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Pub chain accused of hypocrisy
A PUB chain has been accused of hypocrisy for naming its pub after a Saxon royal whose remains were found nearby, despite funding only a limited search for new treasure.
Marston’s Inns and Taverns looks set to name the new 180- seat family pub and restaurant it is building in Priory Crescent, Southend, the Saxon Prince, in honour of the royal, whose tomb was unearthed yards away in 2003.
But local historians have attacked the chain, whose archaeological experts only dug three 4-ins-wide boreholes to test if the one-acre pub site, formerly a Toomey Renault car showroom, held any more finds, before workmen moved in.
Sheena Walker, of group Saxon King in Priory Park, which has campaigned for a new museum in the park to house the royal’s remains, said: “It is taking advantage of the find without having any actual interest in the importance of the site.
“If it had any interest it might have put more investment into finding what was on that site.
“It’s pitiful a huge money-making concern like Marston’s can’t give a little bit to find out about our heritage.”
Contractors Wessex Archaeology, which dug the boreholes for the chain, recommended no wider archaeological dig after the holes, which were 16 to 19ft deep, failed to uncover any deposits with “significant palaeoenvironmental potential”.
Southend Council, which demanded a “programme of archaeological work” as a condition of allowing the pub development, has insisted the boreholes were sufficient.
A spokesman said: “Wessex Archaeology undertook a full archaeological evaluation on the site, which found a marsh-like deposit below the modern overburden.
“This marsh area would have created an effective barrier to any settlement in the area, as well as a northern boundary to the cemetery site.
“The boreholes we commissioned followed on from that initial evaluation, with the specific intention of determining whether there was any archaeological, and particularly palaeoenvironmental, potential in the rest of the site.
“The result revealed there was definitely no archaeological or palaeoenvironmental potential.
“If there had been any, further work would have been commissioned.”
But Marion Pearce, 61, of Hamlet Road, Westcliff, who has had five history books published, said: “Small holes dug in the ground is unsatisfactory and exploratory ditch work is needed.
This is essential to a town that wants to call itself a ‘city of culture’.
“It is vital that either the council, or preferably the develo pers, pay for this to be done.”
A Marston’s spokeswoman said: “In terms of the archaeological dig, the scope of this work was specified to us by the local authority via our planning application.
“We carried out our dig as per its specification which was then subsequently signed off.”
The pub is expected to open this spring.