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Ministerial visit to historic Purton site

By Paul Barnett

Photo:Map of the Purton site

Map of the Purton site

By Paul Barnett

Purton's Historic Day as Culture Minister visits Hulks

The Friends of Purton were yesterday, 9 October 2009, celebrating the impromptu visit to Gloucestershire's now famous Purton Hulks, by the current Minister for Culture, Media & Sport Margaret Hodge MBE, who took time out from her very busy schedule to view, first hand, the largest ships graveyard in mainland Britain.

Arriving via chauffer driven car, the Minster stepped out into glorious sunshine to be greeted by friend and colleague David Drew MP for Stroud, who promptly handed the Minister of State a bag containing green wellies.

Suitably attired, the party, consisting of Janet Presley, Vice Chairman, Friends of Purton, Martyn Heighton Director of the Historic Ships Committee, Laurie Coleman Head of Archaeology, Friends of Purton, Stuart Bryan of the Advisory Committee for Historic Wreck Sites and broadcaster Professor Mark Horton of Bristol University set off to inspect the site.

During the whistle stop tour, Mrs Hodge eagerly took in the site's many rare artifacts and was said to be breath taken with the tranquility of the location and its idyllic setting alongside the meandering waters of the river Severn.

Paul Barnett, chairman of the Friends of Purton, who was on hand to guide the Minister whilst highlighting the archaeological significance, has praised the visit 'as a real development in the in the plight to protect this unique collection for the nation'. Further he stated, 'Mrs Hodge was both engaging and most enthusiastic, whilst pledging to conduct a full ministerial review in light of her fact-finding visit'.

Further, Martyn Heighton, following the comprehensive site tour, openly supported the site's national importance and emphatically denounced claims that the collection was of limited historic value.  Indeed he steadfastly welcomed the proposed application by Friends to have 10 of the Purton Hulks immediately recorded on the nation's Historic Ships Register, as excellent examples of Maritime Britain's past glory.

Professor Horton, as always, brought both his passion and depth of knowledge to bear, by stating that current governmental attempts to have Purton's archaeology protected under SSSI environmental legislation was doomed to fail and that effective protection would be better achieved via Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, a thought shared by all, including Stuart Bryan governmental advisor on historic wreck sites and long standing stalwart of the site.

During her visit, the Friends presented the Minister with a 2600 signature petition calling for greater legal protection and a copy of a five year management plan that will ensure continued recording, documentation and dissemination of the site's archaeology.

Following the visit David Drew stated, 'I was immensely pleased to invite Margaret to visit the site and can report that she was very impressed by what she saw and is keen to take the matter forward with English Heritage.'

For further details www.friendsofpurton.org.uk

This page was added by Iris Capps on 11/10/2009.

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