Thursday, 3 March 2011
William Stukeley (1687 - 1765) - died on this day London on 3 March 1765.
William Stukeley was born at Holbeach in Lincolnshire, and studied medicine at Cambridge University. While still a student he began making topographical and architectural drawings as well as sketches of historical artefacts. He continued with this alongside his career as a doctor, and published the results of his travels around Britain in 'Itinerarium Curiosum' in 1724.
It may be his medical training that gave him his acute eye for detailed observation - a characteristic that makes the 'Itinerarium' a valuable record of monuments, buildings and towns before they were subjected to the ravages of the agricultural and industrial revolutions. He deplored the destruction of monuments and realised the importance of recording accurately what he saw as a way of preserving information about the past.
In 1718, he became the first secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. His activities in the field included excavations at Stonehenge and Avebury, the results of which were published in two books in 1740 and 1743. Stukeley mistakenly attributed them to the Druids. He was fascinated by the Druids and developed elaborate and fanciful descriptions of their practices and beliefs. He was also the first to recognise the alignment of Stonehenge on the solstices, and saw the value of exploring the wider relationship between monuments and putting them into their landscape context.
In true Enlightenment fashion, Stukeley's interests were wide. He was interested in other aspects of British history, including the story of Robin Hood, wrote music for the flute and produced treatises on earthquakes and medical subjects. In 1730, he changed career and was ordained as vicar of All Saints Church in Stamford in Lincolnshire.
Stukeley died in London on 3 March 1765.
Stonehenge Tour Guide