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Priddy Circles



English Heritage update on the Priddy repairs



In May 2011, large-scale unauthorised damage took place on one of the four Priddy Circles, a group of large, circular earthworks of prehistoric date which are protected as Scheduled Monuments. In October 2012, following a prosecution brought by English Heritage, the owner of Priddy Circle 1, Mr Penny, pleaded guilty to carrying out the unauthorised works. He agreed to pay for repairs to the monument and other mitigation works at a cost of around £38,000. He was also fined £2,500 by Taunton Crown Court and ordered to pay costs of £7,500.

The circle is designated and protected under the Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and under this legislation it is a criminal offence to undertake works to a Scheduled Monument without the consent of the Secretary State (known as Scheduled Monument Consent).

In addition to a substantial fine and costs, Mr Penny signed a Voluntary Agreement committing him to funding a package of ‘reinstatement’ works, the detail of which was to be approved by English Heritage. Although we argued that some archaeological investigation should be an important part of an overall package of restorative justice works, the court was clear that the focus of the work funded by Mr Penny should be on aspects of physical reinstatement as opposed to archaeological investigation of the damaged areas.


Given the national and international significance of the Priddy Circles, English Heritage felt it important that the damage caused to the monument should not be repaired without some archaeological investigation taking place. Therefore, a programme archaeological work was designed by English Heritage, focusing on the parts of the monument that had been either been damaged or disturbed. The work was commissioned to run alongside the evaluation phase of the reinstatement works, which was necessary to inform decisions on whether to restore areas of the circle that had been subject to earthmoving.

Over Spring and Summer of this year, English Heritage, together with archaeological contractors AC Archaeology, undertook a programme of assessment and evaluation, including a geophysical survey of the damaged parts of the site. The results of this work helped in the design of an archaeological excavation which was carried out in September and October 2013, and focused on an area of deep wheel-rutting caused by the creation of a track way through the site during the unauthorised works.

The fieldwork is now completed and post-excavation analysis and recording are currently underway, including the use of specialist scientific dating techniques by English Heritage at our laboratory in Portsmouth. The results will be published in due course, and it is hoped they will advance our knowledge and understanding of this rare and early monument type, in addition to helping inform management decisions for the Priddy Circles and similar monuments elsewhere.

The final part of the reinstatement works is due to take place early in the New Year, when some reconstruction of the bulldozed circle bank will take place. This is a limited piece of work with two objectives – firstly, to restore some of the form and legibility of the circle and secondly to cover over and protect important Neolithic archaeology which had been left exposed by the damage. When this work is completed, Mr Penny’s obligations under the Voluntary Agreement will have been met and the Scheduled Monument will once again be in a stable condition for posterity.

juamei Posted by juamei
9th January 2014ce
Edited 9th January 2014ce

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