Battle to preserve Thornborough henges
by Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent of The Times Online, 24 August 2004
UNPRECEDENTED protests have been made in Yorkshire about plans to quarry the prehistoric ritual landscape around the Thornborough Henges.
Although the closing date for comments on the proposals is still more than a month away, North Yorkshire County Council has received more objections than for any other planning application, according to the magazine Current Archaeology.
Thornborough — sometimes called "the Stonehenge of the North" although the monuments consist of three huge earthen banked circles without stones — has long been a scheduled ancient monument in recognition of its importance.
But protesters say that the problem is that, as at Stonehenge, the visible monument is just the core of a densely packed ritual area of other ancient sites. "The quarry has already eaten 40 per cent of the ritual landscape of the henges, we cannot afford to lose more," Current Archaeology says.
English Heritage stated this year that Thornborough was "the most important ancient site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys", but quarrying so far has come within yards of the henges. Although Tarmac Northern Ltd, the company involved, has responded by announcing that it will hold off plans to quarry Thornborough Moor, one of its potential gravel sources that is closest to the henges, it has applied to expand at the Ladybridge Farm site to the north.
"If permission is granted to quarry there, it will cause the loss of a further 111 acres of archaeology that is of critical importance", Current Archaeology says. More than 10,000 people have already signed a petition against the development, organised by Heritage Action, which claims that the Ladybridge site "is potentially the most important remaining area of archaeology in the ritual landscape of the henges".
George Chaplin of Heritage Action said that Ladybridge included the remains of a settlement between the henges and a dried-up glacial lake to the north which may have been used by those attending rituals. "Current quarrying in this general zone has already turned up large amounts of archaeology: smaller investigative excavations indicate even more lies within the Ladybridge area. It is a tragedy that despite knowing this, Tarmac is intent on going ahead," Chaplin told the magazine.
The landscape includes settlement, alignments of pits creating avenues to structures no longer visible, and burials covering three millennia of ceremonial activity. "Much of this archaeology is extremely rare and nationally important in its own right," Current Archaeology says.
Posted by Jane
24th August 2004ce