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Cover of British Archaeology

Issue 65

June 2002

Contents

news

Wealthy early Roman graves near St Albans

Dig in West Midlands reveals empty landscape

Medieval enclosed garden found at Welsh border castle

Porcelain finds show changes in 18th century taste

Medieval parchment from site of Canterbury’s friary

In Brief

features

Fortress Britain
Simon Denison on Britain’s Second World War defences

Great Sites
Paul Bidwell on the Roman legionary baths at Exeter

Engines of Change
David Gwyn on the landscape archaeology of railways

Lord of the Hrungs
David Hinton on the influences behind Tolkien’s epic

letters

Armoured jacks, human sacrifice, and a ‘lost’ Roman town

issues

Stop demolishing Victorian terraces, by George Lambrick

Peter Ellis

Regular column

books

Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World by Katherine Dunbabin

Migrants and Invaders by Malcolm Todd

The Molecule Hunt by Martin Jones

Britons and Romans edited by Simon James & Martin Millett

The Archaeology of Shamanism edited by Neil Price

CBA update

favourite finds

John Lewis on realising the truth about the Stanwell cursus.

 

ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Simon Denison

CBA update

Campaigns and reports from the CBA

CBA's role in protecting listed buildings at risk

The status of the CBA as a statutory consultee on listed building applications is under serious threat. The threat extends to all the 'national amenity societies', including the Ancient Monuments Society and the Georgian Group (writes Alex Hunt).

Under current arrangements, local planning authorities in England and Wales are required to notify the amenity societies of applications involving the demolition of all or part of a listed building. This gives us an opportunity to comment, provide expert advice and make recommendations - and where necessary, register objections. But this service may be downgraded (or even go) as part of a Government package of 'streamlining' measures to speed up planning decisions.

The CBA and other societies have been lobbying strongly against the proposals, pointing out that quality, not speed of decision making, is essential for the historic environment, and that the present system actually adds value without creating delays. We have argued that:

  • as local government historic environment services are non-statutory, the only statutory requirement to obtain expert advice on applications involving demolition or partial demolition of Grade II listed buildings is through the national amenity societies;
  • the amenity societies collectively provide access to a much wider range of expertise than individual officers in local government can provide;
  • the societies provide a national perspective on the significance of different kinds of buildings; and are able to monitor national and regional trends in threats and outcomes;
  • the work of the societies complements that of English Heritage and Cadw, as they concentrate on Grade I and II* buildings, not covering the vast majority of Grade II applications;

The CBA believes that the present arrangements for statutory consultation should be retained, with societies working harder at monitoring trends and communicating their advice effectively. The present cost-effective funding arrangements should remain broadly the same, but be reinforced to improve coverage and speed of response. We also believe provision of historic environment services by local government should become statutory, supported by adequate resourcing.

Archaeology and farming

Following the publication in January of the Curry Report into the future of farming, the pace of agri-environment reform is hotting up (writes George Lambrick). The CBA has submitted comments on DEFRA's draft response to the report, and on the Government's proposed reforms of agri-environment schemes. We have stressed both strengths and weaknesses of the current regime of agricultural support, and urged the need for progress in five areas:

  • Establishing clearer targets to get historic environment assets into stable management
  • Improving standards of agricultural practice and ensuring compliance with conservation regulations, to put a stop to subsidised damage of the historic environment especially in arable areas
  • Improving incentives for farmers, with greater emphasis on conserving the historic environment alongside biodiversity and soil protection
  • Improving geographical coverage of agri-environmental schemes, especially to arable areas
  • Improving the provision of archaeological information and advice to farmers, including the idea of environmental audits and whole-farm plans to guide conservation, backed up by much better resourcing.

The CBA has been working on comparable issues for other parts of the UK outside England. We have also been collaborating with the RSPB and other partners in Wildlife and Countryside Link to ensure that the historic environment is flagged by other environmental bodies, just as we stress the need to integrate archaeology with soil conservation and biodiversity.

Visiting Stonehenge

Following the CBA's successful day meeting in February to discuss the roads proposals for Stonehenge (BA, April), we will be holding another meeting to discuss the English Heritage/National Trust proposals for visitor access and interpretation for the Stones and the World Heritage Site generally. The meeting has been provisionally set for Tuesday 9th July at the British Academy in London. As previously, interested organisations will be invited to send representatives, and a number of free tickets are available on a first-come-first served basis by contacting Carole Barrowclough at the CBA (phone 01904 671417; email CaroleBarrowclough@britarch.ac.uk; or by post, CBA, Bowes Morrell House, 111 Walmgate, York YO1 9WA). (GL)

Portable antiquities

Alongside the welcome extension of Lottery funding to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (see News in Brief), the Government also continues to make headway on portable antiquities issues - notably by keeping to its own timetable for ratification of the unesco 1970 Convention. Speaking at the CBA-convened Standing Conference on Portable Antiquities in March, arts minister Baroness Blackstone promised that Britain would accede to the Convention by the end of July. In April, the Government published the Convention as a parliamentary command paper, representing the final stage in getting parliamentary approval for ratification.

The minister also reconfirmed her intention to make it a criminal offence to 'import, deal in or be in possession of any cultural object, knowing or believing that the object was stolen, or illegally excavated, or removed from any monument or wreck contrary to local law'. However, no parliamentary time is available to achieve this for the foreseeable future. (AH)

Sustainability fund

In April the Government launched the Sustainability Fund, which arises out of the imposition of a new tonnage tax on aggregates known as the Aggregates Levy (BA, June 2000). The aim is to help tackle environmental problems in areas affected by extraction, and the CBA has lobbied for historic environment issues to be addressed. We were therefore very pleased to learn that the fund in England - which amounts to £16m in 2002/03 and £13.5m in 2003/04 - will be distributed, in equal shares, through existing grant schemes run by English Heritage, English Nature and the Countryside Agency (see Grants and Awards in Briefing for further information).

In Wales, the fund amounts to £3.4m for two years, in Scotland about £6m for two years, and in Northern Ireland about £2m for two years. (AH)

The Young Archaeologists' Club (YAC) continues to thrive with new branches being set up at the Museum of London's new Archaeological Archive and Research Centre last month, and at Spelthorne Museum in Staines in October (writes Alison Bodley). The CBA has received many enquiries about setting up branches all around the country, and it is not surprising that YAC has earned the reputation of being one of the fastest growing youth organisations in the UK. Such is the demand that this year a record four YAC holidays are being run, two based on experimental archaeology in Cornwall, one that includes a four-day excavation course at Sedgeford in Norfolk and one in Scotland which also includes two days of excavation.

The club continues to promote excellence in archaeology through the Young Archaeologist of the Year Award, which this year asks children to plan a feast fit for a King or Queen. Museums and sites are invited to become involved by answering enquiries from children entering the award, and by informing YAC members about existing displays.

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