People power and social media sees the safe recovery of two historic milestones

The power of social media has helped to retrieve two stolen 18th century milestones.

Monday, 20th April 2015, 12:40 pm
The milestone taken from Rebourn.

A campaign was launched on Facebook after a 3ft tall grey stone installed in Redbourn in the 1700s was snatched.

The Gazette’s news website Hemeltoday published a police appeal for information and details were posted by social media users on Facebook.

The raised awareness led to not just one historical milestone being recovered but a second stone, which is 5ft 8ins in height that was taken from Harpenden back in 2012, being recovered thanks to information from the public.

A 5ft 8in tall milestone was snatched from Harpenden.

Tony Finn, who was one of the Facebook users to promote the appeal, said: “Having seen the frenzy of activity on social media an eagle eyed member of the public spotted our milestone and called in the police.

“It seems that all the publicity over the more recent theft has led to the recovery of both missing artefacts, the one lost last month and the one that was ‘lost’ almost three years ago.

“Quite clearly the interest generated by our social media posts led to the ancient posts becoming too hot to hang on to.”

The Harpenden stone - taken from the A5183 close to the Punchbowl Lane junction - was discovered by a member of the public in Dodds Lane, Hemel Hempstead, on Friday morning.

Crooks have also attempted to take a milestone from near the Hertfordshire Showground.

Just a few hours later and little more than six miles aways in Barnes Lane, King Langley, a milestone stolen last month from Watling Street on the A5183 St Albans Road in Redbourn was discovered by another member of the public.

Both milestones, used as reference points for travellers to indicate either the distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination, have been recovered and will be put back in their rightful places in the near future.

Sgt Tom Fisher said: “Appeals had been made to help trace both of these important items of local heritage and I am grateful to those members of the public who played a vital role in recovering them, and the media for publishing our appeals.

“I would like to make further appeals however, to members of the public who may have been in the areas where these two milestones were found overnight on Thursday, April 16 to Friday, April 18 and say anything suspicious.

“Both of the milestones are extremely heavy and would have needed a vehicle to move and a number of people or equipment to lift them.”

Another attempted theft of a milestone - opposite the Hertfordshire Showground in Redbourn - has now been discovered by police. It is believed this happened in March when thieves tried to take the stone by tying something around it and attempting to pull it from the ground.

Anyone with information on any of these crimes is asked to contact Sgt Fisher via the Herts Police non-emergency number 101, quoting crime reference number F2/15/430. Alternatively call Crimestoppers, the independent charity, on 0800 555 111.

In April 2014, Herts Police launched Heritage Watch - a scheme that aims to protect the county’s thousands of historical sites, monuments and artefacts from heritage crime.

It is being supported by Herts County Council, which is responsible for the area’s milestones.

Offences have become more prevalent in recent years as criminals have turned their attention to metal theft and the illegal trade of assets.

Putting right damage caused to heritage assets can lead to repair bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Through Heritage Watch, the constabulary hopes to protect precious historical artefacts by improving communication between people who live near these sites, those who have an interest in the county’s history and the police.

Chief Constable Andy Bliss said: “It’s so important to protect Hertfordshire’s historical and cultural assets for future generations.

“People who live close to historical sites and those who have an interest in our local history tend to frequent the county’s heritage sites more often and are more likely to notice anything suspicious.

“Through joining up, we hope the public will become the eyes and ears of these precious sites and artefacts and will report anything suspicious to us.”