Maintenance responsibility for Woodhenge, Netheravon Dovecot and Ludgershall Castle

John Lyle made this Freedom of Information request to The English Heritage Trust

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear The English Heritage Trust,

Woodhenge is in your care, and used to be inspected every month (along with Netheravon Dovecot and Ludgershall Castle) by a member of English Heritage's Stonehenge team in order that any maintenance issues could be addressed in a timely manner.

In early 2012 one of the concrete marker posts at Woodhenge was damaged and subsequently removed, with the resulting hole being backfilled with chalk. Assurances were given at the time that the post would be repaired and replaced. These marker posts were originally installed by Maud Cunnington's team following her dig at Woodhenge in the 1920s, and are important aids to understanding the form of the site.

On a recent visit to the site I noticed that, after nearly 6 years, the marker post was still missing.

Question 1: When will it be returned to the site, or a replacement of similar design installed?

The post and rail fence that surrounds the Woodhenge area is rotting away and an 15m long section has collapsed to the ground in the stretch that separates Woodhenge from the National Trust Cuckoo Stone field. Numerous rails are missing on the stretch alongside the road.

Question 2: When will the perimeter fence be restored?

Erosion of the ground surface by the Woodhenge interpretation board is becoming extremely bad.

Question 3: What remedial steps will be taken to protect the ground surface in this area?

There is extensive, offensive, graffiti at Ludgershall Castle that has existed for many months.

Question 4: When will this be cleaned off?

Question 5: When was the condition of Netheravon Dovecot last checked?

Question 6: Who is responsible for ensuring that the upkeep of these important sites is not neglected? Is it still the General Manager at Stonehenge?

Yours faithfully,

John Lyle

Dear Mr Lyle,

Many thanks for your email which has been forwarded to the team at Stonehenge for a response. They will be in touch in due course.

Kind regards,

Ann Bryan
Information Assistant
Direct Dial 01793 414567 FOI team (mornings) 01793 414797 Registry (afternoons)

 

show quoted sections

Allen, Helen, The English Heritage Trust

Dear Mr Lyle,
Thank you for your enquiries.
I have not been able to obtain all the information which you requested but am sending what I have so far. I will come back to you in due course.
With kind regards Helen Allen

Helen Allen | Estates Office Manager West

English Heritage
29,Queen Square | Bristol | BS1 4ND.
Direct Line; 0117 975 0714 (Int 2214)
Mobile; 07825 907228
[email address]

www.english-heritage.org.uk
www.facebook.com/englishheritage
www.twitter.com/EnglishHeritage

English Heritage cares for over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites - from world famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of empire to cold war bunkers. Through these we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million visitors each year.

The English Heritage Trust is a charity, no. 1140351, and a company, no. 07447221, registered in England.

This e-mail (and any attachments) is confidential and may contain personal views which are not the views of English Heritage unless specifically stated. If you have received it in error, please delete it from your system and notify the sender immediately. Do not use, copy or disclose the information in any way nor act in reliance on it. Any information sent to English Heritage may become publicly available.

show quoted sections

Dear Helen,

There were no attachments to your response that said you were sending what information you had so far.

Yours sincerely,

John Lyle

Allen, Helen, The English Heritage Trust

Sorry Mr Lyle,
I should have pointed out that I wrote the answers to your questions below each one.
With best regards Helen

show quoted sections

Allen, Helen, The English Heritage Trust

Dear Mr Lyle,
Please see below the further information which I promised to get for you.

In early 2012 one of the concrete marker posts at Woodhenge was damaged and subsequently removed, with the resulting hole being backfilled with chalk. Assurances were given at the time that the post would be repaired and replaced. These marker posts were originally installed by Maud Cunnington's team following her dig at Woodhenge in the 1920s, and are important aids to understanding the form of the site.

On a recent visit to the site I noticed that, after nearly 6 years, the marker post was still missing.

Question 1: When will it be returned to the site, or a replacement of similar design installed?

This has been logged as a defect with our maintenance team. Although I am unable to give you a timeframe for when this will be considered, we have asked for support from our Properties Curator as forms part of the interpretation of the site, as you rightly point out.

The post and rail fence that surrounds the Woodhenge area is rotting away and an 15m long section has collapsed to the ground in the stretch that separates Woodhenge from the National Trust Cuckoo Stone field. Numerous rails are missing on the stretch alongside the road.

Question 2: When will the perimeter fence be restored?

Our maintenance team have the repair of the fence in hand

Erosion of the ground surface by the Woodhenge interpretation board is becoming extremely bad.

Question 3: What remedial steps will be taken to protect the ground surface in this area?

Our landscape manager is in discussion with our properties curator to install plastic mesh behind the interpretation panel to address the current wearing of the ground and to reduce it in future.

I'm sorry that I'm unable to give you any clearer timescales for these works.
Thank you once again for being in touch about these issues.
With best regards Helen

show quoted sections

Dear Helen,

Why was the missing concrete marker post at Woodhenge not logged as a defect when it was first brought to EH's attention 6 years ago? What is the explanation for the 6 year delay? Does this not indicate a dereliction of duty on EH's part?

Yours sincerely,

John Lyle

Allen, Helen, The English Heritage Trust

Dear Mr Lyle,
I'm unable to give you an explanation as to why nothing was done about the missing post until now, I'm afraid.
The post marker is not part of the historic fabric of the site and therefore only the interpretation of Woodhenge is marginally compromised.
With best regards Helen

English Heritage cares for over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites - from world famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of empire to cold war bunkers. Through these we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million visitors each year.

The English Heritage Trust is a charity, no. 1140351, and a company, no. 07447221, registered in England.

This e-mail (and any attachments) is confidential and may contain personal views which are not the views of English Heritage unless specifically stated. If you have received it in error, please delete it from your system and notify the sender immediately. Do not use, copy or disclose the information in any way nor act in reliance on it. Any information sent to English Heritage may become publicly available.

show quoted sections

Dear Helen,

"The post marker is not part of the historic fabric of the site and therefore only the interpretation of Woodhenge is marginally compromised"

This is a shocking abandonment of responsibility. The posts were installed by the Cunningtons in the 1920s and are therefore - by definition, and most especially - a key part of the historic fabric of the site.

The remit of English Heritage (pre the New Model split) was "to protect and preserve the built heritage" (of England). Has this remit been forgotten now that EH are simply a property management company operating under licence from Historic England? If so, then they should have this licence removed from them when it comes up for renewal in 2023.

Who made the decision not to undertake repairs when the damage was first reported and the cracked post removed 6 years ago? Someone must have had that responsibility, otherwise the damaged post would still be on site and the posthole would not have been backfilled with chalk.

Yours sincerely,

John Lyle

Allen, Helen, The English Heritage Trust

Dear Mr Lyle,
Firstly please accept my apologies for the long delay in replying to you.
I asked our Senior Properties Curator for some further information with regard to your enquiry about Woodhenge and she gave the following reply;

"Further to your enquiry I can assure you that we are only too aware the issues that you have raised but for various reasons it has been difficult to address them –mainly due to lack of resource.

Re Woodhenge-the post was taken away for safe keeping until it was possible to find a solution for the deterioration of this post and many others which you quite rightly say were put in following Maud Cunnington’s excavations. The concrete is starting to fail and so they are tricky to repair. As I am sure you are aware we are also really aggravated at the loss of the explanatory plaque that was stolen from the site explaining the colour coding on the posts. We are working to replace this but again we have had a lack of resource since completing the new Visitor Centre at Stonehenge as a great deal of time has been recently spent on the consultation re the A303.

We have on-going fence repairs at Woodhenge –which should have been completed by now. We are also addressing the erosion around the interpretation board. For your information we have a Landscape Manager who looks after all the grounds at Stonehenge and Woodhenge and then an Interpretation Manager for the sites who has just returned from maternity leave.
A Senior Property Curator for the Stonehenge and Avebury guardianship sites has also just been put in place so some of these outstanding issues should be resolved very soon."

With kind regards Helen

show quoted sections

Dear Helen,

Thank you for the more detailed explanation.

I am a little surprised that the organisation tasked with preserving the built heritage of the country is unable to cope with the degradation of something as simple as a concrete post. May I refer you to the British Precast Concrete Federation (https://www.britishprecast.org/) for advise that may help.

The theft of the enamelled bronze plaque was a tragedy, but luckily detailed drawings and photographs exist - it is based on Cunnington's own diagram from her excavation report and so creating a replica should not be either difficult or expensive. There are any number of talented metalworking artists in Britain who I am sure would jump at the chance to perform the task. Maybe the team that created The Ancestor statue that stands at Solstice Park?

I'm glad to hear that all the fencing at Woodhenge has been repaired, and will pop along to see it next time I'm in the area. I'm also pleased that you will be more actively managing the erosion at the interpretation board site in future.

As to the problem of a lack of resource - perhaps, on balance, a refocussing on the job of preserving the heritage entrusted to your management rather than spending time and effort championing the desecration of the World Heritage Site with a short tunnel whose entrances lie within its boundaries might be a way forward?

I now consider this FOI request closed, although I reserve the right to re-visit it in the future if no progress is made on repairs at Woodhenge within - say - 6 months.

Yours sincerely,

John Lyle