Digs probe carried out at damaged earthwork

Archaeological work has taken place at the site of a damaged prehistoric earthwork in Priddy. In May 2011, large-scale damage took place on one of the four Priddy Circles, a group of large, circular earthworks of prehistoric date which are protected as Scheduled Monuments.

Digs probe carried out at damaged earthwork
The damaged prehistoric earthwork in Priddy [Credit: Wells Journal]
In October 2012, following a prosecution brought by English Heritage, the owner of Priddy Circle 1, Roger Penny, pleaded guilty to carrying out the unauthorised works.

Penny agreed to pay for repairs to the monument and other mitigation works at a cost of around £38,000. He was also fined £2,500 by Taunton Crown Court and ordered to pay costs of £7,500.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage said: "Given the national and international significance of the Priddy Circles, English Heritage felt it important that the damage caused to the monument should not be repaired without some archaeological investigation taking place."

Work to reinstate the circle and investigate it archaeologically has been taking place for the last year.

The circle is designated and protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and under this legislation it is a criminal offence to undertake works to a Scheduled Monument without the consent of the Secretary State known as Scheduled Monument Consent.

In addition to a substantial fine and costs, Penny signed a voluntary agreement committing him to funding a package of 'reinstatement' works, the detail of which was to be approved by English Heritage.

English Heritage argued that some archaeological investigation should be an important part of an overall package of restorative justice works but the court was clear that the focus of the work funded by Penny should be on aspects of physical reinstatement as opposed to archaeological investigation of the damaged areas.

In spring and summer 2013, English Heritage, together with archaeological contractors AC Archaeology, undertook a programme of assessment and evaluation, including a geophysical survey of the damaged parts of the site.

This helped with an archaeological excavation that was carried out in late 2013 which focused on an area of deep wheel-rutting caused by the creation of a track way through the site during the unauthorised works.

The spokeswoman added: "The final part of the reinstatement works is due to take place in the next couple of months, when some reconstruction of the bulldozed circle bank will take place.

"This is a limited piece of work with two objectives – firstly, to restore some of the form and legibility of the circle and secondly to cover over and protect important Neolithic archaeology which had been left exposed by the damage.

"When this work is completed, Mr Penny's obligations under the voluntary agreement will have been met and the Scheduled Monument will once again be in a stable condition for posterity."

Source: Wells Journal [January 16, 2014]

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