Henges and intervisibility

I got into work this morning to discover a message from Roger Broadie, who had been at the Open Day tour of the Stapleton’s Field excavation on 28 August. He got to wondering about whether or not the henge that is a Scheduled Ancient Monument on the Weston Hills would actually have been visible from the Norton henge and vice versa. He then did all the hard work that I ought to have done and discovered that, in fact, they are not intervisible. I quote (with permission):

The Weston henge (by which I am assuming we are talking about the monument at TL25613194) is set back from the north-west facing skyline we see from the Norton site. It has an interesting landscape setting, right against a drop to the north, with, probably, in the absence of trees, a wonderful view in that direction. It also sits to one side of the distinctive cwm that is visible on the right as one leaves Baldock on the Buntingford road and runs inward from Welbury Farm. It is tempting to conjecture that the cwm might have been both a marker for and an approach route to that henge from the lands to the north. I have constructed a diagram to show the landscape relationship of the two henges.

If the Weston henge was visible from the Norton henge, then the Norton henge should correspondingly have been visible from the Weston henge. With the kind permission of Weston Park Farms I visited the site. A photo on the Picasa site above shows the view from there in the direction of the Norton henge. It is completely blocked by the ridge-line that runs, at this point, pretty much along the line of the cutting for the Baldock bypass. The photo is, I think, conclusive evidence that, at their present ground levels, the two sites are not intervisible. I have also plotted a vertical profile along the direct line between them. It shows that the sight-line from the Norton henge, skimming over the highest point on the profile, clears the Weston henge by approximately 20 metres (the exact amount depending on where in the henge one considers and the shape of the hill-top, which is not clearly defined by the 1:25,000 OS map). In any event, there seems little scope for wondering if the bank of the henge might have been visible, peeping over the skyline.

I’ve added a couple of 360° panoramas taken from the henge sites to the Picasa gallery. They are unrolled cylindrical projections and the full images can be downloaded; most image-viewing applications will give a good approximation of the actual experience of standing on the spot and rotating if the image is zoomed and then panned. On the view from the Norton henge I have marked the approximate sight-line towards the Weston henge.

In sum, it seems to me the two henges could not have been intervisible. But you may be considering some other factor I have failed to take into account. Otherwise, an argument for a landscape connection between the two henges would have to be found elsewhere than in intervisibility between them.

Roger is, of course, absolutely correct and my belief that the two sites were intervisible is therefore wrong. I based my idea of intervisibility on the soilmarks at TL 247317, which I had been interpreting as the henge without checking the location of the Scheduled Monument. However, a view from Google Earth shows the site I’ve been basing my claim on (immediately west of the point where Hatch Lane bridges the A505 Baldock Bypass). There is nothing listed at this location by the Historic Environment Record, although this soilmark looks very interesting (it is about the same diameter as the Stapleton’s Field henge and appears to have a gap to the north). It should repay investigation on the ground!

The location of the henge in Weston and the site I have mistakenly been thinking is the henge

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About Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

I'm the Archaeology Officer for North Hertfordshire District Council Museum Service. I was born and brought up in Letchworth Garden City, so I have a life-long connection with the area.

Posted on 6 September 2010, in Fieldwork. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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