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Kent Archaeological Review extract

by Victor Smith.

The following report of the recent meeting of Rescue has been sent by Mr Alan Gwynn-Ridgers of the Springhead Excavations Group.

"The second meeting of Rescue was held in London on the afternoon of 15 January at the Beveridge Hall, Senate House -- over 1 year since the first meeting. It is a pity that so much time has been wasted before finalising policy. Certainly the attendance was below that of the first meeting and clearly some momentum has been lost in the time lag.

The afternoon was divided into two parts. The first part was a business meeting of the subscribers to Rescue to approve rules and the appointment of a committee. From Kent, Brian Philp and Cecil Hogarth were elected on to the committee. The second part of the afternoon was an open meeting at which the policy of Rescue was outlined publicly. It was apparent that some of those present were not clear about the operational function of Rescue. It does not exist as a national task force with bulldozers, JCB's and other plant to descend on sites threatened with destruction. Rescue is primarily set up to raise money to finance individual archaeological groups and organisations to undertake the emergency excavation of sites about to be destroyed by development or construction projects. It will use its funds from subscriptions, donations, bequests and appeals to:

  • Make the public aware of the rapidly accelerating destruction of our archaeological heritage.
  • Encourage the revision and extension of existing legislation where necessary, concerning archaeological remains, and to seek for new legislation if it is appropriate.
  • Obtain greatly increased funds for Rescue excavation and its publication. Press for the extension and improvement of field archaeological training at all levels.
  • In general, to help record and preserve the physical remains of Britain's archaeological heritage of every age, and with particular reference to the changing character of the natural environment.
  • Specifically to support surveys, to acquire sites or areas of archaeological importance for permanent conservation, to initiate or support rescue excavations and the consequent work on the results and their publication.
  • Rescue will also act as an important direct link between the archaeologist in the field and the Department of the Environment at ministerial level.

It was disturbing to hear from one of the speakers that he considered that as such, the amateur archaeologist was in the field for just 3 months in the year whereas he as the professional, was involved all the year round. As we know in Kent, this sweeping statement does not stand up to the facts. Let him go to Dover (featured in Chronicle on BBC 2) and see amateur archaeologists working 10 hours a day, seven days a week, all the year round. Perhaps he missed the snows of Faversham, the excavations at Polhill, Operation Gaspipe, the list is endless -- all carried out against the advance of the contractor and his machines -- meeting the enemy at close quarters! The CKA member groups are prepared for emergency excavation all the year round and in all weathers. Let him think on. . ."

It is to be hoped that after this meeting at which it seems Rescue has found its feet, all effort will be directed with a clear and meaningful sense of purpose and with some idea of how to deal with the problem. It would enhance Rescue's reputation and silence some of its critics if at the next meeting it could be shown that real results had been achieved with the money and expertise it commands. Field archaeologists and the public expect results to show that Rescue is not simply a talking shop.

It is possible that Rescue's publicity poster might have been designed with greater imagination than some latter-day panzerkamphwagen with 12 chunks of Stonehenge in its teeth. One member of the public totally unconnected with archaeology asked me whether Rescue had been set up to stop Stonehenge being sold to the United States like London Bridge! Fortunately readers of the KAR know different but Rescue will have to do better if it hopes to catch the purses of the general public.

The CKA fully backs Rescue in its attempt to defeat the destruction of our archaeological sites and in its bid to preserve at least some of them and record them all. Subscriptions (minimum 1) and donations should be sent to the Hon. Treasurer, Mr V C.Carter, Manager, National Westminster Bank, 3 The Cross, Worcester.

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