Rescue News No 106, for Spring 2009 included:

A Barrage too far? Green energy will cost too much by Mark Horton

The Government has shortlisted 5 schemes (from an original list of 10) for a tidal barrage across the river Severn between south Wales and England. The most ambitious is a 10 mile concrete and rock wall extending from Brean Down in Somerset to Cardiff. Other alternatives include two much smaller barrages close to the line of the Severn Bridges, and two tidal lagoons on the Welsh and English sides. Clearly this is very green energy, but we as archaeologists should be concerned because these schemes will do irreparable to the historic environment.

The Severn Estuary is one of the richest, still largely unstudied archaeological resources in the United Kingdom. The extraordinary tidal range of nearly 50 feet, is the second highest in the world, and means that there is an extensive and ever-changing inter-tidal zone. These massive currents continuously reveal new and unknown archaeological sites and features including evidence for Mesolithic footprints, prehistoric settlements, prehistoric, Roman and medieval ships, Roman ironworking sites and settlements, as well as more recent activities such as quays, fish traps and hulks. Sites such as Wentloodge levels and Magor have provided a completely new insight into the prehistoric coastal economies of southwest Britain.

There are alternatives. A range of new technologies are being developed, to harness the tide using underwater reefs, turbines and tide generators. These could be used, but the government is much less keen to explore these alternatives and none of them made it to their final shortlist. Clearly the big barrage is a highly attractive project to help to solve our renewable energy target by 2020, but the cost to the wider environment, both natural and historic, will be devastating.

A full copy of this article can be seen here

Heritage risk of Heathrow expansion

While the airport authorities are aware of their statutory obligation to carry out an archaeological assessment and mitigation before development can take place, the sites threatened will not be of negligible quality since the Thames Valley is one of the most densely used areas of human occupation in Britain. However the full details of the threat to the archaeology in the area has yet to emerge. From what is already known about the potential loss of listed and historic buildings in the area the signs are not encouraging. Harmondsworth will lose buildings of the first order. Its Norman church and 18th-century pub, not to mention its 18th and 19th-century houses.
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St Mary the Virgin Church, Harmondsworth: dating from the 1100s will be rendered unusable. With planes landing and taking off just meters away worship will become impossible; the graveyard cannot be used for quiet contemplation at the end of a new runway.
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Harmondsworth Great Barn: a stone’s throw from Heathrow is one of the finest timber-framed barns in England, built from 1426, on the site of earlier buildings. The present barn, a Grade 1 Listed and Scheduled Ancient Monument, a 12 bayed aisled structure measuring 192 ft in length, spanned by tie-beams with pairs of arched braces has survived virtually unaltered. It has been conserved so that it future generations can enjoy. However land adjacent to the Great Barn will be used for ancillary buildings and aircraft maintenance. Vibration from planes taking off and landing right beside it would eventually cause it to fall down.

Harmondsworth Moor: currently 325 acres of public open space would decrease by half to accommodate the runway, new roads and ancillary facilities.

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Harlington: a 12th century Grade 1 Listed building, on a Saxon manor estate with 900 years of continuous worship at the eastern end of the new runway will suffer a similar fate to St Mary’s. The runway length was extended so that aircraft can adopt a specific flying angle to clear it.

The scheme may be lost at the next general election, but not soon enough to alleviate the human cost of the planning blight on the area’s residents. It will also be too late for the important historic buildings and archaeological sites which will now be subjected to potentially damaging evaluation procedures during the pre-planning application processes.

The NoThird Runway Action Group website can be found here

Crisis for British Archaeology

It would be naive to expect commercial archaeology to escape the current economic crisis unscathed. There is growing awareness in the archaeological community that commercial archaeology in Britain is in crisis because of the recession-hit building industry.

The IfA has reported that in the last quarter of 2008, 345 archaeologists lost their jobs. With most construction projects on hold, more archaeologists will also lose their jobs. Those made redundant by these cuts are likely to have to find a new career
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The recent IfA ‘Profiling the Profession’ reported a total employment figure around 7000. This includes academic and other sectors less likely in the short term to be hit by the current crisis. In 2007 the data shows around 3,228 archaeologists were employed by private sector and local government organisations. The figure may be closer to 2,900. It has been suggested that 1in 5 of the 7000 figure, 1,400 of British archaeologists can anticipate unemployment but this may represent not just a fifth of the overall total, but HALF of those archaeologists employed in the commercial sector.

Commercial archaeological units have been experiencing the effects of the recession for some time with a significant reduction in the number of new contracts of new contracts and affecting their ability to retain trained staff.

Reports are emerging that in two-tier Districts there are often severe cash problems for the District Councils but not the County. There may also be an impact on services and jobs in those areas where unitary authorities are being introduced eg in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Curatorial staff report that there is an increase in developers going bust, or claiming to, to avoid paying their archaeological contractor. Some archaeological contractors may not survive although understandably, they don’t want to give the impression that they may be going out of business or are insolvent.

There is anecdotal evidence that developers are trying to limit their financial commitment by halting archaeological work on their developments even though this has not been completed, either after construction has taken place, where sanctions for failure to complete their obligation would be difficult to apply, or where for financial reasons they are seeking to sell-on or cancel the development project itself.

This is likely to be compounded by a severe shrinkage of job opportunities at all levels, in particular for younger entrants, which has serious implications for all branches of archaeology. When the economy recovers and commercial development becomes possible again the consequential loss to the archaeological resource will replicate the losses of the late 1960s and 70s. Museums and the academic world will be deprived both of promising new entrants, and also of the raw material on which their activities depend.

Stonehenge Visitor Centre by Kate Fielden

Fears that Fargo is the site chosen by English Heritage for new visitor-facilities were confirmed in Marguerite Lazell’s lively piece in Building Design (bdonline, 19.12.08: ‘New row hits Stonehenge’).

Shortage of time before the Olympics and real commitment to ensuring long-term Stonehenge improvements ought to lend impetus to the obviously easy option of closing the A344 and sprucing up the present facilities as a first step. A decision is still awaited (February 2009) but politics and economics again appear likely to be the deciding factors.

The ‘Nighthawking’ report: Illegal detecting and antiquities trading by Jude Plouviez

The term `nighthawking’ as used to describe illegal looting of archaeological sites has been used in a project commissioned by English Heritage from Oxford Archaeology (see RN 103) to investigate the extent and impact of the activity. The report, launched at the Society of Antiquaries on 16th February is available online at www.helm.org.uk/nighthawking. A glossy 20 page A5 booklet summarises the findings and recommendations.

Will EH follow up these recommendations? The involvement of Professor Cunliffe in the launch must be seen as a positive and they are clearly considering ways to continue maintaining the database of information. It also seems likely that they will make representations about the position to other key government bodies (DEFRA, Ministry of Justice and Home Office) and organisations (NFU, CLA) and indeed a clear internal policy in both the centre and the regions of EH might be useful. It can also be seen as positive support for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in its provision of a body of archaeologists on the ground able to advise, educate the unwitting offenders and encourage landowners to report problems. There should of course also be a role for local authority archaeologists, especially those advising farmers on management of sites, and again EH can make a difference by encouraging the reporting of crimes on all sites rather than simply commenting, often rather remotely, when scheduled areas are affected.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill

The draft Marine Bill was published on 3 April 2008 (see RN 105) is now in the committee stage.

It will provide a framework for the sustainable management of marine resources and integrated planning and conservation for the marine environment. It includes general provisions to protect the marine historic environment. Sustainable development principles underpinning the proposed Marine Policy Statement include consideration of impact on cultural resources; ‘environment’ in marine licensing terms is defined to include any site of historic or archaeological interest

Be careful what you wish for

A lot of hard work, by a large number of committed individuals and organisations intended to bring in a brave new world for British archaeology was stalled last year because the significant impact of the economic downturn included the consequential loss of the parliamentary time needed to introduce the Heritage Protection Reform Bill.

RESCUE believes that to secure statutory protection for HERs and to improve listing and scheduling systems remains an important and desirable outcome which would help local authorities to fulfil their responsibilities but without piling so many complicated regulations on LA staff that the system would break under the strain. For example the abolition of class consents on agricultural activities is long overdue while the ratification of the Hague convention, and statutory protection for an archaeological advice service within local authorities could be achieved as small, separate parliamentary acts.

While there is still reason to press for as much beneficial change as can be achieved without primary legislation reform without changes to primary legislation has already been considered in the 2007 DCMS paper ‘Heritage Protection for the 21st Century, Regulatory Impact Assessment’ and firmly rejected.

The organisation of British archaeology is currently at a crossroads. The organisational stresses placed upon it by the current recession and the failure of the HPR Bill mean we must all tread carefully, and think before we act, otherwise when the economy does eventually emerge from recession we may find ourselves back in the 1970’s facing a massive programme of redevelopment, with no archaeological infrastructure in place to respond to it.

Save Broadfield House Glass Museum

This important museum in the historic Stourbridge Glass Quarter houses a collection of British glass, from the 17th century to the present day, The Museum’s web site (at http://www.dudley.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/museums–galleries/glass-museum/whats-on) provides information about current and forthcoming exhibitions and events including the International Festival of Glass, which takes place every two years throughout the Glass Quarter.

However you have to follow the link to the web page of the Friends of Broadfield House (http://www.friendsofbroadfieldhouse.co.uk/) or the Glass Association (http://www.glassassociation.org.uk/News/broadfield.html) to find out more about the plans for the museums threatened change of location.

In January staff were told of Dudley Council’s proposal to move Broadfield House Glass Museum collections and research resources to the Red House Cone site, as from March 2010.A cost cutting exercise which will result in a significant downgrading of the museum’s facilities, because of the Council’s difficult budget position

The Red House Cone site is owned by Waterford Wedgwood, currently in administration. Dudley Council has a lease on most of the area, but not the shop, tearooms, or other buildings. It is unclear if these additional facilities will be available; possibly not if a commercial buyer or other profitable use can be found by the administrators.

The council do not have the fundsthey need to expand or develop the Red House Cone site. It has neither adequate exhibition or lecture space. The museum’s research materials, library and collections would not be on public view. Much material of significant international importance is already in store and since it could not be made available on-site for glass researchers, makers, enthusiasts and collectors the owners of loan collections could well withdraw their glass.

In view of this The Glass Association is campaigning to stop this move unless there are to be adequate facilities with both the collections and the research materials be readily accessible as well as ideally, new lecture facilities.

How can you help: Sign the petition (at www.gopetition.com/online/24751.html) or print off a petition form and collect signatures in person, or write to object to Councillor Karen Shakespeare, Dudley MBC, The Council House Priory Road, Dudley, DY1.

Researcher’s museum access problems

A report from the Research Information Network, on the quality of ‘finding aids’ for researchers wishing to access to museum catalogues and objects (Discovering physical objects: Meeting researchers’ needs) found that museums face increasing difficulties in providing the levels of support for research and scholarship but that developing collaboration between museums, galleries and the research community which would bring benefits to both.

The Research Information Network’s (RIN) report focuses on the current issues for museums and their staff in providing the facilities researchers need giving an overview of the current situation in the UK. It provides a range of recommendations for museums and related organisation (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), Collections Trust and the Museums Association). The report and a summary are available at www.rin.ac.uk/objects

A history of neglect

In late December 2008 Jeremy Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport released a damning survey of the Labour Governments curatorship of Heritage concluding:

‘Labours view of heritage as devoid of contemporary relevance is ill-judged and goes some way to explaining its complete lack of leadership for the sector during its eleven years in government.

Labour were wrong to sideline heritage. Britain’s heritage should be a source of enormous pride. It is the jewel in our cultural crown. Unfortunately, under Labour the jewel has been left unpolished. Indeed, the government’s betrayal represents a historic injustice and one which future generations may deem unforgivable.’

For the full report, History of neglect: Labour’s record on heritage by Jeremy Hunt MP, see http://www.shadowdcms.co.uk/pdf/HistoryofNeglect.pdf.

Ilisu dam halted

Readers of who remember the campaigns of 2000 and 2001 to halt the construction of the Ilisu dam (see RN 84 and 85) will be delighted to learn that in late 2008 a consortium of German, Austrian and Swiss insurance firms halted work on the £1.1bn Ilisu dam on the Tigris near Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria, concluding that it failed to meet standards set by their governments and the World Bank. To continue the project, the Turkish Government must meet 150 World Bank conditions on the environment, heritage sites, neighbouring states and human relocation.

Burrup factories go ahead

Sadly, no intervention seems likely to prevent developments that threaten some of the world’s oldest rock art, dating from 10,000 years ago, scattered across the Burrup peninsula in the north west of Australia. In 2009 Burrup Nitrates is planning to build an explosives plant on the site. The mining company Woodside Energy has won permission to move 170 pieces of rock art to a new site to make way for a liquefied natural gas plant.

Robin Chapple, a British-born Green MP, whose seat in the Western Australian Parliament is the world’s largest at 86,000 square miles, is leading opposition to the development. He has criticised the decision to move some examples as being ‘like taking a couple of pillars out of Stonehenge and putting them somewhere else. If you do that, you lose the integrity of the site’. The Burrup has the highest density of carvings of rock art in the world.

Finds Research Group AD 700-1700

In October last year the group met at Sutton Hoo, where a number of eminent speakers discussed various aspects of Wealth and Circumstance: Anglo-Saxon burials in the east of England.

The next meeting will be held on Saturday 9th April in Sheffield. The meeting entitled 18th-20th century finds from Britain’s Industrial Heartland is being hosted by ARCUS. Further information and a booking form will be available nearer the date from Quita Mould (quita@onetel.com).

Further information about the group, membership (individual £6), and datasheet books (£5 each; £7.50 for non-members) may be obtained from Katey Goodwin, who can be contacted at jonandkatey@goodwinfourwinds.wanadoo.co.uk

In January 2009, archaeologists and training professionals celebrated the awarding of the first NVQs in Archaeological Practice. The NVQ was developed by the IfA on behalf of the Archaeology Training Forum, working with the awarding body Educational Development International. They are currently available at levels 3 and 4, development of level 5 in the future. The qualification is a way of documenting vocational skills and competencies in the workplace. It aims to be a useful addition to professionals when seeking employment and has been piloted with trainees on the IfA’s workplace learning programme, funded by English Heritage and the HLF.

Ben Jervis who completed a specialist placement in medieval pottery with Southampton City Council and the Medieval Pottery Research Group was awarded the first ever NVQ. However Lindsey Buster, on a placement in Historical Archaeology with ARCUS in Sheffield, has also completed her NVQ as has Julie Lochrie, who has been training to be a prehistoric finds specialist with Headland Archaeology in Edinburgh. Mary Harvey who has been training with the Nautical Archaeology Society in Portsmouth will also soon complete her NVQ

British Archaeological Awards 2008

The prestigious biennial British Archaeological Awards founded in 1976 were revamped for 2008. The ten awards, now encompasing every aspect of British archaeology, were presented at a ceremony in November at the British Museum, London. Full details of the shortlist and winning projects can be accessed via http://www.britarch.ac.uk/awards/winners2008.html.

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