Panoramic epistles

Given the Gazette's refusal (well, okay, they've just ignored) to print my latest epistle, here it is. In response to the latest attempt to sell the 'Panorama Stones are modern inventions' line. Gavin Edwards has once again used your columns to promote his pet theory of the Victorian embellishment of the Panorama STone(s). The latest account (23 Nov) seems to provide no more evidence than the previous story (carried in July 2004). In the meantime, an exhibition at the Manor House has also promoted the theory. Are we to take it that this is now the official view of the Bradford Museums Service, and therefore is an explanation for the wilful neglect of these important carvings? Mr. Edwards' case rests on two pieces of evidence. Drawings given to the museum in 1880, and a lecture given in 1913. As yet, he has proved no date of completion for the drawings, so we are unable to say when they were done. What we do have, however, is the drawing of J. Romilly Allen accompanying his article of 1879 ('The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley'), and we also have Allen's and Dr. Call's account of the rocks. All of these point to the ladder motif being present. Allen was a fairly scrupulous draughtsman and was more prone to leaving elements out than including extra (see his drawing of the Badger Stone for instance). As to the lecture, he is taking as evidence the talk given by Gill in 1913, at which point Gill is 63, and talking of events forty years earlier. Against this we have the research and accounts of Allen, Dr. Call, J.H. Turner, and Dr. Little. All were researching and writing in the 1880s, all believe in the ladder motif and none mention any rumours or suspicion surrounding the markings. Indeed, Little worked with the Ilkley Local Board to relocate the stones at considerable expense and effort in 1890. Are we to assume that none of these people ever had a local wander up to them and mention that 'old Ambrose done those markings.'? Or is Mr. Edwards implying a massive conspiracy? Simply put, there is little evidence that these markings were added in late Victorian times. There is ample that the ladder motif was present in the 1870s. English Heritage continues to refer to the stone(s) as being, "one of the finest examples of rock art in the north of England, if not in the British Isles." So why does Mr. Edwards continue to press his line? Why the not-so-subtle campaign to downgrade the importance of the stones? Can it be anything to do with their wilful neglect, and the unwillingness (whatever they say) of anyone to move the stones to the Manor House? What has happened to the Dr. Little Heritage Group, and why have they not been quoted over this story? These might be rather more worthy of coverage than repetition of an interesting though completely unproved theory.