Businessman sorry for wrecking ancient Priddy Circles monument
Retired businessman Roger Penny paid the cost of wrecking one of Britain’s most important prehistoric monuments when he was ordered to pay up to £37,000 for restoration work, fined £2,500 and told to pay costs of £7,500.
Penny, 73, a retired plant hire boss, struck trouble when he instructed two contractors to do work on the site of one of the four giant earthwork rings known as Priddy Circles on the Mendip Hills.
Taunton Crown Court was told that the circles, date from around 3,000BC and are a Scheduled Ancient Monument. David Maunder, prosecuting, said: “These circles are regarded as among a small group of the country’s most important prehistoric monuments, with enormous potential to inform us about the Neolithic period, and in archaeological terms are internationally significant.”
Penny,who has known success with the racehorse Earthmover, bought the land containing the southernmost circle, together with a cottage and stable which he planned to renovate and let.
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He told contractors to clear gorse and bracken, and move a gate way and a right of way. He wanted to “tidy” the land but he did so without obtaining permission or advice from English Heritage.
He knew the monument existed when he bought the land but did not check its extent. Only part of the circle was obvious to the eye, and although he told one contractor not to disturb that area, he did not prevent work being done in other areas.
Penny, of Litton, Somerset, admitted causing or permitting works to a Scheduled Monument without Scheduled Monument Consent when he appeared before South Somerset and Mendip Magistrates last April. The case was sent to the crown court for sentence.
On Friday Charles Rowe, defending, said Mr Penny deeply regretted what had happened, and co-operated fully with Somerset County Council and English Heritage investigators as soon as he was contacted.
Penny has agreed to undertake restoration work and pay for archaeological investigation and monitoring before and during the work.
Recorder Jeremy Wright told Penny: “It’s very sad to see a man of your age and good character before the court. You have glowing references”.
But he continued: “Although the part you bought might not have been visually spectacular, common sense would have told you that the land inside the circle was also important, and common sense should have told you to seek advice. It may be that significant archaeological information may be lost, although some evidence may be available, its significance and value have been diminished by the damage.”