Hadrian's Wall

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

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Photo of Mr Francis Noel-Baker Mr Francis Noel-Baker , Swindon 12:00 am, 2nd April 1958

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.