Suffolk/Fornham All Saints: County could have an ‘equivalent to Stonehenge’
PUBLISHED: 11:49 03 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:49 03 February 2014
Source: English Heritage Photo Library - Picture Reference: K021103
A historian has said a prehistoric site in Suffolk “could be as significant as Stonehenge” and called for detailed research to be undertaken before the area could be spoiled by development.
Dr Duncan McAndrew, who has worked at the British Museum in London, said just outside the village of Fornham All Saints was a scheduled monument called a cursus – which is made out of earth – and in the same area there was evidence of two causewayed enclosures, which could have been one or possibly two wooden henges.
Dr McAndrew has raised concerns about the proximity of this area to a site north-west of Bury St Edmunds where Countryside Properties is looking to build about 900 homes, and believes there could be significant archaeology within the development site itself.
He said the cursus – which he believes is 1.5km long and 26m wide – could be East Anglia’s equivalent of Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
He said: “It could be as significant as Stonehenge, but there’s never been a research project...I can say I cannot think of a larger cursus monument in Suffolk and I certainly cannot think of one in East Anglia. The likelihood is it’s very significant, but until the work is done we won’t know.”
He added: “Certainly I would have thought before you did a major development like that bang next to a site like that you would have to satisfy yourself you are not dealing with something as important as Stonehenge.
“You don’t want to get marked with the reputation you are the people that have built on East Anglia’s equivalent of Stonehenge.”
Dr McAndrew, who is an experienced archaeologist, said East Anglia had wooden henges rather than stone ones due to the lack of stone which could be cut into blocks.
He said the seahenge in Norfolk was so well preserved as it was covered by seawater, but evidence of wooden henges near Fornham would be post holes in the ground.
He said the area was also important archaeologically as the Battle of Fornham in 1173 was the only medieval battle known definitely to have happened in Suffolk – and there could be evidence connected to it in the development site.
He said there could also be evidence of a beacon site called a ‘tot’ or ‘tut’ in the area.
Dr McAndrew, who spoke at a public inquiry into St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s blueprint for future development called Vision 2031, said for archaeological reasons he would prefer the site earmarked for housing “to be left alone”.
Dr Jess Tipper, county archaeologist at Suffolk Archaeology Service, said there were was a “major prehistoric ritual landscape” along the Lark Valley.
He believed the cursus – which he said dated back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods – would have been “equally impressive” as Stonehenge.
“We have never had the opportunity to investigate it and the site is preserved as an ancient monument,” he said. Suffolk County Council said substantial archaeological assessment at the development site had established while there were archaeological remains, “there are no grounds to consider refusal of [planning] permission in order to achieve preservation in situ of any important below-ground heritage asset”.
A spokeswoman for the borough council said the authority had been working with the county council to oversee the protection of archaeological heritage from development in the borough.
“Our heritage is given further protection in the planning process.
“The developer of the north-west Bury St Edmunds site has worked with Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service to ensure that appropriate investigation was carried out. In considering the developer’s application for outline planning permission, national planning guidance on archaeology was taken into consideration and a planning condition concerning archaeology is included.”