Scheduled Ancient Monument
A Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) is an archaeological site of national importance that receives legal protection
from the state. Only a tiny fraction of all archaeological sites are scheduled. It is illegal to disturb or damage
any part of a SAM, even if you are the owner of the land upon which it is situated. Historic buildings have a
separate system of protection known as 'listing' - but some structures which fall under both definitions are listed
If any works are planned to take place on a SAM, such as building repairs or fencing, official permission
('Scheduled Monument Consent') must be sought. The applicant will have to prove that the works are necessary and
cannot be located outside the scheduled area. Not even archaeologists are exempt from this rule. Any excavation on
a SAM would also need Scheduled Monument Consent and this would only be given to a properly funded and run dig,
where the benefits of new knowledge were likely to outweigh the inevitable damage to the site from this excavation.
The 'Schedule' of ancient monuments was set up after the first ancient monuments protection legislation in 1882.
There were sixteen monuments on the first schedule, now there are tens of thousands. The first AM Act was
controversial and had taken many attempts to get through parliament before it was passed, since landowners objected
to the state having any say over what they regarded as private property. Gradually, an appreciation that ancient
sites and monuments are of value to the whole of society became accepted, and successive acts of parliament
throughout the 20th century extended and improved the provisions of monument protection.
Scheduled ancient monuments range from Prehistoric settlements to 20th century military structures. They exist in
the highest uplands, in towns and country, and below the tide-line on the coast. They are defined as protected
monuments merely by the fact that they appear on the Schedule, which is available for consultation through the
relevant National Monuments Record for whichever are of the UK the monument lies within. They are not usually
marked as such by signs or plaques. There is a difference between a SAM and a guardianship site or
'property in care' - whilst often also an SAM, a Property in Care is within the full care and maintenance of a
heritage organisation. Beware of assuming that the only protected monuments are those with public access,
information boards, mowed lawns and visitor facilities.
Return to National Monuments Record (NMR).