Dr Kate Fielden 1944 – 2023: It is with huge sorrow that the Stonehenge Alliance learnt that Dr Kate Fielden, our leading light, died after a short illness on 21st July. Kate spearheaded our many campaigns to safeguard Stonehenge World Heritage Site from harm for over 30 years. Our deepest sympathies go to Kate’s family and friends.
At Kate’s memorial on 5 October, her family invited contributions to the Save Stonehenge WHS CrowdJustice appeal “a campaign so close to Kate’s heart.” Winning the second legal case would be the most fitting legacy that Kate would wish, a case that she put in motion.
Kate was modestly titled ‘Honorary Secretary’. In fact Kate co-founded the Stonehenge Alliance in 2001 and led the Alliance to a successful campaign against the Stonehenge road scheme proposed in 2004 as well as several other planning inquiries at Stonehenge. Kate directed the current campaign announced in December 2014.
We have no doubt that the court case in 2021 would not have succeeded without Kate’s love of the Stonehenge landscape, her unparalleled knowledge and forensic eye for detail. It is heart-breaking to carry on the campaign without Kate’s passion and gentle leadership.
Kate Fielden Obituary
by Tom Holland
Kate Fielden, who has died aged 79 after a short illness, was many things – an archaeologist, an editor, a curator – but to me she seemed almost a tutelary deity: the guardian spirit of Wiltshire’s ancient places, keeping watch over some of Britain’s most sacred landscapes.
I first met Kate in 2015, when she invited me to become president of the Stonehenge Alliance, a group opposed to destructive road developments in the Stonehenge landscape, and of which she was the leading light. She was the gentlest, politest, most self-effacing of women; but she was also the steeliest, the most formidable, the most forensic in defence of what she thought needed defending. As president I was only ever the merest figurehead; it was always Kate who was the doughtiest in fighting the good fight.
The oldest of the five children of Rosemary (nee Hinchcliffe) and John Fielden, Kate was born in Oldham, but during her childhood the family moved to the North Downs in Kent. Her father worked for a tea-importing business, her mother as a school secretary. Although a scholarship girl at Walthamstow Hall in Sevenoaks, on leaving school Kate did not initially go to university, but joined the Royal Navy, then worked as a teacher at Bayham Road primary school in Sevenoaks.
Only in 1965 did she go to Soas in London to study archaeology. Kate’s initial focus was the ancient near east – she spent the late 1970s in Syria – but in due course, after obtaining her doctorate at Oxford, she came to devote herself instead to the archaeology and wildlife of Wiltshire. Settling in the Vale of Pewsey, surrounded by neolithic earthworks and long barrows, tending her garden, she had found her great mission in life: to help preserve the wonders and beauties of her adopted county.
For 28 years from 1985, Kate worked as the curator and archivist at Bowood House, the Georgian house in north Wiltshire famous for its gardens landscaped by Capability Brown. Simultaneously, she was becoming a seasoned activist. She campaigned successfully against obtrusive developments near Avebury; played a leading role in Rescue: The British Archaeological Trust; and was an award-winning activist for CPRE, the countryside charity.
Her greatest cause, though, and one to which she devoted the final decades of her life, was the campaign – still not won – against the government’s plans for a road tunnel that, if it goes ahead, will desecrate the Stonehenge landscape for ever. In the words of David Jacques, the distinguished archaeologist whose excavations are directly threatened by the development, Kate’s sense of passion was “fierce but quiet, instilling confidence in others, always inspiring people to achieve their best.” All who knew her will recognise the truth of this encomium.
She is survived by her siblings, Rowena, Rupert, Sandy and Jim.
First published in The Guardian, republished above with permission. Date corrected to read 2015 in second paragraph.
More affectionate tributes to Kate:
- CPRE Wiltshire Kate-Fielden: Outstanding contribution to CPRE
- Heritage Journal: Remembering our friend Kate Fielden
- Marlborough News Onlline: Dr Kate Fielden – Obituary
- Rescue – British Archaeological Trust: Dr Kate Fielden 1944 ~ 2023
- Salisbury Journal: Campaigner Dr Kate Fielden dies after short illness
- Stonehenge and World Heritage Site Coordination Unit: Kate Fielden remembered
- Wiltshire Times: Tributes to campaigner
Kate Fielden in action
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