to Isle of Wight History Centre Archive of Monthly News Items
As previously featured in the History Centre

January - March 2014

January 2014
The Arreton Motocross site was developed without planning permission, so the land was churned up without a preceding archaeological evaluation. The council have now granted the site planning permission for an anaerobic digestion plant and it includes an archaeological control. But has the ground been too disturbed for meaningful results?
Gore Cross
  There can be no doubt the site is in an historic area. Arreton's Saxon origins and medieval development is acknowledged, and the valley's fertile farmland almost certainly encouraged prehistoric settlement. The degree to which early habitation existed beyond the valley is unknown. The Gore Cross field has never been subject to archaeology but it had some post-medieval occupation and its proximity to Arreton and Merstone offers the possibility of earlier activity.
   A geophysical survey has been carried out but the results are difficult to interpret. It's not clear whether anomalies represent historic features or motocross track development. The Motkin Boundary, subject to recent excavation at Lynnbottom, runs along the western extremity of the site but its significance is unknown. There are records of scattered prehistoric finds in the surrounding area, although not at the location itself.
   There is a post-medieval record showing the farmhouse of Old Perreton Farm located on the site. Archaeologists would be interested to determine whether it had medieval origins. In the past, it has been claimed that evidence of the farmhouse was seen during ploughing. However, such evidence might have been destroyed when the motocross was developed. Finds could still come to light but they may no longer have any context. When the ground is turned over at depth, it can spread items around and even reverse the context. It is not yet clear exactly what archaeology will accompany the development but a watching brief seems most likely.
   As local authorities throughout the land look to make cuts to their archaeology departments, Gore Cross is a sobering reminder of the chaotic destruction that could ensue if archaeology was no longer a controlling element in the planning process.

February 2014
Last November a conference took place to discuss the presentation and promotion of the Island's heritage. The conference was organised by the Isle of Wight Council, assisted by the Isle of Wight Society. English Heritage supplied the venue in the Victoria Hall of Osborne House.
(The background and objectives of the conference were covered in our November News Item)
  Around 50 delegates attended the conference, mostly representatives of museums, heritage centres and local history organisations.
  The morning session heard presentations from English Heritage, Quay Arts Centre and The Isle of Wight Society. Talks covered developments within their operations, with an emphasis on finance and the degree to which grants and community support were necessary to overcome the shortfall in money from authorities. Richard Smout detailed the range of existing facilities provided by the IW Heritage Service.
  A presentation offering immediate opportunities came from David Thornton, of Visit Isle of Wight, the official tourist marketing service. He announced that next year the tourist theme would be local heritage attractions and he offered all organisations free web space to promote themselves on the Visit IoW website. He also raised the prospect of developing this into a comprehensive package, providing visitors with additional interests and information, such as a schedule of exhibitions and events.
   After lunch, the conference delegates divided into groups to discuss three different themes: Heritage Tourism, The Heritage Hub and Accessible Collections. Following these workshops, the conference reassembled to collate the various suggestions and examine a detailed range of proposals that might form part of future developments. Volunteers were sought to implement tasks and action plans were drawn up. It remains to be seen how many of these proposals become permanent features.

Heritage Tourism
  The report was given by John Allen, advisor to the Chamber of Commerce Board on Tourism. The delegates discussed a wide range of possible actions then highlighted those that were considered the easiest and most likely to be developed.
   The first action suggested was the compilation of a list of speakers on historic subjects who would be available, not only for meetings of local groups, but also for organisations putting together package tours and hotels organising themed topics for their guests during their stay.
   The second proposal was to use the Visit IoW website as a one-stop source of all information that would be useful to visitors. This should include information from the commercial sector, the voluntary sector as well as the Council. This would include information on local group meetings and activities that would interest residents as well as visitors.
   The third suggestion concerned making the best use of the Island's heritage through organising Heritage Open Days. It was considered that the national weekend of Open Days currently organised by English Heritage in September did not suit the Island as it is after the main holiday season and clashed with the Bestival. Therefore the suggestion is to organise an Island-wide event, possibly attached to an Isle of Wight History festival to be held in the Spring and co-ordinated through Visit IoW.
   An interesting suggestion was put forward to encourage residents to make more use of Island attractions. Many families hosted friends and family visiting the Island and took them to various attractions. However this could become a financial burden if repeated regularly. Therefore the suggestion is to establish a reduced admission charge for Island residents making return visits to tourist attractions.
   The last suggestion from this workshop concerned bringing accommodation providers into the partnership. The accommodation where visitors stay is where visitors could get the most information of attractions, again by being shown the Visit IoW website. The March meeting of the Chamber of Commerce Tourism and Industry Board will be concentrating on this subject.

The Heritage Hub
  The workshop results were presented by Esme Ballard, a semi-retired Museum Manager. The main outcome was that the Hub is not a particular building but a circle of museums and heritage societies.
   The aims of this Hub would be mutual support, involving both visitors and residents, a partnership to make joint funding bids and developing projects that would involve a wide group of participants.
   The Hub would create a database to provide communication links, a tool for education and research, develop and share exhibition material, share equipment and use their combined requirement to make use of bulk purchasing of exhibition material etc.
   To make the Hub work a Co-ordinator will be needed for the administration. No one volunteer could handle the entire brief. Would the co-ordinator be paid? If so, could this be achieved through grant funding? The Co-ordinator would need to be pro-active with the media. They would seek to fill gaps in collections. They would be a focal point to create a new body of heritage volunteers to man collections and open days. They would carry out marketing through Visit IoW.
   A trial project could be based on an existing plan to create an event commemorating WWI over the next four years. This is being led by David Langford supported by Richard Smout, Fiona Hanna of AONB and Carol Flux of Natural Enterprise. They need to collect a list of speakers, participating organisations and create a calendar of events.

Accessible Collections
  The workshop results were given by Corina Westwood from the Council's Museum Service.
   The most important requirement was to share knowledge through groups such as the Island History Forum.
   There is a need to train volunteers through programmes such as the South-east Museums Development Programme that is organised by Lucy Marder.
   There is a need to challenge parochialism where organisations were only concerned with their area and did not look at it in an Island-wide context.
   A collection can also be displayed on line when it has been digitised.
   Collections can be supported by pooling funding bids. Advice on grants available with tips on making bids and other know-how are obtainable from various sources. One of these is through Carol Flux at Natural enterprise.
   There is a need to look at new sites for displays both commercial,and non-commercial. There could be a link here to accommodation providers.
   When historic artefacts come on to the market that would be valuable to an Island collection the public should also be made aware and involved in fund raising to acquire the item.

March 2014
The council recently published a list of 'Assets at Risk in the Medina Valley', together with advice to property owners on preservation. The media duly reproduced the report but failed to enquire why so many council owned properties are also at risk.
  In addition to the list of properties in need of attention, the council's report included a couple of structures nominated as priorities, the highest priority being the 19th century cement kiln at Stag Lane, under council ownership.

Priority A Immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric; no solution agreed .
Cement Chamber Kiln at Stag Lane
9.3 The Cement Chamber Kiln at Stag Lane is identified as being a priority, due to its immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric with no solution being agreed. The surrounding area has had a long history associated with cement works and associated uses. Most of the structures previously connected with the cement industry on the site have been cleared, however remnants of this old lime kiln dating back to the 19th century remain. Due to the overgrown nature of the site the kiln could only viewed from distance during the survey, but as stated in its Local List nomination it is known in part due to previous surveys undertaken by the council, to be very dilapidated. It is thought the original kiln lies inside the concrete shroud of later adaptations. It is adjacent to the new Vestas development on the River Medina.

  This report carries the implication that the sorry state of the structure has arisen through an unavoidable act of God. In fact it is the direct result of an ineffective Local List scheme and operational failure in more than one department.
   The cement kiln is on a strip of land separating the Vestas plant from Dodnor Creek. Once the Vestas plant was nearing completion, SEEDA passed ownership of this strip to the council, where it fell under the stewardship of the Countryside Section. By this time, the cement kiln had already been established as requiring protection under the council's Local List scheme.
   The Countryside Section has a chequered history in the preservation of heritage structures. They ignored the Local List designation and allowed the cement kiln to become completely overgrown, with key elements destroyed by root damage. The kiln has some unexplained features but they refused the IW Industrial Archaeology Society permission to carry out excavations. They claim they are protecting a site of ecological importance, yet there has been no survey or management of the site and they allowed Vestas to dump mountains of rubble over it, right down to the water's edge. The area is now a complete mess.
   Meanwhile the Conservation Department were treating their own Local List designation as an irrelevance. They appear to have made no attempt to liaise with the Countryside Section to encourage protection of the kiln. This seems to correspond with the more general failure of the Local List system. The Newport Power Station debacle demonstrates how ineffective local listing is within the planning process. The fact that the Conservation Department have not processed a single Local List application for over three years suggests the public have become disenchanted with the scheme.
   The council have put in place the procedures for protection of the Island's historic assets but they must do more than simply pay lip service to them. It is only right to highlight buildings at risk and offer encouragement and advice to owners on preservation. It will prove more effective if they set a good example with their own properties.