Television historian speak out for Oswestry hillfort
Historian and television presenter, Professor Michael Wood, has expressed serious concern over plans to build houses within the historic landscape of Old Oswestry hillfort.
Professor Wood, who has brought history to life in several television documentaries and written historical best sellers has written to Shropshire Council objecting to a scheme for 120 homes on land off Whittington Road on the edge of the town.
He revealed that he used to holiday in Oswestry as a child and remembers visits to the hillfort in its magical setting.
In a letter of objection he wrote: "I have followed with concern the proposed developments. The Iron Age hillfort of Old Oswestry is generally agreed to be the finest site of its kind in the Welsh Borders. Any development that threatens its setting, as this self-evidently does, in my view, therefore, should be refused.”
The popular historian said Oswestry’s northern gateway around the hillfort was an extraordinarily interesting - and rare - example of a medieval sacred landscape, which still awaited detailed research and survey. This, he said was is in addition to the area’s multi-phase heritage interest ranging from pre-Iron Age to WW1 military archaeology.
“Permission for new housing like this can also set a precedent for further development, and very swiftly a historic landscape can be so encroached upon that its archaeology is damaged, its meaning is diminished, and the pleasure of the experience for visitors is seriously impaired.”
Citing his expertise in the Anglo-Saxon period, Professor Wood said recent research suggested the landscape between town and hillfort has features and connections dating back to very significant national events in the early medieval period with he area between the hillfort and the town was turned into a sacred landscape for the cult of St Oswald.
“Even if the proposed plan does not actually 'touch’ the hillfort, this does not mean that it won’t cause damage to one of the great historic landscapes of the Welsh Borders. The local authority needs to carefully consider the national importance and the tourism value of the hillfort within the wider context of the Oswestry Heritage Gateway, including the rich historical connections that can be traced to sites across the town, on which more undoubtedly remains to be discovered.”
Members of the public as well as local consultees and national heritage organisations have lodged more than 130 objections against plans to infill the hillfort’s near setting with some 120 houses.
Campaign group, HOOOH, said: “To have highly respected academics like Professor Wood speaking out against this short-sighted scheme is very clear evidence of the undisputed importance of Old Oswestry.