‘Long way to go’ in Deputy’s dolmen repatriation project

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Deputy Kirsten Morel, Assistant Economic Development Minister, who has responsibility for culture, has written to the owners of the Mont de la Ville dolmen to gauge their views on the matter.

The structure was discovered in the late 18th century on the site later occupied by Fort Regent and was subsequently given as a present to Henry Seymour Conway, the Island’s governor responsible for erecting many of the round towers that protected Jersey from French invasion.

Field Marshal Conway, as he later became, had the dolmen transported to his Henley-on-Thames estate, where it was re-erected and remains to this day.

Deputy Morel said that he had obtained the Chief Minster’s support for writing a letter to the owners to establish whether they might be sympathetic to exploring whether it could be brought back to the Island.

He said that his curiosity had been stimulated by an email from a member of the public and by correspondence from Senator Kristina Moore, who had expressed an interest in the dolmen more than three years ago when the Henley-on-Thames estate came up for sale. In a letter to the paper, a JEP reader recently suggested that ‘the return of the dolmen could raise the dark cloud that has hung over Fort Regent for decades’.

Describing the possible return of the dolmen as ‘a very interesting idea’, Deputy Morel stressed that it was dependent in the first instance on the attitude of the current property owners.

Henry Seymour Conway (30898083)

‘This is not a situation like the Elgin Marbles because the dolmen was a gift from Jersey, so there is no argument for having it back as a matter of principle. It would be a lovely idea but there is a long way to go,’ Deputy Morel said. He added that other obvious hurdles included the fact that the monument at Templecombe House was a Grade II listed site.

He said that the advice he had received suggested that moving it would require permission for its ‘demolition’ under UK legislation, a process which was likely to be very difficult.

The estate in which the dolmen sits was put on the market in 2017 with a price tag of £7 million, with the monument being described in the marketing brochure as ‘the druids’ altar, a collection of ancient stones that is Grade II listed.

At the time efforts were made by Islander Neil Holmes to crowd-fund the purchase of the 43-acre estate, his fundraising page stating: ‘The aim of this is to buy the property that the Neolithic Jersey dolmen currently resides on, repatriate the dolmen, then resell the estate.’

The initiative prompted Senator Moore, then Home Affairs Minister, to announce that a small working group was in contact with the vendor but no further comment was made at the time.

Senator Moore said she welcomed the latest interest in the dolmen, describing the Neolithic history of the Island as ‘fascinating’.

‘While the exact site of the Mont de la Ville dolmen is no longer available, its existence is of great relevance to our Island story and recreating it with the stones or in a virtual form would be an important part of our heritage offering for locals and visitors,’ she said.

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