Historic Brunel building threatened
Buried beneath the industrial tat of a Dairy Crest plant in Totnes (closed in late 2007 with the loss of 164 jobs) is one of the engine houses from Brunel’s 1847 atmospheric railway system, one of only three left in the West Country (the others being at Starcross and Torquay where an example in much poorer condition than the one at Totnes is listed grade 2*).
Now this rare survival, the plans of which still survive in archive at Bristol University, is fighting for its survival before it is demolished by its owners Dairy Crest in the teeth of a mounting tide of opposition.
Stonehenge: back to the drawing board
By Kate Fielden, Stonehenge Alliance and RESCUE Council
In December 2007 the Department for Transport announced that the A303 Stonehenge Improvement scheme had been scrapped in its entirety, owing to the expense of the project (some £540m). This is good news for environmentalists and archaeologists who have been campaigning for well over a decade for ways to improve the surroundings of Stonehenge that would not, as would the A303 scheme, involve major damage across the heart of the World Heritage Site (WHS).
The DfT’s announcement also contained a commitment to examine the case for closure of the A344/A303 junction. Ministers would like to see improvements at Stonehenge in place in time for the Olympics in 2012. The implication is that if this goal is not attained, HMG may lose interest in the Stonehenge Project and walk away from it.
Will it be possible to reach agreement, within four years, on a multi-faceted problem that has festered without satisfactory solution for over three decades?
Portable Antiquities – a national scheme worthy of support or public money directed at an undeserving minority?
Jude Plouviez ,RESCUE Council
In recent months the Museums, Libraries and Archives council (MLA), who administer the grant to PAS from Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) announced it was freezing the PAS budget at the 2007-08 level, which was itself below inflation on the previous year. The grant from DCMS currently forms about 95% of the scheme’s funding -the cash input from the local partners, who employ the individual Finds Liaison Officers (FLO’s), is 5%. This action by MLA was despite earlier assurances that the Scheme would be fully supported; overall the MLA settlement was however seriously depleted and so they looked for economies on the PAS.
At the end of February (with staff contacts all due to expire on 31st March) discussions between the British Museum and MLA were just reaching their conclusion. MLA have now agreed that ownership and responsibility for the PAS will transfer to the British Museum from 1st April and that the funding from MLA will be at the £1.3million level for 2008/09, and probably similar in the two subsequent years. There will still be a review of the scheme to assess how it relates to MLA objectives, particularly to Renaissance in the Regions. The budget will be very tight, including the loss of the Education Co-ordinator, part of the post-Roman Finds Advisor provision and one part-time FLO post in Yorkshire. But the change of responsibility to the British Museum is to be welcomed as promising a more stable future for the whole scheme.
UN vandals spray graffiti on Sahara’s prehistoric art
Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent reported on The Times online on 31st January (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article3280058.ece) that spectacular prehistoric depictions of animal and human figures created up to 6,000 years ago on Western Saharan rocks have been vandalised by United Nations peacekeepers.
Theft from Fishbourne Collections Discovery Centre
Objects from the Collections Discovery Centre at Fishbourne have been stolen. The 27 missing items were stolen between January and October last year. All of the items have been previously catalogued, so if they arrive at an auction house or another museum, they can be identified and returned to us
Following an appeal, in January a cardboard box containing a number of artefacts was found in a trolley at the Tesco superstore in Fishbourne, and was handed into Chichester Police Station.
An examination of the artefacts is currently being made to identify which objects have been returned.
For a full list of stolen artefacts with images, and an update on the found items see the Police Property Website at www.virtualbumblebee.co.uk and click on the ‘Fishbourne’ link.
Anyone with information about the thefts should contact Sussex Police on 0845 60 70 999 quoting serial 1034 of 02/10/2007
Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill
The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee* announced an inquiry into the draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill, published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on 7 January 2008 (Command Paper 7298). The Committee seeks views on:
” the overall aims of the draft Bill; and
” whether the Bill is structured and drafted in a way which enables those
aims to be met.
Submissions for preference should be in Word or rich text format (not a PDF document) and sent by e-mail to email@example.com, although letters will also be accepted before Monday 17 March 2008.
Heritage Protection Reform Bill: Progress
The most important piece of heritage legislation we are likely to see in our lifetimes, the Draft Heritage Bill, is due to be published in early April. The English Heritage web site provides details: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.8833
Resources: latest ‘assurances’
CLG has confirmed that DCMS is committed to securing the funding necessary to meet any new burdens placed on local authorities as a consequence of the Bill and that the Department is ‘continuing to assess new burdens as part of the Impact Assessment that will accompany the draft Bill’.
Following the small uplift in the Comprehensive Spending Review, the other critical partner English Heritage has confirmed that it will move forward on heritage protection reform. ‘DCMS also expects English Heritage to take forward work on developing an outcomes framework which will help historic environment professionals working in local government to better articulate how their work contributes to wider local priorities’.
But any ring fencing historic environment resources seems unlikely: ‘Within that funding framework, and taking account of any statutory obligations, it is for local authorities to decide on their local priorities in consultation with local taxpayers and other stakeholders. The direction of Government policy is therefore away from ring fencing and towards enabling local authorities to make the best use of their resources.’
Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys
Peter Murphy, Maritime Archaeology English Heritage, Fort Cumberland
Archaeological sites and historic buildings on the coast are vulnerable both to the effects of natural coastal change and to the impacts of coastal management schemes. Besides this coasts are under pressure due to the expansion of new or existing industries (especially ports) and residential and recreational development.
English Heritage is involved in consultations about option selection, but in order to increase knowledge of the coastal historic environment English Heritage has initiated a programme of Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys. For information on the latest results from the surveys, see http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.18390
The information gained will permit us to make a more informed input to SMP consultation and development and will help to ensure effective mitigation of the effects of coastal change through the 21st century. It will also provide a data-base which may be used for further research and in the development control process.
Northants Saxon site: last-minute reprieve
In November 2007 the Northampton Chronicle and Echo reported planners had granted a last-minute reprieve to halt the demolition of a factory in Northampton which is situated on an historic Saxon burial ground. The site between Gregory Street and Horseshoe Street was listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a site of national historic interest following the discovery of Saxon remains.
WNDC planners admitted they had not realised the significance of the site and suggested there was a shortfall in archaeological expertise at local authorities.
Lewis Wind Farm scheme to be rejected?
It has been rumored that Scottish Ministers are minded to turn down the application by Lewis Wind Power Limited for permission to construct a huge wind farm development on the Isle of Lewis (see RN 101). From RSPB web site 25 Jan 2008
Whose Treasure Is It Really?
From; New York Times on line September 4, 2007 http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/09/04/opinion/edtreasure.php
Odyssey Marine Explorations, a commercial operation from Tampa, Fla., has reportedly hauled 17 tons of gold and silver from a ship widely believed to be the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, sunk by a British warship off the coast of Portugal in October 1804. The hoard of gold and silver coins that sunk with the Mercedes was probably minted in Peru.
Spain is hiring lawyers and preparing its legal claim to the trove, claiming a sovereign nation’s right over its cultural heritage.
The NYT suggests that another set of plaintiffs, Spain’s former colonies in Latin America, where the loot was looted in the first place could stake their claim to the treasure. A potential Peruvian claim would rest on tenuous legal grounds since Peru was part of the Spanish empire in 1804 not an independent country, but could make a sound case on moral grounds.
Museums may offload unwanted items
In a major change of policy The Museums Association, which has banned selling objects for 30 years is telling its 1,500 members to give unused items to other museums or public institutions, but they could also be sold in exceptional circumstances. The MA said items that were not on show or used for research could become ‘a burden’ and urged British museums and galleries to get rid of objects that are gathering dust in their collections.
By Tim Williams, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Archaeology, UCLA
Archaeological resource management in the UK: an introduction,
John Hunter and Ian Ralston (eds.) (2nd revised edition)
Sutton Publishing Ltd, Stroud, 2006. ISBN 0-7509-2789-5. £25.00
The Invisible Diggers: A study of British Commercial Archaeology
Dr Paul Everill, Site Director, Anglo-Georgian Expedition to Nokalakevi, Secretary, IFA Diggers’ Forum, RESCUE Council
This final publication, of research advertised and reported on in Rescue News from 2002 is due to be published in May 2008 by Heritage Marketing and Publications, as the first volume in an exciting new research series. For more details see the publisher’s website (http://www.heritagemp.com). Ordering in advance of publication will secure a discount.
The Diggers’ Forum aims to act as a focal point for those who believe that conditions for professional archaeologists can be changed for the better.
Members gain access to a web page, and receive a quarterly newsletter, discounts to Forum activities and events, plus the support and advice of experienced professional archaeologists.
Membership is free for IFA members, otherwise £5 a year. RESCUE supports the aims of the Diggers’ Forum, and is offering members the opportunity to join RESCUE at the Student rate of £8 per year, a saving of £7 on the standard individual membership of £15.
Send a cheque or bank details and your Diggers’ Forum membership number to the Membership Secretary , Rescue The British Archaeological Trust, 15A Bull Plain, Hertford, Hertfordshire, SG14 1DX,
For information about the Diggers’ Forum, copies of leaflets and posters or to know about forthcoming meetings, please contact:
Jez Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org 020 74102242 or 07951024197
Chris Clarke email@example.com 07751 612574
Paul Everill firstname.lastname@example.org 02380 330353 or 07775 582525
Rescue and Rescue News Editor would like to apologise to readers of Rescue News, and to Mr Vince Burrows for any distress or inconvenience caused, since it has become apparent that aspects of the article published in RN 103 titled Tomb Raider Vince Digs into the past` written by Brian Philp were open to alternative interpretation, and were in places factually incorrect.
Mr Burrows has pointed out that all finds that he has made on the site in question have been reported to the local Portable Antiquities Finds Liaison Officer. This has been confirmed by Kent FLO. Furthermore we accept that he has taken professional advice about excavation and that he and the landowner have an agreement that all archaeological materials removed from Chilton environs would be deposited with Dover Museum. Despite his initial interest in the past as a metal detector user Mr Burrows has for several years been involved in using geophysics as a survey method.
The editor regrets the association of general comments about detecting, financial rewards and treasure hunting with the report on Mr Burrow’s discoveries.
The editor also accepts that it was not Mr Burrows’ who posted a video of his work on the Metal Detecting discussion forum of the History Hunters web site.
More Historic Building threats
Sheffield Old Town Hall, is described by the Victorian Society as `a distinctive landmark with huge potential to contribute to the redevelopment of its surrounding area’. It is on their list of top ten threatened buildings and there are grounds for increasing concern for its survival after it recently had its doors smashed in and lead stolen from the roof. This has understandably resulted in water ingress causing extensive internal damage which, added to past neglect, is incrementally destroying the building.
If the owner is unwilling to voluntarily carry out repairs to make the building wind and watertight, , or to submit proposals for the comprehensive restoration of the building, the only alternative is lengthy and expensive legal action which may be too late to save it.
Science museum staff in strike vote
Unions are holding last-ditch talks to try to avoid staff at four museums going on strike in a row over pay. More than 200 specialist staff across the four sites of the National Museum of Science and Industry voted for a series of one-day walkouts by a majority of nine to one
Staff in the Science Museum, London; the National Railway Museum; York, the National Media Museum, Bradford; and the Science Museum, Swindon; collectively the National Museum of Science and Industry, have voted for a series of one-day strikes and a campaign of action short of a strike. NMSI warders, security and administrative staff represented by the PCS union are also being balloted on strike action.
The move reflects the frustration felt by members who are still waiting for a formal pay offer due by April 2007. Effectively a pay freeze during the eleven months since the date a salary increase was due.
Vigil for Iraq
Dr Donny George and SAFE / Saving Antiquities for Everyone invite you to participate in the 2008 Global Candlelight Vigil: to mark the fifth anniversary on April 10-12 of the 2003 looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. http://www.savingantiquities.org/candlelightvigils.php
The SAFE website offers suggestions for universities, museums, community groups and others to plan an event of any size here: http://www.savingantiquities.org/vigiltools.php. SAFE Candlelight Vigil kits offer a wealth of resources including the DVD documentary Robbing the Cradle of Civilization: The Looting of Iraq’s Ancient Treasures
RESCUE AGM, SATURDAY, 19th APRIL, 2008
To be held at 1.45 in the Community Centre Hall, Otford Road, Sevenoaks, Kent. Followed by a Joint Conference organised by RESCUE: The British Archaeological Trust and The Council for Kentish Archaeology with the theme:
RESCUE ARCHAEOLOGY, Discovery, excavation and strategy at four major sites, spanning five decades.
Speakers are Rosalind Niblett, Verulamium: Roman City; Brian Philp, Londinium: Roman Forum, Kate Fielden, Stonehenge: an uncertain future? and Mike Parker- Pearson, Durrington Walls: a Neolithic Spectacular.