The Government has launched a consultation on reforms of the planning system in England. The “Planning for the Future” consultation has at its heart proposals to radically streamline and modernise the planning process, claiming it will bring a new focus on design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development in a speedier fashion than has previously been the case. The heritage sector has been anticipating the announcement, and will need to look both quickly and closely at the implications for both protected and unprotected historic buildings and sites, the historic character of places, archaeology within the development control process, and much wider issues around sustainability, design/build quality and use of appropriate materials. It will also need to pitch its views and concerns carefully in a post-covid world where getting the economy moving again and getting Britain building is the Government’s current dual-toned mantra.
In previous planning and development policy changes at a national level, The National Trust has been in a lead role campaigning to ensure that heritage remains a key consideration, alongside other organisations such as the coalition of heritage NGOs represented by The Heritage Alliance’s Spatial Planning Advocacy Group. With current challenges within heritage organisations as a result of the pandemic this may be more difficult, and it will be ever more important for the sector to combine its efforts to get its reasoned voice heard – showing where heritage can clearly contribute for the long term in creating, sustaining and improving places and communities.
My study of Ministry Souvenir Guidebooks has appeared in the latest number of the Journal of Public Archaeology (2018).
Abstract The first formal guidebooks for historic sites placed in state guardianship in the United Kingdom appeared in 1917. There was an expansion of the series in the 1930s and 1950s. However from the late 1950s the Ministry of Works, and later the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, started to produce an additional series of illustrated souvenir guides. One distinct group covered Royal Palaces: The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Queen Victoria’s residence of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. This was followed by guides for the archaeological sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury, the Neolithic flint mines at Grime’s Graves, the Roman villa at Lullingstone, and Hadrian’s Wall. In 1961 a series of guides, with covers designed by Kyffin Williams, was produced for the English castles constructed in North Wales and that now form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of ‘Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd’. These illustrated guides, some with colour, prepared the way for the fully designed guides now produced by English Heritage, Cadw, and History Scotland.
As you stand on the northern edge of the Roman Empire it is hard not to speculate on why Hadrian decided to replace the string of forts along the military road (the Stanegate) to a fixed military frontier. Equally important is the economic cost: of the construction, but then of the garrison and upkeep of the defences. And was it effective? Within a generation the line was abandoned and the frontier moved north to the Antonine Wall.
The Roman fort at South Shields guards the mouth of the Tyne. The fort probably dates to the 160s, and major reconstruction took place in the early 3rd century. The site was first identified in 1875, and further excavations took place after the Second World War. The west gate was reconstructed in 1988.
Bryan H. St. John O’Neil (1905-54) held the position of Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales and then Chief Inspector. He steered the Ministry through the difficult post-war years. He prepared a number of key guidebooks for sites in Wales, England and Scotland.
His early guidebooks cover Peveril Castle (1934) in Derbyshire, a site that came into state guardianship in 1932. In the same year he published a guide to Dartmouth Castle (1934) in Devon [e-copy], though this was followed by a shorter paper guide in 1951. A more detailed study of the defences of the Dart was published in the Society of Antiquaries in 1936 (Dartmouth Castle and Other Defences of Dartmouth Haven). The third in his guides of English castles was on Clifford’s Tower (1936) in York.
In 1936 O’Neil succeeded C.A. Ralegh Radford as Inspector in Wales. However his first guidebook for a site in Wales was Criccieth Castle (1934). The monument had been placed in state guardianship in 1933. In the same year Talley Abbey was placed in the care of the Office of Works, and O’Neil, now Inspector for Wales, wrote the guidebook (1938). A further Welsh castle studied by O’Neil was at Newcastle, Bridgend (1949). This had passed into state guardianship in 1932.
In 1945 O’Neil had become Chief Inspector. After the Second World War he excavated on the Isles of Scilly and published a collective guidebook on Ancient Monuments of the Isles of Scilly (1949). This included three prehistoric sites and three Civil War defensive structures.
He then prepared guides to two of the castles of the Cinque Ports, Deal (1953) and Walmer (1949).
The house at Audley End (1950) in Essex was purchased for the nation in 1948 and O’Neil prepared the guide. (There had been a possibility that Audley End would be placed with the National Trust.)
O’Neil’s responsibilities also include Ancient Monuments in Scotland. He prepared the guide for Scalloway Castle (1950) in Shetland, and Caerlaverock Castle (1952).
I have not included a discussion of the other guidebooks O’Neil prepared for the Channel Islands (Castle Cornet, Guernsey ), the Isle of Man (Castle Rushen ) and Ghana (Report on Forts and Castles of Ghana .