QUARRYING AND LANDFILL ERA.
In 1933 Sutton Walls was declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument by the Ministry of Works. In 1935 that same government department gave permission for the limited quarrying of gravel from Sutton Walls.
1949 saw Planning Permission 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 (15ft) depth.
During 1951, the Ministry received a preliminary report from the distinguished archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon regarding her findings on Sutton Walls and they put a Stop Order on extending the quarrying into the eastern section. At some time in the 1950s the gravel quarrying ceased and the quarried area began to be used for landfill. Firstly domestic waste but at a later time some industrial drummed waste. Lagoons were created to hold liquid waste.
By 1973 the lagoons in the western section had been further excavated to a depth of 8 metres (25ft.) 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 proposed 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 legally 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 the Department of Culture Media and Sport 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’.
After investigation of the former Sutton Walls landfill site, Herefordshire Council in a written statement relating to its obligations under the Environment Protection Act 1990. Part 2A, stated the following. “The statutory Guidance advises that it is for the local authority to determine the site meets the definition of contaminated land. On the basis of currently available information, we would consider the site not to meet the definition of contaminated land and as such should not be determined as contaminated land”. Dated July 2016.
A sense of the scope of the landfill operation has been captured in contemporary aerial photographs and locally sourced photographs.
Copyright. Cambridge Air Photos (CUCAP) 1970. Image reference BRO114
Aerial photographs show 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.
Numerous aerial images can be viewed via this link and then search the library for Sutton Walls. https://www.cambridgeairphotos.com/search/
Copyright both images. L. Butler, Sutton Walls, 1970.
Needless to say, the areas subject to quarrying and landfill activity can show no ancient archaeology, so the inner central and western areas will not be investigated and are considered beyond the scope of Sutton Walls Conservation Groups interests.