A report to the WAC Executive

Robert Layton and Julian Thomas

In January 1999 the plenary session of WAC 4 passed the following motion:

We the participants of WAC 4 welcome the concern demonstrated by the UK Government to safeguard the future of [the] Stonehenge World Heritage site but urge the UK Government to reconsider its decision to insert a cut and cover tunnel across the World Heritage site. Particularly we ask that the UK Government looks again at the costs of a bored tunnel taking into account the full potential benefits, economic, social and cultural, and finds funding to build it. This appeal is made in view of the long campaign by English Heritage, the Government’s advisors in archaeological matters, in favour of a bored tunnel. WAC would wish to work with the UK government to make the reassessment possible, and to help the UK government in moving the project forward.

The Executive of WAC asked Julian Thomas and Robert Layton to prepare a report which would enable WAC to determine what action it should take in response to the motion.

The archaeology of the Stonehenge area
The landscape surrounding the prehistoric enclosure and stone circle at Stonehenge in southern Wiltshire contains an unusually dense concentration of archaeological evidence, and rightfully constitutes a World Heritage Site. Any assessment of the likely impact of the construction of a road tunnel, and of the benefits of the removal of surface roads from the vicinity of the monument must be made in the context of an understanding of the development of this unique landscape. For the purposes of this document, we will outline the prehistoric remains of the Stonehenge area (Figure 1).

For the most part, the evidence for Mesolithic occupation on central Salisbury Plain is very limited, although a microlithic flint industry has been recovered from beside the river Avon near Durrington Walls (Richards 1990, 263). More significant are a group of large post-holes excavated in the Stonehenge car-park by the Vatchers, which appear to date to the eighth millennium BC (Cleal, Walker and Montague 1995, 43). Three of the four posts line up with a nearby tree-hole, and give the impression that some form of very early (and unique) monumental structure may have existed in the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge.

Early Neolithic
In the earlier part of the Neolithic (from 4000 BC onwards), the Stonehenge area saw the emergence of one of the principal concentrations of ceremonial monuments in southern England. These include the causewayed enclosure at Robin Hood’s Ball, and a group of earthen long barrows, which are especially densely concentrated on Wilsford and Normanton Downs (Figure 1). These long mounds contained a variety of mortuary deposits, including bodies in various states of articulation and disaggregation. The location and orientation of some of the long mounds suggests an close connection with the two large linear enclosures of the Greater and Lesser Cursus, which may consequentially be relatively early in date (the single radiocarbon date from the Great Cursus suggests otherwise). The surface collection work of the Stonehenge Environs Project was able to identify a number of scatters of chipped stone tools and waste which complement the distribution of these monuments, on the King Barrow Ridge and Coneybury Hill, near Winterbourne Stoke Crossroads and the Diamond, north of the Cursus, and perhaps also on Stonehenge Down (Richards 1990: 265-6). Furthermore, there have been sporadic finds of Early Neolithic pottery, and a number of pits, principally concentrated in a swathe of country on the west of the River Avon, southward from the King Barrow Ridge. These include the spectacular deposit at the Coneybury ‘Anomaly’, a large pit containing numerous animal bones and pottery sherds, seemingly lining the pit interior (Richards 1990: 42-3).

The earliest phase of activity at Stonehenge itself dates to late in the Earlier Neolithic, at around 3000 BC, consisting of a circular interupted ditch with internal bank, and a concentric circle of timber uprights set in the Aubrey Holes (Cleal, Walker and Montague 1995: 64). Artefactual associations included clusters of flint knapping debris, chalk balls, and deliberately placed cattle skulls on the ditch bottom, which may have been curated for a considerable while before deposition. Shortly after these acts of deposition, the ditch began to be deliberately backfilled, not as a single event but in a series of small-scale episodes.

Later Neolithic
The later part of the Neolithic saw the development of a new complex of ceremonial monuments in the Stonehenge area. Stonehege itself was transformed and reconfigured on a number of occasions. A complex series of timber structures was constructed in the middle of the enclosure, and a great number of cremated human bodies were buried in the ditch, bank, and the Aubrey Holes, from which the timbers had now been removed. Finally, the bluestones were set up in the Q and R holes, and by around 2500 BC the sarsen circle and probably the sarsen trilithons had been constructed (Cleal, Walker and Montague 1995: 206-7). In the surrounding landscape, the two cursus monuments were deliberately destroyed, and a massive linear palisade was constructed north of Stonehenge, blocking off the view toward Robin Hood’s Ball.

Later, the henge monuments of Coneybury, Durrington Walls and Woodhenge were constructed: earthen ceremonial enclosures which contained settings of timber uprights. Although Stonehenge is often classified with these monuments, it was clearly used in an entirely different way. Stonehenge has produced rather little material culture of later Neolithic date, in contrast with the massive quantities of pottery and animal bones which seem to document events of conspicuous consumption at Durrington Walls (Wainwright and Longworth 1971).

By the later Neolithic, scatters of flint which may document occupation patterns were a little denser in the Stonehenge region, and there are indications that those concentrations to the west of the monument contain a greater ‘industrial’ element (Richards 1990: 24). East of Stonehenge Bottom, on the King Barrow Ridge and around Durrington Walls, numerous pits containing later Neolithic pottery and other artefacts have been recorded, and these may include formal deposits of symbolic importance.

Early Bronze Age
There is clearly some overlap between formally ‘Neolithic’ and ‘Early Bronze Age’ assemblages in the Stonehenge area. Later Neolithic Grooved Ware was still seemingly in use at some sites when burials with Beaker pottery were being deposited, and the sparse material assemblage which is associated with the early sarsen settings at Stonehenge is of Beaker affinity. This implies a continuing pattern of spatial variability within the region, with different artefacts being used in different practices at different sites. In the period after 2500 BC, single grave burials began to be deposited in round barrows which started to form a number of clusters or cemteries, some of them aligned upon earlier monuments. Over time, locations around the edges of the visual envelope of Stonehenge itself came to be favoured (Woodward and Woodward 1996: 287), and there is a suggestion that the land immediately surrounding the monument was deliberately avoided (Parker Pearson and Ramilisonina 1998). Many of these round barrow graves had very rich material associations, and they include many of the Wessex series graves, as defined by Piggott (1938).

Middle and Late Bronze Age
The eclipse of the monumental landscapes of the Neolithic took the form of a reorganisation of land into ‘Celtic’ field systems, settlement enclosures and boundary earthworks. A number of these have been identified in the western part of the Stonehenge area, surrounding the western end of the Great Cursus, around Winterbourne Stoke Crossroads, and on Rox Hill (Richards 1990: 277). These are associated with Deverel-Rimbury and later ceramics, and there are indications of small round barrows which form the funerary element of this reconstructed landscape.

Iron Age
Although artefactual evidence of the occupation of the Stonehenge area is scant, there are continued indications of settlement in the form of the hillfort of Vespasian’s Camp, to the east of Stonehenge, and a later Iron Age enclosed settlement immediately north of Durrington Walls (Richards 1990: 280).

The prehistoric occupation of the Stonehenge landscape has left a palimpsest of material traces. Throughout most of this period the region was in some senses ‘special’, characterised by forms of activity which were unusual, or internally differentiated, or which made use of elaborate material assemblages. For this reason, it is to be anticipated that the evidence which will be located in any archaeological intervention anywhere in this landscape will be of particular value, and its destruction should not be contemplated without good reason.

A brief history of the ownership and management of Stonehenge
From at least 1562 onward, Stonehenge began to be visited by tourists, and was mentioned more and more frequently in diaries, journals and travelogues. The site was surveyed by Inigo Jones in 1655, William Stukeley in 1723, John Wood in 1760 and Flinders Petrie in 1877 (Bender 1998: 110-12; Chippindale 1983). Increasingly, the site became an object of intellectual attention. But alongside this, it remained a part of a living landscape. Up until the 17th century stones occasionally went missing to help build bridges or houses; also in the 17th century Stonehenge was the location of an annual fair. Nonetheless, it was eventually the status of the site as a curiosity which became of greater importance. In 1824 the Amesbury estate, including Stonehenge, was bought by the Antrobus family, and at this time the draw that it exercised on the public was recognised for the first time by the appointment of the antiquary Henry Browne as guardian of the site. This situation, of minimal supervision under the Antrobus family, continued until 1901. In the 1890s Pitt Rivers, as inspector of Monuments and under the 1882 Ancient Monuments Act made plans to reconstruct the site and protect it by having a policeman constantly present. However, the Antrobus family showed little enthusiasm for these proposals. One of the sarsen stones had fallen in 1797, while another came down in 1900, and it was this which finally caused the site to be enclosed (Chippindale 1983: 173).

Throughout the Victorian period Stonehenge was a popular location for picnics, and gatherings at public holidays. From the 1890s onward, with the recognition of the astronomical significance of the site, up to 3000 people would gather at midsummer morning each year to watch the sun rise over the Heelstone. However, with the recognition that the stones might be unstable Stonehenge was fenced, a policeman was installed, and a 1 shilling entrance fee was charged. At this time a number of groups opposed the enclosure, and one of them, interestingly enough, was the National Trust. In the early 20th century, the Antrobus family attempted to sell Stonehenge to the British government, under the threat that they would sell it off to America. This met with no success. In 1915 the Antrobuses finally sold the whole of the Amesbury estate to Cecil Chubb, who in 1918 gave Stonehenge to the nation (Chippindale 1983: 174). During the short period that he owned the site, Chubb granted the Order of Druids the right to hold ceremonies there at the solstice (Sebastian 1990). Given that the site was still relatively unsafe, six of the stones were immediately righted and concreted by the Office of Works, and the suggestion was made that the Society of Antiquaries should undertake a proper archaeological investigation. After the fall of the stone at the start of the century William Gowland had undertaken a very small excavation, but the work done by Colonel Hawley between 1919 and 1926 was far more extensive, resulting in the stripping of half of the centre of the monument. Hawley worked either with gangs of workmen, or sometimes on his own, over very long seasons. He published a series of interim reports in the Antiquaries Journal (Hawley 1926, etc.), but the definitive site report did not appear until 1995 (Cleal, Walker and Montague 1995).

The origins of the debate over road access to Stonehenge, which this dicument addresses, can be found in the period immediately after the First World War. During the War, much of the area immediately surrounding Stonehenge had been used as an aerodrome. There were makeshift buildings associated with this, a horse hospital, a pair of cottages, a café and a series of advertising hoardings, and when some of the land was given back to its owners by the War Office in 1927 they proceeded set up a pig farm. The struggle to improve the immediate surroundings of the site began in 1930, with a national subscription organised by Sir Lionel Earle to buy 1500 acres of this land and turn it over to the National Trust (Chippindale 1983: 174). This set up a situation in which the monument was in the hands of the Office of Works, later the Department of the Environment, and eventually English Heritage, but the surrounding land was owned by the National Trust. The clutter on the land was torn down, and with the increasing access to motor transport in the inter-war years visitors climbed to 20,000 a year. In 1935 a patch of the National Trust land was leased as a car park, to discourage people from parking around the monument itself. It was this on-the-spot decision which effectively decided where the visitor facilities which still exist today should be located. In the post-war period this area was tarmaced, and an underground café, toilets, bookshop and entrance tunnel under the road added. In 1933 the Office of Works had recommended that this road, the A344 from Amesbury to Shrewton, should be closed.

Between 1950 and 1964 another campaign of excavations was undertaken, by Stuart Piggott, Richard Atkinson and J.F.S. Stone. Initially, this digging was undertaken in order to facilitate the restoration and concreting of certain stones, but gradually Atkinson began to dig more and more in an attempt to make sense of Hawley’s records (Cleal, Walker and Montague 1995: 15-17). The ad-hoc way in which these excavations took place meant that rather limited records were kept. In 1956 Atkinson published his popular account of the site, which was subsequently revised several times and reprinted by Penguin. Atkinson pulled together all of the stratigraphic information and established a three-phase sequence for the site (Atkinson 1956). However, being a popular book, it contained rather little of the primary evidence. In the early 1990s, Hawley’s and Atkinson’s records were collected and worked through under the aegis of the Trust for Wessex Archaeology, resulting in the definitive publication (Lawson 1992).

In the meanwhile, visitor numbers continued to soar, and by 1962 the grass in the centre of the site had died off. Eventually, the authorities replaced it with orange gravel. By the mid-1970s, over 600,000 people visited Stonehenge annually, climbing to 815,000 in 1977, when the stones were finally closed off, and a green tarmac walkway across the earthwork enclosure put in. From 1976 to 1979, a governmental Stonehenge Working Party sat, and produced a series of recommendations, including the closure of the A344 and the removal of the car park and visitor facilities to Stonehenge Bottom. At around the same time, the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments undertook (and published) an inventory of sites of archaeological sites within the environs of Stonehenge (RCHME 1979). This in turn was to lead in the early 1980s to the Trust for Wessex Archaeology’s Stonehenge Environs Project, directed by Julian Richards, and intended to put the monuments in their context through fieldwalking and sample excavation (Richards 1990). So the late 1970s saw a growing awareness of the landscape context of Stonehenge, and a recognition that Stonehenge should be presented to the public in this wider context. The Stonehenge Working Party compiled its report in 1979, but this was never published, as it coincided with the coming to power of a new Conservative government, which intended radical changes in the management of the national heritage. Under the authority of the new English Heritage organisation, a Stonehenge Study Group sat, and produced a report which outlined possibilities for the future management of the area (HBMCE 1984). These included recommendations that the surrounding landscape be drawn into the presentation of Stonehenge, and options for resolving the issues of road access and the location of an interpretive centre.

It was also in the 1980s that the question of access to Stonehenge became considerably more problematic. In 1974, a free festival had been organised in a field immediately to the north-west of Stonehenge. From 1975 onwards, the People’s Free Festival at Stonehenge was one of the largest alternative gatherings in Britain. While many of those present simply came for a good time, there were others like Sid Rawle who held that Stonehenge was a spiritual centre, central to a new way of life which was then emerging (Rosenburger 1991). For several years the festival was effectively permitted by the authorities. In June of each year, the National Trust would erect barbed-wire entanglements to discourage access to any but the festival field (Chippindale 1986). On the solstice morning, the Druids would be allowed in to the circle, and on the afternoon people from the festival could go in and perform rites, baptisms and marriages of their own. As a nomadic way of life developed among the alternative community, meeting each year at Stonehenge became a fixed point in a seasonal cycle. With the economic recession and social security cuts of the early 1980s, many of these people gave up city life, and took to the roads. The tents of the early Stonehenge festival were replaced by buses and vans. Increasingly, people who were constantly on the road began to move from one festival to another throughout the summer, and the idea of a ‘hippie convoy’ began to develop in the popular imagination and the tabloid press. In 1982 it was first suggested that travellers should move on from Stonehenge to the peace camp outside the cruise missile base at Greenham Common, and the phrase ‘Peace Convoy’ began to be stencilled on some of the vehicles. In reality there was no single entity called the peace convoy, rather than a fluid pool of travellers constantly mingling and splitting up – but to the government of the time they appeared to be ‘an army of medieval brigands’ (Rosenburger 1991).

1984 was the last year that the Stonehenge free festival would be tolerated. Some 30,000 people attended, and left the site in something of a mess, although the cost of clearing up should not be overestimated. The festival had been run by a committee, who, amongst other things, had banned professional drug dealers from the site. However, some of the latrine pits which were dug were close to the ploughed-out round barrows of the Cursus Group, and may possibly have done some archaeological damage (Fowler 1990). In late 1984, the National Trust announced that no festival would be allowed on its land the following year. This was followed in April of 1985 by a joint announcement by the National Trust and English Heritage, supported by Wiltshire County Council, that both the festival and the Druids would be banned from Stonehenge itself. The monument would be totally off limits to the public for the summer solstice. Injunctions were served to ban particular individuals from entering the county of Wiltshire in June. Negotiations were undertaken by Green CND to attempt to find an alternative site for the festival, but the National Trust declined, arguing that they should not be expected to finance any such event. In late May, a convoy of vehicles gathered at Savernake, south of Avebury, with the aim of moving on Stonehenge and securing the festival site. They set off on the first of June, and were met at Cholderton by 1,000 police in riot gear. The vehicles left the road and assembled in a field where, after an uneasy truce, the police moved in and began to pull people from vans, beat them up, wreck vehicles and destroy personal belongings. This was the so-called ‘Battle of the Beanfield’, which resulted in one of the longest ever civil actions against the police, ending in the award of £23,000 in damages.

We have dwelt at some length on the recent events surrounding the question of access to Stonehenge. The has principally been as a means of demonstrating the way in which the monument and its landscape are implicated in a series of conflicts of interest between contemporary groups: English Heritage, the National Trust, the local Council, the Druids, the travellers, the military, archaeologists, and so on (Bender and Edmonds 1992). In part, this serves to explain the vexed character of the present debate. Over the years, solutions to the problems of the proximity of roads to the monument and of the siting of visitor facilities have repeatedly foundered on differences between these various communities. For instance, in 1992-3 an architectural design by Edward Cullinan for a visitor centre screened by trees at Larkhill was approved, but the plan was refused by Salisbury District Council (Sudjic 1993).

The present plan for a tunnel
At present a two-lane road, the A344, passes within a few metres of the northern boundary of the stone circle at Stonehenge. The A303, a major but also two-lane road, comes within 200 metres of the opposite side of the stone circle. The junction of the A344 and A303 lies 600 metres to the east of the circle (see Figure 2). The stone circle stands at the centre of a World Heritage site, in a depression known as the Stonehenge Bowl. The A303 enters the World Heritage site from the east at Countess Roundabout and from the west at Longbarrow cross-roads. Almost five and a half kilometres of the A303 lie within the World Heritage site. An agreement to close and turf over the first two kilometres of the A344 was reached in the early 1990s, but no agreement on how to deal with the A303 was achieved at that time.

In 1997 the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology published a report which set out a range of alternative improvements to the A303 identified by a joint working party whose members were drawn from the Highways Agency, English Heritage and the National Trust (Tunnel Vision 1997). Several alternative tunnel routes were considered, including a short or long tunnel on the present route of the A303, and long or short tunnels taking the A303 further north (see Figure 2). Flexibility was, and is, limited by the Highways Agency’s practice of building short stretches of dual carriageway on existing trunk roads resulting, in this case, in a ‘gun barrel’ aimed along the route of the A303 at either side of the World Heritage site (Brian Davidson, interview 15/3/99).

The Stonehenge Master Plan, published in September 1998, sets out the current proposal by English Heritage and the Highways Agency to build a 2 km. cut and cover tunnel following the existing route of A303. The tunnel is intermediate in length compared to the short (‘yellow’) and long (‘EHNT4’) cut and cover tunnels on this route envisaged in 1997. The Master Plan claims that the cut and cover tunnel is ‘the only scheme deliverable’. The entire cost is available from government, making it one of only two currently authorised trunk road improvements costing over £100 million. The cost is said to be £125 million (Master plan 1998: 3). Geoffrey Wainwright reports the Prime Minister has said that the government cannot afford the £300 million required to construct a deep bore tunnel. Wainwright considers the cut-and-cover tunnel will achieve the principle objective of enabling visitors to roam across the landscape around Stonehenge. Consultation with 40 organisations took place in February 1999 through the medium of focus groups. The results of this consultation will be published at the end of March. The Highways Agency is chairing discussion of the A303’s conversion to a dual carriageway and placing it in a cut and cover tunnel. The alternative of a deep bore tunnel is not being considered. The preferred route of the tunnel will be announced by the Minister, Chris Smith, at the end of May. A management plan for Stonehenge will be published by November 1999. Future land use will be determined according to this plan (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99).

Benefits of cut-and-cover tunnel
The Master Plan reports that the proposed tunnel will reduce traffic noise at Stonehenge to ‘bird song level’, enable the re-creation of areas of permanent down land and restore the setting of the stone circle in relation to the other 450 sites in the World Heritage area. Use of footpaths and cycle ways within the area will be encouraged. An editorial in Antiquity further reports the network of footpath and bridle ways in the area will be extended (anon 1998: 733). Farmers will be compensated for no longer ploughing land within the World Heritage site, although this step could be taken independently of tunnel construction. Wainwright reports that small ploughed areas would remain (interview 24/2/99). ‘There will be free access for the public to walk among the Stones’ (Master plan 1998: 10). It should be noted, however, that the current barrier around the stone circle is not a consequence of the proximity of roads, but a response to public demonstrations during the 1980s. A fear of vandalism remains in some quarters, which must be overcome before the barrier can be removed (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99).

Costs of the cut-and-cover tunnel
(a) Financial cost. The estimate for the cut-and-cover tunnel is reported to have been submitted to the Government by Ove Arup, not commissioned. If excavations are delayed by popular demonstrations, the cost will increase. Demonstrations against the Newbury By-pass are said to have cost about £20 million. Similar demonstrations would raise the reported cost of the cut and cover tunnel to 150 million pounds.

(b) Impact of tunnel construction. The cut and cover tunnel will not disturb land outside existing the northern [Stonehenge side] boundary of the A303, except in the western approach cutting, but a 35 metre strip would be added to the width of the existing road when land is excavated along the southern boundary. The land belongs to the National Trust, who own the core area of the World Heritage site (see figure 4). Access during construction will also require a 10 metre ‘buffer zone’ on both sides of the A303 (Master plan 1998: 4-5). Brian Davidson, the recently-retired English Heritage Inspector for Stonehenge, cautions that experience of previous construction work shows not only that a very close watch will need to be kept on construction work to ensure it does not encroach beyond the designated zone, but also that contracts with construction firms must be meticulously worded to ensure no additional disturbance is caused by access tracks for plant, etc. (Davidson, interview 15/3/99).

Disposal of the surplus from the excavation is being discussed with English Nature. Some would be used to cover the tunnel in Stonehenge Bottom, some to create the flyover replacing the Countess Roundabout, and some as infill on the Salisbury Plain army training ground. English Heritage also expects to follow the example set by the Channel Tunnel, where surplus material was used to create natural habitats (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99; see also Southern Nature 1998/99).

(c) Permanent impact of the approach cuttings and portals. While the Master Plan uses computer-modified images to illustrate the beneficial effect in the vicinity of the stone circle of closing the A344 and placing the A303 in a tunnel, it does not illustrate the impact of the tunnel entrances and approach cuttings on the neighbouring landscape.

Plans and sections in the Master Plan indicate the western approach cutting would be 700 metres long, the eastern approach cutting 400 metres long. Depending on the angle of the banks, the cuttings would be 55 to 75 metres wide at the tunnel entrances. They would have a maximum depth of some 10 metres. Both cuttings would lie entirely within the World Heritage site. King Barrow Ridge, on which a line of round barrows stands, is just within the eastern limit of the cut-and-cover tunnel, 100 metres from the eastern portal. King Barrow Ridge forms the eastern boundary of the landscape visible from Stonehenge itself. The Avenue, a prehistoric feature further to the east, is cut by the present A303 about 50 metres beyond the start of the proposed eastern cutting. Wainwright reports the eastern portal will be visible from the outskirts of Amesbury, and the western portal from the Longbarrow Cross-roads, on the western boundary of the World Heritage site. Having said this, the relative shallowness of a cut-and-cover tunnel would mean that the down-grade at the portals might actually be less than for a bored tunnel, if the latter were constructed on level ground.

The permanent impact of the approach cuttings on the landscape within the World Heritage site is a major disadvantage of the proposed tunnel. While the cut-and-cover tunnel would enable visitors to roam in the vicinity of Stonehenge, the cuttings would create uncrossable barriers along other sections of the site.

(d) Damage or destruction of archaeological sites. Five scheduled ancient monuments and another eleven known sites fall wholly or partly within the construction zone of the tunnel and approach cuttings (Master plan 1998: 5). All have been damaged and only three are extant (see figure 4 and table 1). But if these are monuments which are considered to be of national importance, it is still questionable whether their destruction can be recommended (Bewley, interview 13/4/99). No-one knows how many unknown sites will be discovered during excavations for the cut and cover tunnel. The Longbarrow Cross-roads area includes many known sites. The distribution of known sites implies there are fewer sites within the Stonehenge Bowl than outside it and therefore the proposed route of the cut-and-cover tunnel itself is likely to damage or destroy relatively few unknown sites (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99); a view supported by Mike Parker Pearson (Parker Pearson, interview 11/3/99). However, arguments to the effect that this low density of known sites is a consequence of its perceived sanctity in prehistoric times should caution against a cavalier attitude (Fielden, interview 13/4/99). Denser archaeological material may be found in Stonehenge Bottom, while the concentration of Neolithic pits (including ‘special’ deposits) on King Barrow Ridge indicates that important prehistoric remains will almost certainly be encountered in advance of tunnel construction. Moreover, the proposed tunnel route comes close to concentrations of later Neolithic flintwork identified by the Stonehenge Environs Project at the Diamond and West of Stonehenge (Richards 1990). These might conceivably be associated with subsoil features.

Wainwright considers the loss of known sites ‘worth the price’ when set against the gain to the site as a whole, and its 450 known sites. The recent editorial in Antiquity similarly described the 16 sites threatened with damage or destruction as ‘minor’ (Anon 1998: 731). Brian Davidson agrees with these assessments but points out evidence for a large Mesolithic structure dating to c. 7000 BP has been found immediately to the north of the stone circle; other Mesolithic sites may be uncovered during road construction (Davidson interview 15/3/99).

A public exhibition organised by English Heritage and the Highways Agency to promote (discussion of) the Master Plan states ‘An archaeological watching brief would take place during road construction’. Where sites cannot be avoided, ‘excavations would take place which would provide a detailed record of the site and make a contribution to our understanding of the past’. The apparent scarcity of sites within the Stonehenge Bowl supports the hypothesis that it was a “sacred” or “ancestral” area during the period from the Mid Neolithic to the early Bronze Age, when the stone circle was used for its original purpose. Parker Pearson considers construction of the tunnel would provide a useful transect of the “ancestral zone” around the stone circle, to test whether few other contemporaneous sites were constructed. Like Davidson, however he warns that Mesolithic post holes, flint scatters etc. may be concealed along the route. The entire route would need to be surveyed for magnetic anomalies and phosphate concentrations, excavated and soil samples sieved (Parker Pearson, interview 11/3/99). The Prehistoric Society takes a stronger stance, calculating that 13.5 ha. of ground in ‘the most archaeologically sensitive land surface in Europe’ will be destroyed by the construction of tunnel and cuttings (Prehistoric Society 1999: Appendix A). Modern groups to whom the area is sacred may oppose disturbance from the cut and cover excavations. In addition to the Prehistoric Society, concerns over the proposed scheme have been voiced by the Wiltshire Archaeological Society, the Rambler’s Association, Transport 2000 and the Druids (Fielden, interview 13/4/99). In any case, given the sensitivity of the archaeological remains in the area a watching brief on the tunnel construction would not be adequate: total surface collection, shovel testing, and total area stripping should be seen as an acceptable minimum for archaeological intervention.

A serious problem will develop at Longbarrow Cross-roads, on the western boundary of the World Heritage site, as traffic increases on the new dual carriageway. The A303 will undergo a ‘grade separation’ from the A360, which it crosses here. A cluster of fifteen round barrows are situated just to the northeast of the roundabout. They would be threatened by slip roads or a flyover on the site of the present crossing, and the junction should be moved as far as practicable to the west during construction of the tunnel and its approaches, to enable future improvements to take place without threat to the World Heritage site (Davidson interview 15/3/99). The archaeology of Longbarrow Cross-roads is complex, including hut circles and fields as well as a cemetery. The site appears to have been an important node in the regional settlement pattern. The cost of, and time required to excavate this area has not been taken into account (Peter Fowler interview 17/3/99).

(e) The landscape in Stonehenge Bottom. Stonehenge Bottom is a dry valley east of the ridge which forms the eastern boundary of the Stonehenge Bowl. The top of the tunnel will be above the surface of this dry valley. The mound covering the tunnel will be no higher than the existing embankment but, with a width of 120 metres, it will be considerably broader and will change the character of the landscape (Master Plan 1998: fig 2). The dry valley floor is potentially a rich archaeological site and the tunnel may change the underground drainage pattern. The architect engaged by the constructors is reported to be most uneasy about this aspect of the proposed cut-and-cover tunnel (Davidson interview 15/3/99).

(f) The view from the road. Many people enjoy being able to see Stonehenge from the A303. People questioned by Maddison et al. who were in favour of retaining the present A303, gave two main reasons: they liked to see Stonehenge as they drove past, and/or they disliked long tunnels (Maddison at al. 1998: 70). Brian Davidson suggests the people of Wiltshire could be compensated for the loss of a free view through a concessionary entrance fee (interview 15/3/99).

(g) Delivering visitors to the park and ride set-down. The current proposals include a single, large visitor centre just beyond the World Heritage site’s eastern boundary, on the east side of the Countess Roundabout (see figure 2). The presence of buildings at Countess Farm on the west side of the Countess Roundabout, which might conceivably be incorporated into a visitor centre, has not been actively investigated (Fielden, interview 13/4/99). Visitors arriving from the west (about 30% of visitors in the late 1980s) will have to drive through the tunnel to park, then be taken back through the tunnel by minibus to the set-down point at the end of the truncated A344. The additional time this costs visitors, the road wear and cost of fuel will inevitably lead to demands for a parking point west of Stonehenge. The least-damaging solution should be included in a current, long-term plan (Davidson interview 15/3/99). A case could be made for several small car parks placed around the edge of the World Heritage site, to give walkers more ready access and to disperse traffic. These could be concealed by trees and given an unobtrusive green surface (Fowler interview 15/3/99).

The deep bore tunnel
Tunnel Vision identified two possible routes for a deep bore tunnel; a long (‘green route’) tunnel, passing under the Avenue and Cursus and a short (‘purple route’) tunnel passing under the Cursus. The short tunnel proposal was quickly abandoned when it encountered universal opposition from the local community (Tunnel Vision, annexe A, table A1). The longer (‘green’) tunnel would be approximately three and three-quarter kilometres long (see figure 1). Until publication of the Master Plan, a deep bore tunnel was the option favoured by both the National Trust and English Heritage. Its direction was predicated on the need to minimise the slope of the approach from the east, if the tunnel entrance were to be immediately below King Barrows Ridge. In 1994, the Director General of the National Trust, who own land on which cut-and-cover tunnel would be dug, said the long-bore tunnel was the only feasible alternative which met World Heritage site requirements (quoted in Fielden 1998: 735). This view was endorsed by the Highways Agency Planning conference held in November 1995 and described in Wainwright 1996. Wainwright changed his opinion because he was satisfied the cut-and-cover tunnel was the only affordable option, and that it achieved the main objective of enabling visitors to roam across the landscape around Stonehenge (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99).

Cost of a deep bore tunnel. The cost of the longer deep bore tunnel has been variously estimated at between £200 million and £300 million (Tunnel Vision annexe A, Stone n.d.: 5, Wainwright 1996: 11). The method for arriving at these estimates has not been published although Wainwright reports that foreign firms were consulted by the Department of Transport (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99). In the words of the recent editorial in Antiquity, the cost of the cut-and-cover tunnel has been ‘plucked for discussion’ (Anon 1998: 733). Lord Kennet’s claim that a 3.2 km. single bore, two-track rail tunnel is being driven through North Downs for £80 million (Kennet 1998: 736) appears however to disregard infrastructural costs (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99). Neither the technical specifications of the proposed deep bore tunnel, nor the geotechnical survey on which the costing of a deep bore tunnel was based have been published, but they would have to be made available at a public enquiry. It has been suggested that additional funding could be sought from European or international sources (Fielden 1998: 736). The suggestion that ‘heritage sources’ should bear part of the cost contradicts, however, the ‘polluter pays’ principle (Stone n.d.: 4). Indeed, enquiries made by the Wiltshire Archaeological Society have ascertained that even if alternative sources of funding were available, the cut-and-cover tunnel would still be the preferred option of English Heritage (Fielden, interview 13/4/99).

One of us (RL) spoke to a qualified, professional civil engineer who stated that the principal cost of a deep bore tunnel is setting up the equipment, while the cost of a cut and cover tunnel is directly related to its length. In general terms, a short (half-kilometre) deep bore tunnel would be six times more expensive, a 2.5 kilometre deep bore tunnel 35% more expensive than a cut and cover, but a four kilometre tunnel only 10% more expensive. If the two kilometre cut and cover tunnel costs £125 million, a four kilometre deep bore tunnel would cost £275 million. The new technique of spraying concrete onto the walls of the bore is still viable. The recent collapse of the tunnel under construction at Heathrow Airport was caused by the thinness of the sprayed concrete, not an inherent defect in the method.

Wainwright reports that the ‘green’ route planned for the deep bore tunnel would in fact only include 2.8 km. of deep bore. The remainder of the route would be constructed by cut-and-cover in an area where archaeological sites are more dense than on the route of the proposed cut-and-cover tunnel (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99). The civil engineer consulted confirms that the first 750 metres at either end of a deep bore tunnel are usually cut and cover.

A longer tunnel following the present route of the A303. Although the original (‘green route’) long tunnel was envisaged as passing under the Avenue and Cursus, a deep bore tunnel starting further east could follow the present route of the A303. After crossing the eastern boundary of the World heritage site, the A303 passes through a cutting. If the tunnel started within this cutting, it could pass further beneath the surface of Stonebarrow Bottom, eliminating the covering embankment. The line of the prehistoric feature, the Avenue, could then also be restored. A four kilometre tunnel would push the start of the approach cuttings back to the borders of the World Heritage site, but would not place them outside the site. A longer tunnel would require above-ground ventilation shafts (Master plan 1998: 4). The civil engineer consulted confirms that any tunnel more than 2.5 kilometres long would require above-ground ventilators. A four-kilometre tunnel would probably require three, each consisting of a single-storey building. Brian Davidson suggests it would be in keeping with a 250 year tradition to conceal such ventilators behind small tree plantations (interview 15/3/99).

The position of the National Trust
No tunnel can be constructed without the agreement of the membership of the National Trust. The 2.5 million members have not yet been consulted. Land which the National Trust holds inalienably will have to be surrendered to allow construction (Peter Fowler, interview 17/3/99). As noted above, the Director General of the National Trust said in 1994 that the long-bore tunnel was the only feasible alternative which met World Heritage site requirements.

Costing the heritage value of Stonehenge and the benefits of placing the A303 in a tunnel
Stonehenge is one of 14 World Heritage sites in the UK and the ‘premier prehistoric site of Britain’ (Anon 1998: 731). Its poor treatment is a national disgrace (Tunnel Vision annexe A). The deep bore tunnel might make good economic sense if its contribution to enhancing the heritage value of Stonehenge could be fully costed (Stone 1998: 734). Visitors might be discouraged if they knew part of original landscape had been sacrificed in constructing the cut and cover tunnel (Stone n.d.: 5) while visitor numbers might increase if it was known the site had been improved (Maddison et al. 1998: 79).

Recent visitor levels: The exact number of people visiting Stonehenge each year is not known, since many park on the verge of the road and run across to the site. Recent estimates range from 700,000 to 800,000 per year (Anon 1998: 731, Maddison et al. 1998: 78, Stone n.d.: 2; Wainwright 1996: 9). One million visitors per year are expected at the planned visitors’ centre, but not all are expected to visit Stonehenge itself, particularly in bad weather, as it will require a twenty-minute walk to reach the site. Indeed, the site will be better protected if fewer people visit it, and the income from visitor spending will be made at the visitor centre (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99).

Two attempts have been made to cost the benefits of enhancing the World Heritage site by placing the A303 in a tunnel. Both were commissioned by English Heritage (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99).

Tunnel Vision. In 1997 the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produced a report which estimated the benefits of a tunnel in terms of the likely increase in visitors to an enhanced site. The report took a government standard which values the citizen’s non-business time at £3 per hour. Available statistics indicated that Stonehenge was visited by 700,000 people per year, who travelled, on average, one hour each way and spent 20 minutes at Stonehenge. The notional use value of the site was therefore £4.9 million per year, to which the notional ‘existence’ value of the site for those who did not visit it could be added. If visitor numbers increased by 100,00 per year, but a £300 million tunnel enhanced the site sufficiently to attract a further 200,000 visitors per year, the benefit created by the tunnel over a 30 year period would amount to £270 million.

Maddison et al. 1998 adopt a different technique. A sample of visitors to Stonehenge, and a sample drawn from the general population, were asked to rank 6 options for rerouting the A303. Interviewees were asked to rank options and then to state how much extra tax they would be willing to pay to implement their preferred option. 58% were willing to pay £7.40 to construct a two kilometre tunnel while 42% willing to pay £0.50p to prevent construction of a tunnel and retain the existing surface route. If the sample were representative of the UK population as a whole, the aggregate benefits from construction of a tunnel would therefore be between £180-£290 million. ‘These results are mostly driven by the significant minority of respondents who care about this issue … (and) tend to be wealthier, more educated’. Overall, interviewees’ most preferred option, slightly ahead of a cut-and-cover tunnel, was to reroute A303 1.5 km. to south, where it would be invisible from Stonehenge (77, 81); while visitors preferred a northern road, without tunnel, 2 km. to north (45). However, while the southern surface route is cheap, it was quickly rejected by planners because it crosses one of the best parts of the World Heritage site (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99). The northern open route is close to the ‘purple’ route (figure 1) which was universally opposed by the local community. Maddison et al. assume the only tunnel option is the cut and cover alternative, but their findings would apply equally to a deep bore tunnel. The social value of the tunnel, according to their estimate, would be sufficient to pay for a four kilometre deep bore tunnel but the money is not, of course, ‘real’ money in the government’s hands, merely a notional value to the public.

Maddison et al may have underestimated the value of Stonehenge to foreign visitors, which they estimate at £10 million. No-one has tried to calculate the income from foreign visitors’ spending elsewhere in the UK, if Stonehenge is one of the attractions leading them to visit the country. Nor has the fact that foreign visitors often pay for accommodation in the vicinity of Stonehenge been taken into account.

Calculating the heritage value lost by destruction of sites on the route of the cut and cover tunnel. Further information is needed to make a proper comparison of the two tunnel options. Although English Heritage contends the cost of destroying sites on the route of the cut and cover is justified, no attempt has been made to calculate the value of the sites that will be destroyed and add that to the cost of constructing a cut and cover tunnel (cf. Fielden 1998: 735, Stone n.d.: 6). In Wainwright’s opinion there is no way of quantifying the value of sites that will be destroyed during construction of the cut-and-cover tunnel (Wainwright, interview 24/2/99).The number of as yet undiscovered sites is unknown, although some predictions are possible (see discussion of the cut and cover tunnel’s route in relation to the density of archaeological sites, above). No figure has been quoted for the cost of archaeological surveys and excavations along the line of the cut and cover tunnel. It is unknown whether a sum is included in the quoted cost for constructing the cut-and-cover tunnel. Most significantly, perhaps, no attempt has been made to cost the damage to the value of the World Heritage site caused by constructing the approach cuttings to the tunnel.

In the light of our deliberations, and in accord with the motion recently passed by the Council of the Prehistoric Society (included here as Appendix A), we submit the following proposals for consideration by the WAC Executive:

1. We applaud the efforts of English Heritage and the National Trust in attempting to improve visitor access to Stonehenge, in seeking to remove roads from the vicinity of the monument, and in seeking to provide adequate visitor facilities;

2. We call on the UK government to commission an independent assessment of the cost and benefits of a long-bored tunnel for the A303;

3. We call on English Heritage to present a full set of drawings and representations of both the cut-and-cover and long-bored tunnels (including their entrances and approach cuttings) to the public, to enable a full and informed debate on the alternatives;

4. We appeal to English Heritage not to cause irreversible damage to the environs of Stonehenge for the sake of a cheaper solution to the problem of removing surface roads.

1: Archaeological sites in the Stonehenge area. From Richards 1990.
2: Options for Stonehenge road improvements – the original proposals. From Tunnel Vision
3: Route currently proposed for cut-and-cover tunnel. From Master Plan.
4: Location of National Trust estate within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. From Madison et al. 1998. From Master Plan 1998.
5: Distribution of known archaeological sites within the World Heritage site. From Master Plan 1998.

Known sites threatened by the cut and cover tunnel (Master Plan 1998: 6)

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Appendix A


1. The Society supports the approach taken by both English and the National Trust to improve visitor access and awareness of Stonehenge in its landscape setting by closing the A344, proposing a Visitor Centre outside the World Heritage site, building a tunnel for the A303 (as a dual carriageway) and allowing free access to the landscape.

2. The UK government and its advisers should be congratulated on aiming for the highest possible standards in the presentation of World Heritage Sites and the standards set at Stonehenge should be exemplary. These standards should include minimising damage to existing and well preserved archaeological sites and minimising the impact on the landscape if any construction works are planned. The Society supports the principle of minimal risk to any protected ancient monument and would thus support the exploration of more options (in terms of construction and funding) than the single option of the cut-and-cover tunnel now proposed .

3. The Society believes it is essential that there should be an independent assessment of the cost of a long-bored tunnel to act as a comparison for the proposed cut-and-cover tunnel. The destruction 13.5 hectares of of the most archaeologically sensitive land surface in Europe, within a World Heritage Site, may be something which future generations will find hard to understand.

4. The implications of the proposed new road schemes within the World Heritage Site will also have a considerable impact on towns and villages outside the WHS and the Society would welcome further consultation on these schemes.