HS2 and the Impact on South Kirkby Camp

When the route for HS2 was announced it became clear to me that our local heritage is under threat. Whilst i am obviously concerned for the people whose homes and businesses will be negatively impacted by the route i feel that not enough attention is being placed upon the impact on the landscape and the heritage held within that landscape. I fully support Jon Trickett in his decision to campaign for the residents of Crofton, naturally, but what about us? Who will speak up for us?

Located in a prominent  position overlooking the town of South Kirkby is South Kirkby Camp. For anyone not familiar with the term ‘scheduled ancient monument’ Historic England guidance states that “a scheduled monument is an historic building or site that is included in the Schedule of Monuments kept by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The regime is set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979”. Historic England themselves control the scheduling or de-schedualing of monuments, on behalf of the Secretary of State, and scheduled monuments such as South Kirkby Camp are “…by definition, considered to be of national importance.” Furthermore, Historic England guidance states that “any works to it, and flooding and tipping operations that might affect it, with few exceptions require scheduled monument consent from the Secretary of State, (not the local planning authority).” The Historic England listing for the camp can be read in full hereAt present the monument is already on the Historic England ‘at risk’ register, showing a complete lack of understanding of the value of the site by Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and South Kirkby and Moorthorpe Town Council. This ‘at risk’ entry can be read in full here. The proposed route of HS2 would fundamentally alter the landscape surrounding the monument and quite possibly damage the monument itself, this must not be allowed to happen.

South Kirkby is a historic settlement, noted in the Domesday Book. The settlement has a dominating thirteenth century (rebuilt fifteenth century) stone church at its preserved nucleated centre. The current church was rebuilt c.1470 and it is suggested that it sits on the site of an earlier wooden chapel. However, the coming of coal mining, quarrying and brick kilns to the area completely altered the pre-industrial landscape of the settlement. Despite this South Kirkby Camp sits in a largely agricultural part of the settlement, with Burntwood Country Park less than one mile to the south. Despite this, there is some encroachment of residential areas to the east of the site, generally characterised by a good quality streetscene. Less than one mile to the south east is monument 921796, a series of sub-circular enclosures of an unknown date. Less than one mile to the south east is monument 905521, a small rectilinear enclosure of an unknown date. Less than one mile to the north is is monument 902211, a prehistoric or Roman curvilinear enclosure, with two Iron Age or Romano rectilinear enclosures abutting. Less than half a mile to the north west is monument 54294, a rectangular double ditched enclosure believed to be Roman. Less than one mile to the south west is monument 1394459, rectilinear and curvilinear enclosures, possibly prehistoric or Romano. Less than two miles to the north east is monument 1394487, a polygonal enclosure and trackway, believed to be prehistoric or Roman. The proposed route of HS2 will permanently scar this ancient landscape.

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Early antiquarians believed the camp to be of Roman or Saxon origin. In 1949 test trenches resulted in the discovery of pottery fragments believed to be Iron Age. Aerial imagery suggests the presence of an annexe to the south, which could be not confirmed by magnetometry carried out in 1997. This geophysical survey found evidence of a possible enclosure and inner ditch, neither of which have been investigated further. The best preserved south-western and eastern sections of the camp have preserved banks of ten meters in height and one meter in width. The external ditch is up to ten meters wide and over one meter deep in places. The site is maintained by Wakefield Metropolitan District Council as a public amenity, however my discussion with local councillor Michelle Collins led me t0 learn that South Kirkby & Moorthorpe Town Council believe that they own the site. In 1997 a carpark was constructed to the north of the camp with access from Holmsley Lane, there were no archaeological finds.

In Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance for the Sustainable Management of the Historic Environment English Heritage list four types of value which may be associated with a heritage asset; aesthetic, evidential, historic, and communal. Those values are used here to outline the values associated with South Kirkby Camp. South Kirkby Camp is an large earthworks, set in a prominent location overlooking the settlement of South Kirkby. It sits at the western entrance to the settlement, between the two main roads into South Kirkby. As such it forms an imposing feature in the landscape and has a moderate aesthetic value. The poor condition of the site has caused a loss of aesthetic value. The planned route of HS2 will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the future aesthetic value of the site. The site has some evidential value, as outlined by its designation as a schedule monument. However, a lack of understanding of the site and no understanding of the relationship between South Kirkby Camp and the surrounding monuments somewhat lowers the evidential value, at present. As a key feature on the landscape South Kirkby Camp provides a link to the past, it is a space for a shared experience of the history of South Kirkby and prehistoric northern England. Despite the industrial revolution and the coming of heavy industry to South Kirkby changing the landscape substantially the site has remained. Therefore the site holds a strong historic value. As an iconic part of the landscape South Kirkby Camp holds some communal value, it is seen by all people who enter or leave the settlement from Holmsley Lane and Common Road to the west. The fact that the site is used as common ground shows that some place its communal value higher than its historic value.

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It is clear that the priorities of our Member of Parliament, Jon Trickett, lay elsewhere as i have written to him with this information and asked for his thoughts on the matter and he has not yet responded. Elsewhere in the constituency he has so far been part of a big profile campaign against the route, so South Kirkby Camp appears to be low on his own agenda.

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