This was the detailed attachment sent with the letter to each York Councillor explaining the evidence to contradict what their archaeology officer was telling them
My response of John Oxley’s ‘Briefing Note’ to Cllr Merritt
John Oxley’s response, mentioned in my email, does not answer or justify most of the criticisms I made in my letter to the York cabinet members. Instead it attacks me and tries to deflect, rather than address my criticisms. This is not the way to respond when public officials are informed of mistakes. Sadly, it does fit a pattern revealed in the recent public inquiries which looked at why various authorities ignored timely warnings they were given by outsiders. I will confine my reply to addressing those points where he provides some explanation for the mistakes I had notified in my letter to the Cabinet.
Accepting the false story about the creation of Germany Beck after 1066
In his paper, John Oxley addresses for the first time the notorious matter of the ‘ 13C story’ that was agreed between Persimmon, CYC and EH in March 2005. I hope it is true, as he claims, that neither he nor EH accepted the first part of the story, namely that Germany Beck was a 13th century, man-made construction. Professional archaeologists would know this claim was wrong.
However, John Oxley and English Heritage subsequently employed this false story to promote the planning application. EH cite it as the reason for withdrawing their objection to the Germany Beck plan when writing to CYC in April 2005. John Oxley is noted as the person formalising the ‘story’ in the meeting minutes. He subsequently accepted a revised HLA which made this, and other, false or dubious claims. Furthermore, he has allowed the recently approved WSI to repeat this false information. Paradoxically, I alsonote that CYC recently wrote to Persimmon suggesting they remove the reference of Germany Beck as a ‘natural watercourse’ since this term might expose the false story agreed with Persimmon. (seeWSI revision F)
Both ofthe public archaeologists were clearly aware that the agreed ‘story’ was open to challenge. John Oxley recognises, according to the minutes, the story will not be ‘fireproof’ and Keith Emerick, representing English Heritage, tells Persimmon “ to state [the battle] didn’t take place here”. I note that Persimmon have been very careful to avoid making any such claim, passing the full responsibility for allowing the destruction of the battlesite onto CYC and EH.
The ‘story’s’ purpose was to undermine the location of Germany Beck as the place of the battle - No beck until the 13th century, no battle along the beck in 1066. But the story is fiction and not fact.
I also fail to understand why John Oxley remonstrates at length in his paper that he never accepted the story of the man-made origin of Germany Beck. Why did he approve the key document ( theMay 2005 ‘revised HLA’) when he confesses that he did not accept its conclusion? He can be in no doubt that I want the truth about this matter to be revealed. On 27 March 2014 I wrote to John:
“They say no news is good news but I really do need some replies to my many questions. I will submit another FOI through other channels as I am aware that a further draft of the WSI has been produced and I need to see it.
“However, I did receive a copy of your recent comments on the WSI via an FOI sent to the Fulford Parish Council. I was very disappointed with much that I read. I was amazed to read that while you say you have never really been happy with the 'story' agreed in March 2005 about the 15th (sic) century origin of Germany Beck, you were not demanding the removal of what we know is false information. This is so unacceptable that I do not need to spell it out. The WSI must state what we know. The fanciful speculation used to confuse people about the evidence for the battle of Fulford must all be edited from any WSI that is approved.”
John Oxley claims that his ‘story’ is part of the normal process of narrative but this is not credible in this context. An archaeological narrative is based on evidence. The narrative should evolve as more evidence is provided, following relevant investigations. As I have illustrated above, the story is a fiction and the scientific data which expose it are set out in my consultation responses to the WSI. Later I will quote documents that show he formed his view in 2003 and his narrative has not changed despite the volume of new evidence that has emerged about the battle along Germany Beck.
By comparison, my own narrative for Fulford has evolved in the 15 years I have researched the battle. My ‘story’is based on evidence. Following a Lottery-funded project we were able to describe the land shape of 1066: This was then tested against the literature and the exceptional tides in September 1066: The identification of the post-battle, metal recycling sites, all contributed to refining the narrative that was presented in 2004. The work of the last decade has refined the tale of the battle as those who attend the regular walks I conduct could tell you. This year I was able to show them the original fording place; a causeway was identified which could have prevented the bodies being flushed into the Ouse by the falling tide after the battle: This would account for the gruesome description of the bodies looking like stepping stones trapped alongside the causeway. Earlier this month I was able to tell members of the WI in Selby that some information they provided has allowed me to identify the place where King Harald of Norway spent the night before the battle.
Narrative evolves with the evidence and flows from research and discovery. John Oxley’s story does not qualify as a narrative as it was not based on the evidence. By blocking relevant work that I wanted to be undertaken, and by failing to challenge the developer archaeology which I had told him was wrong, and then ignoring the projects I proposed in my critique to the WSI, he has frozen his own ‘story’ . He had many opportunities within the planning process to update his story but he has failed to do so. So my charge that he has approved and defended developer documents that he claims he knew to be wrong, remains.
John Oxley’s comments imply that I have been unwilling to provide him with details of my work. Such an accusation would be totally unfounded. He was, for example, the first person to receive a digital copy of an early draft of the final report. He is always the first person (along with English Heritage) to be informed of new finds. Naively, I thought that the information I provided the public archaeologists would be investigated by them and passed on to the decision makers.
My counter charge, since he raises this issue, is that I cannot recall an occasion when John engaged in a discussion of the evidence I was offering him. He has only let me show him the site and evidence once. This visit in 2009 only took place after I remonstrated with the CYC Chief Executive that it was ridiculous that their advisor had not inspected the site with me.
Notwithstanding the granting of planning permission, John Oxley should have ensured that the site was properly investigated through the WSI. He must be asked to explain why he has excluded work to follow up the findings from the Lottery funded project of which he has been made aware since 2004 and which I set out in my WSI responses.
It is perhaps relevant to explain the unique nature of what is being found at Fulford. There are no similar finds for comparison to the Fulford material. In layman’s terms one could say that Fulford is the battlefield equivalent of Pompeii where a moment has been frozen in time! This should of itself have been enough for John Oxley to recommend further investigations before any planning application was approved as I repeatedly requested. The Fulford battle is extremely exciting archaeology. On Saturday it was part of a presentation at the Wallace Collection in London.
Because there is nothing with which to compare the finds from Fulford, I am still travelling and communicated extensively with experts. An example of the open and extensive way I have been seeking the widest possible audience in order to understand the Fulford finds is revealed in my reply to John Oxley (May 2014):
“I heard from the British Museum just this morning that some samples looked like bits of edged weapons and they agree we have another early mediaeval anvil (and advised me to have the bits CT scanned).’
This followed an update that I sent John Oxley in March 2014 saying;
“I am holding on to the draft report for the summer's trail trench beside Germany Beck as there have been some exciting developments with the finds which are emerging from conservation looking increasingly like battle debris. It is very exciting. The area of the access road has to have absolute priority in any investigation. The archaeology is only 1m below the surface.”
To take me to task for failing to provide the data in some particular format ignores the unique challenges presented by the battlefield evidence. Had John Oxley at any stage talked to me or visited the work I would have been only too happy to enlighten him. As the examples above illustrate, I have kept John Oxley fully informed in spite of his apparent indifference to the emergence of more evidence for the battle. I would like to know why he has blocked, rather than engaged with and supported the battle investigations since 2005because this would have allowed him to provide informed advice to elected members.
Making my data accessible
In another counter-attack to my criticisms, John Oxley notes that my information is not a part of the formal national records. This ignores the fact that my repeated attempts to provide information to the national records, which were going on-line as the project neared publication, have been blocked. The reasons cited were the failure to provide a ‘site number’ (which the issuing authority would not give me) or not being an ‘authorised data provider’. I have recently addressed the body controlling access to the national database again to see if this can be resolved as their elitist approach seems to be diminishing. The work will, however, require funding.
But Fulford is also a work in progress, as the dig planned for this year illustrates. Publication is a staged process. During 2004 we were able to announce, first that the landscape archaeology pointed uniquely to Germany Beck, then that the tidal data on the day of the battle which was provided by the Navy confirmed many aspects of the literature and 1066 landscape. Finally, late in 2004 and early in 2005, YAT began to note that there was much hearth debris in compact zones along Germany Beck among the iron finds recovered during the project. This allowed me to announce early in 2005 that the site of the battle had, effectively, been confirmed. It is perhaps worth noting the timetable: After these announcements our access to the area was denied when the ‘red line’ of the development was extended.
Publishing the data and undertaking additional work to test and double-check the conclusions normally takes several years, so Fulford was no exception. After this work and two more years of peer review, the report was published in 2010, noting that Fulford was still a work-in-progress because access had been blocked. But throughout this time, the emerging evidence was always quickly made available on the website and through talks.
I have never refused access to the data and even took Persimmon to inspect the finds at extremely short notice. So I would suggest that the problem with accessing the battlefield evidence lies entirely with John Oxley.In spite of his disinterest he has always been the first person supplied with information none of which has, to the best of my knowledge, been reflected in the advice provided in his role as archaeological adviser to CYC.
I would also point out that the new planning framework (NPPF), which distils the previous planning advice, states that an unregistered battlesite should only be disturbed in the most exceptional circumstances. But I have never seen this reflected in the advice provided to Councillors. (NPPF #135) Paragraph 139 is even more explicit :“Non-designated heritage assets of archaeological interest that are demonstrably of equivalent significance to scheduled monuments, should be considered subject to the policies for designated heritage assets.” Since EH has repeatedly stated that the battle site of 1066 is of unquestionable, national and international importance, why has the need to consider the battle not happened?
Perhaps John Oxley is the only person I know who does not recognise Germany Beck as the location of the battle of Fulford.I note from an undated, internal document (2003?) that he had formed the view that ‘it is inherently unlikely that the Battle of Fulford was fought in this area’ despite all the published opinion to the contrary. He has subsequently put on record a number of times that he sees no reason to revise his opinion. But I read in an internal minutes him saying (Feb 2004?) ‘that we cannot refuse the app[lication] or request further study to be done’ because ‘we have been in discussion with the applicants since 1996 and I have at every stage agreed the archaeological objectives and methodologies for evaluating this site’.
Neither his unwillingness to require more work nor his personal view about the battle provide a valid ground for ignoring the existing evidence given the importance to our heritage and economy of a battle from 1066.In the next section I ask why CYC has not followed national standards and obtained a second opinion when preparing a WSI to avoid any possibility of personal bias.
I fail to see the relevance of the defence offered by John Oxley’s to my charge that he had ignored a recognised standard for preparing WSIs. It is irrelevant that CYC has not been able to prepare its own version because he is too busy. Surely the reason that EH published a template is precisely to save other local authorities the time and expense of preparing their own standard. My challenge remains: Why has the City accepted a WSI that is so defective when measured against a national standard?
But a bigger question is why was an independent archaeologist not called in to provide a brief for the writing of the scheme of investigation? The Germany Beck application perfectly illustrates why the archaeologist overseeing the initial investigation should not specify the work for the WSI because without independent oversight, previous mistakes can be overlooked or even covered-up.
As it is, no independent brief was prepared. So Persimmon’s archaeological consultants, MAP, have been able to prepare a plan that glosses over defects in previous investigations. (See EH criticism of the work as inadequate which was noted in my email). John Oxley should now be told to provide a better explanation for this omission since he has been told for over a decade that the archaeology from Persimmon is sub-standard. An independent archaeologist should be tasked to prepare the brief for the WSI as the national standard requires.
As a part of an email sent to Hannah Blackburn on 4 June 2014, I point out that agreeing to vary the planning conditions, and not requiring some archaeology to be undertaken before later phases of the work commences, is also contrary to the WSI standard.
“I would also like to return to the subject of the proposed phasing of the archaeological work. The planning authority would not accept an application that failed to provide a detailed plan of all the phases before approving it. Persimmon mistake the fact that they propose to do the work in phases with the need to provide a WSI covering the entirety of their work. The English Heritage guidance for WSI for example makes references to the need to plan vehicle bases and temporary shelters and the need for such areas to be researched first as a reason to complete the whole investigation before work commences. Persimmon can phase their building work but the rules say they must supply the plan for the entire site as part of the WSI. Plus, I repeat, the planning conditions make much archaeological work a pre-condition for starting any building work.”
I also noted that John Oxley has recommended acceptance of several flawed versions of the WSI on at least three occasions in the last 18 months sometimes before the consultation period was over. This reinforces my contention that he was not taking the consultation seriously.
Archaeology, as John Oxley argued in his paper to Cllr Merritt, is a narrative and cannot be ‘frozen’ in 1996 or 2003 or 2005. It is time he updated his story to take account of the evidence. He must be told to explain the failures to engage with evidence for the battle which is manifest in the defence he provides. Archaeology is about evidence not one man’s out of date opinion; so the requirement for an independent brief for the work must be imposed upon the process.
Untrue claim that the WSI will do battlefield research
John Oxley is wrong when he claimed in his paper to Cllr Merritt that identifying the battlefield was a key aim of the WSI. I had told him this in my first consultation response. This is what I wrote:
“(9) Failure to include a statement about the battle of Fulford among the ‘Key research aims and objectives’. (WSI 5)”
“Action: insert ‘to conduct the necessary surveys and sampling to ensure that the evidence for the battle of Fulford can be collected and understood before the site is disturbed’ as one of the key objectives.” (CR 5)
The battle is in fact relegated to an ‘issue’. The WSI talks of: “..any evidence to support the widely held belief that the battle of Fulford was fought within the development area”. The WSI avoids any mention of body of evidence which has promoted what it recognises as the ‘widely held belief’. Creating a Fulford battle trail is indeed the last of the SoS planning conditions. The failure to list the evidence, or make it a specific aim to search for such an important piece of heritage, is so wrong. English Heritage have, in stages, forced the WSI to include some methodology which might, or might not, be relevant to identifying the battle. (I have made several complaints about the way the ‘agreed’work was being conducted but do not expect my complaint will ever be answered). I would also prefer to see my methodology, which has been proven to work on the battlefield, used in place of the theoretical approach suggested by English Heritage.
The WSI approved by CYC ignores all the evidence which I have published, and phase 1 avoid areas where I have told them there is more battlefield evidence to be found.
And finally, John Oxley’s opening paragraph
The opening paragraph from John Oxley’s paper to Cllr Merritt notes that I say in Finding Fulford ‘bury bureaucrats with paper’. This is a case of removing an item from its context. On the last page of Finding Fulford, I do provide some serious, but tongue-in-cheek, encouragement to others dealing with planning inquiries. To put this remark in context I say that planning seems to be more about quantity than quality and I see that I wrote to John Oxley as recently as May 2014 saying:
“..it is not the extensive nature of the work but its failure to reveal the natural surface where so much material emerged last summer. It is the quality, not the quantity, that I am drawing to your attention. But I again ask you to review the data that was provided to support the planning application and go and inspect the site to see that the data they provided was, to put it politely, inadequate.”
My adviceto those fighting for the evidence to be heard concludes with these comments:( Finding Fulford page 292)
19 Do not fall victim, as I did, to the ‘Big-lie’ defence: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”.[i] So “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” as Big Brother noted.
20 Power wins over truth in the planning process.
Good luck – Just because you are alone, does not mean you are wrong.”
The ‘big lie’ in this context is that Germany Beck is not the location of the battle of Fulford. It is and I have proved it.
Please ask why the truth is not being addressed.
 The defeat of the Vikings at Stamford Bridge, five days after Fulford, provides an explanation for why the metal recycling work was abandoned which the tidal floods then covered.
 I would like to acknowledge that John Oxley gave me much help and advice with the Lottery funded project and he was keen for me to investigate other possible sites which formed a key part of the project and occupied the majority of the time and resources. I recall he was particularly keen on Naburn as a possible site for the battle, so it was the first possible site investigated.
[i] The precise source of these quotes is difficult to locate but I believe that come from a book called ‘A Time without Equal’ which was published in Germany in 1941. I would also like these words about ‘the power of the big lie’ to serve as a warning to those who conduct future inquiries. George Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, has a slightly more nuanced description of the ‘Big Lie’ theory. It was “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed....” I prefer the former, where the practitioners are manipulating the truth rather than the latter, where they do not recognise the truth anymore.
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The author of the content is Charles Jones - email@example.com Last updated April 2015
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