STONEHENGE CLOSED FROM 19th MARCH DUE TO COVID-19

18 03 2020

English Heritage and The National Trust are both taking drastic action to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Stonehenge

In what would ordinarily be busy tourism season, visitor numbers have slumped due to the Covid-19 virus

Following the latest government recommendations, English Heritage have taken the decision to close Stonehenge and all their staffed historic sites from the end of Wednesday 18th March. They will be reviewing this and will keep you updated. Some sites may be opened earlier and they will let you know if this is the case. They will also need to cancel public events during this period. Visit the English Heritage website for more details.

In an email to its members, Kate Mavor the Chief Executive of English Heritage said:

“Following the latest government recommendations, we have taken the decision to close all our staffed historic sites from the end of Wednesday 18th March until 1st May. We will be reviewing this and will keep you updated. Some sites may be opened earlier and we will let you know if this is the case. We also need to cancel our public events during this period.

Free-to-enter sites will remain open to visitors. These sites have large open spaces in which visitors can maintain social distancing and they are often located in quieter spots away from crowds.

Our first priority is the health and wellbeing of all our Members, visitors, volunteers and staff, and we hope you can understand why we have taken this unprecedented step.

England’s past is full of stories of hope in the face of adversity, and of people coming together to overcome all kinds of challenges.

We look forward to welcoming you at our sites again soon, and we will let you know about our plans for reopening as soon as we are able. Until then, I hope that you and those close to you keep healthy and safe.”

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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:

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Stonehenge Events and News: Open days, talks, exhibitions, guided walks and family activities taking place at the World Heritage Site.

17 10 2018

There is always something happening around the Stonehenge World Heritage Site with events such as open days, family activities, lectures and guided tours for both adults and families. Please check the websites below to see what Stonehenge current events are available to book.

Stonehenge news

English Heritage Stonehenge 
Walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge – one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. Visit their Stonehenge Events page for exhibition news, special events and exclusive ‘members only’ events.  They also publish posts on their news blog.

National Trust’s Stonehenge Landscape
A World Heritage Site for its  ancient ceremonial landscape of archaeological and wildlife interest. Visit their events page

Amesbury History Centre 
The Amesbury History Centre is the place to visit to find out all you need to know about the oldest continually inhabited settlement in Britain.

Wiltshire Museum 
Award-winning Museum display – Gold from the Time of Stonehenge. Britain’s best Bronze Age archaeology collection. Visit their events page

Salisbury Museum 
The Salisbury Museum. Showcasing the medieval Cathedral town of Salisbury and the ancient wonders of Stonehenge. Visit their events page

Visit Wiltshire
Click here to find out all you need when visiting Stonehenge Wiltshire!…Easily search Attractions, Events and Accommodation suitable for your needs!…FREE MAPS & GUIDES!

Wessex Archaeology
Wessex Archaeology is proud to have had a long history of work at Stonehenge and to have played a leading role in their research, management and investigation.  Visit their news blog

Stonehenge Guided Tours
The longest established Stonehenge tour operator run daily Stonehenge Tours from London and offer exclusive inner circle access tours allowing you to walk amongst  the monument at sunrise or sunset.

Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
The Stonehenge Travel Company are based in nearby Salisbury and operate private guided tours of Stonehenge.  They are recognised as the local megalithic experts.

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A tunnel past Stonehenge will be dug largely along the route of the existing A303, the government has announced.

12 09 2017

Stonehenge tunnel route altered to protect winter solstice view

Previously it was planned to go south of the stones but there were concerns this would intrude on the view of the setting sun at the winter solstice.

How Stonehenge could be viewed if the tunnel is built

Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage said “if designed with care”, this would “restore peace and tranquillity” to the landscape.

But campaign groups have called for a “complete rethink” to the plan.

They fear the work will mean the area will lose World Heritage Status after Unesco, the organisation that decides on such sites, said the tunnel should be “reconsidered”.

Unesco has previously backed the option for a bypass to be built.

What is new in this plan?

  • A tunnel that is “at least” 1.8m (2.9km) long beneath the World Heritage site
  • The western tunnel entrance will move 50 metres further away from the stones
  • A new bypass to the north of Winterbourne Stoke
  • A new flyover at the Countess Roundabout – on the eastern side of the tunnel
  • Junctions to the A345 and A360 at either end of the tunnel

Read the full story in on the BBC NEWS website

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Durrington Walls: The largest henge monument in Britain

20 05 2017

Immediately to the north of Woodhenge and spanning the A345 road is the largest henge monument in Britain – a massive banked and ditched enclosure over 400m across and nearly 1.5km in circumference.

Durrington Walls Aerial View

Long recognised on old maps as an ancient British Village, Durrington Walls’ true importance only became apparent in the late 1960s when the road through it was realigned on a straighter path. You can see the line of the old, smaller, road in the aerial photo running to the left of the new road.

A massive rescue archaeological dig carried out in advance of the roadworks, making use of large earthmoving equipment for the first time (rather than only spades, trowels and brushes), revealed the existence of two timber circles within, as well as evidence for a settlement dating back to the late Neolithic around 2,500BC.

Durrington Excavation Aerial

The scale of the ditch and bank is enormous – the ditch being over 6m deep, 7m wide at the bottom and 18m wide at the top, and the bank being over 3m tall and in places almost 30m wide.

Further excavations in the mid-2000s by the Stonehenge Riverside Project discovered the remains of Neolithic houses just outside the southeast entrance to the henge, other buildings – perhaps ceremonial in purpose – in the western half of the enclosure, as well as a short Avenue leading down to the Avon in the direction of the winter solstice sunrise.

Reconstructions of the houses were created at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre, accurately based on the design and layout of those found at Durrington.

neoliothic houses

The archaeological evidence suggests that the settlement at Durrington Walls, which may have supported several thousand people, was relatively short-lived and perhaps was in use for only 50 years or so. The period of peak activity corresponds with the time when the large sarsen stones were erected at Stonehenge and so it’s believed that this was the place where the builders and their families lived while that monument was being constructed.

Careful study of the colossal amount of midden material left behind at the site shows that large gatherings were taking place, probably around the mid-winter time, with huge numbers of young pigs being eaten and their remains being deposited in feasting pits. Stable isotope analysis of tooth enamel proves that some of the animals were coming from as far away as the northeast of Scotland, Cornwall and the Lake District. This means that people were converging at Durrington from all over Britain, and suggests that Stonehenge was a “national” project rather than a local one.

A major geophysics research effort by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, carried out in the last few years, discovered the existence of about 200 large features underlying the bank at Durrington Walls. The traces were such that they seemed to indicate the possible presence of buried stones all around the perimeter of the site.

In August 2016 a team of archaeologists excavated an area over two of these features to find out what the geophysics was telling them. Would the features prove to be large sarsen stones, which would overturn many ideas about the relationship of Durrington Walls to Stonehenge, or something else?

It rapidly became clear that in fact these features represented large pits with ramps leading into them which had been used to erect posts about 0.5m in diameter and perhaps 5m tall. Then these posts had been removed, after what seems to have been a very short time – perhaps less than a year—and the chalk blocks from the bank and ditch construction had fallen in, filling up the pits so that they appeared highly reflective features to the geophysics equipment.

The entire area was strewn with animal bone, including antler picks presumably used to excavate the pits in the first place, as well as pottery sherds and flint tools.

One interpretation is that as the settlement was going out of use, the people decided to memorialise the site by surrounding it with 200 large wooden posts but then changed their minds and embarked on a closing down project of constructing a huge henge bank and ditch instead, withdrawing the timbers for use elsewhere. It’s hard to be sure, especially since only two of the features have been exposed.

Durrington Walls is an integral part of the Stonehenge landscape and has a significance that were are only just beginning to appreciate. Trying to make coherent sense of its use by the people of the time is an ongoing task and there will be much more that we can learn in the coming decades.

For now, and to most people, it’s just a large field containing some sheep – but if you know a little bit about what lies beneath the surface it becomes a fascinating spot where you can walk in the footsteps of our ancestors from 4,500 years
Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

More ways to explore the Durrington Walls and the Stonehenge landscape.
The Stonehenge Travel Company based in nearby Salisbury are considered the local experts and offer archaeological guided walking tours of Woodhenge, Durrington Walls and the greater Stonehenge landscape. Stonehenge Guided Tours offer tours from London and Bath including private group walking tours .  London Walks offer guided tours from London via the train. Stonehenge Walks offer 1 – 5 hour guided tours from the Stonehenge visitor centre throughout the year.  The Wiltshire Museum also offer guided walking tours throughout the year.

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Loop in the Landscape Workshop. Stonehenge Event 13th / 20th May.

3 05 2017

Take your imagination for a walk in this outdoor writing workshop in the Stonehenge Landscape. Working with award-winning poet Holly Corfield Carr, you will explore the ancient contours and hidden corners of the World Heritage Site, learning how to use field writing techniques and observational excercises to draw inspiration from even the smallest rock. (13th and 20th May at 2pm £5)

loop2

This event is generously supported by the National Trust and English Heritage and tickets include parking, refreshments, access to Stonehenge and a return journey to the Visitor Centre on a shuttle bus.

All ages and writing experience welcome. We are keen to meet local residents from Amesbury and Salisbury and the surrounding areas, as well as National Trust and English Heritage members.

Participants will have the chance to have their writing published as part of loop, a book of poems, photographs and walking routes celebrating life in the landscape around Stonehenge and Amesbury, the UK’s longest continuously-occupied settlement. For more information, please visit loop.org.uk.

looproutemap.jpg

Please be advised that the workshop will take place on the move and we will be walking at a gentle pace across 4km of uneven ground so please wear suitable footwear, clothing and sunscreen if appropriate. There will be regular breaks for writing and sitting on chairs which will be provided and the workshop will end with refreshments in the Neolithic Huts at the Visitor Centre.

More details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/loop-in-the-landscape-tickets-33924131992

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The Knotty Problem of the A303 and Stonehenge.

16 03 2017

For over 30 years people have been trying to come up with a solution to the problem of the A303 road that runs past Stonehenge. It’s a stretch of single carriageway road with a dual carriageway at either end. As a result it’s a traffic bottleneck, especially during holiday season, and people slow down to take a picture of Stonehenge as they drive by.

A number of options have been proposed – from upgrading the single carriageway road into a dual carriageway on the existing route, to a tunnel to hide an upgraded road from view. Tunnels have been suggested that range in length from 2km to 4.5km constructed either as “cut and cover” or “bored”.

Over 50 alternate routes – some that take the road entirely out of the World Heritage Site – have been put forward, so many that the map showing them all is called the Spaghetti Diagram.

A303routes
Most recently, a 2.9km long bored tunnel has been proposed which would run about 200m south of the existing A303. The tunnel would be below the archaeological layer, well away from Stonehenge itself and remove the view, noise and fumes of traffic from the immediate vicinity of the monument.

You’d think everyone would be delighted. They’re not.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) runs from the A345 road in the east to the A360 road in the west, a distance of 5.4km. A tunnel of 2.9km clearly isn’t long enough to span its entire width, and this means that the tunnel portals must be dug into the ground within the WHS itself.

On top of that, new lengths of road and new junctions must also be built within the WHS – at the western and eastern end of the tunnel – to link up with the existing roads.

When the Stonehenge and Avebury WHS was inscribed in 1986 they were recognised as Cultural Sites. At the time, there was no designation of “Cultural Landscape” but the inscription said:

Criterion (iii): The complexes of monuments at Stonehenge and Avebury provide an exceptional insight into the funerary and ceremonial practices in Britain in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Together with their settings and associated sites, they form landscapes without parallel.

The proposal to destroy large areas of the Stonehenge landscape with new roads and tunnel portals is what has upset a lot of people.

The Stonehenge Alliance is a group that represents the views of a number of organisations, their view is that the tunnel is too short and would cause “irreparable damage to the WHS”.

SA Leaflet

ICOMOS is an important heritage advisory group to UNESCO and it firmly objects to the current option for a 2.9km tunnel for the substantial negative and irreversible impact it would have on the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage site (WHS) of Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated sites.”

A group of 21 leading archaeologists who have worked in the Stonehenge landscape over decades says that the proposal has dreadful consequences for the world’s most famous archaeological site and its landscape setting.

The list of objecting organisations goes on and on – the Council for British Archaeology, the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, the Prehistoric Society, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Society of Antiquaries, the International Astronomical Union Commission on Heritage and Astronomy….

The National Trust, English Heritage and Historic England have also expressed very strong concerns over the positioning of the western portal and its approach road.

Historic England said The current location is very close to the Normanton Down barrow cemetery, one of the best preserved and most significant Neolithic and Bronze Age cemeteries in the UK. The portal would certainly have a significant adverse impact upon the setting of this barrow group and upon the OUV of the WHS.

The National Trust’s chief archaeologist for the WHS says, in an appendix to the Historic England report, The western portal is very close to the Normanton Down Barrow Group while both surface routes have adverse visual and aural impacts on the surrounding Winterbourne Stoke, Normanton Down, Lake and Diamond Groups (nearly a quarter of the identified key attribute groups).

The proposal actually places the western tunnel portal directly on the Winter Solstice Sunset line as seen from Stonehenge, and the new road leading away from it runs along this alignment.

Western Portal Trenching SMR Montage

Astronomers have viewed this idea as absolutely crazy.

Prof. Clive Ruggles, a leading archaeoastronomer and key figure in the interpretation of astronomical sightlines of ancient monuments across the world says there are serious concerns that the integrity of the SW sightline from Stonehenge could be permanently destroyed, eliminating forever the possibility of visitors to Stonehenge once again seeing the winter solstice sun setting behind the distant natural horizon along the axis of the monument.

The public consultation for the initial route proposals finished on the 5th March 2017. Highways England now have several months of work ahead of them to refine their proposal to take into account the more than 7,000 submissions they’ve received so far.

Local residents, holidaymakers and hauliers have suffered traffic problems along the A303 for over 30 years, so a solution that speeds up traffic is desperately sought by Government.

What’s crucial to bear in mind is that whatever solution is implemented, unless a route entirely outside the WHS is found, it will have a permanent impact on the setting of one of the most important landscapes in the world, and that we all have a responsibility to the future not to make a terrible mistake.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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