Heritage Tourism in 2021: English Heritage

Compiled by © David Gill

The 2021 visitor figures for English Heritage are now available. Stonehenge remains the most visited site: 334,087 visits in 2021 compared with 1.6 million in 2019. Brodsworth Hall and Gardens has made an appearance in the top 10 with 93,614 visits in 2021. Tintagel, with 267,094 visits, had a particularly popular season perhaps reflecting the popularity of Cornwall as a holiday destination: in 2017 it had 246,039 visits.

Stonehenge: source of the sarsens

The Grey Wethers, Fyfield Down, Wiltshire © David Gill

Research into the origins of the sarsen stones at Stonehenge have shown that they come from near Marlborough (“Stonehenge: Sarsen stones origin mystery solved”, BBC News 29 July 2020). A core taken in 1958 from one of the sarsens at Stonehenge has been analysed and shown to match the chemical profile of the sarsens located at West Woods, to the south of Marlborough. [Note this is different to the sarsens on Fyfield Down.]

Stonehenge © David Gill

UNESCO World Heritage Committee on Stonehenge

Stonehenge © David Gill

Over the New Year I tweeted a post on the Heritage Journal relating to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on Stonehenge. I was asked about the source of the quote and therefore cite here the exact wordings from the 41st meeting in Krakow in July 2017. The World Heritage Committee [Decision 41 COM 7B.56]:

Expresses concern that the 2.9km Stonehenge tunnel options and their associated 2.2km of dual carriageway approach roads within the property that are under consideration, would impact adversely the OUV [Outstanding Universal Value] of the property

Stonehenge, 100 years: ‘a gift to be held for the nation’

Stonehenge © David Gill

Today is the centenary of Stonehenge being given to the nation by (Sir) Cecil and Mary Chubb (1876-1934). He had purchased the site in 1915 from the estate of Sir Edmund Antrobus for £6,600 (Knight, Frank, and Rutley, Salisbury, September 21, 1915, lot 15). The handover was made to Sir Alfred Mond on 26 October 1915.

The surrounding land was purchased in 1927.

Leading Visitor Attractions: English Heritage

Stonehenge © David Gill

The Visitor Figures for 2015 are now available (ALVA). The top English Heritage attraction is Stonehenge with 1.3 million visitors (no. 21) and showing an increase of 2.0% on 2014.

This is followed by:

  • no. 89: Dover Castle (331K)
  • no. 107: Osborne House (248K)
  • no. 133: Tintagel Castle (193K)
  • no. 144: Kenwood (159K)
  • no. 151: Audley End (150K)
  • no. 152: Whitby Abbey (146K)
  • no. 153: Clifford’s Tower (144K)
  • no. 162: Carisbrooke Castle (112K)
  • no. 163: Wrest Park (108K)
  • no. 166: Housesteads (107K)
  • no. 167: Battle Abbey (106K)
  • no. 168: Kenilworth Castle (106K)
  • no. 171: Eltham Palace (95K)
  • no. 176: Bolsover Castle (88K)
  • no. 180: Walmer Castle (76K)
  • no. 182: Pendennis Castle (73K)

Bolsover Castle © David Gill

Visitor attractions in UK

The Duveen Gallery at the British Museum
The Duveen Gallery at the British Museum

The latest figures for the top UK visitor attractions for 2014 have been announced (see ALVA). Top of the list is the British Museum with 6.695 million visits. Other attractions that caught my eye include the Tower of London (no. 8; 3.075 million), Greenwich Old Royal Naval College (no. 13; 1.749 million), Edinburgh Castle (no. 17; 1.480 million), Stonehenge (no. 21; 1.346 million), The Roman Baths in Bath (no. 27; 1.143 million), Fountains Abbey (no. 77; 366,150), and Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall (no. 162; 104,511). One of my favourite spots, Glenfinnan (NTS), came in at no. 212 with 20,491.

The list is demonstrating the importance of the heritage sector to the UK economy.

Stonehenge and Avebury Guides

Stonehenge and Avebury
Stonehenge and Avebury

I have a small selection of guides to Stonehenge and Avebury in my study. My favourite is the HMSO illustrated guide Stonehenge and Avebury and Neighbouring Monuments (1959). The cover is by Alan Sorrell and the text by Professor R.J.C. Atkinson. My copy is a 7th impression with amendments dating to 1970 (cost, 3s 6d [17.5p]). The book was prepared by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and the Central Office of Information. (Are there other examples of collaboration?) The main sections are:

  • The People and the Monuments
  • Stonehenge
  • The history of Stonehenge
  • The Avenue
  • The Barrows
  • Avebury
  • West Kennet Long Barrow
  • The Sanctuary
  • Silbury Hill
  • Windmill Hill
  • How were the monuments built?

There are several Alan Sorrell reconstructions including the building of Silbury Hill and moving the bluestones by raft.


The Department of Environment issued a ‘blue’ guide to Stonehenge. Mine is the 9th impression (1975) of the 3rd edition (1959); the 1st edition was 1959. The text is by R.S. Newall. Cost: 15p.

There is a description of Stonehenge including the Avenue, and further sections:

  • Purpose and periods of Stonehenge
  • Geology of the Bluestones
  • Transport of the Bluestones
  • Preparation, trasnport and erection of the sarsens
  • Incised representation of Bronze Age blades
  • The Druids and the date
  • Area round Stonehenge
  • The Cursus

There is also a fold-put map at the back.


Avebury had a similar volume by Faith de M. Vatcher and Lance Vatcher. My copy is the 2nd impression (1980) of the 1st edition (1976). Cost £1.

The main sections are:

  • Excavation of monuments
  • Prehistoric background
  • The Avebury region
  • Windmill Hill
  • West Kennet Long Barrow
  • Silbury
  • Avebury, AD
  • The Roman road

There are also three appendices

  • Radiocarbon dating
  • The Sarsens
  • The Museum

Again there is a fold-out map at the back.


The latest Stonehenge guide is published by English Heritage and is written by Julian Richards (2013). Cost £4.99.

This has three main sections:

  • Tour of Stonehenge
  • Tour of the Stonehenge landscape
  • History of Stonehenge

There are also ‘Special features’ including ‘The Druids’ and ‘Stonehenge and the military’.

The plan folds out from the card cover at the back.


The Avebury ‘souvenir guide’ is published by the National Trust with text by Ros Cleal. This is the 2013 reprint of the 2008 edition. Cost: £4.

The main sections are:

  • Windmill Hill and earlier Neolithic Avebury
  • West Kennet long barrow
  • The Henge
  • Stones
  • Circles within circles
  • Avenues
  • The Cove
  • Silbury Hill
  • The Sanctuary
  • Death and burial in the Bronze Age
  • Burying stones
  • Destruction
  • Avebury people
  • Avebury church and village
  • Avebury Manor
  • Wild Avebury

Walking Prehistoric Landscapes


One of the joys of visiting Stonehenge and Avebury has been exploring the immediate vicinity of the stones. Now that the Stonehenge visitor centre has started to encourage visitors to see the structure in a wider setting, it is helpful to think about some of the ways of identifying walks and paths.

Wessex Archaeology produced Beyond Stonehenge subtitled A guide to Stonehenge and its prehistoric landscape (2nd ed. 1991). The sections are:

  • Before Stonehenge
  • The first Stonehenge
  • Stonehenge abandoned
  • The stones arrive
  • Fields and farms
  • The search for the past
  • Visitor information and guide map


The National Trust produced a folder, Walking around Avebury (1997). The booklet part has sections on:

  • The south-western sector
  • The barber surgeon
  • The southern inner circle and other stones
  • The entrance stones and the ring stone
  • The view from the bank
  • The cover and the northern circle
  • The Swindon stone
  • John Aubrey (1626-1697)
  • William Stukeley (1687-1765)
  • Alexander Keiller (1889-1955)

Tucked into the pack are three separate leaflets:

  • The Ridgeway
  • Windmill Hill
  • Falkner’s Circle & West Kennet Avenue
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