Back to list A303 Stonehenge

Representation by David Field

Date submitted
11 January 2019
Submitted by
Members of the public/businesses

David Field PhD, FSA I am a retired field archaeologist formerly employed by English Heritage and before that by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. For many years I worked on the extensive military training area immediately north of Stonehenge identifying, recording, analysing and interpreting the visible archaeology there. I also spent three years recording the monuments of the Stonehenge World Heritage site in advance of the opening of the new visitor centre and am one of the joint authors of the volume that describes the results. I have, in addition, written on long barrows and ancient fields among other things, both of which are relevant here. Our work was the first full archaeological field survey of the area since that of Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1812 and was always therefore likely to result in new perspectives. One of the principle findings was the focus of prehistoric sites on the western stretches of the WHS. The unusual accumulation of long barrows in that area is without precedent in the British Isles and points to a fascination with that part of the landscape long before the stones at Stonehenge were erected and a likely focus for enduring settlement throughout the Neolithic period. The attraction of round barrows to some of these monuments emphasises that activity there was persistent through to the Early Bronze Age and beyond. It is now clear that systems of ancient fields dating at least to the Middle Bronze Age and probably much earlier flank the present A303 at the western end of the WHS and the settlement from which these were farmed is likely to exist within the A303 corridor. The zone thus becomes of enormous importance in realising the social mechanics of the communities that built Stonehenge. There have always been roads at Stonehenge. We can observe a Bronze Age example leading towards the stones from the southwest. Another, set among ancient fields to the north of the A303 maybe Romano-British, but its course was probably established in the Bronze Age. We can use these subtle but important traces to help determine the changing nature of land-use over millennia. Old medieval highways and pack tracks formerly criss-crossed the open downs from north to south and from west to east, often using the stones as a way-marker, each time leaving scars that tell of their use but also obliterating traces of earlier land-use. The London to Barnstable coach road damaged a large stretch of the Stonehenge Avenue as it wandered laterally to avoid the muddy patches, while an aborted toll road, the result of unfortunate 18th century planning, became an earthen monument in its own right. In contrast to these earlier routes, the proposed new gash towards Winterbourne Stoke Crossroads is of a completely different order. Being of enormous proportions it will not go unnoticed, far from it. Study of the archaeological landscape considers the longue duree and we can appreciate that the future will require different perspectives. Here, in 50 or 200 years, it will no longer be possible to perambulate the barrow cemetery, appreciate it at respective distances, walk between it and its neighbours and study their relationship, or consider the nature of the nearby settlement that had so much impact on the development of Stonehenge, for the major monument here will instead be a tunnel cutting.