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 Lord-Avebury-2006
 
 
Eric Reginald Lubbock, 4th Baron Avebury (29 September 1928 – 14 February 2016)
 
The Heritage Trust is sad to report the death of Lord Avebury, who passed away today aged 87. Among his many campaigns those that surrounded the iconic Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, England are of especial poignancy to those who care about the protection of our heritage. We can think of no better tribute to him than to republish here a letter to the Guardian newspaper which he wrote in 2007 entitled No climbing up on Silbury Hill
 
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Silbury
Image credit and © Frankie
 
While it was good that Peter May and his family had such an enjoyable visit to the Avebury World Heritage Site (Things to do with your family this week, Family, July 14), they ought to have been aware that Silbury Hill has been closed to visitors since 1974. Climbing the monument damages archaeology located just beneath the surface. It also threatens the flora and fauna, which are critical to Silbury Hill’s status as a site of special scientific interest. Incursion on to the monument underlines the need to support the notices and fences prohibiting entry, with clear public messages and examples of good conduct sensitive to the best interests of the site.
 

My grandfather purchased Silbury Hill, introduced the first legislation to protect ancient monuments, and placed the hill under permanent guardianship. As owner of the site, I am concerned by the conflicting messages now being sent out by English Heritage, such as their plan to allow a “time capsule” to be buried in the monument. The current Silbury Hill conservation project, for which EH deserves credit, is designed to restore the original fabric by backfilling with pure chalk. Placing a foreign object in the monument offends conservation principles, as well as the spiritual beliefs of some people. Describing the object as a time capsule means that EH expects it to be retrieved at some future date, requiring further tunnelling, yet the current works have been undertaken to correct the mistakes of past excavations.

English Heritage should give the public clear uncomplicated messages about how to enjoy ancient monuments respectfully, and should set the very best of examples themselves.

Eric Avebury
House of Lords

 

 
The Winterbourne at Avebury flowing towards a snow-sprinkled Silbury in the background
©
The Heritage Trust
 
 
Seasons Greetings to our readers
 
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a
 
Happy New Year
 

On Silbury Hill by Adam Thorpe

Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 this week is Adam Thorpe’s On Silbury Hill (see our earlier feature here).

The novel pays personal tribute to the Neolithic monument. The base of Silbury Hill covers five acres of Wiltshire turf that has not seen the daylight for 4,300 years. Adam Thorpe has known the place since he was 13 years old. Abridged by Jill Waters. Read by Philip Franks. Broadcast daily from 9:45am – 10:00am.

 

 
On Silbury Hill by Adam Thorpe
 
Her [Silbury] base covers five acres of Wiltshire turf, the equivalent of three football pitches. Five acres that have not seen sunlight or stars for some 4,300 years and will never see sunlight again until, possibly, the ice of the next Ice Age to extend as far as southern England scratches her away like a pimple. In her day she must have been almost unimaginably colossal, since nothing else man-made came anywhere near. She was probably as white, when completed, as the dome of the Taj Mahal – not with marble, but with ungrassed chalk. To visitors seeing her for the first time, she would have seemed otherworldly, miraculous, impossibly smooth and symmetrical…
 
Adam Thorpe
 
More here. See also the review by Paul Farley in the Guardian.
   

Silbury Hill, Wiltshire England
©
The Heritage Trust
 
The largest man-made mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporary Egyptian pyramids. Probably completed in around 2400 BC, it apparently contains no burial. Though clearly important in itself, its purpose and significance remain unknown. There is no access to the hill itself.
 
Silbury Hill is part of the Avebury World Heritage Site, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. In order to preserve this site for future generations, we ask that visitors observe the no entry signs and do not climb or damage fences in order to avoid considerable damage to the hill.
 
 
 
Silbury Hill: The Largest Prehistoric Mound in Europe
Edited by Jim Leary, David Field and Gill Campbell
 
Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, has long been an enigma. Set within the chalk downlands of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, it is traditionally thought to have been the burial place of King Sil. First investigated in 1776, then again in 1849, successive archaeological interventions culminated in Professor Richard Atkinson’s televised campaign in the late 1960s. Following the dramatic collapse of the 1776 excavation shaft at the summit of the Hill in 2000, detailed surveys revealed that voids associated with the earlier excavations existed deep within the mound. Mindful of potential damage to undisturbed archaeological features within Silbury Hill, in 2007 the decision was taken to re-enter the Hill using Professor Atkinson’s tunnel and directly backfill all known and predicated voids. These remedial works were accompanied by full archaeological recording. This report discusses the resulting stratigraphical and palaeoenvironmental evidence as well as new radiocarbon dates and offers a re-interpretation of the construction of the Hill, setting it in its late Neolithic context. It also details the later history of the site and conservation measures undertaken.
 
Publisher: English Heritage
Publication date: 28 November 2013
Format: Hardback 432 pages
ISBN 13: 9781848020450 ISBN 10: 1848020457
 
More here.
 
 

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill by Jake Turner
©
Jake Turner, all rights reserved

Jake Turner was born and bred in Swindon, Wiltshire, England and has been a keen photographer for around 2 years, more seriously in the past 12 months. He loves the countryside of Wiltshire where he grew up and tries to feature it as often as possible in his photos. More examples of his work can be found on his flickr and facebook pages.

 

 

Silbury after heavy rainfall last year. Image credit and © Willow

BBC News Wiltshire reports today that –

Trespassers on a rain-soaked monument in Wiltshire are causing “spectacular” damage, an archaeologist has warned. Heavy rain has led to standing water around Silbury Hill in Avebury and very soft ground which is being eroded by people climbing the monument.

Jim Leary, an archaeologist for English Heritage, said that illegal climbers on the sodden hill were “leaving some really rather hideous scars”. The hill dates back to 2400 BC and is the largest man-made mound in Europe. Mr Leary said access to the mound had been prohibited for a number of decades and people should not be attempting to climb it. “They are going up and it is very wet and they are eroding the side of the hill,” he added. “I would really ask people not to go up the hill. It is leaving some really rather hideous scars and eroding our beautiful monument.”

Full story here.

 

 
Mount Silbury by Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838)
 
 
O Thou, to whom in the olden times was raised
Yon ample Mound, not fashion’d to display
An artful structure, but with better skill
Piled massive, to endure through many an age,
How simple, how majestic is thy tomb!
When temples and when palaces shall fall,
And mighty cities moulder into dust,
When to their deep foundations Time shall shake
The strong-based pyramids, shall thine remain
Amid the general ruin unsubdued,
Uninjured as the everlasting hills,
And mock the feeble power of storms and Time.
 
William Crowe (1745-1829)
 
 

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