STONEHENGE'S 'SECRET' MAKEOVER; How It Was Rebuilt Last Century . . .and Set in Concrete

Article excerpt


FOR a million visitors a year Stonehenge is a mystical experience; a trip 4,000 years back in time.

They marvel at the ancient technology which enabled the massive circle of Welsh bluestones to be erected on Salisbury Plain.

But they are not told that, without modern technology, the monument would have nowhere near its magnificence.

Neither the official English Heritage guide book or the audio tour available makes it clear that nearly every stone in Stonehenge has been moved in the last 100 years in a series of makeovers.

Brian Edwards, who is studying for a history doctorate at the University of the West of England in Bristol, discovered that teams of men were brought in to straighten and lift many stones - and even set many in concrete.

He said: 'What we have been looking at is a 20th-century landscape, reminiscent of what Stonehenge might have looked like thousands of years ago.

It has been created by the heritage industry and is not the creation of prehistoric peoples.

'I've always thought that if people bother to make the trip to Stonehenge, from home or abroad, then the least they should expect is a true story.' Mr Edwards was also behind recent revelations that the Avebury stone circle - a few miles away from Stonehenge - was almost totally rebuilt in the 1920s by marmalade millionaire Alexander Keiller.

He has written a book, Seeing History: Public History in Britain Now, detailing his findings.

And following his research, it is likely that English Heritage will rewrite its official history of Stonehenge to include the 20th Century work.

The first restoration caused outrage in 1901 when a leaning stone was straightened and then set in concrete.

The next phase began in 1919, the year after Sir Cecil Chubb gave the monument to the Government, and involved the most serious changes.

Six stones were moved in work led by Colonel William Hawley, a respected member of the Stonehenge Society.

The lintels, or cross stones, had to be removed to allow the leaning stones to be pulled upright before the lintels were replaced.

Huge mobile cranes were used to move three more stones in 1958 and four in 1964, in response to further worries about the possibility of stones falling and breaking.

The extensive nature of the work, although written about in archaeology books, has remained virtually unknown to the masses who pay [pounds sterling]4 to walk around Stonehenge.

The text on page 18 of the English Heritage guide, Stonehenge and Neighbouring Monuments, says only: 'A number of the leaning and fallen stones have been straightened and re-erected.' But there is no hint of the true scale of the work uncovered by Mr Edwards. …