A History of the National Heritage Collection, Volume Five: 1931-1945: ‘Heritage Under Fire’: Hadrian’s Wall, Avebury and the Second World War

Author(s): Sebastian Fry

This is Volume Five in a series of eight reports, which describe the formation of the national collection of ancient monuments and historic buildings from 1882 to 1983 in the context of legislation and other available means of protecting heritage. The report covers the period from 1931 to 1945. An account is given of the campaign to safeguard the setting of Hadrian’s Wall after it was threatened by quarrying. This cause célèbre provided the impetus for the 1931 Ancient Monuments Act, which introduced preservation schemes to protect the setting of monuments. Following the Act large parts of the Roman wall were placed in guardianship. The national collection grew under the stewardship of the Ancient Monuments Branch of the Office of Works (a Ministry after 1940). It largely comprised prehistoric sites, medieval castles and monastic ruins, as well as Roman military works. Among acquisitions between 1931 and 1945 were Grimes Graves, Kenilworth Castle and Avebury. A scheduling programme continued to protect archaeological sites in private ownership. The Second World War expanded the Ministry of Works responsibilities. Rescue excavations were carried out on military sites, such as RAF airfields, whilst a salvage scheme was established for historic buildings, serving as the precedent for the first list of buildings in Britain.

Report Number:
Research Report


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