What’s on : Lectures

Managing the Thornborough Henges: from community enterprise to community ownership.

9 Apr 2024
Start time
2:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Keith Emerick, Historic England
Managing the Thornborough Henges: from community enterprise to community ownership.

Event Information

Managing the Thornborough Henges: from community enterprise to community ownership.

Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments. Regions: North East and Yorkshire. Historic England.

In February 2023 the central and southern henges of the Neolithic Thornborough henges complex passed into the care of the state. This significant event marked the culmination of 16 years of discussion and negotiation between various parties and individuals to secure the future of these monuments.

Of course, the story of the henges, their landscape and their management extends further back in time, but it also stretches into the future. The northern henge is undoubtedly the best preserved of the group, and one of the best preserved in the British Isles: what will happen to the northern henge? What will happen in the wider landscape.

This lecture will look at the history of the henges and how they have been managed over time and consider how difficult it can be to manage competing needs, benefits and values.

Lecture to be held in the Tempest Anderson Lecture Theatre, Yorkshire Museum,
YO1 7DR at 2.30pm.   All welcome.

Image: HEA 35140_045 13-OCT-2022 © Historic England Archive

Member’s Report:

The three Thornborough Henges lie on a tongue of land, a little higher than surrounding fields, and form part of an ancient, possibly ritual landscape near Ripon, dating from the early Neolithic to the Bronze Age. An Early Neolithic burial nearby may have been the focus for the all the other elements of the site. Related monuments cover an area from Catterick to West Yorkshire, including the Vale of York, an area important for its rivers and springs.

The henges are vast in scale: each is the size of two football pitches, and from the northernmost to the southern henge is 1.7km. The south and central henges are open to the sky and are marked by somewhat broken banks and surrounding ditch. The northern henge is tree-covered, which has preserved more of its structure, while gypsum found in tree roots suggest that all three were covered with it to gleam white in the landscape. Rabbits have damaged the other henges. Restoration will include replanting the rare, lime-loving flora found on the banks which have been newly propagated from seeds.

The lower-lying area around was privately owned and has long been subject to sand, gravel and mineral extraction. After 16 years of negotiations with owners of land and mineral rights, all three henges were acquired by the state in the last year and are being conserved and managed as an ancient monument. It is hoped to convey its history in narrative form: community-built, they are now community owned. Many local volunteers have been deeply involved in the process of acquisition and restoration. Their commitment has been invaluable.

Carole Smith