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 Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough 12:00 am, 2nd April 1958

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.