The top of the landfill area as it is today.


Despite Sutton Walls being declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1933, the Ministry of Works gave permission for quarrying, limited to the western section of Sutton Walls, to commence in 1935.

In 1949 Planning Permission was granted for further quarrying in the centre section of the site and a condition was applied that a 4.6 metre strip was left remaining between the rampart and the quarry edge. Gravel was allowed to be quarried up to 4 metres depth.

By 1951 the Ministry had a report from the archaeologist and put a Stop Order on extending the quarrying to the eastern section. At some time in the 1950s the gravel quarrying ceased. In the mid 1960s the quarried area was used for landfill, mainly domestic waste but some industrial drummed waste. Lagoons were created to hold liquid waste.

It is on record that in 1973 the lagoons in the western section had been further excavated to a depth of 8 metres into the strata beneath the gravel. While this work took place all liquid and solid waste was diverted into the centre section of Sutton Walls.

The Poisonous Waste Act was enacted in 1972. Between 1972 and 1975 a substantial quantity of liquid industrial waste from manufacturers such as British Steel, Monsanto, Dunlop, more locally Henry Wiggins and others was brought to the site. These wastes included various dilute acids, liquid tars, ammonia, waste foam, machine oil and oily water. In 1975 the landfill site closed to industrial waste and the lagoons that had been formed started to be filled with domestic waste.

Between 1977 and 1979 the western section of the site was domed and capped to a depth of 600mm with a material known as “Hogin”. This comprised of material sourced from Wellington.

Since then there have been investigations instigated by the Environment Agency, under which Historic England gave consent in 2012 for a private consultancy (Arcadis) to bore holes on the monument and assess ground contamination. They reported in 2014 that ‘all three contaminant linkages have been assessed not to present unacceptable risks either to human health or the wider environment.  In the absence of outstanding data gaps of concern, Arcadis has no recommendations for further work, based on the findings of this investigation’.

Information taken from “SKM Enviros Report on the Former Sutton Walls Landfill, situated near Sutton St Nicholas, Herefordshire” dated June 2011. Commissioned by the Environment Agency and Herefordshire Council.

A sense of the scope of the landfill operation has been captured in contemporary aerial photographs and locally sourced photographs.

The aerial photograph shown depicts the landfill operation at its worst. The image is taken from the south and shows the access road known as Busy Hill centrally towards the bottom of the photograph. Marden is at the top of the photograph. On Sutton Walls and to the left of the roadway are six huge lagoons each containing liquid chemical waste which apparently was pumped into the lagoons quite indiscriminately. You can see tankers waiting to discharge their loads near the centre of the photograph. The lighter areas around the lagoons are the embankments which surrounded the pools and seem to be of some depth. To the right of the roadway is another lagoon accessed by a slope. The black area in the lagoon may be Black Carbon deposits. To the right of this is there are two quarry areas. On the northern edge of this area is a roadway again with lorries parked. It is said that some lorries had to be dragged up Busy Hill due to their weight and the gradient of the hill.

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Western section from the south.15th November, 1974. Photographer: unknown.

Copyright: Cambridge University Cambridge Air Photos. Reference BRO114.

The next two landscape photographs both show part of the centre section of Sutton Walls. Both were taken by Lesley Butler of Sutton St Nicholas and show the landfill site in the summer of 1970. The first image claimed first prize in an international photographic competition to celebrate ‘European Conservation Year 1970’. 

Both images were digitised from the original prints. There has been no image manipulation so are displayed as originally printed by Lesley to whom we extend our thanks.

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Copyright: Lesley Butler, 1970

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Copyright: Lesley Butler, 1970

Copyright: Photographer unknown. Used in the “SKM Enviros Report on the Former Sutton Walls Landfill, situated near Sutton St Nicholas, Herefordshire” dated June 2011. Commissioned by the Environment Agency and Herefordshire Council.

The photograph above is thought to have been taken in 1974 shows the Deep Lagoons at the north western end of the landfill. The light coloured areas are the top of liquid waste, the grey above them are the embankments of each lagoon. These possibly stretch 5 metres above the surface of the waste. In the background tankers can be seen presumably waiting to discharge their contents.

Sutton Walls Conservation Group (SWCG)  is a

foundation Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)

Registered Charity Number: 1175194

Registered in England and Wales.

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