Monday, 6 October 2014

New exhibition to highlight the Stonehenge's impact on the First World War

A FASCINATING new exhibition telling the story of the world's largest military training camp opens at Stonehenge Visitors' Centre on November 5th

The exhibition, Soldiers at Stonehenge: Salisbury Plain and the journey to the First World War, will delve into the story of the estimated one million men who, between 1914 and 1918, were battle hardened at Stonehenge.
Records show 180,000 men were stationed at any one time on the plain during the First World War.
Their personal stories, photographs and original objects will form the basis of the exhibition but evidence of their presence can still be seen across the wider Stonehenge and Salisbury Plain landscape.
New exhibition to highlight the Stonehenge's impact on the First World War
New exhibition to highlight the Stonehenge's
 impact on the First World War
Robert Campbell, head of interpretation at English Heritage, which is staging the exhibition, said: "The task of these men was to overcome the horrific stalemate of trench warfare and to replicate conditions on the Western Front, soldiers dug intricate networks of trenches which were then pounded by shellfire. The exhibition will explore this aspect."
The war left its mark on the ancient archaeology of Salisbury Plain and the exhibition includes finds on loan from Wiltshire Museum including cap badges, rifle cartridges, aircraft parts and highly personal items such as a spoon and even part of a bottle of Australian hair tonic.
The war and the training camps have become part of the fabric of the modern history of Stonehenge with the human stories that emerged.
When the war broke out the site of the monument was owned by the Antrobus family. Lieutenant Edmund Antrobus, was the heir to Stonehenge, was killed in action at Ypres. His father, also Edmund, had been a professional soldier and had inherited Stonehenge as part of the Amesbury Abbey estate in 1899. He died soon after his son.
The death of owner and heir to Stonehenge led, in part to the monument being put up for sale at auction in 1915. It was bought by Cecil Chubb, a local barrister, who was the last person to privately own it.
The exhibition is on for six months and admission is included in the Stonehenge entry price.
Article in the Salisbury Journal

Stonehenge Tour Guide

Friday, 3 October 2014

Beyond Stonehenge: Mysterious stone circles in Great Britain

Grand, centuries-old cathedrals distinguish Great Britain's cities and towns, providing spiritual nourishment to those who visit. These places of worship seem ancient almost beyond imagination. But long before Gothic cathedrals ... long before recorded history even, Britain's stone circles were this land's sacred spots.
Stonehenge is the most famous of these — and has a new visitors center to serve nearly one million annual sightseers. As old as the pyramids, this site amazed medieval Europeans, who figured it was built by a race of giants. Archaeologists think some of these stones came from South Wales — 150 miles away — probably rafted then rolled on logs by Bronze Age people.

Most believe stone circles functioned as celestial calendars, and even after five thousand years Stonehenge still works as one. As the sun rises on the summer solstice (June 21), the "heel stone" — the one set apart from the rest — lines up with the sun and the altar at the circle's center. With the summer solstice sun appearing in just the right slot, prehistoric locals could tell when to plant and when to party.

Despite the tourist hordes, Stonehenge retains an air of mystery and majesty (partly because smartly designed barriers, which keep visitors from trampling all over it, foster the illusion that it stands alone in a field).

While Stonehenge is viewable only from a distance, Britain is dotted with roughly 800 lesser-known stone circles. A favorite is Avebury. Just 19 miles north of Stonehenge, it's 16 times as big. And Avebury is a megalithic playground, welcoming kids, sheepand anyone interested in a more hands-on experience. Visitors are free to wander among its 100 stones, ditches, mounds, and curious patterns from the past, as well as stroll in the village of Avebury, which grew up around and even within this fascinating 1,400-foot-wide Neolithic circle.

In the 14th century, in a frenzy of religious paranoia, Avebury villagers buried many of these mysterious pagan stones. Their 18th-century descendants hosted social events in which they broke up the remaining stones. In modern times, the buried stones were dug up and re-erected. On a recent visit, enjoying the half-mile walk along the perimeter path, I tried to make sense of the earthen ditch and bank, grateful for the concrete markers showing where the missing broken-up stones once stood.
In the moorlands of southwest England, smaller stone circles composed of weathered craggy rocks are even more evocative. (Good local maps mark them.) Windswept and desolate, Dartmoor National Park has more of these than any other chunk in the country. On one visit, I trekked from the hamlet of Gidleigh through a foggy world of scrub brush and scraggy-haired goats on a mission to find a 4,000-year-old circle of stone. Venturing in the pristine vastness of Dartmoor, I sank into the powerful, mystical moorland — a world of greenery, eerie wind, white rocks, and birds singing but unseen.

Climbing over a hill, surrounded by sleeping towers of ragged, moss-fringed granite, I was swallowed up. Hills followed hills followed hills — green growing gray in the murk.
Then the stones appeared, frozen in a forever game of statue maker. For endless centuries they waited patiently, still and silent, as if for me to come. I sat on a fallen stone, observing blackbirds and wild horses. My imagination ran wild, pondering the people who roamed England so long before written history, feeling the echoes of druids worshipping and then reveling right here.