Further to the post, Natural ‘England’ – rapists of historic Cornish moorland.
A Penzance archaeologist and historian has joined with Cornish MP George Eustice in calling for ‘English’ Heritage to be replaced, in Cornwall, with a locally based body.
Craig Weatherhill, author of several books, papers and articles, is exasperated by what he terms: “This arrogant quango’s disgraceful neglect of, and contempt for, Cornwall’s valuable heritage”.
The latest in a series of incidents stems from a site meeting on Aug 6th, by groups concerned with serial damage to the Tregeseal stone circle, St Just, and associated ancient monuments, allegedly by activities imposed upon the moorland by sister quango Natural ‘England’.
“Initially, ‘English’ Heritage did not want to know,” says Mr Weatherhill, “until the Celtic League, an organisation recognised by the United Nations, became involved. The Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments, who attended, promised to produce his recommendations within a fortnight. He failed to do so. Frequent enquiries since then have merely produced adjusted promises, the last being for Oct.19. That has come and gone, and still there is nothing.
“It is nowhere near good enough. ‘English’ Heritage has a long record of turning blind eyes to the damage and destruction of ancient sites in Cornwall, from the Cadbury’s Creme Egg Hunt in 1984, to the utter destruction of numerous sites they are appointed to protect. They ruined the fogous at Carn Euny and Chysauster, and publicly insulted those who spoke out. According to their then Chairman, the latter ‘wasn’t exactly Stonehenge’, which pretty well sums up their whole attitude.
Unless it is a site from which they can turn a profit, they simply do not want to know. In fact, they’ve hived off all the guardianship sites they were appointed to manage to people like the National Trust and the Cornwall Heritage Trust – except for those which generate revenue.”
Referring to the original bid that secured World Heritage Site status for Cornish mining, Mr Weatherhill outlined the actions of ‘English’ Heritage to delist and support the demolition of a Grade II star engine house near St Austell. “EH’s case,” he said, “was that the engine house was worthless as it did not contain an engine. This was astonishingly ignorant, and not only effectively placed all but two Cornish engine houses at serious risk, but almost jeopardised the entire WHS bid. Of course, it need hardly be said that the applicant was a major corporation”.
“At Tintagel in 1998,” he added, “news of the discovery of a piece of slate incised with names of 6th century men, including one called Artognou, was suppressed by EH until the start of the peak holiday season. Then they arranged headlines in every major newspaper, claiming proof of King Arthur. Of course, this was total bilge, but EH was far more interested in the gate money than they were giving historical facts. Our heritage deserves much, much better than this.
“In 1988, Penwith Council wrote to EH, concerned that significant monuments in the area had no legal protection. EH assured them that a radical new Scheduling list was in progress, to be complete within 5 years. It never appeared, not to this very day, but EH kept on giving the Council that assurance.” Mr Weatherhill says. “Then, just last year, I came across a document written by Cornwall’s Historic Environment Service in 2008, clearly stating that all Scheduling in West Penwith had been halted in 1987, EH deciding that the new Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme for Penwith would be adequate protection. Of course, it was no such thing. The ESA had no statutory teeth, and only a voluntary take-up. If that wasn’t bad enough, EH had deliberately lied, several times, to the local authority! I know this to be fact, because I was the officer at the Council who wrote the letters.
“EH’s latest piece of blinding arrogance is to see a play about World War II at Pendennis Castle cancelled because of the quango’s crazy insistence that all reference to Nazis and Jews be written out of the script. It’s unbelievable!”
Mr Weatherhill, who became a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd in 1981 for services to archaeology, claimed he could cite many more cases of ‘English’ Heritage’s neglect and misrepresentation, least of all that which marketed Cornish Celtic heritage as that of a totally unconnected people. “There is a frankly sinister political aspect to EH’s policies”, he claimed.
His call for the disbanding of ‘English’ Heritage and Natural ‘England’ is also economically sensible, he suggests. “If the government is serious about curtailing expenditure,” he says, “then what is the sense in maintaining two tiers of administration in both fields? Get rid of the national bodies, and devolve their powers to local level and local knowledge. We still await signs of Mr Cameron’s much-vaunted ‘localism’, especially on this side of the Amazon*, so here’s a perfect way to kickstart it.” He added that most Cornish people he had spoken to would be greatly relieved to see the backs of both quangoes.
*This refers to David Cameron’s on-air blunder regarding protests over his proposed transgression of Cornwall’s historic River Tamar border with the statement: “It’s hardly the Amazon, is it?”