ISSN 1357-4442Editor: Simon Denison

Issue no 35, June 1998


Archaeology days

National Archaeology Days, run under the aegis of the CBA's Young Archaeologists' Club, take place next month, on 25 and 26 July. At least 100 sites across Britain are expected to be open free of charge to families over the two days.

Events will include guided tours of a fishermen's hospital and a dissenters' graveyard in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk; excavations at Woodhall moated manor at Knottingly in West Yorkshire; and demonstrations of finds washing and metal detecting at the Roman Legionary Museum at Caerleon in South Wales. For further information, contact Juliet Mather, YAC Co-ordinator, at the CBA in York.

In education, the CBA - through the Audio Visual Media Working Party, a body set up jointly with universities - is trying to retrieve from Australia a series of 1950s archaeological TV programmes, `Buried Treasure', which were sent overseas some years ago by the BBC, and to have them transferred to video for use as teaching aids in universities. The programmes were presented by luminaries of the past such as Glyn Daniel, Stuart Piggott and Richard Atkinson, and featured prehistoric sites such as West Kennet, Carnac and Scara Brae.

Field boundaries

This summer the House of Commons Environment Sub-Committee will be holding an inquiry into the protection of field boundaries such as hedgerows, dry stone walls, ditches and dykes. In its written submission to the committee, the CBA drew attention to the inadequacy of the Hedgerows Regulations 1997, under which hedgerows receive some protection, but other forms of historic boundary such as dry stone walls and the hedgebanks of the South-West do not.

The CBA argued that it was anomalous to consider `field' boundaries alone. Boundaries are fundamental components of the landscape, but under the regulations, hedgerows are protected only on agricultural and forestry land. The CBA pointed out that historic boundaries of all types should be protected irrespective of the surrounding land-use (they should be protected equally, for instance, in towns and suburbs).

Under the present regulations, a landowner wishing to remove a hedge has to notify the local authority, and can proceed with removal unless he hears from the authority within a certain period of time. The CBA argued that boundaries would be more effectively protected if a landowner required formal consent from the authority before removing a field boundary. The CBA also urged that funds should be made available to encourage the positive management of field boundaries.

A new national forum for organisations concerned with the provision of information about Britain's historic environment will be set up this summer by the CBA. The forum will enable bodies such as NMRs and SMRs to discuss strategies for providing archaeological information, both within archaeology and to the wider public.

Public inquiries

Planning inquiries which the CBA has attended recently include those concerning Tewkesbury battlefield and Oxford's former railway station. No decision has yet been reached in either case.

At the Tewkesbury inquiry in March (see Update, BA, March), the CBA urged the planning inspector to reject an application to build new homes at the Gastons, in the centre of the field. The key issue was the status of English Heritage's advisory Battlefields Register, in which Tewkesbury is listed. According to government planning guidance, a listing in the Register should be regarded as a `material consideration' in the planning process; and the CBA argued that that should imply a presumption against any development that would have an adverse impact on the field, judged against English Heritage's criteria of authenticity, visual amenity, integrity and accessibility. The presumption should only be over-ridden by proposals fully supported by other established policies.

The CBA argued that the Register's status was being tested squarely by this case, in which conservation and development interests were directly opposed. It called for explicit guidance from the Secretary of State on the nature and strength of the `material consideration', arguing that the case showed that, treated as a simple unqualified consideration to be balanced by professional judgement and political decision, historic battlefields were too vulnerable in cases that might be determined without an inquiry.

At Oxford, the CBA opposes a recent proposal by Oxford University and the City and County Councils to demolish the city's currently disused Grade II* Victorian railway station (pictured) and re-erect it at the Quainton Railway Centre in Buckinghamshire, in order to permit road widening and redevelopment for a business school.

Only some four per cent of England's listed buildings are Grade II*, and according to government guidance, demolition of a Grade I or II* building should require `the strongest justification', which the CBA argued was not proved in this case. It was also uncertain, the CBA said, whether the under-resourced Quainton Railway Centre was capable of providing long-term care for the building, as its income was already fully committed. Moreover, the historical and archaeological importance of the building lay not only in its technology and engineering, but in its relationship with its site, and any reconstruction would produce only a sterile facsimile.

The CBA argued similarly, at an inquiry last year into a proposal to demolish and reassemble a listed timber-framed farmhouse at Hollington, Derbyshire, that the archaeological integrity of a building depended on its survival on its original site. In that case, the inspector rejected the application.

Internet Archaeology, the electronic journal run jointly by the CBA, the British Academy and a consortium of universities, has received a grant of £100,000 over three years from the UK Higher Education community to ensure its continued publication. At present the journal is available on the Internet free, but a subscription system will be phased in over the three-year period.

UPDATE is compiled by Simon Denison

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© Council for British Archaeology, 1998