Friday, September 05, 2003

Protecting Thornborough Circles (Henges) - 220 LexiLine Journal

My decipherment of the Thornborough Circles ( Thornborough Henges )
indicates that the land surrounding the circles is also of
special importance to an understanding of this ancient site.

In response to my letter voicing my concern about rumored future
gravel extraction very near the Thornborough Circles (Henges) in
England, I received the following e-mail today from John Hinchliffe,
Acting Regional Director, English Heritage, Yorkshire Region. Since
it is not a personal letter to me as such, but rather a statement of
English Heritage policy, I am forwarding it to the members of
LexiLine for your information.

[Response of English Heritage to the e-mail of Andis Kaulins of 1
September 2003, addressed to Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive,
English Heritage, see, whose
job, as they themselves describe is: "It is our job at English
Heritage to make sure that the historic environment of England is
properly maintained and cared for. By employing some of the
country's very best architects, archaeologists and historians, we
aim to help people understand and appreciate why the historic
buildings and landscapes around them matter. From the first traces
of civilisation, to the most significant buildings of the 20th
century, we want every important historic site to get the care and
attention it deserves."]

Dear Andis

Thank you for your message of 1 September concerning Thornborough
Henges in North Yorkshire. Our Chief Executive Dr Simon Thurley has
asked me to respond to your query.

As monuments of national importance all three of the Thornborough
henges, the associated cursus and adjoining landscape are designated
as Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Scheduling, or designation, allows
the Government, with advice from English Heritage, to give legal
protection to nationally important sites and monuments. The
Secretary of State must be notified of any works which might affect
a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and will not usually give consent for
works which may damage or disturb the site. The henges can
therefore be regarded as fully protected and not under threat.

The current mineral extractions at Thornborough, which are outside
the scheduled monument area, are the subject of permissions granted
to Tilcon-Tarmac by North Yorkshire County Council. At this stage
English Heritage has no statutory authority to limit or prevent the
extractions, which are within the remit of the local planning
authority. The current extraction work has been the subject of
archaeological sampling within a mitigation strategy agreed by North
Yorkshire County Council's Heritage Unit as a condition of the
existing planning consent.

English Heritage remains concerned about the wider landscape setting
of the monuments and is currently funding Dr Jan Harding of
Newcastle University to undertake extensive archaeological research,
at a cost of over £145,000. Dr Harding's work has two principal
components: firstly, he has produced an archaeological desktop
assessment of the monument complex, clearly defining their
significance and landscape setting, and assessing the archaeological
potential of the area. Secondly, he is undertaking a programme of
extensive fieldwork to ascertain more fully the nature and
preservation of the archaeological remains within the landscape
around the henges. The results of Dr Harding's work will inform the
future management of the henges and their landscape setting.

Until Dr Harding's work is completed, and the archaeological value
of the landscape adjacent to the scheduled henges is better
understood, English Heritage is firmly opposed to any further gravel
extraction in the vicinity of the scheduled site.

In order to ensure the conservation and appropriate management of
the henges and surrounding landscape, English Heritage has worked
hard to develop effective partnerships with the owner of the central
and southern henges and other relevant organisations. The owner has
entered into a Countryside Stewardship agreement with DEFRA which
has seen the reversion of the cursus, central henge and intervening
landscape from arable cultivation to pasture. In addition, our
Inspector of Ancient Monuments for the area has met with local
groups (including the Friends of Thornborough) to listen to their
concerns and discuss the problems and possible solutions with them,
and English Heritage is committed to the continuation of this

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. Please be
assured that we aim to continue working in partnership with the
owners, the local community and North Yorkshire County Council to
ensure the survival and effective management of the henges and their

Yours sincerely

John Hinchliffe

Acting Regional Director
English Heritage Yorkshire Region

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