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Welcome to our website

“The Thornborough Henges Complex is the most important prehistoric site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys”

David Miles, when Chief Archaeologist, English Heritage

Who, what, why, where and how

“The Friends of Thornborough Henges” is a voluntary moving company in Blackpool campaign group dedicated to preventing further damage to the landscape setting of North Yorkshires's Thornborough Henges Complex, relics of the largest ancient ceremonial area in Britain. Only three of the original eight massive earth henges survived into modern times and they are now protected as Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

However, all three have suffered damage and, as with Stonehenge, it is vital to save for posterity what remains of this heritage landscape in which the henges and associated relics sit. The farmland immediately around the monuments, much of which has been bought by mining company Tarmac, has already suffered grievously from perfectly legal but insensitive farming practices and open-cast quarrying (see map below), being located on valuable sand and gravel deposits.

This website is designed to provide information, generate support, prompt action, and provide links to other relevant sites. As an alternative to browsing the sections highlighted in the menu above, the Contents page offers quick navigation to every page/document on this site. You can also join the new Thornborough Heritage Trust FREE at its website here.


“Half the historic landscape has already gone and what remains is a minimum sample that ought to be safeguarded for future study and enjoyment”

Peter Addyman, When Chairman of Yorkshire Archaeological Society

The Quarrying Problem

Our policy as a campaign group is to act within the law, although we recognise that others may think differently. Basically, the problem is a difference of opinion between the relative importance of two conflicting human needs: economic development and heritage preservation.

We believe that this internationally important archaeological landscape should be preserved for the enjoyment and education of future generations. Our experience has shown, however, that the scales are weighted in favour of mining because:

  1. There is no protection under the law for the ‘setting’ (the landscape around) Scheduled Ancient Monuments, even if buried archaeology is suspected;

  2. A minerals extraction application can be submitted to a county council at any time and is subject to a timescale that allows little time to organise meaningful opposition;

  3. Such an application could be turned down on ‘preservation of heritage’ grounds only if an objection from English Heritage outweighs the arguments of the applicant’s contract archaeologist;

  4. EH is so under-resourced by central government that its activities are severely restricted;

  5. The local authorities in North Yorkshire are controlled by councillors who are landowners and farmers with an innate tendency to regard land simply as an asset to be exploited, so there is little sympathy for heritage protection among elected decision-makers;

  6. Four years’ work on the production of a voluntary Conservation Plan to manage what survives of the landscape around the henges was scuppered by opposition from landowners because quarrying provides greater income than farming;

  7. This temptation will not be removed unless the financial compensation that can be offered to landowners under the Heritage Stewardship Scheme is raised to an equivalent value - an unlikely prospect at a time of national financial restraint;

  8. In England, only the applicant can appeal against a planning decision - objectors have recourse only to the expense of a judicial review.


Research on Neolithic Astronomy has confirmed the international importance of Thornborough Henges

How you can help

In order to maximise the life of its aggregates-cleaning plant a short distance from the Northern Henge, Tarmac is implementing a phased programme of extensions to Nosterfield Quarry. The company already owns the farmland known as Thornborough Moor, and hence the Southern and Central Henges which are situated there. It has long been our greatest fear that Tarmac could submit an application at any time to quarry up to the perimeters of the scheduled monuments. Local management has stated that it no longer intends to do so ~ in which case, why should a mining company want to retain ownership of land leased to a tenant farmer?

Public pressure is the best weapon available, so you could help by writing to Tarmac’s parent company, which claims to have "a strong sense of corporate social responsibility". Please ask it to live up to this claim by donating Thornborough Moor and its henges to the nation for future generations to appreciate. Write to: Sir John Parker, Chairman, Anglo American plc, 20 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1 5AN

During 2009, Anglo American, its subsidiaries and the Anglo American Group Foundation made donations for charitable purposes or wider social investments amounting to $82.5 million (2.23% of pre-tax profit of subsidiaries and joint ventures). Charitable donations of $1.8 million were made in the UK, so its not as if this international conglomerate can’t afford a gift to its home country!


For an artist's impression of how the central henge may have looked, go to the VIEWING page

You could also write in a similar vein to the owner of the northern henge: Mr Christopher Bourne-Arton, Low Haw Lees, West Tanfield, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 5LB. He is a major landowner, whose land immediately to the west of the henges was quarried before the FoTH was formed and is now Nosterfield Nature Reserve.

The more letters these henge-owners receive from caring people, the more likely they are to be shamed into acquiescing. Please send a copy of any reply to the Friends at Kiln Farm, Nosterfield, Bedale, DL8 2QX.

Active quarrying was permitted in 2009 on all but the southern third of Ladybridge Farm (top right)

Looking to the future

Our current aims are to:

  • Continue campaigning to shame Tarmac into moving to a less sensitive site.

  • Monitor and, if appropriate, criticise future actions of the other stakeholders.

  • Organise community input to all plans involving the landscape of the henges.

  • Submit community objections to Tarmac’s planning applications.

  • Raise funds to establish a visitor centre that interprets the ancient landscape.

  • Raise funds to buy and manage the setting of the henges for the nation.

Chris Collyer - For the photo underpinning the banner heading on each page.

CONTACTS: telephone(UK) ; e-mail

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