm. But …. Ireland’s story is told in song, in story — and in stone. That some fool with a lump hammer destroyed one of the great stone chapters in our history is stupid, shameful — and sad.”

Great stuff, eh? (Mr Patterson’s equivalent is: “Like my predecessor I have a strict rule about not getting involved in planning in my constituency. I am a supporter of localism and the local plan. I am very keen that local people have a say in planning in their area and have never tried to second guess the decisions of councillors.”)


May 2016
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