Hadrian's Wall

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd April 1958.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. E. Wakefield.]

8.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Swindon

I am grateful for the opportunity to draw the attention of the House to the care of one of our most important monuments, and to go rather more fully into the matter than was possible some weeks ago at Question Time. I think it a satisfactory thing that, as we prepare ourselves for the Easter Recess and look back on a series of contentious and controversial debates, we should turn to a question which, though important, is certainly not political.

On the other hand, one can hardly say that the question of Hadrian's Wall is not a contentious matter. There have been times when disputes about it have assumed what one might call theological proportions. Very violent feelings have been aroused not only in recent weeks by articles in the Press and Questions in this House but on a number of occasions during the last thousand or nearly thousand years or so.

My purpose is not to take sides in the dispute in any way, but merely to provide an opportunity to ventilate different points of view and to give the Parliamentary Secretary a proper opportunity to state his own position in the matter in some detail and to say precisely what his Ministry is doing. I understand that the Minister's direct responsibility for Hadrian's Wall is limited to a number of relatively short stretches of its length; that one of the more important, or at any rate the better-known sections, is in the care of the National Trust, while other parts of the wall are in private hands. I believe that it is the general intention of the Minister—and this is the first question I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary—to assume control as time goes by over an ever-increasing length, so that in the end all of it will be under his direct protection and care.

It is obvious that in a debate such as this I do not need to give a detailed description of the Wall which was built or initiated in A.D. 122 by the Emperor Hadrian, after a visit he paid to this part of the Roman Empire, and based on similar defensive works erected in Germany. The purpose was to keep the Scots out of this country—or at any rate the inhabitants of Scotland at that time—and for some hundreds of years, with disasters from time to time during its history, the Wall did succeed in doing that.

It is quite an elaborate defensive system. From what remains one can still see not only sections of the Wall in a relatively good state of preservation, but the elaborate sentinel system constructed at the same time; the mile-castles, small forts set at intervals of about 1,620 yards along its length with gateways to allow the passage of Roman soldiers into the protected areas north of the Wall, and then the two smaller towers between every mile-castle at intervals of about 450 yards. Behind the wall runs a Roman road, a military road, and behind that a vallum with earthworks designed to provide a protective military area in the immediate area of the Wall. Then in the neighbourhood of the Wall, but not part of it, are a series of Roman forts of which I believe there were originally about fifty but now only a handful remain.

The total length of the Wall was originally 80 Roman miles which is about 73 of our miles. Along most of its length it was built to a thickness of 10 ft. and a height of about 15 ft., so most experts think. All along its length it was faced with square facing stones set in mortar by the Roman legionaries. At some points the core was made of rubble set in puddled clay, the work being dune by native labour gangs under the supervision of Roman soldiers. At other places slightly different building techniques were employed and there were modifications introduced while the Wall was being built, particularly to the central section, and to the way in which some of the forts were incorporated into it. All the works were completed during the ten years between A.D. 122 and 132. The Wall was not finally evacuated by Roman troops and their families until about A.D. 400.

The current controversy was initiated in the Press a few weeks ago by an article in the Observer which made a series of grave allegations against the Minister. Reading between the lines, one detects in this onslaught that some kind of interdepartmental warfare appears to have been raging between the Minister's Department and the National Trust. I hope it wil1 be possible for the Minister to mention that matter and to say that the apprehensions on that score are not correct. It would be very undesirable if, in dealing with a monument of this importance, or one in any other part of the country, the officials of the Ministry and the officials of the National Trust, who ought to be working hand in glove and with very cordial relations, were beginning to fight each other in public.

The first article appeared in the Observer on 9th February, written by the archæological correspondent of that newspaper, Jacquetta Hawkes. She started by referring to the turbulent history of the Wall and then gave a surprising analogy. She said that the rôle of what she called the "barbarians"—with whom she identified herself—might now be said to be taken by local archæologists, representatives of the National Trust and other independent critics. The rôle of what she called the "Imperial authority" was represented by the Ancient Monuments Department of the Ministry of Works. She made a passing reference to the inter-Departmental conflict which is apparently taking place.

She said that the original dispute between the Ministry and the National Trust might well now be settled, but that greater issues still remained. She accuses the Ministry of trying to take "the spirit of Subtopia" into the area of the Wall and she refers to "little lawns, cement, railings and notice boards". Somewhere else, reference was made to "Mappin Terraces".

She gets down to her most serious allegation when she says: It is reliably reported that on the section near Birdoswald four workmen are employed with only occasional supervision. They dismantle the Wall, nine feet at a time, stacking the square masonry and rubble filling and consolidating the foundations. She goes on to say: The Roman mortar, which varied in colour from one age to the next and therefore shows repairs and alterations."— which is a matter of importance to archæologists— is destroyed without record. Far worse, the work emerging from the hands of these excellent workmen is not Hadrian's Wall at all. It is a copy—and one which has lost all the gifts of time. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us about the section of the Wall which is illustrated by photographs which appeared with that article? I am given to understand that, in point of fact, that section is not in the state in which it was left by the Romans when they evacuated, but is largely a nineteenth-century reconstruction built by Mr. Clayton, who used the original stones but built them into what was virtually a new wall.

There have been arguments about this Wall, and about many other ancient monuments, concerning the extent to which they should be reconstructed. The argument about Hadrian's Wall has also been applied to some of our great religious monuments, as is the case with Stonehenge, and with the Acropolis at Athens. Somebody wrote in a newspaper—I have not been able to trace it—that it would be a very good thing for the Ministry to pull down part of the Wall and reconstruct it so that people could see how it originally looked. That is not a view to which any of us would now subscribe. I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us a little about reconstructions of Hadrian's Wall in the past.

When this first article was referred to at Question Time in the House by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), by myself, and by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), the Minister of Works gave a very strong reply. He referred to the article in the Observer and agreed that it was "absolutely inaccurate". In reply to a supplementary question by the hon. Lady whether the Minister regarded the article as "absolutely inaccurate and unfounded", the Minister said: My hon. Friend is entirely correct in her assumption. When he was further questioned by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North, he said that of course there were two opinions on subjects like this— the correct and the incorrect. What is being done by my archæological department … is the correct line, while the line that takes the contrary view is the incorrect one."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 179 and 180.] The Minister did not leave very much room for doubt about his position in the matter.

Nevertheless, a great deal of doubt has persisted in the public mind. Only last Sunday the original article was followed up by a second one from the same writer in the Observer, illustrated by three rather terrifying photographs. In that article Mrs. Hawkes said: The Minister stated that Roman masonry is never dismantled and rebuilt unless the stones are on the point of falling. Local observers saw the East Gate of the Birdoswald Port taken down, although the walls were in good condition. She produced three photographs, which appeared to show unsupervised workmen pick-axing down the upper levels of the Wall in an excessively vigorous fashion and a drastic rearrangement of the facing stones. It would be very good if the Parliamentary Secretary could make some observations about these serious allegations.

They have been followed up by other people in the area who are quite clearly disturbed by what has been happening lately. I should like to quote from four reports from people on the spot. The reports happened to reach me as the result of the Questions in the House of Commons. One correspondent says that an archæologist whom he knows … saw the facing stones removed and put into two piles, the core rubble into a third, until the whole Wall was down to three base courses (out of, I think, round about 10). He adds: Local antiquaries who are in position to keep an eye on what is going on are indigant. Another correspondent refers to Hard-knot Castle in Eskdale, Cumberland, which he visited in July, 1957. He says: This Roman fort is also in process of reconstruction by the Ministry of Works and the result, to my mind, was most unfortunate. The stones of the walls have been refaced, in many places right down to the foundations, which, presumably must have necessitated the dismantling of the structure down to ground level. The newly built wall is capped by a layer of modern cement to protect the rubble filling from weathering. Masses of fallen stone and rubble from the original construction lie outside the fort. I do not know how often a representative of the Ministry of Works visited Hardknot, but the actual work was being done by local workmen. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary could find it convenient to refer to this fort, because it has been the subject of another letter from a local correspondent who states: At Hardknot fort in Eskdale they are still pulling it down higgledy-piggledy". Finally, I would refer to another local correspondent who, after describing what he had seen in the area of Hadrian's Wall, wrote: I do not believe that the Minister's advisers are aware of the extent of this rebuilding and I hope it may be possible to take further action to bring the matter to light. The House would like a reassurance that the Minister and his advisers are very closely aware of the detailed work which is taking place on the spot, and perhaps he can tell us something about the supervision, not only locally but from his Department and from his archaeological advisers.

It is many years since I visited the Wall.

Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Swindon

It is an omission which I intend to repair at the earliest possible opportunity during a Parliamentary Recess. It might be very much to the convenience of the House if one of these days the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend arranged for a party of hon. Members to go there to see what is happening, perhaps taking a party of journalists, too. I am sure that we should have a very pleasant and interesting time. I think the controversy has perhaps raged sufficiently to justify him in putting all his cards on the table on the spot.

It is some time since I visited Hadrian's Wall but I have a very vivid impression indeed of the impact which it made on me at that time, not only because of its immense historical and archaeological importance, which, when I went there, I was not in a position to appreciate as fully as I do now, but also because of the great beauty of the site. I was looking today through some literature on the subject and I came across a description written some years ago which remains in my mind. It reads: As you look east and west and trace the long line of wall winding for miles from end to end of perilous ledges and climbing from hill to hill, as you turn south to the Tyne, and the dark fells beyond it or north to long flat wastes and pathless mosses, the vision of a great Empire rises. Here, on the uttermost limit of the Roman world, the desolate land has been stamped for ever with the sign of its former lords. On these high moors we can realise, almost more clearly than in the Forum of Rome, the secret of that defence by which Rome guarded the fabric of civilisation through the long menace of darkness and dissolution. These are dramatic words describing the importance of what is a very precious ancient monument. I hope that after we have had a rather fuller discussion than I originally expected, the Parliamentary Secretary will give us a reassuring reply about the Wall.

I do not think I shall be out of order, Mr. Speaker, if I ask your indulgence to raise one other matter which the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary knew that I should raise briefly this evening. That is to ask whether the Parliamentary Secretary would find it convenient during his reply to say briefly what progress is being made with another very important ancient monument, Stonehenge. In mentioning Stonehenge and in view of the fact that we have a little extra time, I should like him to say one or two words about what I regard as an even more important ancient monument—perhaps because it is a little nearer my constituency—the great stone circle at Avebury.

I am grateful for having had this opportunity to raise these matters. I hope that other hon. Members will take part in the debate and I look forward with keen anticipation to the Parliamentary Secretary's reply.

8.33 p.m.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

I am very glad indeed that we are having the opportunity to discuss in some detail this very important matter of the preservation of Hadrian's Wall. It is rightly a matter which interests a very wide section of the public, and it is of the utmost importance that it should be thoroughly thrashed out so that we may know the truth of this controversy which has arisen.

I had the privilege and good fortune to represent Wallsend-on-Tyne for fourteen years in the House. I live in those parts and almost from childhood, to girlhood and to middle-age—I will not go any further than that—I have walked the Wall. I know almost every bit of it and every part of its history. I have taken very many people from that part of England which those in the South like to call the "civilised South" to see the the Roman Wall. I myself have a very deep affection for and interest in it and in its future. From time to time our local antiquarian society visits the Wall. Visitors from all over the world join our local society. In the north of England we take great pride in our heritage and anything which affected it adversely would perhaps cause the hordes of the North to descend on the Ministry with a view to seeing that the Ministry knew and loved the Wall as much as we do in the North. I was very disturbed when I read Miss Jacquetta Hawkes' article in the Observer

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

Miss Jacquetta Hawkes, now Mrs. Priestley.

I also read the subsequent article last Sunday and examined the photographs. I am sure we would all welcome a full statement by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. Of course, I have no quarrel with the way in which the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) put his case, but I am a little surprised that in recounting the Press correspondence referring in some detail to Jacquetta Hawkes's articles, he did not also mention the letter that was published in the Observer a fortnight after the original article, signed by two very well-known figures in the archaeological world in the north of England, Mr. Birley and Mr. Gillam. Mr. Birley for many years had one of the houses very close to the Roman Wall, and the opinion of people who live in the north of England and their appreciation of the situation carry a great deal of weight in matters of this kind, when there is a real conflict of opinion.

The hon. Gentleman said that he wished to be non-controversial. This is, indeed, a non-controversial matter, but it is a pity that he did not for the purposes of the record reiterate the letter that was published by these two very distinguished, highly respected and well-known archaeologists in the north of England. If he had done so we might have had the whole story.

I myself do not know Jacquetta Hawkes, but I noticed that in answer to my Parliamentary Question it was stated that she had not been to the Wall before she wrote her original article. She has been there since, and I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman is going there he will get a great welcome from the North when he arrives. When a case of this kind is presented it is only fair to quote the opinions of those who, as I say, are respected in the north of England. We who live in the north of England know what they think. We are aware of their standing, and when allegations are made in the House which are bound to have a wide audience deeply interested in the Wall, it is only fair that those who cherish, watch and guard the Wall should also have their opinions quoted.

I had no idea that we should be having such a long debate; otherwise I would have obtained the letter written by Professor Birley and Mr. Gillam, for the sake of the record. As there is still some time available, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will himself put it on the record so that we can have the whole story.

Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Swindon

If I may interrupt, may I say, first, that I stand reproved by the hon. Lady, but I am grateful that she has raised this matter herself. I think it may be possible for one of my hon. Friends to quote the substance of that letter before the debate is terminated.

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Rossendale

If it would help the hon. Lady, I can state that Professor Birley and Mr. Gillam first of all paid tribute to the skill of the workmen engaged on this work, and then said: The Minister's replies are in complete accordance with our personal observation over a long period of years.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

I am grateful that we now have that on the record, because it is important. I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman made those observations.

I wish to raise one more point. I am not an expert; I only have this deep and abiding affection for the Wall. When I saw in last Sunday's Observer the photographs which appeared to show a displacement of the stones, I wondered whether I had been foxed by the Minister. So I was very glad to see that the hon. Member for Swindon proposed to raise this subject on the Adjournment. Not that I was completely foxed, for I am very independent-minded and like to be sure. Therefore, I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter tonight and that we have a reasonable length of time in which to debate it, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will put beyond all shadow of doubt the proper position and view of those who are qualified to judge.

I want to know what the condition of the Wall is at the present time. If we look back into the history of the Wall we find, what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon did not mention, that in days when the population was not so interested in our historical heritage many people took stones from the Wall for other building. Many farmhouses and small manor houses in the district are built of stone which was taken from the Roman Wall, and people in the North Country, for improving, as they thought, their churches, also paid visits to the Roman Wall. There is a tremendous controversy whether we should try to maintain what we ourselves now see and love, or whether it would be better not to tamper with the remains.

I am not in a position to judge, but I am always guided by the experts, and I know both Mr. Birley and Mr. Gillam. Therefore, when the Minister answered my Question and my supplementary question I felt satisfied. However, I am bound to say, once again, that I wondered when I read Jacquetta Hawkes' article last Sunday. Therefore, I hope that when my hon. Friend replies to the debate tonight we shall have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because that is all that will satisfy us in the North.

8.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

May I say how much I welcome this debate and how grateful I am to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) for raising this subject, because my constituency is one of the constituencies which lie astride the Wall, or the site where the Wall stood. Not one small part of it remains in my constituency, which is entirely built up, but, originally, the Wall ran right through the middle of it.

I welcome the debate not only because it calls attention to the present method of restoring file Wall, though I am not, I think, quite so worried as my hon. Friend is about that, though I have some doubts about the matter, but also because it calls attention to the existence of the Wall. I shall explain in a minute why I think that is tremendously important.

This great Wall which runs from the Tyne at Wallsend right across the country to Solway has stood there not a thousand years, as my hon. Friend said—he got his arithmetic a bit wrong—but for 1,800 years.

Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Swindon

I meant nearly 2,000 years.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

Yes, nearly 2,000 years indeed, not 1,000 years. Many miles of it, many mile-castles, many encampments have been preserved. It would not keep the Scots out today—which, on the whole, is perhaps a bad thing—but, as the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) said, those of us who know and love the Wall so well know that it runs over what I believe to be some of the most glorious country in this island, across great, wild, impressive moors in Northumberland and Cumberland, up hill and down dale like the Great Wall of China. It is something which everybody in this country, I believe, ought to see.

There is a great fort called Housesteads, just off the main Newcastle to Carlisle road, at one of the highest points of the Wall. It stands there looking both east and west and thence one can see the Wall stretching for miles up hills and fells, on crags and down again. It is a most impressive and wonderful sight. I believe that after Stonehenge it is probably the most impressive ancient monument that we have in the country.

Apart from the Wall, there are the great camps at Housesteads and Chesters, both of which have been unearthed and preserved. We also have a temple of Mithras. The temple in the City of London was not the first one discovered in this country. We have a very well-preserved one just off the Wall, and it is now uncovered and preserved and accessible to the public.

In the Roman encampment at House-steads one can see the marks made on the roads by the Roman chariot wheels as the Romans entered the four gateways of the camp. One can see the places where the soldiers sharpened their swords. One can see the initials of the soldiers carved on the barrack-room walls. There one feels that one is really in the midst of something which is alive, that the Wall is a living symbol of that old civilisation.

These things should be much more widely known, not only to tourists but to the British people as well. That is one of the reasons why I welcome the debate. So should, for that matter—if I may here digress for a moment—the counties through which the Wall runs. I believe that the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland together represent probably the loveliest part of this country. It is exquisite beauty, and it is also accessible beauty. Any hon. Members who have stood at Housesteads or at Friar's Crag, or at Derwentwater and looked up towards Borrowdale, or have stood at the top of Hartside Pass from Alston and looked down the Eden Valley, will agree that these three counties are indeed a lovely part of Britain. Hadrian's Wall is only one of the many attractions of this part of the country.

I want to say a word about the method of restoring. The method used by the Ministry does not look too bad where the Wall is fairly high, because the lower courses, I believe, are not disturbed. The top loose stones are embedded in concrete, and they are fairly high up and cannot be seen very easily. As the hon. Lady said, most of the villages in the Tyne Valley are obviously built of stones taken from the Roman Wall. The method which is employed looks rather frightful in the very low parts of the Wall where only the lower courses or footings remain. In effect, these parts of the Wall are being rebuilt. These small bits of the Wall—there is one at Heddon-on-the-Wall and one at Chollerford—look just like heaps of stones bedded in cement. That looks frightful. However, the method seems to work all right in the higher parts of the Wall where there are seven, eight or nine courses of stones left.

I appeal to the Minister to spend rather more, if it is possible to do so, on the work of uncovering Roman remains in the north of England. There is one very great camp on the top of Bowes Moor just on the borders of the North Riding and Westmorland. It is obvious from the marks on the ground that it is a very big camp. I believe that if it could be uncovered it would probably prove to be one of the most impressive Roman monuments in this country.

I wish also to refer to the work of the late Mr. F. Simpson, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The hon. Lady and other hon. Members who know the Wall will know of his work. In his youth he began to take an interest in the Wall. He gave up his career as an engineer and devoted the whole of his life, and, I believe, the whole of his fortune, to the work of preserving the Wall, purchasing parts of it and making them accessible to the public. He was honoured by the late King and also by Durham University, but I think that there ought to be some monument to him somewhere along the Wall. I would ask the Minister to bear that in mind. Mr. Simpson was a man inspired. Those of us who knew him knew that he was really fired by the civilising influence of Rome and the need for such an influence today.

Those hon. Members who have read the life of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) will remember the effect that his first reading of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall" had on him. It was from that moment that the real development of his mind and of his powers of expression began. Looking at the right hon. Gentleman's great wartime speeches we can see the influence of Gibbon in almost every sentence that he uttered. I think that that is the true significance of the Wall. It is not just a decaying monument of a long-dead civilisation, but a living symbol and a present-day contact with a civilisation that runs through many of the basic concepts of our own.

Those who come under the spell of the Wall, as the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth has, and as those of us who know it well have, feel the same sense of exhilaration that the right hon. Member for Woodford felt when he first read Gibbon so many years ago. That is its importance, and that is why this little debate is far more important than it would appear to be.

Let us preserve the Wall with care, but, more important than that, let us see that the people of this country and of other countries, and especially young people, visit it, take an interest in it, and see and feel what it symbolises, for I believe that Hadrian's Wall, and the great monuments along it, will bring people into contact with a civilising influence that the world today needs more than anything else.

8.52 p.m.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I hope that it will not be thought to be an intrusion for a Londoner, representing a mere London constituency, to intervene in the debate for just a few minutes. I do so partly because we have abundant time and partly because I take an interest in these matters. I only wish that I could speak with the same eloquence and feeling of reverence for our northern monuments as did my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short).

Like him, I wish that Hadrian's Wall were better known. I suppose that it is inevitable that it makes a much greater appeal to my hon. Friend, and to the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) than it does to us Southerners, but I can well appreciate the sensitive feeling that they have for this great, perhaps the greatest, permanent relic of Roman civilisation in Britain.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) is fortunate in representing a part of England, on Salisbury Plain, that is very rich in prehistoric monuments, but there is nothing like Hadrian's Wall, in the North, that can so remind us of the prowess of Roman civilisation which flourished in these islands for at least four centuries, and which, I believe, left an abiding mark on future generations—

Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Swindon

Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to intervene, as I feel that I must correct him on two things. First, Swindon is not on Salisbury Plain. I think that my constituents would complain if I did not put him right. Secondly, if he would like to come with me to the Swindon area I can show him some of the finest Roman roads in the country, and a number of other very impressive ancient monuments.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I was hoping that my hon. Friend would be flattered by the suggestion that Swindon was in the vicinity of Salisbury Plain. However, it is in the vicinity of Avebury and Stonehenge, to which he referred, so it is in the vicinity of two of the greatest prehistoric monuments in this country and, perhaps, in Western Europe. I should be glad to accept the invitation he has kindly offered, though I assure him that I have some familiarity with Roman roads, particularly the Fosse Way in the neighbourhood of his constituency, to which he also referred.

After that digression, perhaps we may return to what Mrs. Jacquetta Hawkes said in her most recent Observer article, "Back to the Wall". Unlike the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth, I have the honour of knowing Mrs. Jacquetta Hawkes, and I have the greatest admiration for her scholarship, her criticism, her knowledge and her views on any archaeological subject.

I do not think that it is a bad thing that, by a happy accident, we should have the opportunity this evening of ventilating the subject to which her articles have drawn attention and, indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon suggested, of discussing other aspects of the work of the Ancient Monuments Division of the Ministry of Works. The subject is by no means unimportant. Is it of great interest to both students and the general public of this country, and it has an increasing interest for overseas visitors. Every day, it is being more clearly realised that everything which helps to illuminate the past helps us to understand better the present and the problems of the future.

It may, perhaps, seem a trivial matter whether or not the Minister is acting in accordance with the best archaeological principles in the particular methods he is adopting in the preservation of Hadrian's Wall. I am certainly not in a position to judge. If there was one sentence which the Minister uttered on 25th February with which we all agreed, it was that There are often two opinions on every, object."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 180.] and this is particularly so in archaeological matters.

I do not think that it is for the House to judge between, on the one hand, the criticisms of Mrs. Jacquetta Hawkes and, on the other, the opinions of Professor Birley, Professor Richmond and others in the North, for whose opinions I also have the greatest respect. What is of wider significance is that we should appreciate the problem which often confronts the Ministry of Works not only in relation to Hadrian's Wall, but in other matters of preservation.

There is the problem of whether or not the Department should preserve a monument in the precise form in which it is found, with all the accumulation of debris, and so forth, which has grown up around it since it was built, or whether there should be not a radical reconstruction, but a renovation in such a way as to make the monument more easily intelligible to, and appreciated by, this generation.

I can understand the conflict that has arisen in the past on a number of important sites between the Ancient Monuments Board and other archaeologists represented in the Society of Antiquaries of which the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) is a distinguished Fellow. It is right that in this House we should take the opportunity of paying a tribute to the work that the Ancient Monuments Board has done in recent years in connection with the preservation of our ancient monuments and in laying them out in a manner which makes them not only places of beauty, but places in which people can take an intelligent interest to enable them to appreciate the work that is done.

May I, in passing, refer to places which I have seen in the last few years—for example, Richborough, Pevensey, the ancient Anderida. To come to mediaeval times, I can think of Goodrich Castle, Castle Acre and many others. I am impressed by the way in which these monuments of antiquity and great national interest are preserved by the hon. Gentleman's Department. It may well be that in the course of preservation something is done which necessarily or inevitably disturbs the original nature of the ancient fabric and the way in which the stones were placed. But I noticed—and I must say this in justification of the Minister—that Mrs. Jacquetta Hawkes points out in her article in the Observer of 30th March: It would be unfair to say that historical evidence is being lost in this way, but indisputably it could be. There is a very slight risk of that, but I think that what is more important is that in dealing with a monument like this Wall, unlike, for instance, the Temple of Mithras, we are dealing with a long section of the countryside of northern England, and the significance of the Wall is in its siting from place to place, in its general appearance and in its relation to the milestones.

To the examples given by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, may I add my appreciation of the way Corstopitum has been preserved. I am bound to say that in dealing with a long stretch of Hadrian's Wall, it is obviously impossible to deal with the whole of the face, but it is appropriate that a certain section of the face of the Wall should be dealt with in the way in which the Minister's Department is dealing with it, in spite of the criticism of Mrs. Hawkes that some stones have been displaced.

It is one of the curiosities of this subject, as Mrs. Hawkes herself recognises from her photographs, that owing to the peculiar lichen-marked stone, of which she gives two photographs, one can see how the lichen-marked stone which was formerly in the lower course is now in a slightly raised course. Therefore, if it was necessary to make that adjustment in the position of the stones, one has not only preserved for posterity the evidence of how the Wall was originally built, but one has preserved also the evidence of how this generation has thought it desirable to reconstruct it. There is, therefore, no possibility of future generations being deceived. That is not unimportant.

I would have thought that the same principle should apply to a work of this kind as is applied in the case of Stonehenge, to which my hon. Friend has referred, where we are reconstructing the trilithon. I am sure that that is a right decision to have taken. The mere fact that it is being done, and that there is current literary and pictorial evidence of how it is being done removes any possibility of future generations being misled about the subject.

One of the difficulties of archaeology in the past when excavating prehistoric, Roman or Anglo-Saxon sites has been that there is no literary evidence to indicate what changes have been made in successive generations. Today, however, we are living in an age of archaeological work and restoration, when everything that is done is photographed and recorded, so that future generations may be able to detect any changes that have been made from the original status of any monument.

I fear that I have spoken for too long, but I wanted to pay this tribute to the work of the Department and to say that we are all anxious to hear what the Minister has to tell us.

9.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Nigel Nicolson Mr Nigel Nicolson , Bournemouth East and Christchurch

I am glad that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) began his speech by paying tribute to Mrs. Hawkes. Lest anybody imagines that she is an archaeological busybody or an amateur, it was good to have a reminder from the hon. Member that she is one of the most distinguished archxologists of her day.

In addition—the combination is not always automatic—Mrs. Hawkes is also one of the greatest writers of the day. She is a person who not only has profound scholarship in her subject, but is able to marry up scientific fact with a sense of landscape and culture, which is almost unequalled in any archæological writer of today. I also know her personally, and although I have disagreed with her strongly over some of the criticisms she has made of the Ministry's treatment of Hadrian's Wall, I am happy to think that I retain her valuable friendship.

Mrs. Hawkes was by no means the first person who raised the question of the treatment of Hadrian's Wall in the postwar years. In fact, many years before she wrote her article which has led to this controversy coming out in public, the matter was already under consideration by the Ancient Monuments Board for England, of which I have the honour to be the only lay member. The other members of the Board, whose duties are to advise my right hon. Friend upon the treatment of the ancient monuments in England, are all archæologists of the first rank. I do not know why I am there at all; all I can say is that it is the happiest job which Parliament has ever brought me.

The others range from Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who is now generally regarded as the doyen of archæologists, to Professor Richmond, than whom there is no greater authority upon the relics of the Roman occupation of Britain, who was the director of the British School at Rome and who has only recently left his appointment at Newcastle as Professor of Roman Archæology. There are six or seven others, including Professor Grimes, who is the discoverer and excavator of the now famous Mithraie Temple at Wallbrook, all of whom are not only thoroughly versed in archwological matters, but are also well aware of their wider responsibilities to keep the monuments under my right hon. Friend's care in a condition which is not only truthful in the archæological sense, but will also make an appeal to the general public for whose benefit and education they are preserved.

When the Ancient Monuments Board came to consider this matter of Hadrian's Wall, it went into it with the greatest care. It consulted not only with those archaeologists outside the Board who know most about the subject, but also consulted with the National Trust, which owns a section about three and a half miles long in the open moorlands, and with private owners who own here and there smaller sections of the Wall and on whose land it lies.

In each of these cases the Board came to the conclusion that there was no single treatment of the Wall which was suitable for every part of it, because the Wall, running straight across our country, passes through an enormous variety of countryside. It starts in the industrial suburbs of Newcastle, runs through agricultural country until it reaches the point, about 20 or 30 miles from its start, where it leaves the fields and climbs up to the highest point of the fells. This is perhaps the most famous part of the Wall, for it is also not only the most beautiful country but the part where the Wall itself is best preserved. Coming over the fells it then runs through more agricultural country towards Carlisle, and, finally, out into the marshes round the Solway Firth.

When the Board came to consider how the Wall could be dealt with, it noted that a large part of it is a reconstruction dating from the nineteenth century. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) mentioned that it was a Mr. Clayton from Chesters who undertook a great deal of this valuable work, but the part of the Wall which the public quite naturally and rightly admire most, running westwards from Housesteads is more or less a fake.

It is a fake in the sense that although the original stones were re-used they were pulled apart and replaced in an order which did not necessarily correspond to the order in which they were originally found. The top was flattened, and a matting of turf, along which the public could walk, as they do in summertime, was placed along the top of the Wall. Some of them may imagine that they are treading where the Roman sentries originally trod, but very few of them know that they are walking upon a platform which was erected less a hundred years ago.

The question arose, when new parts of the Wall were uncovered, should the Ministry treat them in exactly the same way as Mr. Clayton did, and which the National Trust followed, or should it evolve a method which would be archeologically less indefensible? There can be no question that to pull the stones apart, to flatten the top and to lay on it an artificial turf walk is archeologically incorrect. It is practising a deceit upon the public, and it is certainly not preserving for future generations the original work as it was found.

The Ministry decided, and in this it had the complete backing of the Ancient Monuments Board for England, to preserve as much as possible of what it found, and to consolidate, render it waterproof, and, as far as possible, render it proof against the ravages of weather, sheep and trippers. To do that, it has had to deal quite boldly with those parts of the Wall which it found in imminent danger of collapse. What would be the use of rendering waterproof an old piece of masonry which would have tumbled part in a few years' time. It is precisely those sections which, in some cases, have had to be dismantled down to foundation level so that they could be carefully rebuilt in a form which would make them immune to the ravages of time.

Wherever the officials of the Ministry found the Wall in a state which was not crumbled and where the original Roman mortar was in a sound condition, they did not touch the original stones, either the square stones of the two faces, or the unshaped stones of the central core. They merely rendered it waterproof by putting a covering of modern mortar chosen particularly to tone in with the original Roman work, and cleared away all the roots, grass and earth, which, up to that time, had concealed the Wall from view.

That is a summary of the method used, and I will leave it to the Parliamentary Secretary to describe what is shown in the photographs which were published in one of Mrs. Hawkes's articles. I am sure that he will be able to give to the House and the country an explanation of these photographs which will remove any doubt that the workmen and supervisors employed by the Ministry of Works have been guilty of archæological sacrilege.

If one has to choose between the National Trust method of preservation and the Ministry of Works method, the Ministry's method is certainly the sounder from the purely archeological point of view. The National Trust has quite deliberately imitated the method first adopted by Mr. Clayton and has found it necessary, in order to provide a level surface upon which to lay a turf walk, to knock off bits of the central core and remove the face stones from one part of the section to another to render it a single uniform rectilinear whole.

The National Trust has produced something, I quite agree, which looks much more like a wall than the Ministry of Works wall, and it is more pleasing in appearance, but it has, in a sense, been guilty of faking in the same way as Mr. Clayton, less than a hundred years ago. It has this further disadvantage. Very naturally, when you find provided for you a turf walk, you walk along it, and hon. Members can imagine the physical effect of hundreds, and perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of people tramping annually along the top of a wall which is only 10 ft. wide. They gradually force apart both faces from the centre outwards, so that in the course of years they will tumble to the ground, and we shall have to start all over again.

As a further consequence, I am led to believe, the turf contains certain acids which gradually eat their way into the core, and so will destroy it by a chemical process that may extend over many years. Besides that, and most important of all, the turf walk gives the public a completely false impression of what the Roman wall was like. It suggests that it was a little less than 5 or 6 ft. high, when its true height was really 20 ft., surmounted by a parapet.

Many people, when they come back from Northumberland. are unimpressed by the Roman Wall, because they think that what they saw was, in fact, what the Romans built. There is a famous letter which is preserved among the records of one of the Northumbrian archeological societies from a master of foxhounds who wrote to protest that the farmers in that part of the country were building walls of such fantastic dimensions that it was almost impossible to hunt. They had, in fact, succeeded in hunting and in jumping across Hadrian's Wall.

May I end by making a few suggestions to the Ministry? I would encourage my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to make even profounder researches than he has hitherto done into a new sort of mortar to consolidate the remains. It is true that the mortar now used is of a special type which tones in quite well with the original Roman work, but many people, especially when the work has just been completed, find that it looks nearly new, though in the course of time it will fade. I only wish that in the interval a mortar could be found which will not look quite so garish in its early years.

Secondly, and perhaps more controversial, I think it would be right, particularly in the central section of the Wall, to allow the grass to grow again naturally upon the original work. It might be said that this will start up the trouble all over again, and that the grass roots will gradually penetrate and loosen the mortar, so that the Wall will collapse after a few years. I do not think that that is necessarily so. Going round the country, one can see many houses which have grass growing from their roofs without any damage to them at all, and on Hadrian's Wall the same would apply and it would be a perfectly natural clothing to the repair-work of the Ministry of Works, and one which would go some way towards meeting the criticisms of Mrs. Hawkes about the Mappin Terraces.

Thirdly, I wish he would remove the railings from all sections of the Wall under his care. Mrs. Hawkes was not quite accurate in saying that in the central and finest section there are little lawns and railings. There is none in this section, but there are others in Chester's Camp and places just outside Birdoswald and again in the Brunton section.

In these places there are ugly and quite unnecessary railings. When, in the past, I have said that they were unnecessary, the reply has been that they are a protection against traffic or cattle. I cannot believe that a solid wall, ten feet thick, requires the protection of a little, finicky railing against either of those adversaries. It would be infinitely more effective if the Wall were left alone in its field, without any Ministry hedging around it.

Fourthly, I hope that the Minister will take urgent action, as I know he has promised to do, to take under his care those important sections of the Wall which are in particular danger. I have one in mind, which I shall use as an example. One of the most pleasant and important forts is known as Aesica, or Great Chesters. As I know from my own visit to it a year ago, that fort is a farmyard, and the little angle turrets of the fort were then being used as chicken runs and pigsties. It is inevitable that after treatment of that sort the stones are gradually worn down, if not displaced, and after twenty years of such treatment the archaeological and aesthetic value of the fort will be totally lost. I am pleading for really urgent action to save that fort.

I would include just one more section of the Wall for which I have a particular liking, namely, the section running through the field belonging to Black Carts farm—a section which is overgrown with bushes and quite sturdy trees, the roots of which are eating into the core. Before many years pass the facing stones will be forced apart and that particularly fine section of the Wall will be lost for ever.

One hon. Member has already referred to the proposal of the Ministry to take all surviving remains of the Wall under its care. Some members of the public might regard such a proposal as quite disastrous, but I feel that it is absolutely essential. Hadrian's Wall is a monument unrivalled in any other part of the world, and it happens to be found in Britain. Stonehenge is also unrivalled, dating from a period at least 2,000 years earlier, but Hadrian's Wall is unequalled and we hold it in this country as a legacy in trust for all those countries of Europe to which the Roman Empire spread. It should be a national monument in fact, because it already is in spirit and history.

Having worked for three years with Ministry officials, and having discussed this matter with my right hon. Friend, I have confidence that the good taste and scholarly exactness of those officials are such that to put a monument of this antiquity and importance under their care will result in a benefit to the nation. It will not, as Mrs. Hawkes fears, create the risk that its value will be lost.

9.30 p.m.

Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough

I do not think it often happens that a Minister called on to answer one of the last debates before a Recess can truly say that he welcomes the job. But I can do so on this occasion because this subject has proved a matter of real interest to many hon. Members, and there has been sufficient time to give them an opportunity to express their views. We at the Ministry welcome the opportunity given to hon. Members to put their views on record, and I can promise that many of the constructive suggestions and ideas advanced today will be examined with sympathy.

I am delighted that I follow my hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) who, as a member of the Ancient Monuments Board, was able to speak with such authority. Much of what he said I might have included in my reply, but I should not have been able to deal with it in anything like the same admirable way as he did. My task tonight will be to deal with the more mundane matters raised in the debate.

We at the Ministry appreciate the way in which the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) opened this debate and enabled us to deal with the articles which have been published and the supporting photographs. It is right that the criticisms referred to should be answered authoritatively at the earliest moment. I do not approach this task in any apologetic vein. We at the Ministry are very proud of the quality of our work of preservation of these ancient monuments, and I was delighted to hear support for that expressed by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). Any fair-minded examination of our work in the areas which have been the subject of the articles referred to would satisfy people that our pride is justified. I think, in view of the tenor of some of the articles that I am entitled to call in aid an extract from a letter received from one of the most outstanding Roman-period archæologists. He wrote a letter following the recent controversy caused by the articles, and stated: I have seen work in progress in India, Algeria, France, Switzerland and Italy and I judge what you people do against that background, and, by God, you come out on top. I think that is a rather good thing to know, and I consider that in the context of what has been said it is right to place it on record.

Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth

May we have the name of the writer?

Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough

I tried hard to contact the gentleman to obtain his permission to quote his name. Unfortunately, he is engaged on a "dig" and so is not at the end of a telephone. I have not his permission to give his name, otherwise I should have been delighted to do so. I have no doubt that had I managed to contact him, he would have given me permission; but I know that under the circumstances, the House will take my word that the eminence which I have accorded to him is well justified.

The criticism I wish to deal with is that directed at our methods of consolidating the remains of the Roman Wall. Hon. Members have expressed the view that it is right that one should deal specifically with the newspaper articles and photographs which preceded Questions in this House, and which it has been admitted were the cause of this Adjournment debate.

I must say—the speech of the hon. Member for Swindon underlined this—that even these critical articles were not able to fault the general policy of our Ancient Monuments Section. There is no suggestion that the general policy is wrong or deserving of particular criticism. The charge was, as I have read it, that the implementing of that policy was at fault.

The articles suggested the use of careless workmen and the lack of general supervision, and because of that, a real risk of destroying archaeological evidence. In support of the general charge about the implementing of a policy with which they did not apparently disagree, the authors of the articles produced two sets of photographs. One photograph purported to show that the Wall, after having been uncovered, had been dismantled and the stones incorrectly replaced. The photograph to which the hon. Member for Islington, East referred, showed an easily identifiable stone, with the lichen marks on it. On the first photograph the stone appears at the bottom of the Wall. The photograph was taken before the work had started. On the second photograph, after the preservation had taken place, the same stone can be seen one course higher.

Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough

I had "two courses" on my notes, but I think if we look more closely at the photographs we will see that the difference is one course. The suggestion of these photographs is that the stone has been removed from the position shown on the first photograph.

The suggestion that this section of the Wall has been extensively rebuilt, or rebuilt at all, is absolutely wrong. In fact, the stone was in precisely the same position as it was when discovered. The first photograph shows lots of earth in front of the Wall. All the earth was cleared away in the course of the preservation, which revealed extra courses of stone work underneath. In the second photograph the stone was therefore shown two layers higher, but was in precisely the same position in the second photograph as in the first photograph.

I hope that explanation is clear. It is not easy to see, without the photographs, what has happened. That part of the Wall has not been touched. The excess earth in front of the bottom part of the Wall has been removed, and so the second photograph naturally gave the position of the stone as being higher up. The author of the article may not have known this, but I should have thought that even a cursory observation would have suggested the obvious explanation which I have just given.

On the second photograph an attempt is made to suggest that the Wall has been extensively rebuilt, and a white line is marked on another stone which, it is rather melodramatically suggested, has been replaced. This was an isolated case among several thousand stones where one of them can be seen, in the original photograph, to be extensively fractured. It was replaced by a nearby fallen stone of the same size. This substitution was justified by the very excellent explanation given by my hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch concerning the risk that can come from ice, rain and ravages generally. To have left one part of the wall with this extensive fracture would have been rather like neglecting the beginning of decay in a tooth. Before long, the whole Wall would have disintegrated and the money spent on preserving it as an ancient monument would have been wasted. That is the explanation of the photograph, which is the basis of a suggestion that has nothing else to support it at all.

The second suggestion is that unskilled workers are being employed and that there has been carelessness. The second photograph showed a workman with pickaxe, with a dumper in the background. The suggestion clearly was that our excavation and preservation were being done in a haphazard way, and left in the hands of untrained and inexperienced people. If that is the message of the photograph, it is unfair and is certainly untrue. I will tell the House what actually happened.

This is what happens over the whole of the Department's work on any of these preservation works. In sections of about 20 yards at a time a trained archaeologist and a Departmental architect accompany the superintendent of works on to the site, and, at this high level, decide the character of the work to be undertaken and give detailed instructions to the charge-hand. In this case, the charge-hand was a man of great experience, and in his private capacity is a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle.

They pass detailed instructions through the superintendent to the charge-hand, who then instructs his leading hand and the workmen, such as those we see in the photographs, as to the detailed methods of handling and the removal of waste. He tells the workmen exactly how he wishes the work to be carried out. The method of handling and of moving it follows a drill which has been very carefully thought out and under which careful instruction is given until the men themselves have some experience of the work involved. The leading hand is on the spot the whole time the work is being carried out.

In the photograph we see only two workmen with their picks raised in a menacing fashion, but, in fact, the leading hand, who has received and understands the instructions passed from a high level, is there or thereabouts. The charge-hand may be controlling two or three other sites in the same vicinity, but he visits these points at least once a day, and on important points—and the section set out in the photograph was regarded as an important point—it is not a matter of visiting only once a day because he spends most of his time there. When this has been done and the work has proceeded, the superintendent of works comes back at least every ten days, and sometimes more often, to check over the type and quality of the work which has been carried out according to the instructions which he has previously given. Later the archeologist and the architect again inspect to see how their instructions are being carried out, say every two months.

That is the way in which the ancient monuments section of our Department carries out these works. This procedure is meticulously carried out, and because it is generally appreciated that it is carried out with care and thought, even the authors of the article, after having given this great message of carelessness and unskilled work, could merely say: It would be unfair to say that historical evidence is being lost. They fell back on the rather nebulous hypothesis that "it could be lost". The fact that this weak charge follows the rather menacing photographs is not without significance.

Having dealt with the photographs and the articles, I know that the House will recognise that that is only one infinitesimal part of the work which the Ministry is carrying out, and it might be helpful if briefly I remind the House what our policy is in the conservation of all ancient monuments. Our policy is to arrest the processes of decay at a point which they have reached when we take over the responsibility. That is the basis of our policy and all the instructions on the work in hand flow from that.

Our object is to avoid interference with their authenticity and, at the same time, to give maximum protection against the ravages of rain, ice, wind, snow and, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Bournemouth and Christchurch said, sheep and trippers. My hon. Friend also said that this policy and these objectives have the full support of the Ancient Monuments Board for England, an outstanding and authoritative body. They would also have the full support of all informed archaeological opinion throughout the country, whether on the Board or not. The Ministry's methods have been kept constantly under review and, as my hon. Friend said, they were recently approved by the Ancient Monuments Board.

The Ministry's methods have also met with the approval of outside archaeologists of repute, to whom reference has already been made. Professor Ian Richmond, formerly of Durham and now at Oxford, was closely associated with our work on the Wall. Professor Birley, who is Professor Richmond's successor, is professor of Roman history and archaeology at the University of Durham, and he has also been quoted in support of our methods. Mr. Gillam, also of Durham, has been closely associated with our work, and the letter written by Mr. Gillam and Professor Birley was, thanks to the persistence of my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward), quoted in support of our general approach to these matters.

I could repeat many of the references to our work which have been made by hon. Members, but that would be an unnecessary repetition. By and large, this debate has brought out the fact that people were disturbed by these articles and photographs. It is right that they should have had the explanation which I am very pleased to have been able to give. On the whole, one has felt throughout the debate, which has gone on rather longer than we expected, a sense of unity in support of the methods adopted by my Department in trying to preserve these ancient monuments for the good of the country. I would assure the House that many of the criticisms which have recently been made of our work, with some appearance of validity, are, in fact, unfounded, and I hope that the explanations which have been given will satisfy the House.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Swindon for having introduced the debate. I repeat that we will certainly take into account all the suggestions which have been made, where they can be put into operation, and the debate will certainly not have been a waste of time.

The hon. Member for Swindon asked if I could indicate the state of affairs at Stonehenge. I assure him that the work is proceeding according to plan. Some of the smaller stones have been moved and their sites are at the moment being explored under the direction of Professor Piggott and Mr. Atkinson. We hope next month to proceed with the erection of a few of the stones which have been referred to. The preliminary work has been carried out satisfactorily and we are now getting on to the bigger job of moving the stones. I have no doubt that in Parliamentary Question and Answer after the Recess we can give further reports about the situation.

This debate has been helpful to the Department, and we welcome the suggestions which have been made. I hope that my explanation of the points which I know were causing concern will be found to be satisfactory, and that next time when a debate takes place on this absorbing subject we shall have the good fortune to have the same amount of time that we have had this evening so that hon. Members can express their views fully.

Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Swindon

We are very grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for having dealt with the allegations at some length. May I ask him if he can say when he thinks the Department will he able to make some public announcement about the results of the work at Avebury?

Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough

I can say a word on that subject now, but I did not want to widen the debate, as we had intended to deal primarily with Hadrian's Wall. However, we have had more time than we expected. When the present operation at Stonehenge is completed, we hope to turn our attention to limited excavations at Avebury. At present no work is actually in hand there. We shall work out our plans in consultation with the Ancient Monuments Board and we shall hope to have the assistance of experts to supervise and advise on the work to he done.

9.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Greenwood Mr Anthony Greenwood , Rossendale

This has been a valuable debate, not least because of the extremely clear exposition by the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry's policy. I am sure we are all grateful to him for his speech, just as we are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) for having chosen this subject for discussion tonight. This is not the first time my hon. Friend has placed us under an obligation to him. About two or three years ago he initiated a debate on prehistoric monuments in South-West England which also, I think, produced one of the most interesting debates it has been my privilege to attend.

One of the really pleasant features of these debates on matters of this kind is that they always give us an opportunity of paying tribute to the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments. We all admire the scholarly and practical approach which the Inspectorate adopts to matters of this kind, and when I find that it advises upon a course of action I have a great inclination to agree, in spite of certain preliminary doubts I may experience.

On this occasion I am left with only one doubt, that although the machinery for supervision, to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, is obviously adequate, I wonder whether it always works as efficiently and consistently as it might and whether, perhaps, sometimes we have human failures, which may have been in this case at least magnified out of all proportion.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the photographs in the Observer which were taken by Mr. David Moore. I must confess that my anxieties are not completely allayed by the explanation which the Parliamentary Secretary gave, because some of the stones in the immediate proximity of the lichen-covered stone to which he referred do not seem to me to be the same shape in both photographs. It may be as well if the hon. Gentleman can arrange for a careful examination to be carried out on the spot to satisfy himself that more drastic reconstruction has not taken place than appears to be the case from the view which he now holds.

I do not doubt for a moment that the general policy of the Ministry is right. We had a remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson), and I hope he will not take it amiss when I say that all of us wish him well in the struggle which he is carrying on against the ancient monuments in his own Conservative Association. It was, no doubt, characteristic modesty on the hon. Gentleman's part which prevented him from quoting the advice which the Ancient Monuments Board gave to the Minister in its last Annual Report. It discussed the methods of preservation which could be employed and took the view that it was in broad agreement with the method of preservation used by the Ministry.

I do not think any of us would question that the general policy of the Ministry is the right one, but, as hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have said, we cannot lightly brush aside the views of so distinguished and scholarly an archaeologist as Jacquetta Hawkes, and I wonder myself whether the truth may lie in one of the remarks which she made in a letter to the Observer on 2nd February of this year, when she expressed the view that the Ministry's policy was sound, and then went on to say But it is a long way from the desk to the field"— meaning presumably that there is a good deal of scope for mistakes to take place between the formulation of policy by the Ministry and the actual carrying of it out on the spot.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend will go carefully into this matter again. We all of us endorse the broad lines of policy which they are carrying out, but we do, I think, just wonder, even at the end of the very persuasive speech we have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary, whether at times rather closer supervision should be provided and whether mistakes are being made which could be rectified with a little greater attention to details.

9.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Hayman Mr Frank Hayman , Falmouth and Camborne

I rise at this late hour to make just a short intervention. I would say at once that I am not an expert at all on this subject but simply an interested tripper from time to time to ancient monuments.

The speech of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) was so striking that I felt persuaded that all he said was right. On the other hand, my experience as a Member of Parliament and my previous experience lead me to believe that experts will differ and that the ordinary person must form the best judgment he can.

There was one point made by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch to which the Parliamentary Secretary did not reply. It referred to the part of the Wall and fort now used as a farmyard and a chicken run. I hope it will be within the scope of the Ministry, if necessary, to acquire that land so as to prevent unnecessary deterioration.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at four minutes to Ten o'clock.