Planning consent for an exciting community project on our farm, to build the first structure of its kind in Shropshire in 1000s of years
You can learn more about the project here.
Below you can here an interview with Toby who is involved in the project with BBC Shropshire.
The planning consent was covered by the Shropshire Star here.
The press release for the project on obtaining planning is below.
PRESS RELEASE - Sacred Stones Limited and Soulton Hall, Shropshire
The first Long Barrow to be built in Shropshire in over 5,000 years is to be built by Sacred Stones Limited and the Ashton family at Soulton Hall, following the granting of planning permission by Shropshire County Council.
The team of stonemasons behind the design and build at Soulton pride themselves on being the first to have built these modern interpretations for many thousands of years. Their first (private commission) was at All Cannings, Wiltshire, the second (as Sacred Stones Limited) at Hail Weston in Cambridgeshire.
Originally long barrows were built by our prehistoric ancestors, as a historic reference pre Stonehenge, and are among our very oldest buildings.
They were a community focal point to honour the dead, and were venues to celebrate life. They should be thought of as the precursor to village halls and parish churches.
Sacred Stones design, build and administer barrows that serve community in much the same way. Their structures are designed to hold cremation ashes only, and are used for funeral services. They can also be used for educational and creative events. The site will be secular, and is open to everyone, of any faiths or none.
The new barrow will be built entirely by hand, using natural limestone, lime mortar and traditional techniques. No cement is used, there’s no waste, and when completed the structure is covered in soil which is seeded with grass.
Tim Ashton from Soulton Hall commented:
“Ancient barrows have survived in quiet corners of Britain for millennia and are still considered beautiful, mysterious places. Few appreciate they are memorials to the first farmers to settle in Britain all those years ago.
“The preparations to bring about a new barrow in the most peaceful part of our farm have been deeply rewarding: we have support from Cambridge University and I have personally visited 30 ancient sites to enhance my understanding and inform the design. The University will be following the project as it progresses.
“As our plans matured and were shared them with others, we discovered a proactive warm reception from the community which has been very touching. We increasingly appreciate that reviving a custom of building long barrows as a monument for everyone, has the capacity to help people relate to a difficult topic in way which is mutually supportive, beautiful and enduring.
“The process of building the barrow, along with the significant days when its alignments will be tangible (e.g. solstices) needs to be shared with community we encourage interested people to join us on our journey.
“Like ancient barrows this structure will align to the summer and winter solstices providing a focus for memory, seasonal renewal and community.”
Ashton met with Shropshire planning department on numerous occasions, the project was received with enthusiasm from the outset.
Historic England’s West Midlands Office commented:
“Historic England commends the approach to this proposal with a basis of academic research overlain with modern interpretation, to avoid possible confusion with a genuine long barrow”.
The Soulton Long Barrow will provide a meaningful venue to celebrate life through commemorative events. Families use the barrow as a repository for cremation ashes. By hosting the funeral prior to the cremation it self, a genuinely unique unhurried service can be created, thereafter the celebration of a life in a commemorative service can take place.
Sacred Stones Managing Director, Toby Angel, comments:
“We started the company rather naively. Our team of stonemasons had completed a private commission in Wiltshire back in 2014 and were excited knowing they’d built the first long barrow in the country for some 5,000 years. It was the public’s reaction to, and engagement with the structure that encouraged us to form Sacred Stones Limited.
I often describe the barrow(s) as an iceberg. The ‘visible’ 10% is handcrafted stone, the ‘invisible’ 90% is how the barrow(s) and its community engage with one another on varying emotional levels. Only after completing our round barrow in Cambridgeshire, called Willow Row Barrow, did I begin to understand how important a secular, natural space with no time limitations can help families prepare for and commemorate a life lost. Ultimately celebrating (a) life. The directors of the company shared their collective (negative) experiences of crematoriums to help focus and ultimately develop the company’s ethos”.
The barrow build will commence in 2018. Prior to this monumental standing stones will be positioned to mark the path towards the long barrow site.
Angel and Ashton hosted an open day to discuss their plans with the public in February 2017. Reception was very positive and they have a growing list of interest from people considering the Long Barrow as their final resting place. Some have even changed their wills, and have already expressed a desire to place a deposit to secure their niche (the space in which urns are placed).