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Silbury Hill

Artificial Mound


The £600,000 plan to shore up Silbury Hill

EXPERTS have come up with a plan to save ancient landmark Silbury Hill from collapsing in on itself ­ but they need up to £600,000 to carry it out.

English Heritage has reached a decision on which option to take to stabilise the ancient monument, the largest prehistoric man-made construction in Europe, and guarantee its continued existence for centuries to come.

It has chosen to re-enter Silbury Hill through the tunnel dug to its centre in 1968, the subject of a BBC film made by Magnus Magnusson at the time.

The existing material that has been used to backfill the various excavations that have taken place over the last 200 years or so will be removed and replaced with chalk to the same density as the surrounding mound material. The temporary capping at the top of the shaft dug into the hill in the 18th century, which is composed of expanded polystyrene, will be removed and it, too, replaced with chalk.

Bob Bewley, south west regional director for English Heritage, said: "The tunnels have never presented the major problem. Most of the subsidence is as a result of the shaft that was dug by the Duke of Northumberland's men in 1776 straight down through the centre of the monument in the search for gold.

"They found no gold at the base but it has left us with major headaches as it has never been satisfactorily filled in and is the cause of all the major subsidence that has threatened Silbury Hill."

Mr Bewley and his colleagues are confident that recent work to stabilise the monument will keep it safe in the short term while arrangements are made to undertake the massive effort to complete the repairs.

It has already been five years since a massive hole opened up at the top of Silbury Hill, which was exclusively reported by the Gazette at the time.

But Mr Bewley explained that rescuing a 4,700-year-old construction from dereliction is no short-term matter.

He said: "We have not taken the quick and easy fix but have tried to understand what is happening inside the hill, which is why is has taken so long to come up with our decision.

"When we are finished the hill will hopefully not require any further attentions for hundreds of years, although we will be monitoring it regularly."

A project board meeting is due to be held in October when a decision will be taken to put the work out to tender.

Mr Bewley said: "We hope to find the right contractor in this financial year and the work will be started in either the next financial year or the following one.

"The biggest thing will be finding the money for the work. We reckon it is going to cost in the region of £500,000 or £600,000 and we are going to have to find that money from somewhere.

"Some of that may come from commercial sponsorship. Large companies and other organisations may be pleased to be involved with this kind of project.

"It is a World Heritage Site and will attract publicity from all over the world."

Jane Posted by Jane
12th August 2005ce

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