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Cover of British Archaeology issue 59

Issue 59

June 2001



Quarries threat to archaeological landscapes

Digging down through rubbish to reach the 'best-preserved Victorian ironworks in Wales'

Prestige feasting 'dates back to hunter-gatherer era'

Unique Roman town indentified in hinterland of Hadrian's Wall

Bronze Age village found with buried megalith

In Brief


The edible dead
Cannibalsim as a universal human practice, by Tim Taylor

The glory that was York
Cosmopolitan York in the 8th century, by Dominic Tweddle

Town of tin
A 20th centruy town that has now disappeared, by Bill Bevan

Great Sites
Balladoole, by Mark Redknap


Ancient thatch, feasting, Northumbria, hillforts


George Lambrick on the varied impacts of foot and mouth

Peter Ellis

Regular column


Britain and the End of the Roman Empire by Ken Dark

Time Team's Timechester by Lewis, Harding and Aston

The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture by Jacques Cauvin

Roman Officers and English Gentlemen

CBA update

favourite finds

If it shines, it is gold. David Miles on an early Christian gold pendant


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Simon Denison

CBA update

Campaigns and reports from the CBA

Aid for campaign to save peat

The chances of survival of some of our most vulnerable archaeological sites were raised in April after B&Q, the leading home-and-garden retailer, determined to stop selling products containing peat within 10 years.

The company's decision follows concerns over the environmental impact of peat extraction. Peat not only provides a unique habitat for birds, plants and insects, but also has the rare quality of preserving organic ancient material such as wood and leather in waterlogged conditions.

Friends of the Earth recently surveyed all the major retailers of garden composts and other plant- growing media, grading them on their current policies for the sourcing of peat, the availability of peat-free products for sale, and their future plans to reduce sales of peat. B&Q, which has a 30 per cent share of the market, scored 18 out of a possible 20 points, way above its nearest competitors, Homebase and Focus/Do-It-All which both scored 12 points. Tesco languished at the bottom of the table in 10th place with 6 points. However, some retailers - including Asda and Nottcuts - failed even to return the questionnaire. When chased, Asda replied that they had 'thrown it in the bin'.

B&Q has been working closely with a number of conservation bodies, including the CBA, to up-date their policy on peat. In its new policy, B&Q acknowledges the unsustainable nature of peat extraction and commits itself to 'not buying or selling peat extracted from peatland sites of recognised ecological, archaeological or other conservation value (worldwide).'

At the moment, only 27 per cent of B&Q's growing media and soil conditioner sales are peat-free. But by 2006 they intend this to be 85 per cent, at which point there will be a progress review and new targets set for going completely peat-free. Nurseries supplying B&Q with plants grown in peat will also have to meet the targets. The retailer has also committed itself to clear labelling on all products showing their percentage composition of peat and peat-free material. Public opinion appears to have recently turned strongly against the use of peat. A poll in the latest edition of the BBC magazine Gardeners' World suggests that 74 per cent of readers would support a ban.

Stonehenge update

Over the last few months the CBA has commented on proposals for the visitor centre, road scheme, and the establishment of a research framework for the World Heritage Site at Stonehenge (writes George Lambrick). Our comments have influenced the approach taken to interpreting the complex for the general public. Among many suggestions to improve the assessment of the road scheme, we called for proper consideration of alternative options. Most recently the CBA has commented on the National Trust's proposals for the wider management of the World Heritage Site. The CBA will hold a meeting to discuss the road proposals after its AGM on 29 September and is also due to host a seminar on the research framework.

Archaeology and farming

Long before the foot-and-mouth crisis began, the CBA began focusing attention on long-term reforms necessary in agriculture (writes Alex Hunt). As members of Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL), we have been contributing to its Greenprint for the Future of Agri-Environment Schemes in England. Such schemes compensate farmers for income lost when setting up or maintaining environmentally beneficial aspects of farmland.

The project has involved a series of workshops eliciting views from all sectors involved with farming and the rural environment. The CBA held its own workshop in mid-May, sponsored by English Heritage, to look specifically at historic environment aspects of agri-environment schemes.

Other recent CBA work on farming and the rural environment includes:

  • Signing up to WCl comments on proposals for an organic-only agri-environment scheme
  • Stating our concerns about some of the recommendations in the Better Regulation Task Force report on regulation relating to agriculture
  • Signing up to the WCL statement 'Foot and Mouth: implications for farming, the economy of rural areas and the countryside in England'
  • Calling for better representation for the historic environment sector on the newly established National Rural Sounding Board for England
  • Commenting on the Hills Task Force inquiry on the future of hill farming, in which we called for recognition of the major importance of upland areas for the survival of archaeological sites.

Listed buildings

Recent listed buildings casework has included industrial and domestic buildings and a Georgian bridge.

Wallsuches Bleachworks in Bolton has been described as a 'rare survival of a once large scale important industry in the Bolton area'. The CBA objected to a previous application to convert the 18th/19th century buildings into domestic dwellings, with some demolition and lots of new construction, recommending that an archaeological evaluation take place. This has now been done. In the revised proposal new information from the evaluation has not been absorbed and too much historic fabric will be destroyed.

The CBA objected to proposals to dismantle, reconstruct and widen the damaged 18th century Creets Bridge at Kirkby Malzeard in North Yorkshire, on the grounds that they would replace it with a replica. Repair options should be studied more carefully first.

A listed cottage and barn at Hepworth near Huddersfield has been proposed for conversion into a single dwelling. It is a late 17th century laithe house, enlarged in the 18th century, and is an increasingly rare survival. The CBA argued that its dual nature, domestic and agricultural, should not be lost.

The CBA also commented on proposals to restore a series of locks on the Chesterfield Canal near Rotherham, pointing to the archaeological evidence, such as timber sub-frames within the structures. Rotherham Borough Council has since drawn up a Conservation Plan.

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