The Stonehenge visitor centre and excellent English Heritage exhibition.

6 05 2017

From 1968 until 2013, the visitor facilities at Stonehenge amounted to a collection of brutalist concrete bunkers,  and a small car park almost opposite the monument alongside the old A344 road, with a subway below the road so that visitors could safely reach the stones. The old visitor centre was opened with much fanfare, and a ceremonial gold key.

subway opening 1968

key

As visitor numbers increased year on year these facilities (latterly expanded by the addition of some portakabins) rapidly became overwhelmed, eventually being described as “a national disgrace” in Parliament.

old_visitor_centre

After endless consultations and arguments, with almost a dozen options being tabled and rejected, eventually a location was found over a mile and a half away to the west that was chosen for the new Visitor Centre. The A344 road past the monument was closed and grassed over, the old facilities and car park decommissioned and in December 2013 the new centre opened.

Designed by an Australian firm Denton Corker Marshall, with an initial budget of £27M, the intention was to create a building that sat quietly in the landscape and deliberately didn’t reference the form of Stonehenge in any way.

Its elegantly curved roof was to evoke the sense of a leaf lightly resting on angled columns that called to mind the trunks of trees in a wood, with dappled sunlight falling through the perforations at the roof’s edge and a gentle breeze cooling the central corridor between the two independent building “pods” below it.

For those that geek out on these things, there is one direct reference to Stonehenge – the tallest columns supporting the roof at the NE and SW corner are each the same height as the tallest trilithon at Stonehenge was when first erected 4,500 years ago.

new vc

new vc closeup

There are two major advantages over the old centre – firstly, the café is now indoors and secondly there is an excellent exhibition which showcases artefacts from both the Stonehenge landscape and the monument itself.

There are two major advantages over the old centre – firstly, the café is now indoors and secondly there is an excellent exhibition which showcases artefacts from both the Stonehenge landscape and the monument itself.

Entrance to the exhibition is included in the ticket price and this part of the Stonehenge experience definitely shouldn’t be missed – it helps to place the monument in context without overwhelming a casual visitor, but has enough detail to interest the nerdiest Stonehenge enthusiast.

There is a walk-in 360° video theatre which places you in the centre of the monument at all the major stages in its development, from 3000BC when the henge bank and ditch was dug along with the Aubrey Hole circle of 56 post or stone holes, through the arrival of the large Sarsen stones around 2,500BC, the final rearrangement of the Bluestones in 2,200BC and the 3 minute presentation brings you up to the modern day appearance complete with traffic flowing by on the A303. As the seasons change, you see representations of both summer solstice sunrise and winter solstice sunset as shadowy – almost ghostly – figures process around the circle.

A 360 degree virtual experience video display showing Stonehenge is played at  the new exhibition centre at Stonehenge in Salisbury, southern England

Passing through into the main exhibition space, you find five display cases containing genuine archaeological finds that are on loan from Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum (in Devizes) including some of the grave goods – flint arrowheads, bronze daggers, gold, amber and jet jewellery as well as ceramics – from the burial mounds along with the remains of two occupants. Both museums offer reduced price entry to Stonehenge ticketholders and each have recently enjoyed major upgrades to their own exhibition spaces.

exhibition cases

On one side is a huge dynamic video wall showing the evolution of the landscape and the sites of its key monuments over time, along the other are four large bronze models of Stonehenge at the main points in its evolution (feel free to touch the models, it’s encouraged).

As well as the permanent exhibition, there is a side gallery which houses temporary displays that are periodically replaced. Presently, the side gallery contains Julian Richards’ “Wish You Were Here” exhibition of Stonehenge collectibles and memorabilia down the ages, from postcards through Druidic regalia and some bizarre items that have used the Stonehenge image as part of their marketing. This includes phone cards, stamps and a wonderful brass Trilithon-topped crumpet-toasting fork. No such collection would be complete without a copy of the Spinal Tap Trilithon-shaped single record, and sure enough it’s here too.

Staff and volunteers in the exhibition are happy to explain the items on display in the main hall and the side gallery, so don’t fail to take advantage of their knowledge.

neoliothic houses

These houses were built by experts from the Ancient Technology Centre on Cranbourne Chase and a cohort of keen volunteers, some of whom can often be found in the houses giving demonstrations of ancient skills. It’s only by attempting to replicate the work of our long-dead ancestors that we gain new insights into the subtler aspects of their lives – the houses (not mere “huts”) are spacious, comfortable, sturdy structures and with periodic maintenance will easily last 25 years or more.

The new Visitor Centre may be a building that divides opinion, but within and without there are some fantastic displays that give a genuinely fresh perspective on Neolithic and Bronze Age life.

Just outside the visitor centre, at the back, sits the collection of replica Neolithic houses that are closely based on the remarkable archaeological discovery of such buildings at nearby Durrington Walls – the probable settlement site in use when the large Sarsen stones were being erected 4,500 years ago.

Entrance to Stonehenge is now managed through timed tickets and advance booking is the only way to guarantee entry on the day and time of your choice. By booking in advance you will also benefit from an advanced booking discount. It is also possible to purchase advance Stonehenge tickets here to beat the lines.

If you are short on time and would like to join an organised guided tour of Stonehenge, it is possible to do this from London, Salisbury or Bath. You can even arrange for local expert guide to meet you at the visitor centre for a guided walking tour.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

The Stonehenge News Blog
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest Stonehenge News
http://www.Stonehenge.News

 





Visit Stonehenge for half term fun.

23 10 2015

This half term Stonehenge is hosting an interactive, theatrical performance which will take families back 100 years to the dramatic auction of 1915 where Stonehenge was put up for sale!~

stoneman2Last month English Heritage marked the 100th anniversary of Stonehenge – the most iconic prehistoric monument in Europe – being sold at auction to local Wiltshire man Cecil Chubb. The auction marked a turning point in the care of the ancient monument. A series of major restorations and excavations began a few years later and Stonehenge went from isolated ruin to national treasure. Today it is cared for by English Heritage, and thanks to extensive work now sits within a restored landscape that gives a sense of its original setting.

Bring the family this half term and play a part in bringing a monumental historical moment to life in this centenary year, with this fun theatrical performance – specially developed for English Heritage by historical theatre compan Time Will Tell.The play is in two parts and will take place outside the visitor centre by the Neolithic Houses, every day of half term from Monday 26th October to Sunday 1st November, between 10am and 4pm

What better way for kids to step into England’s story than exploring a World Heritage Site and its prehistoric monuments? The Stonehenge exhibition and visitor centre will entertain the most inquisitive of minds and there is plenty of outdoor space to work off extra energy, run and picnic. Pick up a family audio tour, explore our reconstructed Neolithic Houses and imagine what life would have been like for a Neolithic family four and a half thousand years ago!

Article by jspiteri  – Blackmore Vale Magazine

Entrance to Stonehenge is now managed through timed tickets and advance booking is the only way to guarantee entry on the day and time of your choice. By booking in advance you will also benefit from an advanced booking discount.
Click here for opening hours:

The Stonehenge News Blog





Countdown to a New Dawn. New Stonehenge Visitor Centre opening on 18th December 2013

6 12 2013

 

The new Stonehenge visitor centre will open on the 18th December, in time for the winter solstice. Over the festive period you can visit Stonehenge without booking and from 1st February 2014, entrance to Stonehenge will be managed through timed tickets and advance booking is strongly recommended.

For the first time ever at the site, they will be able to learn more about this complex monument in a stunning, museum-quality permanent exhibition curated by English Heritage experts.

“The exhibition will change the way people experience and think about Stonehenge forever”

The £27m project also includes grassing over the A334 alongside the ancient monument and closing another section of the busy road.

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 visitor centre and museum will be located about a mile-and-a-half from the stones.  Visitors will be shuttled to Stonehenge by a little train, pulled by a Land Rover.

The first part of the long-awaited environmental improvements to Stonehenge will be the unveiling of a new visitor experience. This includes the new visitor centre and exhibition facilities to enhance your visit to the Stones.

A 360-degree virtual, immersive experience will let visitors ‘stand in the stones’ before they enter a gallery presenting the facts and theories surrounding the monument through various displays and nearly 300 prehistoric artefacts.

The archaeological finds on display are on loan from the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, and the Duckworth Collection, University of Cambridge. All were found inside the World Heritage Site and many are on public display for the first time.

Set in Stone? How our ancestors saw Stonehenge, will be the first special temporary exhibition. It will chart more than 800 years of ideas and debate – from 12th-century legends to radiocarbon dating reports in the 1950s – on who built Stonehenge and when, and features objects on loan from many national museums.

Down the road: An aerial view of the site shows how developers have managed to place the site nearby, without spoiling the immediate surroundings of Stonhenge

Down the road: An aerial view of the site shows how developers have managed to place the site nearby, without spoiling the immediate surroundings of Stonehenge

In Easter 2014, visitors can look forward to the opening of a group of reconstructed Neolithic houses. The Neolithic houses are the highlight of the outdoor gallery and will be built from January 2014 onwards by volunteers based on houses where the builders of Stonehenge may have lived, complete with furniture and fittings.

Advance booking will be available shortly to give you guaranteed entry on the day and at the time of your choice.

Please note: road access to Stonehenge has changed and permits are being issued to vehicles driving on the A344 to Stonehenge until the new visitor centre opens at Airman’s Corner.  Please go to the Directions page for more details.

Stonehenge Links:
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/
http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/explore/stonehenge-and-avebury/stonehenge-visitor-centre
Stonehenge on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ST0NEHENGE

The Stonehenge News Blog





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

 

 








%d bloggers like this: