This article appeared in the Summer 1973 (Issue #32) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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Field Monuments Act 1972.
Much concern is currently being felt about the damage caused to sites of archaeological interest by deep ploughing. In many areas land has been put under the plough in the past two or three years which has not previously been ploughed this century. Obviously deep ploughing will expose new sites: for example, locally new ploughing revealed and partially damaged the tile kiln site at Tyler Hill, excavated by Duncan Harrington and the University Archaeology Society in 1971 (KAR Number 26). Perhaps more importantly, however, it is also certain to severely damage many known sites. A pilot study carried out by the Department of the Environment in Wiltshire showed that of 640 small "field monuments" (burial mounds, etc.) well over half have been damaged during the past ten years (Hansard, House of Lords Debate November 16th, 1971).
Following a recommendation of the Field Monuments Committee, chaired by Sir David Walsh, a Bill was introduced into the House of Lords to enable the Department to make payments to occupiers of land on which field monuments are situated, in consideration of the occupier making an agreement about the maintenance or preservation of the site. The Bill was granted Royal Assent on July 27th, 1972 and became the Field Monuments Act 1972.
It is to be hoped that many farmers will take the opportunity to make these "acknowledgement payment agreements" in the cases where this Act applies. If the payments are reasonably generous it may at last cease to be an awkward liability for a farmer to have a listed field monument on his land. A figure of £150,000 per annum has been proposed for these payments.
In view of the amount of damage likely to occur to hill forts, field systems, deserted villages and burial mounds from modern ploughing, this Act, although welcome, seems sadly inadequate, unless the number of listed monuments is greatly increased to include many sites at present without protection.