The Stonehenge Alliance
The Stonehenge Alliance is a group of non-governmental organizations and individuals that seeks enhancements to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS) and opposes development that will cause it significant harm. It was constituted in 2001. This includes preserving Stonehenge and its landscape, protecting human burials, and thus allowing further archaeological discovery of the region. Some of these organizations include:
Ancient Sacred Landscape Network (ASLaN)
Campaign for Better Transport (Formerly Transport 2000)
Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) with Wiltshire Branch of CPRE
Friends of the Earth (FOE) with FOE South West
Rescue: The British Archaeological Trust
The president of the Stonehenge Alliance is Tom Holland, author, classicist, historian, and broadcaster. Perhaps you have one of his fiction or non-fiction books on your shelf. (I do.) You may also have seen him on some BBC programming as his works extend beyond Stonehenge as do the works of the other organizations. Other members of the Stonehenge Alliance are also notable, but this blog cannot go into each group in depth. Their website is at the bottom of this blog if you’d like a deeper review.
I had the opportunity to speak to a member of the Stonehenge Alliance and will be sharing some of their information in this and an upcoming blog.
Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As discussed in a previous blog there are 1,052 UNESCO World Heritage sites. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is based in Paris. It contributes to preserving cultural heritage. It defines itself as: contributing to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.
Every World Heritage site is unique. That’s part of why it becomes a WHS! (grin) As mentioned previously, some sites are threatened by weather and environmental issues. Some are threatened by war. Others are at risk for other reasons. In the case of Stonehenge, it is at risk due to government plans to build a road and a tunnel in and near the Stonehenge landscape.
The Stonehenge Alliance was formed with one purpose: to oppose the Highways Agency’s scheme for widening a road system between Amesbury and Berwick Down to include a short, 2.1km bored tunnel close to the Stones and 2.4km of above-ground dual carriageway within the Stonehenge World Heritage site. That scheme, examined at a Public Inquiry in 2004, was abandoned by the government in 2007 owing to cost and unforeseen technical problems relating to tunnelling close to the surface through “soft chalk.”
Don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet.
Unfortunately this isn’t the end of Stonehenge’s issues, and so the Stonehenge Alliance remains active. My next blog will discuss in more detail the risks Stonehenge is currently experiencing with a new road and tunnel plan.
Regardless of where we live, Stonehenge possesses information critical to our combined human heritage. Living within the UK or in another part of the world, there are things we can do if this issue concerns you. The most important thing you can do is learn the facts.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (First quoted by George Santayana and later by Winston Churchill.)
Certainly Stonehenge is a very popular tourist destination. It remains an active archaeological site. New discoveries continue to be made. Any damage, such as a road and tunnel, will permanently damage or destroy any undiscovered finds. I can’t begin to imagine what those might be.
I began researching Stonehenge by reading a book by R. J. C. Atkinson, who excavated Stonehenge between 1950 and 1956. If you find the archaeological history of Stonehenge interesting, his book titled simply “Stonehenge” might be interesting. Bear in mind, some information included in this book is out of date or incorrect in light of new information. It does provide a good background.
We are more than 50 years from when Professor Atkinson excavated Stonehenge. I think he would be surprised by the new discoveries. Science has advanced, allowing for new tools and techniques to study the landscape. Imagine what might be available in 50 more years!
To learn more about the Stonehenge Alliance, visit: http://stonehengealliance.org.uk/
If you are interested in recent findings at Stonehenge, this book is also comprehensive:
Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery (Parker Pearson, Mike, Pollard, Joshua, Richards, Colin, Thomas, Julian, Welham, Kate)
The Stonehenge Alliance is working to ensure Stonehenge and its landscape is preserved into the future so that we can continue to learn about our heritage from this very important site.