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 Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth 12:00 am, 2nd April 1958

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.