Skip header

Archaeology

With every new generation comes fresh ideas and new ways of living, all of which make demands on how we use land. This means that we live in places where change is always happening.  Over time these changes become part of our history, which can add to the special character of places for individuals and communities.  Representing the 'historic environment' in which we live, this legacy also provides the valuable raw material upon which archaeologists, historic geographers, and architectural historians can learn about how our economy, society, culture and environment change.

Unfortunately, accommodating the ever changing needs of society can also bring tensions. The demands that development can make on land means that we can sometimes face difficult decisions about what we decide to conserve and protect, and what the best means to achieve this are.

This page aims to give you an overview of the importance of archaeology within the planning process, in protecting and enhancing our environment and how it may affect you.

Practical issues

Desktop assessment

If a site is within an area of potential archaeological interest the applicant may need to provide the Planning Authority with information of the likely impact of the scheme on any buried remains. This is estimated from existing records, including historical accounts, and reports of archaeological work in the vicinity, in conjunction with a number of sources which suggest the nature of deposits on the site, like bore-hole logs and cellar surveys. This is presented in a standard format, known as a Desk Top Assessment.

Written Scheme of Investigation

A Written Scheme of Investigation is a detailed document which sets out the precise work required, covering the area to be excavated, the volume of deposits to be recorded, the methodology employed, the degree of expertise required, the amount of analysis and research required, finds collection policies, conservation of perishable artifacts, the deposition of finds and archives and the eventual publication of the results. Such programmes are expensive and time-consuming, and represent to the developer a construction cost against which to balance the real benefits of locating in the chosen area.

Watching Briefs

In many cases the small scale of the disturbance associated with a development, or the low probability that archaeological remains will have once existed, or survived on the site, will mean that a much lower level of observation and recording is required. Known as a Watching Brief, this is the time-tabled attendance of a suitably qualified archaeologist employed by the developer at the point when digging is underway. Any archaeological deposits encountered will be quickly recorded and any finds collected, without undue disruption to the construction work. Again, the County Archaeologist will provide the specification for the Watching Brief.

Excavations

On the basis of the information provided in the Desktop Assessment, the Planning Authority will determine the need for further work to test whether deposits predicted in the Assessment have survived on this plot. This is usually achieved by trial excavation and is known as a Field Evaluation. This programme will also be defined by the County or Industrial Archaeologist, and may employ a range of survey and analytic techniques besides excavation (such as field walking or geophysical survey). Should important remains be brought to light, the preferred option would be avoidance of disturbance for example by the use of building techniques that ensure minimal disturbance of the buried remains on the site.

With the benefit of the Assessment and Evaluation reports, the Planning Authority can make the appropriate decision (in the context of the Policies set out in the Local Development Plan) on whether to give consent to the scheme or not, and, if so, what further steps need to be taken to mitigate the destructive effects of the development on the archaeological remains. This will ensure that any remains that will be unavoidably destroyed are archaeologically excavated, analysed and published, so that the site is 'preserved by record' if not in fact. The requirements for further work will normally be attached to the Planning Consent as a condition.

Where standing buildings form a component of the archaeological resource, there may be a need to undertake Building Recording in advance of demolition or renovation. This will not be restricted to Listed Buildings, which are selected mainly on an architectural criteria. Many outwardly unprepossessing structures are important in forming a link with past communities and industries, and which will merit recording by qualified archaeologists or building historians to an agreed specification which will reflect the importance of the structure and detail the most suitable recording methodology (eg photographic survey, elevation recording etc).

Geophysics

Evaluation by exploratory fieldwork usually takes three forms; field walking of agricultural land earmarked for development, geophysical survey, and test trenching across fields to be build-over. It is not uncommon that a combination of all three are requested by the Planning Authority to inform the Planning Decision Process. To mitigate the damaging effects on the archaeological heritage of green-field development, where previously unknown archaeological sites may await discovery, it is becoming common practice for Local Planning Authorities to ask developers to undertake such fieldwork on green-field sites to be destroyed by substantial developments.

Geophysical survey is a non-intrusive technique used to identify buried features, which are then further investigated by excavation to determine whether or not they are archaeological in origin.

There are several main methods:

  • Electromagnetic surveying measures changes in the magnetic field. The fill of a pit or ditch for example, will produce an anomaly because of the contrast in the strength of the magnetic field between the magnetically enhanced topsoil used to fill the feature and the surrounding subsoil. Palaeochannels and other geological features, hearths, ovens, burnt material and metal objects will also create anomalies. When these anomalies are mapped using an instrument called a magnetometer, the geophysicist can deduce whether these features are likely to be of archaeological origin.
  • Resistivity passes an electric current into the ground through a line of probes and measures the resistance to the current at set points across the site, which depends on the conducting abilities of the soil and any features within it. Ditches or pits for example give a low resistance. Features such as wall foundations, rubble, yards, roads and cobbled trackways give a high resistivity. Again, the features can be mapped allowing a preliminary assessment of the site's likely archaeological potential to be drawn up.
  • Ground Penetrating Radar emits a pulse of energy into the ground and measures the time it takes for its echoed return. Travel times are recorded and converted into depth measurements. Thus interfaces between different strata and features can be detected. The advantage of this technique is that it can provide a 3D view of a buried site. Unlike electromagnetic surveying and resistivity which work best on undisturbed green-field sites, GPR works well on deeply stratified urban sites.

(Source: 'The use of Geophysical Techniques in Archaeological Evaluations' IFA Paper No. 6 and 'Geophysical survey in archaeological field evaluation', Research and Professional Services Guideline No 1, English Heritage).

Field walking

Technique used on arable land to collect surface artifacts which have been turned up by the plough. The site is divided up into a grid of squares, each grid square is then systematically walked across in turn by the archaeologists and any small finds such as pottery shards, flint tools, clay tobacco pipes, coins etc are collected and bagged. The finds are analysed and the number of each type and date of find from each square is recorded onto a site plan. Concentrations of particular types or ages of find may indicate that different parts of the site were used for different activities or at different periods in the past. Such areas may then be targeted by trial trenching to determine whether or not the finds are associated with a structure or feature of some sort. Field walking will be requested by the Planning Authority on proposed development sites on arable land, often in conjunction with a geophysical survey.

Maritime archaeology

Maritime archaeology has become an increasingly popular subject, which has not, in the past, received the attention it deserves. With recent changes at national level in the way the coastal heritage is cared-for, Local Authorities have been given a wider role, particularly as holders of information on the archaeology of coastal waters.

The Tyne & Wear Historic Environment Record is currently being expanded to include maritime sites, and the County Archaeologist, as a member of an active underwater archaeology group, the Maritime Archaeology Project, is involved in a number of local projects, including a survey of an iron-hulled sailing ship, the Inga, which was built in Sunderland and wrecked off Cullercoats in the Great Storm of 1901.

Marine and inter-coastal sites are known from the earliest times, as evidenced by scatters of flint tools, until the Second World War, when a large number of vessels were sunk by enemy action off the coast of Tyne & Wear.

Further information about the maritime archaeology being undertaken at the moment can be obtained by contacting the County Archaeologist.

Unexpected finds

In extremely rare circumstances, exceptional and unpredicted remains are encountered while development is in progress. There are powers at the discretion of both the Secretary of State, and the Planning Authority to intervene to ensure that nationally important remains are protected. The developer can insure against any resultant loss, and would, if all appropriate steps have been taken, be entitled to compensation. In most cases, it has proved possible to achieve a satisfactory conclusion through voluntary negotiation. The best insurance is to take the appropriate steps (Assessment, Evaluation etc) at the right time.

Early consultation with the County Archaeologist and the Industrial Archaeologist is of enormous importance. They can provide an initial appraisal of the likelihood that archaeologically sensitive deposits need to be considered for any specific planning application, and give advice on the steps that may need to be taken at each stage of the process.

Building recording

Where standing buildings form a component of the archaeological resource, there may be a need to undertake Building Recording in advance of demolition or renovation. This will not be restricted to Listed Buildings, which are selected mainly on an architectural criteria. Many outwardly unprepossessing structures are important in forming a link with past communities and industries, and which will merit recording by qualified archaeologists or building historians to an agreed specification which will reflect the importance of the structure and detail the most suitable recording methodology ( e.g. photographic survey, elevation recording etc).

Council for British Archaeology Planning factsheet

What this means for landowners

Policies relating to archaeology are based on guidance given by national government in its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) document:

 'There will be archaeological interest in a heritage asset if it holds, or potentially may hold, evidence of past human activity worthy of expert investigation at some point.'

Early consultation with the County Archaeologist is of enormous importance.  They can tell you whether archaeology is something you need to take into account and will advise you on the steps that may need to be taken at each stage of the planning process.

If a site is within an area of potential archaeological interest the applicant may need to provide the Planning Authority with information of the likely impact of the scheme on any buried remains. This is estimated from existing records, including historical accounts, and reports of archaeological work in the vicinity, in conjunction with a number of sources which suggest the nature of deposits on the site, like bore-hole logs and cellar surveys. This is presented in a standard format, known as a Desk Top Assessment.  As a starting point you are advised to consult the Tyne & Wear Historic Environment Record Sitelines

You may need to provide a Written Scheme of Investigation.  This is a detailed document which sets out the precise work required, covering the area to be excavated, the volume of deposits to be recorded, the methodology employed, the degree of expertise required, the amount of analysis and research required, finds collection policies, conservation of perishable artifacts, the deposition of finds and archives and the eventual publication of the results. These programmes are expensive and time-consuming.

Pre-application enquiries should be directed to Jennifer Morrison, Tyne & Wear Archaeology Officer, via email at jennifer.morrison@newcastle.gov.uk or by telephone on 0191 211 6218.

What is a scheduled monument?

'Scheduling' is shorthand for the process through which nationally important sites and monuments are given legal protection by being placed on a list, or 'schedule'. Historic England takes the lead in identifying sites in England which should be placed on the schedule. A schedule has been kept since 1882 of monuments whose preservation is given priority over other land uses. The current legislation, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, supports a formal system of Scheduled Monument Consent for any work to a designated monument.

Historic England deal with matters relating to Scheduled Monuments, stating that 'Every corner of England holds the archaeological remains of our long and varied history - the farms and forts of our ancestors, their burial grounds and sacred places, their fields and mines. This heritage tells us about past societies. It also enriches our own quality of life, and contributes to local character and sense of place today.'

More detailed guidance is provided by Historic England

Scheduled monuments in South Tyneside

There are five scheduled monuments in South Tyneside:

  • St. Paul's Church, Jarrow*
  • Bede Monastery, Jarrow*
  • Arbeia Roman Fort and Vicus
  • Marsden Lime Kilns, Marsden
  • Lizard Lane Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery

*Please note that St Paul's Monastery and St Paul's Church form one entry on Historic England's National Monuments Record.

Sitelines is Tyne and Wear's public access to the Historic Environment Record which holds information of all sites of archaeological interest and scheduled ancient monuments within the region. It may be accessed via http://www.twsitelines.info/

Other important archaeological sites and monuments:

  • South Pier, Lighthouse and Volunteer Life Brigade House
  • Bowes Railway
  • Wrekendyke Roman Road
  • Railway remains: Boldon Colliery - Downhill and Enclosure; Moor Lane, Whitburn
  • Whitburn Tithe Barn

Plus, the following listed buildings:

  • South Groyne, South Shields
  • Trow Rock Floating Platform
  • Whitburn Parish Church
  • Laverick Hall farm
  • Fellgate Farmhouse and Barns
  • Downhill Farm
  • Boldon Mill
  • Whitburn Windmill
  • Cleadon Windmill (within Cleadon Hills conservation area)
  • Souter Lighthouse
  • Hylton Grove Bridge, Follingsby Lane

How would you rate the information on this page?

Share this page