UK's First Pagan Burial Site In Over 5000 Years Is Hit For ‘Business Rates’. Is it Religious Discrimination?
Tim Daw, an innovative farmer from Devizes, Wiltshire, spent over £200,000 of his hard earned cash building the UK’s first ‘long barrow’ tomb in over than 5,000 years. Now he’s being charged “thousands of pounds in business rates” according to a report in The Telegraph.
The controversial burial ground, which is used to store the ashes of deceased Pagans came under the scrutiny of the Valuation Office Agency, who wrote to Mr Daw demanding “he pay £4,500 to £5,000 a year in business rates for his burial mound where people pay to inter the ashes of their loved ones.” Mr Daw said the decision means “mourners visiting his tomb will have to “pay to pray” and that the move discriminates against non-Christian forms of worship.”
Inside the “storage facility” that is All Canning Long Barrow. (The Long Barrow)
Normally, churches and their graveyards are exempt from paying UK taxes as they are regarded as ‘places of worship’ but in the case of Mr Daw’s Pagan long barrow burial, well, it is being treated as a “commercial storage facility” that must pay the tax as it falls above the ratable value on business properties of £12,000.
An article in the Daily Mail quotes Mr Daw as having said: “I got an email from the business valuation office saying they considered my long barrow as a place for storage, like a warehouse you'd store car parts in.” He added, ”They said because of that I should be paying business rates. I couldn't believe it. It's not right and it should be treated the same as a Christian church. It feels like discrimination. There is one rule for the established Christian religions and another for ancient pagans.”
Mr Daw (left) and a Pagan at the opening ceremony of the long barrow. (The Long Barrow)
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The terms ‘Pagan’ was first used by 4th century Christians to describe Romans that continued to practice polytheism, and during and after the Middle Ages, a Pagan was anyone who worshiped a non-Abrahamic, false god(s). Long barrows built of stone were used in the early Neolithic period, across the UK beginning around 3000 BC and these ancient pagan burial mounds were where ‘everyone’ interred the ashes of loved ones.
Responding to the decline in the demand for traditional Christian burials in the UK, Mr Daw decided to create the long barrow using traditional stone working skills and methods. The tomb is carefully aligned so that the sun shines down the central chamber on the Winter Solstice, which also makes it a popular place of worship with druids and pagans.
Exactly the same building dynamic was featured in Newgrange burial chamber in Ireland which was built around 3000 BC. Above the entrance is a small opening called the ‘roof-box’ and on the mornings before and after the winter solstice a beam of light travels through the roof-box up the passage and into the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam broadens and dramatically illuminates the inner chamber.
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The building project took 9 months and cost £200000 ($250000). (The Long Barrow)
Mr Daw says his ancient Pagan building took him nine months to construct at a cost of around £200,000. At 220ft long and 20ft tall it has chambers containing “340 niches that can hold two or three urns and each niche carries a one-off charge of £1,000. All of the niches are now reserved, although only 40 are currently filled with urns,” according to Mr Daw. Making only “an average of £1,000 a year from the burial site,” Mr Daw is facing having to pay £5,000 a year in business rates.
Arguing that his facility “was a place of worship, like a church,” Mr Daw said he has since had confirmation from a different government agency, the registrar, accepting the long barrow as a place of worship.
Top image: Modern Pagan Long Barrow at All Cannings, UK Source: CC BY-SA 4.0
By Ashley Cowie