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.]
This is a personal list of heritage sites for Wiltshire.
Avebury. This must be one of the most impressive prehistoric sites in England. The village of Avebury sits within the Henge. The monument is placed in the middle of a rich archaeological landscape.
Silbury Hill. This artificial hill dominates the land around it and forms part of the Avebury landscape.
Stonehenge. This must be one of the most iconic prehistoric sites in England with the trilithons.
Old Sarum. The foundations of the original cathedral and the medieval castle sit within an Iron Age hillfort.
Salisbury Cathedral. The cathedral dominates the city of Salisbury. The foundation stone was laid in 1220 and it was consecrated in 1258.
Bemerton. The exquisite Bemerton church has associations with the poet George Herbert.
Wilton House. This is one of the most impressive houses in Wiltshire granted to the Pembrokes in 1544.
Lacock Abbey. Parts of the former nunnery can be seen within the later house. Lacock is important for the birth of modern photography (in 1835).
Bowood. The orangery (part of the 1768 south front) and the grounds hint at the grandeur of this estate. The main house was destroyed by fire in 1955.
Stourhead. This is one of the top landscapes gardens in Britain. It was originally laid out between 1722 and 1787. Among the buildings is Henry Flitcroft’s Pantheon (1753).
The West Kennet long barrow was placed on the 1882 Schedule of Ancient Monuments. It now lies within the Avebury World Heritage Site. The scientific excavation took place in 1955–56.
Radiocarbon dates suggest that the monument was constructed in the period 3,700–3,600 BC, more than a millennium earlier than was thought in the 1960s.
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
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.
I have noted before the 1922 Office of Works guide to Old Sarum. In 1965 H. de S. Shortt prepared an illustrated guide to Old Sarum for the MPBW in the format that had been produced in the 1950s for other sites in State Guardianship. The cover is based on the 1819 map prepared by Henry Wansey. One of the first features is a double page spread (pp. 4–5) providing a plan for the castle, the outer bailey and the original cathedral. The guide starts with the situation, noting paintings by John Constable (reproduced in the centre pages), before moving into the historical outline with sub-sections on prehistory, Roman-Britain, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and then later periods. It includes reconstructions by Alan Sorrell. There is then a guide to the remains, both the inner bailey, as well as the old cathedral. There are two appendices: A note on the name of Old Sarum; Saint Osmund; Excavations at or adjoining Old Sarum.
The guide continued to be in print until 1990. The plan of the castle had been placed on a foldout sheet inside the back cover.
The 1990 guide has the Gateway logo.
Derek Renn prepared the English Heritage guide (1994). The two main sections are ‘What to see’ (no longer, ‘a tour’ or ‘a description’), and ‘The story of Old Sarum’ (not ‘a history’). A pictorial ‘tour’ is provided in the centre pages. It contains sections on prehistory, Rome, as well as the Normans. One section addresses ‘From city to rotten borough’.
Renn had earlier prepared the MPBW souvenir guide to Shell Keeps in Devon and Cornwall (1969), and the English Heritage guidebooks for Orford and Framlingham Castles (1988), Goodrich Castle (1993).
The latest English Heritage guide is by John McNeill, with fold out plans inside the front and back covers. The two main sections are the tour, and a history, with features on the demolition of the cathedral and beneath the ramparts, showing some of the early investigations of the site.
The cathedral at Old Sarum was probably started under Bishop Hermann (d. 1078), when the see was moved from Sherborne (in 1075); much of the work was conducted by his successor Bishop Osmund (d. 1099). This structure was placed inside the outer walls of the castle (that follow the line of the Iron Age hillfort), and completed in 1092.
The cathedral was rebuilt by Bishop Roger (d. 1139) and expanded by Bishop Jocelin de Bohun (d. 1184). The foundations of the new Salisbury cathedral were laid in 1220 under Bishop Richard Poore (1217-28), and the remains of the first three bishops of Salisbury were moved from Old Sarum in June 1226. The old cathedral was then dismantled and the stone reused for the new building.
Today is the shortest day of the year, so here is a December view of Stonehenge.
HF has a keen interest in heritage signs especially those linked to the Ministry of Works. It has been reported that the Ministry of Works signs from Woodhenge, an early example of interpretative plaques, have been stolen.
Further details are available from Looting Matters.
The Official Guide to Old Sarum was issued by the Office of Works (Department of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings) in 1922 with 18 pages. The 1927 version has been digitised. (Price 6 d). The guide adopted the format of an introductory history, followed by a description of the key elements including the castle and the foundations of the first cathedral. The guide include foldout plans. Notice the advertisement for photographic film on the back cover.