Wednesday 31 January 2018

A303 Public Consultation

From the Highways Agency:

Public consultation will open on Thursday 8 February, and will close at 23:59 on Friday 6 April 2018.

From Thursday 8 February, further information about the consultation and the response form to use to submit your feedback will be available online.

You will be able to submit your views online via a survey linked from this page, or download a response form.

As part of the consultation process, we will be holding a series of public drop-in events where you can find out about the scheme plans and talk to our project experts. Everyone is welcome to these; please feel free come along to make sure you get the latest, most accurate information about the scheme and ask any questions you may have.

  • Friday 9 February 2018 14.00 to 20.00 Antrobus House 39 Salisbury Rd, Amesbury, SP4 7HH
  • Saturday 10 February 2018 11.00 to 17.00 Antrobus House 39 Salisbury Rd, Amesbury, SP4 7HH
  • Thursday 22 February 2018 14.00 to 20.00 Kennet Valley Village Hall (Avebury) Overton Road, Lockeridge, Marlborough, SN8 4EL
  • Friday 23 February 2018 14:00 to 20:00 Warminster Civic Centre Sambourne Road, Warminster, BA12 8LB
  • Saturday 24 February 2018 11.00 to 17.00 Shrewton Village Hall Recreation Ground, The Hollow, Shrewton, SP3 4JY
  • Tuesday 27 February 2018 14:00 to 20:00 The Laverton Hall Bratton Road, Westbury, BA13 3EN
  • Thursday 1 March 2018 14.00 to 20.00 Mere Lecture Hall Salisbury Street, Mere, BA12 6HA
  • Saturday 3 March 2018 11.00 to 17.00 The Guildhall, Salisbury The Market Place, Salisbury, SP1 1JH
  • Thursday 8 March 2018 12.00 to 20.00 Society of Antiquaries Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BE
  • Friday 9 March 2018 14.00 to 20.00 The Manor Barn High St, Winterbourne Stoke, SP3 4SZ
  • Saturday 10 March 2018 11.00 to 17.00 The Manor Barn High St, Winterbourne Stoke, SP3 4SZ
  • Tuesday 13 March 2018 14.00 to 20.00 Avon Valley College Recreation Road, Durrington, SP4 8HH
  • Wednesday 14 March 2018 16.00 to 20.30 Larkhill Primary School Wilson Road, Larkhill, SP4 8QB
  • Friday 23 March 2018 14.00 to 20.00 Antrobus House 39 Salisbury Rd, Amesbury, SP4 7HH

You can also view scheme information at the locations below during normal opening hours:

  • Amesbury Library, Smithfield Street, Amesbury, Salisbury, SP4 7AL
  • Tidworth Leisure Centre, Nadder Road, Tidworth,SP9 7QW
  • Salisbury Library, Market Place, Salisbury, SP1 1BL
  • Wiltshire Council Offices County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, BA14 8JN
  • Wilton Library, South Street, Wilton, SP2 0JS
  • Devizes Community Hub and Library, Sheep Street, Devizes, SN10 1DL
  • Marlborough Library, 91 High Street, Marlborough, SN8 1HD
  • Warminster Library, 3 Horseshoe Walk, Warminster, BA12 9BT
  • Westbury Library, Westbury House, Edward Street, BA13 3BD
  • The Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Cocklebury Road, Chippenham, SN15 3QN

A303 Scientific Committee

At long last the A303 Scientific Committee website has gone public.

A303 Scientific Committee

The Scientific Committee has been set up in 2017 at the request of Highways England in the context of their A303 Stonehenge: Amesbury to Berwick Down Road Scheme where it relates to the World Heritage Site (WHS) and its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), to provide advice in relation to historic environment impacts as the project proceeds through its design, assessment, mitigation and construction stages.
Its membership comprises recognised, leading, independent experts on specific aspects of the landscape of the Stonehenge WHS who can provide additional advice and make a positive contribution to the development of the project. They are all subject matter or period specialists with a specific skill set or depth of experience in aspects of the historic environment of the WHS. The Committee is chaired by Sir Barry Cunliffe and works to an agreed Terms of Reference which will enable it to fulfil the role.

The Committee has the task of advising and guiding the development and delivery of the project in a way that ensures the historic environment dimensions of the project are clearly and consistently assessed and managed for the protection of the OUV of the WHS, and of the historic environment in general within the WHS. It will also ensure excellence in the design and provision of archaeological assessment, evaluation, mitigation and fieldwork.

This web site has been set up in order to share the work that the Committee is undertaking and to make archaeological reports and other documents available to the public.

Reports and minutes are starting to be put up on its pages; one to keep an eye on.

I.E. Scientific Committee Minutes 05 October 2017

• The committee asked whether the western portal could be located outside of the WHS. Highways England explained that due to topographical constraints (the portal needs to exit in a hill face); the nearest alternative portal location would be over 500m to the west of the existing Longbarrow roundabout.
• This would add another 2km to the length of the tunnel and add over £600m to the cost of the scheme. This would make the scheme unaffordable and would reduce the value for money assessment (Benefits to Cost Ratio) of the scheme below the threshold required for it to progress.
• The committee expressed the view that the benefits to the WHS of a longer tunnel would outweigh the additional construction costs due to the unique setting of the WHS. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that warranted the additional expenditure and that the opportunity should exist to present this argument to the government.
• In discussion it was noted that by promoting a tunnel solution, the government is already committing to spend over £1bn on heritage improvements to the WHS above the do minimum solution of an at-grade dual carriageway through the WHS.
• A discussion was had regarding the setting of the barrows in the vicinity of the A360 junction. It was agreed that diverting the A360 to the west of the existing junction will improve the setting of these barrows.
• Highways England introduced the concept of green bridges to provide connectivity across the new A303. The committee recommended that a suitable location for one of these bridges would be at the Longbarrow Junction along the line of the existing A360.
• The committee asked whether the width of the bridges and their frequency could be extended to provide more coverage of the new A303 through the WHS.
• Highways England explained that there are limits on the width of the bridge before it is considered a tunnel. At the meeting this length was given as 200m, subject to further confirmation. Post Meeting Note –“A road tunnel is a subsurface highway structure enclosed for a length of 150m, or more” - ref: DMRB, Vol 2, Section 2, Part 9, BD78/99, clause 1.2.
• A discussion took place on whether the road through the WHS at the western end should be in cut to hide the traffic from critical views or at existing ground level, and whether if in cut the cut slopes should be formed of soft green slopes or engineered vertical walls.
• Having the new road at existing ground level would allow part of the existing A303 to be used as the eastbound carriageway in the final road layout. This would minimise the amount of new construction within the WHS.
• The committee was of the view that having traffic visible would not outweigh the benefit of re-use of the existing carriageway and would have a greater adverse impact on the OUV.
• Having the road raised above existing ground level such that the existing archaeology is protected below the new road construction was also not considered a suitable option for similar reasons.
• Minimising the footprint of the road within the WHS was a key requirement.
• The committee therefore ruled out the use of soft cut slopes through the WHS as these would more than double the width of the cut, and advised that the cut should be formed with vertical walls.
• To soften the visual impact at the top of the walls, a short height of soft slope would be desirable.
• Highways England will present the visual impact of the scheme in cut through the WHS with the incorporation of green bridges where the bridges provide beneficial mitigation to any adverse impacts and seek the committee’s further views at a future meeting.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

A Cats Brain type monument near Stonehenge?

The Archaeology report from the Highways Agency reveals this new "Early Neolithic long barrow" to the south of the A303 - but to me it seems to be very similar to Cats Brain recently excavated by Jim Leary.

Some snippets from the report - highlighting by me, full details are in the report.

The barrow located towards the south-west of SW2 (Barrow 2) had been identified by recent geophysical survey undertaken by Wessex Archaeology. .. No firm evidence for a surviving in situ internal mound, underlying mortuary deposits or buried soils were identified .. during the evaluation.

Barrow 2 has evidence for the existence of either a free-standing timber structure or a post-revetted mound. The former could be part of a façade as at this stage its true extent is unknown. .. there was evidence that (the ditches) of Barrow 2 had been deliberately and rapidly infilled.

A fragment of a chalk fossil (possibly an urchin) was recovered from western ditch (slot 9334) of long Barrow 2; although not worked it could conceivably have been retained as a curio. Another fragments of chalk was recovered from cremation grave 512 (associated with the small penannular ditched monument). It is a small sub-square fragment (approximately 500 by 400 by 200 mm) with converging and parallel striations on one of the larger flat surfaces which may be cut marks.

That is a lump of chalk 20 by 16 inches and 8 inches thick - as soon as the measurements are put in proper units it is obvious they are wrong. I guess they meant 2 inches by 1.6 and 0.8 inches thick...)

Barrow 2 comprised of two near-parallel ditches. ... They were some 15 m apart, aligned close to north–south, the eastern ditch appearing to be approximately 45 m long, and the western ditch 38 m long. ..The eastern ditch at its northern end (9305) was 2 m wide and at least 0.95 m deep, with steep sides; the base was not reached.. It had a sequence of at least five fills... The eastern ditch at its southern end (9413) was 2.4 m wide with steep sides, and was excavated to a depth of 1 m below the surface of the natural chalk without the base being reached... The western ditch at the northern end (9334) was 3.1 m wide with steep slightly irregular side, and was excavated to a depth of 1 m below the surface of the natural chalk without the base being reached.. ; hand augering through the unexcavated fills suggested a total depth of 1.2 m. The lowest recorded fill (9314/9322), from which a fractured ground stone axe  and a chalk fossil (possibly a curio) were recovered, comprised
loose chalk. .... Other finds include 64 pieces of worked flint, a piece of chalk with parallel striations, and animal bone (630g).The western ditch at it southern end (9405) was 2 m wide with steep slightly
irregular side, and was excavated to a depth of 1 m below the surface of the natural chalk without the base being reached. The unexcavated fills were hand augered to try to establish the depth of the ditch without the need to widen the trench and step the section and thus cause unnecessary damage; the augering suggested a total depth of 1.2 m.

No features were recorded in the interior of the monument, between the two ditches. However, there are hints from the GPR survey of possible postholes flanking the position of the mound.

No traces of a barrow mound survived within the evaluation trenches. However, the slight doming of the surface of the chalk, and presence of more degraded natural between the ditches probably results from the partial protection of the chalk from ploughing by the presence of the former mound. It is possible that the dark soil layers noted in the ditch section derive from the barrow mound.

Grave 512 had been heavily truncated by pit 513, and its original size could not be determined, although what may have been its base (or a depression in its base) was 0.5 m in diameter. The base of the grave was approximately 1 m below the surface of the chalk. Some of its lower fill (508) survived up to 0.08 m below the base of pit 513 (which was 0.8 m deep). It contained an unurned cremation deposit (508), which was excavated in four quadrants, and produced 1600 g of cremated human bone (Plate 10-9). A sample of cremated human bone returned a radiocarbon date of 2890–2620 cal BC (SUERC-70556, 4167±33 BP). However, a sample of roundwood charcoal from the same context returned a date of 3350–3010 cal BC (UBA-33147, 4469±37 BP), perhaps indicating the use of old wood in the cremation pyre. A sample charred hazelnut shell (also from the deposit) returned a date of 2140–1910 cal BC (UBA-33148, 3650±37 BP); this material was probably intrusive

A303 Geophysical and Trial Trench Reports

Highways England have made archaeological and geophysical survey reports of the preferred Stonehenge A303 tunnel route available on their website.

Archaeological trial trench evaluation

Geophysical survey report phase 1

Geophysical survey report phase 2

Geophysical survey report phase 3

There is a lot of information in those reports.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Larkhill Heritage

Planning documents provide a map of the heritage assets that are within the site for planned housing at Larkhill, including the newly discovered hengiform and enclosure.

PDF available here

There is a public consultation on 23rd January 2018 in Durrington

Sunday 14 January 2018

The Great Trilithon may not be the one you think it is.

From Stonehenge Friar's Heel Great Trilithon By Henry Bates From the Junior Munsey, May 1900.

The name "The Great Trilithon" was originally applied to the largest complete trilithon still standing at Stonehenge in Victorian times, stone 53, 54 and 154. This is the iconic trilithon that has featured in a myriad of souvenirs and some texts.

But as it wasn't originally the tallest trilithon the name has often transferred across to the now fallen Central Trilithon (Stones 55, 56 and 156 ) which was.


Mea culpa, mea máxima culpa, I have oft taken the name of the Great Trilithon in haste to mean the Central Trilithon.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Kitchen Barrow, Sun and Stones

Pastscape describes Kitchen Barrow at Horton in Wiltshire thus:

Neolithic long barrow on Kitchen Barrow Hill, listed by Grinsell as Bishops Cannings 44. The barrow is extant as an earthwork mound 34 metres long, 18 metres wide and up to 2.7 metres high. The side ditches are 8 metres wide and up to 40 cm deep. Grinsell referred to a sarsen protruding from the north east end, but this can no longer be seen. 5 sherds of Roman pottery found on the surface are in Devizes Museum. The long barrow has also been recorded on aerial photographs.

I visited close to the Winter Solstice at sunset to see if there was any possible alignment. No is the simple answer. While the barrow is better extant to the South East the shape of the ditches suggest the entrance would have been a the North Eastern end which has been mostly destroyed. Grinsell's sarsen (or at least a sarsen) sits in the middle of the barrow towards the north. I also noted as I have done before slivers of limestone in molehills in the ditches towards the northern end which suggest it had walling similar to West Kennet Long Barrow.

If the entrance was to the northeast then the barrow would have echos of Stoney Littleton where the hill slopes upwards from it. Would it then have pointed to the Mid Summer Sunrise or is it as most Long Barrows seem to be at an inexplicable angle apart from being best positioned to show off side on?