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Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Soon....

Soon…..

No more... (The junction of the A344 with the A303 as it was yesterday evening)

No more…
(The junction of the A344 with the A303 as it was yesterday evening)

Today at 7:00am, 27 years after the Government promised UNESCO it would happen, the southern half of the A344 road that runs immediately past Stonehenge, over The Avenue and down to the junction with the A303 was closed forever. It’s the first tangible step in the project to bring an element of “splendid isolation” to the stones.

Over the rest of the summer the road surface will be removed and grassed over, the high fences will be taken down and the monument will at last be reunited with its ceremonial landscape.

[Incidentally, all this week there is a recruitment drive for volunteers to work at the new visitor centre and elsewhere under the auspices of the various organisations concerned. Those interested can sign up at Amesbury Library. More details are available from the Salisbury Journal.]

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

© Andrew Smith, from www.geograph.org.uk

Fyfield Down, © Andrew Smith, from http://www.geograph.org.uk

Dear Friends of Stonehenge and Avebury WHS,

Despite their similarities, the two parts of the World Heritage Site are in many ways poles apart – to the casual visitor, at least.   The differences in visiting each of the major henges at Avebury and Stonehenge are often commented on; the road-trip, the visitor facilities, the topography, the archaeology itself.   Living here in Wiltshire, I like to think about it differently.   One thing, more than anything else, unites the parts of the WHS for me.

I don’t mean the long history of archaeological research in the area; or the fact that – to use the terms of the UNESCO inscription – “The World Heritage Site provides an outstanding illustration of the evolution of monument construction…over more than 2000 years, from the early Neolithic to the Bronze Age.”

The much-reduced spread of Wiltshire’s sarsen stone is my “glue”.   Sarsens used in archaeological monuments, sarsens scattered over the landscape, sarsens in the walls and houses.   Sarsens thread their way through the World Heritage Site, in time and in place.   No matter how many, or how few, were once recumbent on the chalk, sarsens have been encountered and used by people for thousands of years; and still are, as gravestones, building material and street furniture for example.

Known for their tough hardness, sarsens have a temporal and spatial durability across the World Heritage Site and beyond.   They help me to think about the wider environment, and serve to keep me mindful of the contexts in which we should place archaeological monuments.   Not divorced from one another by outlines drawn on maps, but features in a landscape to be explored.

Yours, Katy Whitaker

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

shb

About now the jackdaws should be busily raising their families in nests built in crevices in Stonehenge. One favoured spot is a “chimney” within Stone 60 which they have to patiently drop sticks though until one becomes wedged and they can start building their nest. How long jackdaws have been living at Stonehenge is anyone’s guess but it’s quite possible they have been there far longer than there have been ravens at the Tower of London. It certainly suits them very well. As 18th century English poet William Cowper wrote of the jackdaw….

A great frequenter of the church,
Where, bishoplike, he finds a perch,
And dormitory too

At around the same time the early ecologist, Gilbert White, noted that ….

“Another very unlikely spot is made use of by daws as a place to breed in, and that is Stonehenge. These birds deposit their nests in the interstices between the upright and the impost stones of that amazing work of antiquity: which circumstance alone speaks the prodigious height of the upright stones, that they should be tall enough to secure those nests from the annoyance of shepherd-boys, who are always idling round that place”.

NRS

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Avebury notice

George Brown was only four when his home was burgled a few days before Christmas, but along with Avebury Great Farm he would inherit his father’s doggedness. In sight of Cherhill White Horse in 1850 George famously beat off an attempt to part him from his gig, then tracked the culprits down to discover one of them had been armed with a loaded pistol. Of this uncompromising character Dean John Merewether would the previous year write:

It is some comfort to know that the present owner of the circle and the western avenue, Mr George Brown, will not allow a single stone to be defaced or removed; and has been the means in time past also, of preserving them. George Brown of Avebury has engaged that he will take care, and his sons after him, that not a stone at Avebury shall again be injured or removed, I feel confident that a general spirit of antiquarian conservatism has been widely and effectually instilled, from which the cause of archaeology and our Institute will reap much advantage.

George Brown died at Avebury in July 1881 aged 87, the following year Sir John Lubbock introduced the Ancient Monuments Protection Act.

B.E.

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

I was reminded recently of a moment, as a child, returning from a week away with my school, when the coach I was on drove past Stonehenge.

The only time I’d previously seen Stonehenge was in a book or on the television. Of course I was impressed! Surprised – strangely – at how small it seemed in relation to how my rather overactive imagination had protrayed it, but impressed nevertheless.

At the exact moment that we drove past, Concorde flew over a short distance away, posing above the stones in a photogenic way. If this were today, everybody would have had a camera with them, most likely on their phones, but this was the 70s, so nobody was prepared for this unique photo opportunity.

At the time, and at the age I was, it almost felt like Concorde was from the future. Like a rocket. Or a spaceship.

Roll on 30 years, and fantasy has been replaced by reality. A spaceship has been photographed flying over Stonehenge!

The International Space Station (ISS) flying over Stonehenge

Photo credit: Tim Burgess (http://www.flickr.com/photos/perfexeon/)

And here’s a photo from space taken by Commander Hadfield (Commander of the International Space Station) himself!

https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/status/318070469339279360

G.O.

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Front_Cover

Sir John Lubbock is remembered in passing today as a nineteenth century archaeologist and politician who championed the 1882 Ancient Monuments Act and saved Avebury from development.

“Darwin’s Apprentice” is a unique book that looks beyond these headlines to reveal an important yet forgotten Darwinist through the eyes of his prehistoric archaeological and ethnographic collection. Both man and collection are witnesses to an extraordinary moment in the history of science and archaeology – the emotive scientific, religious and philosophical debate on human antiquity triggered by the publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” in 1859.

It will be published by Pen & Sword Archaeology in April 2013 to mark the centenary anniversary of John Lubbock’s death. Further details can be found here

Janet Owen

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Bonaparte

“Had no one announced his presence, those who are acquainted with the portraits of his uncle, the Great Napoleon, would at once have recognised him.” Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte had raised local eyebrows when visiting Wiltshire in October 1860, even though predictably “a more peaceful visit than his uncle’s might have been had he succeeded in crossing the channel”. The Prince had brought with him a letter of introduction to Edward Kite, a grocer and historian, employed as Assistant Secretary and Curator by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. Kite would act as the Prince’s guide to Devizes as well as Silbury Hill and Avebury, “at which place his royal highness spent some time” having previously visited Stonehenge.

The Prince, who had been born in England due to his family being intercepted at sea when making their way to America, was a renowned philologist and his approach to Kite concerned a translation of the Song of Solomon in the Wiltshire dialect. The translation would appear in print the following year.   

Edward Kite, The Song of Solomon in the Wiltshire Dialect, as it is Spoken in the Northern Division. From the Authorised English Version, by Edward Kite, for Louis Lucien Bonaparte (Strangeways & Walden, 1861).

B.E.

________________________________________________

This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

winter

From the collection of the Wiltshire Museum: William Tatton Winter (1855-1928), Stonehenge, signed etching, 350 x 270 mm, dating from just two years before the artist’s death.

It would not be obvious from the etching that the year 1926 was the year a pig farm was established on the adjacent former military aerodrome, where the redundant buildings and water tower still dominated the landscape. The recent past had seen other changes too with a traditional route that crossed the bank and ditch having been diverted. Timber props in evidence for years had also disappeared with a number of stones ‘restored’ and set in concrete, and seven years of archaeological excavation lately described as ‘disastrous’ being suspended.Recently erected fences were also torn down that year when Druids clashed with officialdom over access and burial issues that we perhaps think of as more recent history.

These were changing times at ‘timeless’ Stonehenge and to this background William Tatton Winter revives Christian infused imagery that had petered out in the previous century to portray a somewhat distracted shepherd with his flock amidst the symbolic ruin of a pagan temple.

B.E.

________________________________________________

This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Stonehenge by Henry Mark Anthony (1817-1886)

Stonehenge by Henry Mark Anthony, 1817-1886

So far as I can recall I managed to live more than fifty years without really hearing of Avebury. Well, apart from a small black-and-white photo I saw of it when I was about eight in the tattered volume of “1001 Wonderful Things” that served as our version of television in those days – and for some reason I assumed the stones were only about a foot tall so I instantly dismissed them from my thoughts. As for Silbury, I definitely hadn’t heard of that.

Wind forward to the first day of the twenty first century and I’m driving west on the A4 from Marlborough with a friend, exploring. We go round a bend and up pops Silbury right in front of us. “What the hell is that?” were my very first words on the subject of British prehistory. If you’re going to start, you might as well start like that. I was amazed – like all who first travel along that route, including the Romans no doubt.

Later we drove on for our very first visit to Stonehenge. We were shocked rigid by the adjacent squalid visitor centre – so much so (and it was maybe a bit childish and out of character for a couple of otherwise respectable fifty somethings) that we went away and returned with two large placards asking people to write to their MP or Congressman about the state of things! We were chucked out of the car park and had to risk all by standing in the busy road but everyone seemed to agree with us.

But now, thirteen years later things are about to change. The road we were told to stand in will soon be gone and much else will change for the better. Restoring Stonehenge to something closer to “splendid isolation” has to be one of the best things ever achieved in the name of heritage. I’m so glad it’s happening in “my” time.

NRS

________________________________________________

This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Bet

“Silbury Hill on the Wiltshire Downs, the biggest prehistoric earthwork in Europe, no one knows what it was for, when it was made and who lies under it. And what strange rites went on nearby, here at Avebury? No one knows. This was the chief temple of northern Europe three to four thousand years ago, but we do know that the Bronze Age people who worshipped here, long before the Druids were thought of, were a peaceful people, highly organized and who made beautiful pottery. We know too that they shaped these stones and moved them on logs from a distant valley, “

Betjeman’s commentary on ‘Devizes’ from ‘John Betjeman in the West Country’ first broadcast 1962 and available on DVD as ‘Betjeman Revisited’. 

Betjeman features tonight in Heritage! The Battle for Britain’s Past episode 3 of 3: ‘Broken Propylaeums’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rd37j BBC Four 21.00

B.E.

________________________________________________

This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

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