English Heritage and Stonehenge Ownership.

22 02 2020

In 1915, Sir Cecil Herbert Edward Chubb, resident of Shrewton, went to an auction at the Palace theatre in Salisbury with the intention, as legend would have it, of buying his wife some dining room chairs.

Cecil Chubb

Instead, ‘on a whim’ he paid £6,600 for lot number 15 or for Stonehenge (and 30 acres surrounding it) as most people would know it. In today’s money Chubb would have paid £683,580, which still would have been a steal considering Stonehenge was valued at £51,000,000 in 2010. Thus, Chubb became the last private owner of Stonehenge. As a lover of the area, it has been reported that the ‘whim’ upon which Chubb acted was in fact a benevolent act to keep Stonehenge out of the hands of foreign investors. It seems that this benevolent intention was carried a step further when in 1918, Cecil Chubb handed Stonehenge over to the government and to the people of Britain.  However, perhaps his benevolence was provoked – some reports have it that he first gifted the ancient stones to his wife; she was not best pleased (Perhaps she was expecting her dining room chairs!). Nevertheless, Chubb handed the stones over to government with a number of altruistic conditions, which were:

  1. Local residence must always have free access.

Although today, in the stewardship of the English Heritage, an adult ticket can cost over £20, English Heritage and National trust members enter for free – so a local resident could still enter the site free of charge and help with the upkeep of the precious monument.chubb-stonehenge

If Cecil Chubb was the last private owner of Stonehenge, who came before him? The estate of Amesbury which included Stonehenge and its surroundings, was in the possession of the royalty from around 899 A.D, during the reign of Alfred the Great. In royal possession it remained until the 12th century when it became a token of royal gratitude and was granted to favoured royal subjects, such as the Earls of Salisbury and later the Earls of Warwick. The omnipresent Henry VIII gifted the 200,000 acre estate to Sir Edward Seymour and it remained in his family and the families of his descendants  until  the land passed in 1778 with the attached dukedom to Archibald Douglas, (at this point hardy related to Seymour), who sold it to Sir Edmund Atrobus. Through inheritance the land eventually made it way into the ownership his namesake Sir Edmund Antrobus, the penultimate private owner of the stones and the first to charge admission – his right to do so confirmed by the High Court in 1905. Tragically, Edmund’s son and heir was killed in the great war and when Edmund died his estate was inherited by his brother who immediately decided to unload it.  Crucially, the sale was handled by Knight, Frank and Rutley who in 1915 put it on lot 15 at that auspicious auction in Salisbury.

On the 26th October 1918, Cecil Chubb handed the stones to the government of the United Kingdom. Ever since, English Heritage have looked after the stones, with the surrounding land being owned by The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, a.k.a the National Trust. The benevolent act of Cecil Chubb may have handed the stones to the people of Britain, but it is the hard work of English Heritage that maintains the iconic monument today and will preserve its wonder for generations to come.

Relevant links:

The Stonehenge News Blog
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