Multi-million pound Stonehenge visitor centre to open in time for winter solstice

1 10 2013

Visitors to Stonehenge will get the chance to  explore an impressive new visitor centre close to the ancient site later this  year.

English Heritage today announced that the  first phase of its long-awaited £27million improvements  to the area will be launched to the public on 18 December, in time for  winter solstice on 21 December.

Exploring the past: The impressive new visitor centre will open on 18 December

Exploring the past: The impressive new visitor centre will open on 18 December

The new visitor centre will house a permanent  exhibition that will offer visitors the chance to learn more about the famous  monument.

They will be able to ‘stand in the stones’  thanks to a 360-degree virtual experience before they enter a gallery where they  will be able to view nearly 300 prehistoric artefacts and displays that reveal  facts and theories about the ancient monument.

Many of the archaeological finds – which are  on loan from various museums including the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum  – will be on public display for the first time.

Ancient artefacts: A permanent exhibition will feature nearly 300 prehistoric objects

Ancient artefacts: A permanent exhibition will feature nearly 300 prehistoric objects

The first temporary exhibition will chart  over 800 years of theories about who built Stonehenge – from 12th-century  legends to radiocarbon dating reports in the 1950s.

The environmentally-friendly building,  which  has been designed by Denton Corker Marshall,  features a café, shop, dedicated  education space and visitor’s car park, and will offer tourists free audio  guides.

The centre is 1.5 miles from Stonehenge and  visitors will be transported to the monument on a special shuttle  service

Ambitious: The £27million project features three stages, the first of which is the opening of the visitor centre

Ambitious: The £27million project features three stages, the first of which is the opening of the visitor centre

English Heritage’s chief executive Simon  Thurley said: “This world famous monument, perpetually described as a mystery,  finally has a place in which to tell its story.

“The exhibition will change the way people  experience and think about Stonehenge forever – beyond the clichés and towards a  meaningful inquiry into an extraordinary human achievement in the distant  past.”

 

Easy access: The centre will be 1.5 miles from Stonehenge and visitors will be transported between the sites on a shuttle service

Easy access: The centre will be 1.5 miles from Stonehenge and visitors will be transported between the sites on a shuttle service

 

Volunteers will begin work on the  construction of a group of Neolithic houses in January. The buildings, which are  expected to be finished by Easter, will be based on houses where the builders of  Stonehenge may have lived, complete with furniture and fittings.

The final phase of the project – the  restoration of the landscape around Stonehenge – will be completed by next  summer.

The Avenue, Stonehenge’s ancient  processional approach, has been reconnected to the stone circle after  being  severed by the A344 road for centuries.

The £27million project has been financed  almost entirely by Heritage Lottery Fund money (£10million), English Heritage  commercial income and donations.

From 18 December, entrance to the site will  be managed through timed tickets and online booking opens on 2  December at www.english-heritage.org.uk/stonehenge.

Stepping back into the past: Construction of a group of Neolithic houses will begin in January next year

Stepping back into the past: Construction of a group of Neolithic houses will begin in January next year

Stonehenge, which was constructed between  3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, attracts around 900,000 visitors a year, and is  particularly popular during the summer and winter solstice.

It is still shrouded in mystery as nobody is  sure how or why the giant boulders were transported hundreds of miles to be  constructed at the site.

However, scientists now believe that  Neolithic engineers may have used ball bearings in the construction of  Stonehenge.

The same technique that allows vehicles and  machinery to run smoothly today could have been used to transport the monument’s  massive standing stones from Wales to Wiltshire more than 4,000 years ago,  according to the theory.

Full story: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2438896/Stonehenge-visitor-centre-open-time-winter-solstice.html
By  Travelmail Reporter

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog

 

 





A NEW DAWN: STONEHENGE TRANSFORMED

12 09 2013

A PRACTICAL PLANNER for Groups & Travel Trade Professionals

The new guide from English Heritage provides tour operators, group travel organisers, guides and other professionals with step-by-step information to help plan visits to Stonehenge, following its transformation when superb new facilities open from the end of 2013. Split into three easy-to-read colour coded sections, it provides practical information, tips and ideas to smooth your way through advance planning and procedures to the day of the visit and beyond.

Stonehenge-visitor-centre

PLANNING AHEAD:
Turn to the yellow section to discover other attractions to build into a Stonehenge itinerary, plus details in brief on English Heritage services and products for travel trade professionals and group travel organisers and how to obtain them.

THE NEW VISIT
With so much more to see at the transformed Stonehenge, the bronze section is a step-by-step guide on the new facilities and how to make the best of a visit, with an at a glance map, images and suggested timings for a two hour stay.

INFORMATION AND SUPPORT
Giving essential planning information, the green section explains pre-booking and ticketing procedures, contains prices and admission times and handy hints on reaching and arriving at Stonehenge.

Download the full guide here: http://gallery.mailchimp.com/4f19fb7ce76ee0800348d53d5/files/EH_Stonehenge_A6_PocketBook_LRPDF.PDF

Follow Stonehenge News on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

The Stonehenge News Blog





Mission to save Stonehenge gets underway to reclaim its ancient natural landscape

25 06 2013

STONEHENGE yesterday began reclaiming its ancient natural landscape with the closure of a busy road running through the World Heritage site.

Stonehenge is undergoing a massive renovation

Stonehenge is undergoing a massive renovation

The A344, which carried 6,000 cars a day past the monument’s Heel Stone, will now be turfed over and the high fences removed  to recreate the traditional downland pasture.

The closed section of the A344 is between the junction with the A303, the main road to the southwest,  and Byway 12 which  severs Stonehenge from  its ancient processional approach, the Avenue.

The move is part of a £27million English Heritage programme to protect the site and improve the experience for visitors.

This includes a new visitor’s centre, due to open in December,  which will be 1.5 miles form the monument instead of on its doorstep.

The remaining section of the A344 will become  the route of a new visitor shuttle service to and from the Stones.

The closure fulfils a pledge   given by the  Government to UNESCO 27 years ago to remove the A344 where it crosses the Avenue.

And this time next year, once the landscaping is complete, visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of ancient Britons and approach  the monument from the Avenue.

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge Director, English Heritage, said: “The Stones have never failed to impress visitors, but for too long their setting has marred people’s appreciation and enjoyment of this special place. At last, this is going to change. For the first time in centuries, when all the works are complete, people will be able to experience this complex and extraordinary monument in a more tranquil, natural setting.”

Jan Tomlin, the National Trust General Manager for Wiltshire Landscape, said: “We welcome the closure of the A344 past Stonehenge – it is an important step towards the vision for the future of the monument. We have worked over the past decade to restore much of the land we own around Stonehenge to grassland and this is an important step in linking Stonehenge to the ancient landscape.”

John Ingham (http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/409933/Mission-to-save-Stonehenge-gets-underway-to-reclaim-its-ancient-natural-landscape)

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge road closed permanently today

24 06 2013
A stretch of road running next to Stonehenge will close permanently from today. Part of the A344 in Wiltshire almost touches the heel stone. English Heritage which manages the monument says the road spoils the visitor experience.

A major landscaping project should be finished by next summer, and traffic will be diverted onto nearby roads instead.

Existing A344 and junction with A303 at Stonehenge Bottom

Existing A344 and junction with A303 at Stonehenge Bottom

Link: http://www.itv.com/news/west/update/2013-06-24/stonehenge-road-closed-permanently/

TRAFFIC NEWS:
A344 Stonehenge, both ways between B3086 and A303

A344 Wiltshire – A344 in Stonehenge closed in both directions between Airmans Cross and Stonehenge Fork, because of development of the Stonehenge site – permanent closure. Diversion in operation – via A360 Longbarrow roundabout.

Main Changes at Stonehenge

  • The A344/A303 junction will be closed
  • The A344 from Stonehenge Bottom to Byway 12 near the stones will be closed
  • Vehicular traffic on the A344 between Byway 12 and the new visitor centre at Airman’s Corner will be restricted

Modifications to Existing Routes   

Alongside these changes there will be measures to mitigate the impact of the closure of the A344. Traffic removed from the 344 will be directed along the A360 via Longbarrow Roundabout and Airman’s Corner junctions, both of which will be modified to accommodate the re-directed traffic.

The A303/A344 junction is a renowned accident black-spot; its closure will reduce the risk of accidents in this location and was strongly supported by local residents in the public consultation of 2008.

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/our-plans/our-proposals/transportation-and-safety/

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Dorset history experts turn Stone Age home-makers.

14 05 2013

A team of Dorset archaeologists have been brought in to help with the £27 million project to transform the visitor experience at Stonehenge.

Stone age homes construction smallStaff from Dorset County Council’s Ancient Technology Centre (ATC), at Cranborne, have been commissioned by English Heritage to test build three Neolithic houses and help discover how Stone Age man fashioned his homes.

Working at the historic site of Old Sarum, near Salisbury, the ATC team (with the help of English Heritage volunteers) is constructing the houses using the same tools and locally sourced materials as their Stone Age counterparts.

The final constructions will go on permanent display at the new Stonehenge visitor centre early next year.

Susan Greaney, senior properties historian at English Heritage, said:

“The reconstructed houses will be an immediate and sensory link to the distant past and will bring visitors as close as they can to appreciate what life was like for the extraordinary individuals who built Stonehenge.”

An excavation at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge revealed evidence of the houses believed to be seasonal homes of the people who built the ancient monument 4500 years ago, uncovering floors and stakeholes where the walls once stood. But above ground, the appearance of the structures is unknown. One of the aims of the project is to test different materials and structures to see which ones work best.

The Ancient Technology Centre (part of Dorset County Council’s Outdoor Education Service)  is an educational facility which provides a unique blend of hands-on ancient skills and crafts activities, long-term construction projects and an opportunity for children of all ages to experience the realities of past life.

The staff’s extensive expertise and experience made them ideal candidates for the Stonehenge project. The team have gathered materials for the huts from Garston Woods in Sixpenny Handley and the Cranborne Estate, and are using traditional Stone Age flint axes and tools to carry out the work.

ATC manager Luke Winter, who is leading the project and guiding the volunteers said:

“The evidence from Durrington Walls brought to light the remains of several types of building. We’re trying to reconstruct what they looked like above ground. We’re testing lots of different thatching and walling methods, and new questions about how the Neolithic people lived are appearing every day.”

The experimental Neolithic houses at Old Sarum are open to the public, with a chance to ask questions and view demonstrations, from Saturday, 25 May to Monday 27 May, between 11am and 5pm. For more information please call English Heritage Customer Service on 0800 333 1183.

You can keep up to date with this project via the Ancient Technology Centre  webpage.

For more information, please contact: Dorset County Council

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Topping out ceremony at Stonehenge visitor centre

11 05 2013

A TOPPING out ceremony was held at the new Stonehenge visitor centre on Wednesday as the last piece of steel to support the canopy roof was welded into place.

The zinc and timber roof has been designed to blend into the landscape and to let in more sunlight in the winter while creating shade in the summer.

Stonehenge Visitor centre

Sitting beneath the canopy roof are two pods, with a glass building housing the café, shop and education space and a sweet chestnut-clad pod containing the exhibition galleries, membership area and toilets

Loraine Knowles, Stonehenge director for English Heritage, said: “It is fantastic to see the building taking shape and to see how well it sits in the landscape. “Progress with the creation of the interior spaces for the museum galleries, education area, shop and cafe is equally exciting because it is now possible to see on the ground how these great new facilities will be experienced by our visitors.

Steve Quinlan, partner at Denton Corker Marshall, who designed the visitor centre, said: “We are really enjoying this stage of the project with the various pieces of the puzzle coming together and our vision finally starting to come to life. This project has been a great challenge, but a very rewarding one.”

English Heritage’s £27million project to transform the visitor facilities at Stonehenge will see the new centre open in December, with the existing facilities to be demolished and grassed over by next June.

Article Source: Salisbury Journal: http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/10411788.Topping_out_ceremony_at_Stonehenge_visitor_centre/

Merlin  at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





Stonehenge project compares Neolithic building methods

17 04 2013

An experiment is under way here in Wiltshire to find out more about Neolithic building methods.

Using archaeological evidence unearthed from nearby Durrington Walls, three structures are being built at Old Sarum Castle, near Salisbury.

The project aims to recreate the buildings which may have existed in Neolithic times

The project aims to recreate the buildings which may have existed in Neolithic times

The English Heritage project aims to discover what was the most efficient way of building with locally-sourced materials.

The final reconstructions will be built at Stonehenge later this year.

They will be put up outside the new visitor centre.

The experiment is part of a £27m English Heritage scheme looking at how the setting of the ancient monument can be improved.

The recreated Neolithic buildings will form part of an “interactive and experiential” external exhibition at the 3,500-year-old World Heritage site.

The Dorset-based Ancient Technology Centre has been commissioned to construct the three prototype homes.

Luke Winter from the centre said the project aimed to look at what type of buildings may have been around at the time.

“The evidence from Durrington Walls several years ago brought to light the remains of several different types of building,” he said.

“We’re trying to reconstruct what they looked like above ground.

“On each of the three buildings we are trying different materials and methods and at the end we can say which is most likely to have been used

Link source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-22168354

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge News Blog





The Stonehenge Project – Phase 1

29 03 2013

An amazing opportunity to gain a rare and fascinating insight into the development of the famous World Heritage Site. The first in a series of exclusive Members’ Events to share with you the details of the high profile development of the new Visitors Centre, join Stonehenge Director Loraine Knowles and Programme Manager Richard Williams to discuss the project and gain insight at this early stage. With the help of a time lapse film you will see the stages of the construction process and discover the plans for the centre once completed.

Welcome refreshments are included. This event has been graded as Easy Access, as there are clear walkways and seating available.

event-stonehengeHow to Book

Ticket are available to book from 10am on Tuesday 26 March by calling our dedicated ticket sales team on 0870 333 1183. (Mon-Fri 8.30am – 5.30pm & Sat 9am – 5pm)

Prices

Welcome refreshments are included.

Members’ Only Event

    • Date: Mon 22 Apr 2013
    • Property:
      Watershed, Bristol
    • Children’s Event
      Time: 10am-12pm
    • Booking :
      Suitable for: Adults

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/events/the-stonehenge-project-phase-1-watershed-22-apr/

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stoneheng News Blog





Stonehenge visitors to ‘experience’ standing in the ancient circle

25 03 2013

A 360 degree cinema is being developed so visitors to Stonehenge can experience standing inside the ancient circle.

Stonehenge receives one million visitors a year and is a World Heritage Site Photo: Christopher Jones for the Telegraph

Stonehenge receives one million visitors a year and is a World Heritage Site Photo: Christopher Jones for the Telegraph

Access to Stonehenge has been fiercely contested for decades, with campaigners arguing that they should be allowed into the stone circle.

Now, English Heritage has developed a possible solution, a virtual visit in a 360 degree cinema where visitors can “experience” standing in the ancient circle.

It will be the centrepiece of a new £27 million centre at the site and is one of a number of audio visual attractions being built to bring the prehistoric monument to life.

These will include a 32ft “landscape wall”, on to which computer generated images of the countryside around the circle and other ancient earthworks will be projected.

In addition, there will be five “people films”, shown on screens in one of the two vast pods being built to house the visitor centre. These will provide information about the monument and prehistoric items on display

There will also be films exploring the conflicting theories over the establishment and use of the circle.

Outside the centre, replica Neolithic dwellings are being built, where visitors will be able to see how early inhabitants of the sites lived.

The plans for the centre are revealed in a series of tender documents from English Heritage, seeking firms to provide the technological content for the audio visual displays. The documents describe the “immersive 360 degree projected film” as the “most important and high profile piece of audio visual ever undertaken by EH”.

The new auditorium’s 100ft circumference will compare with about 300ft in the actual stone circle.

Robert Campbell, the head of interpretation at the centre, said: “It’s meant to give people a sense of what it is like to stand in the middle of Stonehenge because most people just won’t be able to do that. It won’t feel like you are standing in a computer programme. The idea is to take our visitors back in time.”

The virtual visits may not win over all campaigners including Pagans and Druids who want open access to Stonehenge, which was created about 5,000 years ago.

When it was first opened to the public, it was possible to walk among and even climb on the stones. However, they were roped off in 1977 due to problems with erosion.

Visitors are now kept a short distance away, although English Heritage does permit access during the summer and winter solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox. Some access visits early in the morning or late in the evening can also be booked.

Stonehenge receives one million visitors a year and is a World Heritage Site. The multi-million project is being built 1.5 miles from the stones.

By , and David Barrett (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

Merlin at Stonehenge
The Stonehnege News Blog

 





Stonehenge remains a mystery as scientists ask: was it a health spa, or a cemetery?

17 03 2013

Archaeologists back conflicting theories on Britain’s greatest prehistoric monument

It already attracts more than a million visitors a year. Yet these numbers could be dwarfed once Stonehenge, one of the world’s greatest prehistoric monuments, completes its radical facelift

Stonehenge, the prehistoric site whose purpose is still not fully understood by archaeologists. Photograph: Steve Allen/Getty Images

Stonehenge, the prehistoric site whose purpose is still not fully understood by archaeologists. Photograph: Steve Allen/Getty Images

Over the next year, the nearby A344 will be closed and grassed over. A new visitor centre will be built a mile and a half from the monument and tourists will be encouraged to explore the ancient landscape around the 5,000-year-old complex.

The makeover falls short of plans, since scrapped, that would have seen all major thoroughfares in the area diverted through tunnels. Nevertheless Stonehenge should be returned to something like its past glory, it is hoped, and then attract even greater numbers of visitors seeking to understand the purpose of this vast, enigmatic edifice.

For centuries, historians and archaeologists have speculated about the reason for the monument’s construction. Suggestions have ranged from the proposal that it was built by Merlin to commemorate knights slain in a battle against Saxon invaders to the idea that Stonehenge was a highly sophisticated astronomical observatory.

Earlier this month, the latest salvo in the debate was fired by archaeologists, led by Professor Michael Parker Pearson, of University College London, who published research indicating that the original Stonehenge was a graveyard for a community of elite families. “This was a place for the dead,” Parker Pearson said.

The notion – that Stonehenge is essentially a large funerary temple created between 3000 and 2500BC – does not find favour with every scientist, however. Indeed, the other main group of UK researchers investigating the site – archaeologists led by Professor Tim Darvill of Bournemouth University – believe the place was an ancient Lourdes. The sick and wounded would come here for cures from the monument’s great bluestones, which had been dragged from Wales to Wiltshire because of their magical healing properties. “This was a place for the living,” Darvill said.

Such divergence of views would seem to suggest we are as far from understanding the purpose of Stonehenge as we have ever been. English Heritage historian Susan Greaney counselled caution, however. We should not place too much emphasis on our ignorance about the monument, she said. “We know who built it and when they built it and have a good idea how they built it. It is only its ultimate purpose that still remains unresolved,” she said.

Detailed radiocarbon dating of Stonehenge has shown that work on its construction probably began with the huge circular ditch that still surrounds the monument. Inside several dozen bluestones were erected along with various timber posts and other structures. It was a relatively modest construction by the standards of the remains we can see today. Then, around 2600BC, the site was transformed. A ring of giant upright stones called sarsens were erected and capped with huge rock lintels. Inside five huge trilithons – pairs of rock columns capped with a single slab – were erected and many of the magical bluestones from Wales that had been erected near the edge of the monument were moved inside this inner sanctum. Crucially, the rays of the setting midwinter sun and the rising midsummer sun would shine through the heart of the monument and down the avenue that leads into it.

Over succeeding centuries, the bluestones were rearranged for purposes that still mystify scientists. In short, Stonehenge is not one monument, built at one moment in history, but many built and rebuilt over many centuries. By that definition, it had no single purpose but had many. Even today it performs many functions – as a tourist attraction, a religious site (for Druids), and a place for scientific study, for example.

As to the identity of the builders of Stonehenge’s great rings of sarsens and trilithons, that appears to be far less of a mystery. Work at the nearby site of Durrington Walls indicates it was occupied by thousands of individuals at exactly the time the great stone rings of Stonehenge were being erected. The remains of the cattle they slaughtered have been studied and by careful analysis of the chemical makeup of their teeth, their place of origin in Britain has been determined. Remarkably, the animals appear to have been brought to Wiltshire from almost every part of the country. Even more intriguingly, most were killed during two peak periods: midwinter and midsummer.

“People were coming from all over the country at these times,” said Parker Pearson. “It was partly a religious festival and partly a construction site: a combination of Glastonbury and a motorway building camp. The crucial point is that this was the first and only time in British prehistory that the country was united in a common cultural activity.”

The issue is: what was that common cultural activity? Parker Pearson believes Stonehenge was erected as a monument to the ancestors of all Britons. The aim was to unify the different peoples of the British Isles by honouring all their dead. Stones were taken from west and east and erected together to solidify alliances that had been struck up between these different people. “Stone is eternal and was used to represent the dead,” said Parker Pearson. “That is the purpose of Stonehenge.

Darvill does not agree. “I think that very early on Stonehenge was a burial ground but after 2600BC these burials stop. So how can this be a place of the dead?” By contrast, Darvill points to the quarries in the Preseli Hills in Wales, the source of Stonehenge’s bluestones. “These are all associated with sacred springs today,” he said.

“That association is a very ancient one. These stones were brought to Stonehenge because they were thought to have healing properties. That is why all that effort went into its construction. It was a place where people thought their illnesses might be cured and their lives saved.”

AND THE OTHER THEORIES ARE…

According to the 12th-century cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth, Stonehenge was built by Merlin to mark the place where knights, slain in the fight against Saxons, were buried.

Other historians have argued that the Romans or Danes built it.

In more recent times, scientists have argued that Stonehenge’s alignment suggests it could have been used to calculate astronomical movements and to predict lunar eclipses. However, the feasibility of performing such measurements in prehistoric times has been questioned.

In 2003, writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, University of British Columbia researcher Anthony Perks claimed the great stone circles were erected as a giant fertility symbol, constructed in the shape of the female sexual organ.

In 2008 the Telegraph columnist Oliver Pritchett argued, tongue-in-cheek, that Stonehenge was really built to house Britain’s first public inquiry.

Link soyrce: Robin McKie The Observer,

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonhenge News Blog  








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