Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tŷ-uchaf: a post-medieval farm complex near Llangynog

I posted about this project last month when it was very much in the early stages. Last week the team finished fieldwork there, and are now busy dealing with post-excavation tasks (when other projects permit!). This very interesting project has revealed a great deal about the evolution of the post-medieval farmhouse and associated complex.

The floor of the byre. Photograph copyright CPAT.
 
The earliest of the more-or-less extant buildings were known to date from the mid-seventeenth century; the date 1665 had been carved on the stone lintel of one of the upstairs windows. The form of this phase suggested the possibility that this was the remodelling of an earlier house. However we found no evidence for any earlier buildings on the site, despite vigorous investigation beneath the post-medieval floor levels. Instead it appears to have been built new on fairly conservative lines.
 
The associated complex had its origins in the seventeenth century, but was enlarged and modified in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The byre (shown above) was subdivided and partly repaved at least once. In addition, the surrounding landscape shows evidence of partible inheritance; Tŷ-uchaf was one of three holdings in Cwm Llech whose small fields were divided between several descendants during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
 
The extent of clearance done by the CPAT team over the last four weeks is impressive, and this has of course gone alongside the conservation of the structure itself. Last year the lintel of the main chimney collapsed, and this needed to be at least temporarily repaired before we could begin work. These two photographs show 'before' and 'after', albeit from different angles.
 
The fireplace in 2013, before consolidation of the structure and rubble clearance.
View looking east. Photograph copyright CPAT.

The cobbled floor in the main house; note the bread oven in the fireplace. View looking south-west.
For another view of the same floor before cleaning, please see the earlier post. Photograph copyright CPAT.
 
The house is interesting for its association with a local poet, Cadwaladr Roberts, for whom Tŷ-uchaf is said to have been built in the 1660s. Roberts died in 1708/9; the photograph below shows his grave marker in the churchyard at Pennant.


Photograph copyright CPAT.

A full report will be posted on the CPAT website shortly, and we hope to be back at this site later in 2014 as the conservation and restoration project continues.

Meanwhile we have just begun another project where below-ground 'archaeology' and above-ground 'buildings' are being dealt with together as part of an ambitious conservation scheme. More about this next week...




Sunday, March 02, 2014

Problematic built heritage and dark tourism: Patarei prison

Patarei is an unusual 'attraction' in the picturesque Baltic city of Tallinn, which raises a number of questions about the presentation of problematic heritage. The story of the building reflects the complex relationships between Estonia and Russia over the last couple of centuries; its survival is delicately balanced between different narratives of the past, and different visions for the future.

General view of the first courtyard of Patarei prison from the entrance.
The original 1830s ‘lunette’ is in the background; to the right are later additions made during the 1860s;
to the right are later additions built by the prisoners in the twentieth century. Photograph copyright Paul Belford.
 
After almost two centuries as part of the Swedish empire, Estonia came under Russian rule in 1710. Russia planned an ambitious series of fortifications to protect all of its Baltic territories, although little was achieved on the ground in Tallinn in the short term. Grand plans were drawn up in 1791, but it was not until 1829 that work began on one of four intended forts; in the end Patarei was the only one to be completed (Treufeldt 2005). The main building was completed in 1837, with the rest of the complex operational by 1840.

It was a self-contained fortress housing over 2,000 people: there were officers’ apartments, soldiers’ barracks, an infirmary, bakery and kitchens as well as the various magazines and artillery emplacements. Officially called the ‘Defence Barracks’, locals came to call it the ‘Battery Barracks’ (Patarei kasarmud), eventually shortened to ‘Battery’ (Patarei). Problems arose almost immediately. Underlying springs caused damp, although ironically there was insufficient drinking water until a well was completed in 1847; steam and smoke from the ground-floor kitchens also damaged the ordnance (Treufeldt 2005). Consideration was given to abandoning the site altogether, but it proved to be a useful deterrent during the Crimean War. In 1854 and 1855 a joint Anglo-French naval operation attacked the Russian navy (and its forts and supply chain) in the Baltic; the Russian fortress at Suomenlinna (near Helsinki) came under heavy attack and the Russians were forced to retreat to land-based forts, of which Patarei was one of the most important (Greenhill and Giffard 1988). From 1864 Patarei became an ordinary barracks, and improvements were subsequently made to the accommodation. In 1869 the seaward gunports were converted to windows, improving ventilation. In 1892 the main semi-circular range (lunette) was raised to three storeys, and a Russian Orthodox church was established in one of the casemates. In 1899 a new bakery and kitchen range was built (Treufeldt 2005).

The later nineteenth century had seen a ‘national awakening’ in Estonia and other Baltic states, the pace of which increased after the first Russian revolution of 1905. Estonian autonomy was granted after the second Russian revolution in February 1917, but elections were thwarted by the third Russian revolution in October and the subsequent German occupation. The withdrawal of German troops in November 1918 was quickly followed by a Red Army invasion; Estonian troops eventually won the War of Independence, and in 1920 the Treaty of Tartu marked the beginning of the new Republic of Estonia. It was at this time that Patarei was turned into a prison (Kuusi 2008, 109). Extensions were built by the prisoners using limestone blocks and prison-made concrete and roof tiles; these comprised an eastern wing of 48 solitary cells in 1932, and a southern wing accommodating 500 inmates in 1934 (Treufeldt 2005).

Corridor on the third floor of the ‘lunette’ building. Doors give access to former artillery emplacements,
converted to barracks in the 1860s and then used as cells in the twentieth century. Photograph copyright Paul Belford..

Patarei’s most notorious period – and the one with which it is still most closely associated today – began with the first Soviet occupation of Estonia from June 1940. The prison came under the jurisdiction of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD (Hinrikus 2009, 520). Within months 8,000 people had been arrested and deported; a further mass deportation of ‘socially foreign elements’ began in March 1941, and it is estimated that around 100,000 people (nearly 10% of the population) were lost during this period (Rahi-Tamm 2005, 26-28). In June the German Army invaded, beginning a brutal occupation which quickly crushed any initial hopes of liberation. In 1944 the Red Army recaptured Estonia, and so began the second Soviet occupation, which lasted until 1991. There was considerable resistance, including the ‘forest brothers’ – a loose affiliation of up to 30,000 resistance fighters who remained active into the 1950s (Rahi-Tamm 2005, 31).

Patarei was one of two prisons in Tallinn that served in effect as clearing houses whilst prisoners were investigated before being sent to the Gulag. These investigations could last days, weeks or even months, but were extremely rapid in the early years of the occupation when the lack of accommodation in Estonia meant that it was preferable to send prisoners to Siberia as quickly as possible (Rebassoo 2008, 4). Interrogation mainly took place at the notorious Pagari Street in cramped, dark, filthy and poorly-ventilated cellars, with prisoners subsequently moved to Patarei. Hillar Tassar, a civil engineer, was in Patarei in 1948 and 1949, before being moved to Vorkuta to work in the mines: ‘The difference between Patarei and Pagari prisons was like day and night. In Patarei … the cell was a room with a vaulted ceiling in an old naval [fortress] with a window opening right on to the sea. In stormy weather the wind blew spray into the window’ (cited in Hinrikus 2009, 173).

1840s artillery emplacement subdivided in the 1860s, and then used as a cell –
containing 16 beds in 8 bunks, and typically housing 30 prisoners. Photograph copyright Paul Belford.

Nevertheless conditions were cramped. Cells with 16 bunk beds were often made to accommodate 30 people (Anon 2008, 2). Hilja Lill was in Patarei during the winter of 1945-1946: ‘…up to 25 people were crammed in a cell meant for seven. We slept like herring in a tin, heads against the wall, feet jumbled together. For food we were given 400 grams of bread a day, a teaspoon of sugar, fish-head soup’ (cited in Hinrikus 2009, 49). Another inmate, one of the ‘forest brothers’ recalled that in solitary confinement the daily ration was only 300g of bread and cold water (Hinrikus 2009, 136). Heljut Kapral, a musician in Patarei during 1945, remembered shaving using a piece of glass, and ‘we made needles from a piece of bone salvaged from our soup, also using a piece of glass … After the evening roll-call a regular feature of the daily schedule was mutual delousing’ (cited in Hinrikus 2009, 135).

Despite the conditions, prisoners in this early period had relative autonomy. They tended to be housed together with people from their own areas or groups, and were able to make use of the open yard for exercise (Anon 2008, 5). Kapral recalled how the majority of men in his cell ‘had a university education’ and put together a schedule of lectures and discussions: ‘my assignment was to familiarise my cellmates with the basic principles of making an atomic bomb, since I had just passed my examinations in physics and chemistry’ (cited in Hinrikus 2009, 134).

The death of Stalin saw a change in the climate of the relationship between Estonia and the USSR, with many deportees being allowed to return home. Policy adjusted from mass repression and deportation to more targeted approaches (Rahi-Tamm 2005, 32). For the inhabitants of Paterei the consequence was a hardening of the regime.

The formerly open courtyard, viewed through later twentieth-century guardhouse windows;
the yard below is enclosed and subdivided into small, closely-observed cells. Photograph copyright Paul Belford.

Whilst prisoners in the 1940s were able to say that interrogations there were ‘rather polite’ (Hilja Lill , cited in Hinrikus 2009, 49), or even ‘polite and reasonable’ (Heljut Kapral, cited in Hinrikus 2009, 134), it is clear that later questioning techniques involved psychological and sometimes also physical violence. It is possible that sexual violence was also deployed as an interrogation technique against women (Kurvet-Käosaar 2009, 76). Despite the installation of central heating and flushing toilets in the 1970s, this period also saw the formerly open courtyard partitioned into small cells, and freedom of movement curtailed (Anon 2008, 5).

Tallinn hosted the sailing events for the 1980 Moscow Olympics; the sea-facing windows of Patarei were clad with steel ribbing to prevent eye contact between prisoners and foreign sailors (Treufeldt 2005). Executions were frequent; by shooting and by hanging – the last execution took place in 1991 (Anon 2008, 4).

The hanging room. The trapdoor and stepladder (the hook in the ceiling is out of shot)
provide a grim reminder of the function of this room, last used in 1991.
Photograph copyright Paul Belford.

In 1988 the Estonian Sovereignty Declaration was issued, and the next few years saw a flurry of activity as a new ‘national awakening’ sought to revive the Republic of Estonia. On 20th August 1991 Estonia’s independence from Russia was ‘confirmed’ (the argument that this was a continuation of the 1919-1940 Republic was a powerful tool in avoiding Russian reprisal); and three years later the Russian army withdrew.

Patarei prison closed in 2002, although the infirmary remained open until 2005. This period saw considerable debate around a plan to use the building as the future home of the Estonian Academy of Arts – for some an ideal solution, but an expensive one which was politically contentious (Treufeldt 2005). Instead, in September 2005, the complex was opened as a temporary museum by the Museums of Virumaa; however it almost immediately closed after safety concerns, and although re-opened in early 2006 the Museums of Virumaa withdrew from the project in July (Kuusi 2008, 109-110). The site has subsequently been operated under a public-private partnership as a ‘Culture Park’.

Under the ‘Culture Park’ regime the site has been used for music and arts events, with the main building complex largely left untouched. Initially tourists were offered a variety of lurid ‘prison experiences’, but more recently this has been toned down; there is an optional guided tour, but most visitors pay a simple €2 and undertake a self-guided ‘urban exploration’. There is no formal interpretation or guidebook, little in the way of signage, and an almost total absence of any health and safety. In many ways this is a refreshing approach, and results in a haunting and ultimately moving visitor experience. However the emphasis is very much on the ‘Soviet prison’ aspects of the history of the site, with former roles as barracks and fortress very much downplayed.

The long-term future of Patarei remains in the balance. At the moment it offers a unique ‘dark tourism’ experience, providing a brooding and haunting symbol of Soviet occupation and repression which in a way echoes the role of Auschwitz-Birkenau in relation to the Nazi regime. Clearly it cannot remain abandoned and unmaintained forever – it will either fall down, or become unviable as a tourist destination – even if for the very niche ‘dark tourism’ market which it currently attracts.

However development of the site needs to proceed with caution. The authorities are keen to upgrade the area (they have recently built an excellent new maritime museum next door), and are actively trying to sell the site. It failed to attract a buyer earlier this year, and has been withdrawn from the market whilst interest is sought from the public sector (Ilves 2012). Various suggestions for future uses have been put forward, including any or all of a communist crimes museum, an Estonian War Museum, police, security police and firefighting museums; the Defence Minister has also recently suggested that the complex could ‘also include catering services and a creative incubator … it will open up the sea to the city, clean up the urban space and improve the seaside city's image’ (Ilves 2012). However buildings archaeologists should be concerned; already significant elements of the post-1940 complex have been demolished without record to enhance the site’s perceived value to future developers (Roman 2011).

At the moment Patarei remains a unique and largely unexplored document which encapsulates much of the last 200 years of Estonian history. It is a delicate and remarkable testament to some very painful aspects of recent history. It would be a shame to see it lose that patina altogether, but it is also crying out for sensitive and nuanced conservation.


This is a mildly edited version of a short article originally published as: Belford, P. 2013, 'Patarei Prison, Tallinn: problematic built heritage and dark tourism', Institute for Archaeologists Buildings Archaeology Group Newsletter, 35, 49-54.


References

Anon. 2008, Patarei, Tourist Brochure, Tallinn: Sihtasutus Mänguväljaku Fond.

Greenhill, B. and Giffard, A. 1988, The British Assault on Finland 1854-55: A Forgotten Naval War, London: Conway Maritime Press.

Hinrikus, R. (ed.) 2009, Estonian Life Stories (trans. Kirss, T.), Budapest: Central European University Press.

Ilves, R. 2012, ‘Ministry Envisions Communist Crimes Museum for Patarei Prison’, Estonian Public Broadcasting website: http://news.err.ee/culture/a74b9e2b-d37c-41cd-9b0a-dfdd7eebc98b

Kurvet-Käosaar, L. 2009, ‘The Traumatic Impact of the Penal Frameworks of the Soviet Regime: Pathways of Female Remembering’, in Clancy, M. and Pető, A. (eds.), Teaching Empires. Gender and Transnational Citizenship in Europe, Utrecht: Advanced Thematic Network in Women’s Studies in Europe / University of Utrecht, 69-80.

Kuusi, H. 2008, ‘Prison Experiences and Socialist Sculptures – Tourism and the Soviet Past in the Baltic States’, in Kostiainen, A. and Syrjämaa, T. (eds.) Touring the Past. Uses of History in Tourism, Savonlinna: Finnish University Network for Tourism Studies, 105-122.

Rahi-Tamm, A. 2005, ‘Human losses’, in Salo, V., Ennuste, Ü., Parmasto, E., Tarvel, E. and Varju, P. (eds.), The White Book: Losses inflicted on the Estonian nation by Occupation Regimes 1940-1991, Tallinn: Estonian State Commission on Examination of the Policies of Repression, 25-46.

Rebassoo, P. 2008, Long-term consequences of political imprisonment and torture on former political prisoners in Estonia, MSc. Dissertation, Der Universität Konstanz.

Roman, S. 2011, ‘Patarei Prison Tears Down its Soviet-Era Walls’, Estonian Public Broadcasting website: http://news.err.ee/Culture/e9d0a707-162c-4dc5-98a4-f809d0f83c39

Treufeldt, E. 2005, ‘Tallinn Patarei Barracks’, Estonian Art, 2/05 (17).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The ruin

'The ruin' is an early-seventeenth century former house in the Severn valley, about three miles downriver from Coalport. It forms part of the Apley Estate and has been in use for many years as a shed for livestock. Over the last year it has from time to time formed part of a Saturday morning cycle route, and Facebook friends have been entertained - if that is the right word - with occasional pictures of it at different times of the year. I am now moving away from the area, so, for the record, here is the full set of photographs showing 'the ruin' through the seasons.

20th April 2013

30th May 2013

30th June 2013

25th July 2013

5th October 2013

27th October 2013

15th February 2014
 
The Facebook posts have generated quite a bit of discussion about the origins and future of 'the ruin'. Some favour a late-sixteenth century date on stylistic grounds, but I think the use of brick here is unusual before the early seventeenth century; moreover Shropshire is somewhat behind the curve of building fashion. The building is not listed (although arguably it should be); as long as it retains its agricultural function it doesn't seem to be under any particular threat. It has lost a few tiles during the course of the year but hasn't significantly deteriorated as far as I can tell from the roadside, which is quite impressive given the stormy weather in the autumn and through the winter.
 
Providing the estate keeps the roof on, the main threat in the longer term would appear to be subsidence - from which, as is evident, the building has already suffered. The southern (left-hand) end of the building is rotating away from the rest of the structure, although so far the massive separate chimney stack seems to be stopping this movement to some extent. The two sturdy buttresses appear to be of mid-nineteenth century date, and have clearly worked in keeping the front wall upright; however soil wash down the slope has partly buried the ground floor.
 
Of course as soon as a significant part of the roof is lost, or further subsidence provokes collapse of one or more elements of the structure, then deterioration will accelerate rapidly.
 
I shall miss 'the ruin', and indeed cycling around the Ironbridge Gorge generally. 
 
 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Integrating buildings archaeology and excavation

Last week, amidst the flurry of funding applications and heritage consultations, I found time to join some of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust team on one of our current projects near Llangynog. The site is located in a tributary of the Pennant Valley, itself a tributary of the beautiful Tannat Valley - one of the wonders of northern Powys.


This project is a very interesting one. This was once a fabulous post-medieval house, at the centre of an early 'landscape of improvement'. This is a long-term project concerned with the conservation of the  building, and the longer-term management of its environs (parts of which are scheduled). Our role is to excavate within and outside the house, and to record the fabric. Last week's work involved removing the rubble which filled the interior of the building.


In the process the team discovered the remains of a bread oven in one of the fireplaces. The original cobbled floor surface also survives in part of the building, and we are beginning to get an understanding of the sequence and nature of construction. In the next two weeks we shall be undertaking further recording work on the fabric, and excavating within and around the building to see what - if anything - was here before.

The current work follows an earlier phase late last year in which we recorded the extant fabric prior to its temporary consolidation. This was necessary to make the interior of the building safe for us to work in. As well as our own topographic and building survey, we enlisted the help of Aerial-Cam to provide some first-class rectified photography and 3D imaging - thanks Adam!

It is nice to be able to integrate above- and below-ground archaeology in this way. This doesn't always happen as coherently as it might do, partly as a result of the way the 'historic environment' professions are structured. This is the latest of several similar projects which CPAT have undertaken in recent years, and offers an exciting opportunity to further develop our integrated archaeological approach to buildings.

More news as work progresses!

Friday, February 14, 2014

What future for local government archaeological services?

Another week, another consultation! Today is the last day of a consultation on the future of local government archaeological services in England, part of a review of such services being undertaken by Lord Redesdale and John Howell MP on behalf of the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries (Ed Vaisey MP).

Photograph copyright Paul Belford.

Although the photograph above was taken in Wales, at the offices of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, it represents a fairly typical example of the sorts of things that local government archaeological services undertake across the UK.

On the left we have the Historic Environment Record Officer for the Clwyd-Powys region (Jeff Spencer). His role includes (but is not limited to): maintaining the Historic Environment Record (HER - a database of all archaeological sites and events in the region); assisting colleagues with planning enquiries from developers; co-ordinating with other HER Officers (both in Wales and elsewhere in the UK) in developing and managing datasets, records and public access; dealing with random enquiries from members of the public; delivering outreach and education; contributing to research projects; making site visits and assessing the significance of archaeological remains; and acting on behalf of the Portable Antiquities Scheme working with metal-detectorists and others with chance finds. In this photograph he is simultaneously doing two of these things by using an assemblage brought in by a local metal-detectorist as a mechanism for training an undergraduate placement.

The review - and associated consultation - is of course about England, where local government archaeological services have been somewhat under pressure in recent years. Although archaeology was made part of the planning process over 20 years ago, successive governments have failed to make the maintenance of HERs a statutory requirement of local authorities. Generally 'heritage' has been placed with 'arts and culture' in local authority structures; and so when real cuts in spending have to be made, such services can be very vulnerable. This has always been the case, regardless of the colour of political administrations nationally or locally.

The review considers the following themes:
  1. Improving the sustainability of development control (planning) and record-keeping (HER) services.
  2. The role of third-sector organisations in potentially delivering such services in the future.
  3. The role of the future 'new model English Heritage' (about which I posted a few days ago) in co-ordinating and delivering such services, and the rigorousness or otherwise of sector-produced guidance.
Under these themes it asks a number of questions about the relevance, professionalism and sustainability of local government archaeological services in England, and asks consultees to provide examples of successes and failures from around the UK and indeed elsewhere.

My own recent experience suggests that the Welsh model may provide a way forward here.

In Wales, archaeological curatorial, planning and development control functions are maintained on behalf of local authorities (including the three National Parks) by the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts. This system ensures a consistent approach to planning and development control within each of the four Welsh regions and across Wales as a whole. The four Trusts maintain close formal and informal links with each other and with agencies of Welsh government (such as Cadw and NRW), and co-operate closely to maintain HER Wales and the public online access system, Archwilio. Funding for the Welsh curatorial services comes in part from Welsh Government (via grant aid from Cadw and the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales) and partly from local authorities.

By effectively pooling local resources regionally, local authorities in Wales have access to a much higher level of expertise and experience than they could provide individually - as a result the Welsh Archaeological Trusts provide significantly higher value for the public funds invested in them individual local authorities might be able to do.

In short, the Welsh system has much to recommend it. A regional system, with support from central government (aka 'new model English Heritage'), could be a possible template for the future for local government archaeological services in England.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

At last... a Chartered Institute for Archaeologists!

Today the IfA (Institute for Archaeologists) announced that it will become incorporated by Royal Charter. This is a tremendous achievement following many years of hard work by the staff and Council of the IfA. Congratulations to everyone involved!

An archaeological pint in Radnorshire. Photograph copyright Paul Belford.

The precise future timetable remains unknown, but archaeology is certainly now on the road to achieving better recognition as a profession - and this will potentially provide better outcomes for heritage generally as well as for individuals employed in the sector.

This moment represents a significant milestone on a very long haul from the origins of the IfA in the early 1980s. The creation and maintenance of rigorous professional standards - both for individuals and organisations - has been an essential component of that. The IfA is certainly more of a professional institute than ever before, but as Chartership comes upon us we need to finally confront one or two bad habits.

There is a tendency amongst some (both inside and outside the IfA) to consider it as a trade union. Now is the time to stop getting bogged down in endless and ultimately pointless debates about pay minima for individuals, and focus instead on increasing the wider benefits to the profession as a whole. One of those wider benefits is the Registered Organisation scheme, which theoretically ensures consistent approaches between different archaeological organisations. However there is a perception in places that the monitoring and maintenance of standards has not been all it could be - and we need to ensure that this is sustained so that the profession retains credibility.

By 'we' I mean all of us in the profession. The RO scheme only works because people give up their time to carry out inspections; the progress made by Council and the various committees is only possible because individuals commit their own time (and sometimes a lot of that time) to making sure things happen.

The only way to make Chartership work is for all archaeologists to become more closely involved with the IfA. More information about Chartership can be found on the IfA's website.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The future of state heritage agencies in England and Wales

The last few months have seen some interesting proposals and responses to restructuring the national heritage agencies in England and Wales. It is still not clear what the outcome in either case will be, although it is certain that the differences between these two parts of the United Kingdom will become more marked.

On the border: the former racecourse on Hergest Ridge,
Herefordshire (England), looking west into the Walton Basin,
Radnorshire (Wales). Photo copyright Paul Belford.

What has been particularly interesting in following this process has been the very different expectations of, and approaches to, public consultation on either side of the border.

The situation in England and Wales has already diverged since devolution in the late 1990s. Wales has retained the separation of the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments (RCAHMW) from the executive heritage agency (Cadw); whereas in England the two bodies (English Heritage and RCHME) were merged nearly 15 years ago. In Scotland it was decided to merge Historic Scotland and the RCAHMS into a single body outside government, with a policy unit within government.

In Wales, the development of a new Heritage Bill has been proceeding through a series of consultation phases. As part of this Bill serious consideration was being given to the merger of Cadw and RCAHMW. This was widely assumed to be a 'done deal', and discussion focussed on whether this would follow the English model (the new body as an executive agency inside government) or the Scottish model. The response to the public consultation was mixed. As a result, the Culture Minister decided that, for the time being, Welsh Government would not proceed with the merger (although the Heritage Bill continues to be developed).

In England, almost the opposite process was proposed last year: English Heritage would be split into two bodies. The first (to be called 'English Heritage') will be a charity which will look after the property portfolio - erroneously called 'the national collection' - which is essentially a rather random assemblage of ruined castles and abbeys. The second (to be called 'Historic England') will retain the core functions of the state heritage agency - including provision of specialist advice and planning. Again this arrangement is largely felt to be a 'done deal', and it remains to be seen how the concerns expressed by many heritage organisations during the recent consultation exercise will be taken on board.

For me, the proposals for 'the new model English Heritage' are a complete disaster. The charitable arm is intended to 'be completely self-financing' within eight years. Only a handful of properties attract enough visitors to make a surplus, very few even cover their own costs; it is difficult to see how the portfolio as a whole could provide enough scope for cross-subsidy. The only way it could become self-financing is by massively increasing its membership and admission prices, and by sucking up money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources - potentially depriving a large chunk of the existing charitable heritage sector of funding.

On the 'Historic England' side, it is hard to see anything other than the ultimate outcome being the abolition of anything other than a small core 'inspectorate' to deal with designation, planning and policy. This may take years, but it will ultimately happen if the 'new model' is adhered to. The specialist facilities at Fort Cumberland, the in-house survey teams (a relic from the old Royal Commission) and even the 'English Heritage Archive' (formerly part of the National Monuments Record) are all at risk.

Many of the consultation responses have pointed this out. However it remains to be seen whether the powers that be in England will be as responsive to public consultation as their counterparts appear to have been in Wales. Interesting times - on both sides of the border.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Thoughts on the protection of aircraft crash sites

One of this year's CPAT projects has been an investigation of aircraft crash sites in our region, in order to determine whether or not they would be suitable for designation as Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs).

Photograph copyright CPAT.

This has been a rather poignant project which has raised a few ethical questions. In particular we have begun to wonder whether an aircraft crash should even be designated as a SAM. We had a bit of a collective 'blue skies' thinking session this morning (if you will excuse the pun), during which several strands emerged.

Clearly, an aircraft crash is not a 'monument' in the conventional sense - it is an accidental event rather than a constructed piece of cultural heritage deliberately placed in a landscape setting. Certainly the remains of the aircraft itself (if they survive) are 'artefacts' or collections of artefacts; however in a lot of cases there are no remains, only a few dents in the ground which are slowly silting up. In some cases the crash 'site' is a relatively compact area, in others the aircraft may have struggled for some time before finally coming down leaving a potential debris field stretching across several kilometres.

Some of these sites are also war graves, and many have memorials.

Crashed British aircraft are Crown property (and crashed Luftwaffe aircraft are 'considered captured property surrendered to the Crown') and as such are already protected under the 1986 Protection of Military Remains Act. This requires an application to the MoD for a licence to excavate or disturb the remains.

Here are some of the issues which we have been considering:

* in the event of someone recovering material from a crash site, how will it being a SAM add to the protection already conferred on it by the Protection of Military Remains Act? (in practice the MoD do consult the Welsh Archaeological Trusts on PMR licence applications)

* are we content to let the remains continue to deteriorate until there is nothing left - does their value as slowly-decaying memorials outweigh their value as historical artefacts?

* should we survey, record or even excavate these sites to retrieve as much historical information as possible?

* how can we best ensure that the aviation enthusiasts who appreciate these sites are best-equipped to make a positive contribution to their continuing preservation - should we consider an approach more closely related to the Portable Antiquities Scheme?

* if a site is Scheduled, what could we do in the field to alert people to its existence? is that even something we should be considering?

* who cares for, and monitors the condition of, the various memorials erected at or near sites? (they are in various ownerships, with various 'curators' of greater or lesser authority)

Perhaps most importantly for the broader question of heritage designation is the extent to which Scheduling alters the status of non-Scheduled sites. At the moment all sites are of equal importance under the PMR Act, once SAMs are created (on the basis of an 'expert' decision made in 2014) then how does that affect the treatment of non-SAMs further down the line?

We probably ended today's discussion more confused than we began, but it is always interesting to consider these sorts of questions. Over the next few weeks we will hopefully come up with some practical suggestions as to how Scheduling could be made to work, or what alternative strategies could be developed for protection.





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