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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
Plough hanging over Roman city
The Roman theatre at Verulamium
Verulamium is a protected ancient monument
A Roman city, which survived the ravages of Queen Boudicca's army, is finally being threatened with destruction by the plough.

Verulamium, near modern St Albans, Hertfordshire, was one of the most important settlements in Roman Britain.

But archaeologists believe its hidden secrets could be lost for posterity unless the government takes action.

Despite being protected as a scheduled ancient monument, the site is still being farmed by its owner, the Earl of Verulam.

A statue of Queen Boudicca
Queen Boudicca attacked the city in 67AD

A legal loophole means the site can continue to be used in the same way as it was before it became protected.

Tony Robinson, the presenter of Channel 4's Time Team, said: "It seems ludicrous that we should be allowing people to conduct these often considered acts of historical vandalism."

Harvey Sheldon, chairman of the archaeological charity Rescue, said: "Verulamium is being destroyed by ploughing. There have been one or two excavations there in the past, but large areas of it have not been investigated.

"It was a major town in Roman Britain and many of the finds there have been very rich.

"The problem is if the government pays compensation it would set a precedent and open the floodgates for other archaeological sites."

'Withdraw consent'

Hugh Reeves, a partner at Strutt & Parker land agents for the Earl's Gorhambury estate, said: "To show our good faith on the matter, we have held a moratorium on ploughing for the past two or three years.

"But we cannot rule out a return if an agreement cannot be reached as the tenant farmer has a right to plough the land."

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "What we hope for is to negotiate a solution which will stop the ploughing on the site.

"We would prefer that to come about through agtreement rather than direction from us.

"We are also considering withdrawing the consent for ploughing to take place through legislation.

"The difficultly is that compensation would have to be paid."


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11 Jul 02 | England
25 Jun 02 | Wales
11 Jun 02 | England
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