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.

Old Sarum: guidebooks



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; Excavaions at or adjoining Old Sarum.


1994 [2003]

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.

Old Sarum: cathedral


Old Sarum, cathedral © David Gill

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.


Old Sarum, cathedral and castle © David Gill

Woodhenge Heritage Signs Stolen


Ministry of Works plaques stolen from Woodhenge. Source: Historic England

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.

Old Sarum and the Office of Works Guide

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.

The Story of Silbury Hill



I can first remember visiting Silbury Hill in the 1970s and it has featured on many a journey. I have just finished reading The Story of Silbury Hill by Jim Leary and David Field (Swindon: English Heritage, 2010) [ISBN 978-1-848020-46-7]. Cost £14.99.

I was so attracted by the story of a monument in its wider landscape. There are nine main chapters, each with beautiful photographs and illustrations. Those who are interested in the History of Archaeology (and Antiquarianism) will find much in chapter 2, ‘Kings, Druids and early investigations’. John Aubrey’s sketch of the hill captures its essence. William Stukeley’s series of drawings were made in 1723 and 1724. There is a review of the opening of a shaft in 1776, and the cutting of the Royal Archaeological Institute’s tunnel in 1849. The Hill was purchased by Sir John Lubbock in 1873.

Chapter 3, ‘Into the 20th century: Petrie, Atkinson and the BBC’, considers the impact of television coverage of archaeological excavations and the exploration by Richard Atkinson in 1967. The antiquarian searches and archaeological excavations caused instability in the mound and this is covered by chapter 4, ‘What do you mean, there’s a hole on the top of Silbury?’ There are some interesting comments about press coverage and ttransparency

All this work, as well as the urgent need to stabilise the mound, provided valuable information about how the mound was created (chapter 5). There are important comments about the prehistoric landscape as well as the insects and plants. This leads to ‘Making sense of the mound’ (chapter 6). Silbury is then considered in the wider and evolving landscape, ‘Land, stones and the development of monuments’ (chapter 7).

One of the unexpected chapters was a consideration of the Roman settlement that grew up at the foot of the hill (‘From small town to Sele-burh’, chapter 8). The Hill lies adjacent to the main Roman road running from London towards Bath. How would this prehistoric monument have been preceived by Roman viewers?

The final chapter, ‘The timekeeper’ (chapter 9), looks at the modern reception of the Hill. There is the observation, ‘The monuments serve a social and spiritual need’. Yet there are comments about the impact of heritage tourism on a Wiltshire village that nestles around and among these prehistoric monuments.

The mound incorporates the activities, the behaviour and performance of people, the building of banks, ditches and mounds; basketful after basketful of actions that provide a biography of the local inhabitants. It is as good as any family tree. We are all a part of that dialogue, and our actions form part of the same story.

This is a book that covers so many aspects of the recording, conserving, preserving, and interpreting of a major heritage site.