The 1913 Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendments Act was indeed a landmark moment for England’s heritage and not least a magnificent achievement by the early campaigners including the heritage bodies of the day. Sir Robert Hunter, one of the founders of the National Trust, was in the vanguard of those pushing for new legislation on monuments protection in 1900 and 1913. He died in November 1913, but not before having a significant impact on the debates around the 1913 Act.
Until 1882 and lagging behind European countries, England had no legal protection for monuments of historic buildings. SPAB, founded in 1877 and the National Trust set up in 1895, (both Alliance members), campaigned strongly for the weak Acts of 1882 and 1900 to be consolidated by the 1913 Act. This Act introduced the scheduling of ancient monuments and introduced a compulsory ‘purchase order’ which formed the first steps towards today’s statutory protection for our heritage. Just as significant, the Act demonstrated government commitment and justified state interventions on private ownership for national benefit.
This new Act also established two fundamental principles. Firstly there should be public access to ancient monuments held under state guardianship. Secondly, it established the Ancient Monument Board to advise the Office of Works. The first members were members of the learned societies, thus recognising the role of non government heritage organisations with the immense knowledge and expertise they continue contribute, often freely and on a voluntary basis. The anniversary of 1913 Act is a moment for all heritage bodies to celebrate our achievements.