Wirral has a rich assemblage of archaeological remains, at present dating back from the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age period to the industrial period.
Protection and Development
Wirral contains 9 Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs), which are regarded as being of national importance.
1. Birkenhead Priory
2. Bromborough Hall moated site
3. Grange Beacon
4. Irby Hall moated site
5. New Hall
6. Overchurch site
7. St Barnabas Cross
8. Standing Cross at Holy Cross (Woodchurch)
9. Storeton Hall
Scheduled Monument Consent is required for any works to an SAM, including maintenance, alteration or development, and even for below ground works to a standing monument. Applications are made directly to English Heritage.
The protection and conservation of archaeology is a material consideration within planning law, and the legal provisions are enshrined within Planning Policy Statement 5 – Planning for the Historic Environment, which introduces a new holistic approach to conservation. All development works to an ancient monument, scheduled or not, requires planning permission – there are no permitted development rights for protected monuments.
Undesignated archaeology within the Borough is protected under the provisions of local policy CH25 Development Affecting Non-Scheduled Remains.
The Council does not allow metal detecting on any of its land, including the Wirral foreshore. Metal detecting is illegal within the site of a scheduled ancient monument. Detecting on private land requires the written permission of the landowner. Any finds discovered in England are subject to the provisions of the Portable antiquities scheme and the Treasure Act 1996.
The Portable Antiquities scheme is still administered by Liverpool Museums.
Archaeological protection is also taken into account in terms of agriculture and its intensification, whilst stewardship payments are sometimes available to support the preservation of earthworks, agricultural buildings and other remains – more information is available from Natural England and DEFRA.
Wirral Council has undertaken one community archaeological dig – at Leasowe Lighthouse in 2007, which was deemed a great success, and the authority aims to seek funding for other such projects in the future.
Wirral Council has also worked with Warplane Wreck Investigation Group to recover a WWII Spitfire that plummeted to earth during that conflict. Its remains are now on display at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton.