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In a decision so irrational and heritage-unfriendly it could have been made by Shropshire Council at Oswestry Hillfort, Wiltshire Council has now come out in support of the Stonehenge tunnel. Its reasons are completely unconvincing:

The tunnel will “help to unlock” more than 21,000 jobs in the south west and boost the region’s economy by £9 billion. “The South West” and “the region”, note, not Wiltshire! And there’s really no evidence that 21,000 jobs and £9 billion’s worth of economic growth are being prevented in the South West let alone in Wiltshire by the few minutes of delay that sometimes happens near Stonehenge.

As if in acknowledgement that the claims are very thin, the Council says they are based on “An independent economic assessment commissioned by the local authorities and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, and validated by Department for Transport“. But anyone who has followed this sorry saga will know that a report prompted by and validated by the Department of Transport is not authoritative: the Department has been consistently bending reality for years! One commenter may well have got much closer to the grubby truth:

“Timing is excellent. Lets just suck up to all the locals by pretending to support what the local villages want, the day before the council bye-election for the “Till and Wyle Valley” ward in which Stonehenge sits.”


Highways England’s A303 Stonehenge tunnel scheme is at a critical stage. A decision on whether to approve it is due by 2 April, but funding for the scheme could be announced in the Budget on 11 March. We would like to swamp the Chancellor of the Exchequer with letters from around the country and abroad to show the strength of feeling against it.

Please write in your own words to:

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
cc: and your local MP (find your UK MP here)

Subject: A303 Stonehenge

Dear Chancellor,

I would like to strongly urge you not to approve funding for the high risk and highly damaging A303 Stonehenge scheme:

  • It is poor value for money and high risk. Highways England estimates only 21 pence of benefit for each £1 invested, if the highly dodgy heritage survey is discounted. Cost overruns are likely due to tunnelling through poor quality chalk and unpredictable groundwater conditions.
  • UNESCO opposes the scheme which would irreparably damage The World Heritage Site and which the UK Government has pledged to protect for future generations.
  • The scheme would increase carbon emissions at a time when the Government needs to show international leadership on climate change ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.
  • Please add any other concerns or expand on the above.

Yours sincerely,
Your full name
Your home address

If you have time please also email the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
For more ideas on what to write see the recent letter to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps from the Stonehenge Alliance


The Stonehenge Alliance is a group of non-governmental organisations and individuals that seeks enhancements to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and opposes development that would cause it significant harm.

By Alan S.

As mentioned in the writeup for this year’s Megameet, the very first megameet (and the origins of Heritage Action) occurred on the same date back in 2003, 12 years previously. Following that meeting, as was my custom then, I wrote up some fieldnotes of the day’s travels and the sites we’d seen. Reading them now, the notes show a level of naivety that I hope I’ve shrugged off in the intervening years, but I think it’s an interesting insight into the day as a whole, and a good indication of how thinly I used to spread myself back then.

Bear in mind that there was no such thing as ‘Heritage Action’ when I first wrote these notes, and I have had to update several of the links as the original links (and many of the pictures) are no longer available. And so I present my notes from:

TMA Picnic Day – 2003

July 26th, the day of the Modern Antiquarian (TMA) picnic.

M. had identified a craft shop in Calne that she wanted to visit first, so we made a relatively early start and joined the holiday traffic on the M4. It was difficult passing the turn offs, first for Uffington, then Marlborough and Avebury, before dropping south to Calne (why is there a statue of 2 pigs in Calne?)

Oh look, there’s the A4 – Avebury is just up the road! And so after a brief retail break, off we set.

As we passed Cherhill Down, I saw a sign advertising trial flights in a microlite. Now that would be a good way to see Avebury. I must enquire about prices one day… (ed. I never did.)

I’d hoped to take a look at the Beckhampton Longbarrow marked on the OS map (SU087691), but despite a trot down the Wessex Ridgeway, didn’t see it. Either I didn’t go far enough, or it was hidden beneath a copse. I got to check out the Longstone Cove again though, peeping above a quite high crop where last time I was here there was none. And so into the village, and some more retail therapy: John Michell’s ‘Sacred England’ (reduced as it was the shelf copy), ‘Discovering Hill Figures’ (Shire Books), and ‘Unusual Aspects of Avebury’ by Lamont & Hedderman. Some light reading there. M. purchased a Tree Ogham booklet.

We drove down West Kennet Avenue, and I would have stopped again, but there was a herd of dreaded COWS grazing in the field! So it was on to West Kennet Longbarrow. I recalled that I was last here some 7 or 8 years ago as I pulled myself up the hill. I was quite wary, as I’d barely been able to park in the layby and was anticipating a crowd, but by some miracle I managed to have the place to myself for at least 10 minutes after a small group left. I’ve been away from here too long, and must resolve to visit more often.

Back to the car, and the weather started to close in. I was already late for the arranged start time for the meet at Uffington, and the question now was: hill or pub?

I’d tentatively planned to stop on the way at Ogbourne St Andrew, but put that plan to one side, and diverted via Liddington Castle as we made our way up towards White Horse Hill. The weather still couldn’t decide whether to convert to a full-on downpour, so I decided the hill was the place to meet, on the basis that “it’s only a few spots of rain”.

And I proved to be right. We parked above the Manger, hoping that M. would be able to make it rest of the way on foot, but to save her energy, I did a scouting trip first. Some scout! I’d completely lost my bearings, and instead of aiming for the head of the white horse, I ended up in Uffington Fort! Correcting myself, I found the head, but no other TMAers were to be seen. Or was that Treaclechops? Unsure of approaching a possible stranger myself, someone approached the two women on the groundsheet, obviously having just returned from Dragon Hill. I heard the magical incantation “TMA” spoken, and dove in. Yes, it was Treaclechops with Miriam, I just hadn’t recognised her from behind at first, and the absence of Jane had confused me. Moth was introduced, being the one having just returned, then Jimit, Baza and Jane also returned from their wanderings, introductions were made and the group for the day was complete.

The Horse's Head

I returned to the car, but M. felt it was a hill too far for her to manage, and she decided to wait there while I returned to socialise with the group.

A couple of young tourists (for want of a better phrase) had decided to walk the horse, until Treaclechops raced down the hill, screaming in her best RSM voice “Hey! Get off, that’s a scheduled ancient monument you’re walking on!!” Boy, did they get off quick!

An hour later, we made a collective decision to move over to Wayland’s Smithy, where hopefully M. would be able to walk on the flat to join us. And so, a convoy of five cars made their way up to the Ridgeway and Wayland’s.

The last time I was here, the fields were cropless, and I’d gotten very angry upon finding the remnants of a rave party were packing up and leaving. Throbbing music and (to me), a total desecration of the site, right next to the sign that says ‘No Camping, No Fires’.

I’m pleased to report that today’s visit was the total opposite, bar the evidence of a camp fire right in front of the monument. The crops were high, and we had the site pretty much to ourselves for most of the afternoon. Jane started sketching whilst photos were taken, and the ‘entasis phenomenon’ of the mound was investigated. I’d had to have this explained to me, but the visual effect is quite outstanding once you know what you’re looking at!

© Jane Tomlinson "Sitting in the shade of the Wayland's beech trees after a hot, dusty walk from Uffington Castle, I stopped to admire the sketch I'd made of the Wayland's site from further up the hill..."

© Jane Tomlinson
“Sitting in the shade of the Wayland’s beech trees after a hot, dusty walk from Uffington Castle, I stopped to admire the sketch I’d made of the Wayland’s site from further up the hill…”

The rain started. We’d sheltered under the trees, so avoided the worst of it, but the afternoon was getting on and a call for beer went up. So, after a couple of silly group photos, we decamped and made our way back to the cars.

Jane (the local) led the procession, twice getting lost and turning us all round, before TC leapt out of the car, running towards me (that RSM voice again) “Give me your bloody map!” Needless to say, I complied, and we duly arrived at the designated hostelry in question. Which was shut. Twenty minutes standing in the rain, and the doors finally opened, whereupon we were suitably refreshed whilst browsing through Moth’s copious photograph albums. He has some quite stunning shots there.

An hour later, M. and I decided to head home, but I couldn’t resist one last stop for the day at the Blowing Stone where, in the teeming rain, my camera jammed and refused to recognise the memory card with the day’s photo’s on it. Thankfully, all were ok once I got home (nearly 10pm), but I’ll have to return for a shot of the stone another day.


A truly memorable day. Sadly, Treaclechops is no longer with us, but on a happier note, after meeting for the first time on that day, Jane and Moth were happily married the following year, as were myself and M. Back then, M. still had a degree of mobility although she tired very easily. She now has to use a wheelchair and I currently can’t envisage undertaking such a busy day as that again with her.

If you have your own fieldnotes from a truly memorable day, why not share them with us here? Just tell us why the day was particularly memorable for you, which sites were visited, and maybe share a photo or two too?




It was wet, it was cold, it was windy. But that didn’t stop a loyal band of Heritage Action members from congregating at Avebury, twelve years to the very day since a group of megaraks met at the Uffington White Horse to plan what they could do to help combat damage to prehistoric sites. Many of the same people and a whole bunch of others came together at the weekend for the umpteenth (we’ve lost track) ‘Megameet’.

Admittedly, several Founder members couldn’t make it this year but they were replaced by a number of new attendees, some very young, which bodes well for the future. But considering we’re in July, I’ve never seen the circle so devoid of people generally on a summer weekend!

Red Lion

Those who did turn up met with old friends, had an enjoyable lunch in the Red Lion and discussed all things megalithic until the weather cleared enough for some to attempt a brief circumambulation of the henge, including the obligatory ‘selfie’, courtesy of artist and founder member, Jane Tomlinson.


But we weren’t the only people to brave the weather. At the far end of the West Kennet Avenue, an archaeological excavation is taking place over three weeks. The Between the Monuments Project – a collaborative research project between the University of Southampton (Dr Josh Pollard), University of Leicester (Dr Mark Gillings), Allen Environmental Archaeology (Dr Mike Allen) and the National Trust (Dr Ros Cleal & Dr Nick Snashall) – is attempting to answer the tricky question ‘Where and how did the people who built these monuments live?’.

Avenue Trench

The main Avenue trench. Faulkner’s Circle is by the dark tree in the middle background, top centre.

Two trenches have been opened up, one immediately between the stones of the Avenue, and another off to the side. Despite the weather, some of the principals and volunteers were busy mattocking the side trench, part of which has already been excavated down to the natural layer, exposing some ‘periglacial striations’ in the underlying chalk.

Periglacial Striations

The side trench, showing the ‘periglacial striations’.

Sadly, I had no time to stop and chat (and I think they wanted to get on with the dig while the weather allowed it!) as I stupidly had no coat, and a long drive home in the rain ahead of me. But it was good to see everyone again, and I’m sure we’ll do it all again next year, if not sooner!

A couple of strange stories from Wiltshire this week. They sound like hoaxes but aren’t.

First there’s the news that for the summer season The Crop Circle Information Centre is to move into the Wiltshire Museum! At first sight that seems a bit strange for a scientific institution although Museum director David Dawson said: “Having the CCIC here is a natural progression in our interest in the Wiltshire landscape” which is of course a logical justification. It’s to be hoped though that as a scientific and educational institution the Museum has a prominent notice up somewhere saying ….. “there’s zero verifiable evidence that any crop circle is attributable to anything other than bipedal terrestrials!”

The other story comes from a Wiltshire village we can’t name. Their recent Parish Council draft minutes say: “Visit Wiltshire 2014 Guides available to download at: The Chairman said “XXXXXXX was not featured in the guides on purpose and as part of the WHS strategy to key down promotion of XXXXXXX”. It seems that the “tacit agreement” made in the eighties about not actively advertising the village (because it has limited capacity for coping with visitors) is still in force. But you’d have to wonder if keeping quiet about it has ever resulted in anyone not knowing about it. There are quite a few mentions of it on the internet, to put it mildly. It’s also worth wondering if The Crop Circle Information Centre will avoid telling visitors about it?

Anyway, although we can’t name the village we can at least show you a picture of it….

XXXXXXX, Wiltshire (with some features blanked out to avoid identification).

XXXXXXX, Wiltshire (with some features blanked out to avoid identification).

Happy Birthday to Sir Richard Colt Hoare, historian of Wiltshire, born on 9 Dec. 1758, the only son of Richard Hoare, esq., of Barn Elms, Surrey and his first wife (and cousin) Anne. His mother died when he was six months old but his father re-married, to Frances Ann Acland with whom he had four further sons and two daughters.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Bt (1758 - 1838), historian, writing with a quill in his library. Frontispiece to Volume I of his ‘History of Modern Wiltshire' 1822-44.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Bt (1758 – 1838), historian, writing with a quill in his library.
Frontispiece to Volume I of his ‘History of Modern Wiltshire’ 1822-44.

Richard was educated at Wandsworth and Greenford. His classical studies continued privately whilst learning the family banking business at Fleet Street. On his coming of age, his grandfather provided a house at lincolns Inn, and a substantial sum of money. He married Hester Lyttleton on 1783 and their son Henry was born a year later. Sadly, Henry’s mother did not survive to see his first birthday, and Richard never remarried. Also in 1785, he inherited the estate at Stourhead in Wiltshire so left the bank, and equipped with a very substantial income of some £10,000 p.a. decided to travel the world in an attempt to lift his spirits.

His travels across Italy, France, Switzerland and Spain were well documented (see ‘Recollections abroad: journals of tours on the continent, 1785–1791’), visiting the classical sites and immersing himself in the landscapes, drawing, recording and collecting for his portfolio. After the briefest return home in 1787 to succeed his father in the baronetcy Richard continued his travels in 1788, “no longer as a tourist but as a systematic antiquarian … quitting … the road for the path, the capital for the provinces”. During this time he passed through the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy once more.

Returning to Britain in 1791 (the French Revolutionary War having made European travel dangerous), he turned continued his habit of keeping meticulous diaries detailing his annual visits and journeys around Britain, particlarly Wales for which he had a fondness.

Aside from his travels, he was High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1805, and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He spent time developing and enlarging Stourhead as it was incapable of holding his collections, particularly his library. In 1825 he gave his collection of Italian topographical and historical works to the British Museum, but in its place he collected nearly every book on the history and topography of the British Isles – a collection which was sadly broken up by auction some years after his death.

Despite building such an extensive library, he had longed to be an author, and was assisted in this endeavor by William Cunnington – an antiquary who was excavating the prehistoric barrows in his neighbourhood.

He was the moving spirit behind the team that produced the first volume (in three parts) of The Ancient History of South Wiltshire in 1812. Richard was the financier and author. As a survey of Wiltshire barrows it is incomplete but Richard was commended: “No antiquary had ever the same means or opportunities before Sir Richard Hoare and no-one ever availed himself more entirely of the advantages which he possesses” (Quarterly Review, 5, 1811, 118). The second volume, The Ancient History of North Wiltshire, appeared in 1819.

Following a breakdown in the relationship with his son, who had accrued various debts, Richard suffered from a variety of ill health, including gout, rheumatism and deafness, but despite this he worked on his County History of Wiltshire. The first part, ‘The Hundred of Mere‘ was published in 1822. In total, fourteen parts covering the hundreds of South Wiltshire,  were published as the six volume ‘The History of Modern Wiltshire‘. The last two hundreds were written after his death in order to complete the work. He also authored numerous other works, most of which were printed for private circulation only.

His last fieldwork was to see the Roman Pitney pavement uncovered at Somerton. He published a report on this excavation in 1831, which has proved invaluable as the pavement was destroyed five years later.

Richard died on 19 May 1838 at Stourhead and is buried in the family mausoleum in the churchyard of St Peter’s, Stourton.

John Aubrey was born on this day, 12th of March, 1626 in Easton Piercy, a couple of miles north of Chippenham in Wiltshire, and was educated at Trinity College, Oxford.

John Aubrey from Wikimedia Commons.

John Aubrey (Wikimedia Commons).

From an antiquarian perspective, he is probably best known for including in a plan of Stonehenge a series of slight depressions immediately inside the enclosing earthwork. These depressions, 56 in all and excavated in the 1920’s, were found to be post holes for timber uprights, and were named ‘Aubrey Holes’ in honour of his original observations. There is however some doubt as to whether the holes that he actually observed are the same as those that currently bear his name.

As a pioneer archaeologist, who recorded (often for the first time) numerous megalithic and other field monuments in southern England, his most important contribution to the study of British antiquities was the lengthy “Monumenta Britannica”, which was never actually published and remains in manuscript. It contains the results of Aubrey’s field-work at Avebury and Stonehenge and notes on many other ancient sites, including Wayland’s Smithy. Apparently the original title of the manuscript was to be “Templa Druidum”.

In 1648, at the age of 22 while out foxhunting with some friends near Avebury in Wiltshire, Aubrey first recognized in the earthworks and great stones placed about the landscape in and about the village a great prehistoric temple. He wrote that he “was wonderfully surprised at the sight of those vast stones of which I had never heard before.”

It is Aubrey who is often quoted when comparing Avebury and Stonehenge that “Avebury does as much exceed in greatness the so reknowned Stonehenge, as a cathedral doeth a parish Church.” In 1663, King Charles II visited the site on his way to Bath, and was given a tour of the site by Aubrey.

(In the following century, William Stukeley developed and expanded Aubrey’s original speculation about how the ‘Ancient Britons’ would have used the site, and concluded that Avebury was built as an ancient cult centre of the Druids.)

Aubrey began work on compiling material for a natural historical and antiquarian study of Wiltshire in two parts, in 1656. The work on the antiquities (which he entitled Hypomnemata Antiquaria) was largely finished by 1671, and deposited in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.

His next project was instigated by the Royal Cartographer, John Ogilvy, in 1673. Ogilvy commissioned a survey of the County of Surrey, which Aubrey completed, but Ogilvy never used the work as the project was cut short. Despite this, Aubrey continued on and the work was eventually published in 1718 as the Natural History and Antiquities of Surrey.

But he is probably best remembered outside of Antiquarian circles for his Brief Lives, a series of biographical sketches of some of his contemporaries, compiled between 1669 and 1693. Described thus in Aubrey’s article on Wikipedia:

As private, manuscript texts, the “Lives” were able to contain the richly controversial material which is their chief interest today, and Aubrey’s chief contribution to the formation of modern biographical writing. When he allowed Anthony Wood to use the texts, however, he entered the caveat that much of the content of the Lives was “not fitt to be let flie abroad” while the subjects and the author were still living.
Aubrey’s relationship with Wood was to become increasingly fraught. Aubrey asked Wood to be “my index expurgatorius”: a reference to the Church’s list of banned books, which Wood seems to have taken not as a warning, but as a licence to simply extract pages of notes to paste into his own proofs. In 1692, Aubrey complained bitterly that Wood had mutilated forty pages of his manuscript, perhaps for fear of a libel case. Wood was eventually prosecuted for insinuations against the judicial integrity of the school of Clarendon. One of the two statements called in question was founded on information provided by Aubrey and this may explain the estrangement between the two antiquaries and the ungrateful account that Wood gives of the elder man’s character. It is now famous: “a shiftless person, roving and magotie-headed, and sometimes little better than crased. And being exceedingly credulous, would stuff his many letters sent to A. W. with folliries and misinformations, which would sometimes guid him into the paths of errour”.

Although he was left a large estate when his father died in 1652, a series of complex financial arrangements whittled away his fortune, such that by 1670 he was dependent upon the charity of his many friends until his death by apoplexy on 7 June 1697. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen, Oxford.

The ‘Modern Antiquarian’, Julian Cope, has written an excellent article about Aubrey’s ‘re-discovery’ of Avebury.








CHAPTER I. Origin and Progress of Idolatry ……. 1
CHAPTER II. On Barrows ……. 9
CHAPTER III. Origin and Extent of Druidism ……. 16
CHAPTER IV. Silbury Hill …….. 30
CHAPTER V. On the Serpent at Abury ……. 43
CHAPTER VI. The Temples at Abury …….. 55
CHAPTER VII. Temples at Abury continued—Grand Astronomical Diagram ……. 66
CHAPTER VIII. Temples of Mercury and Venus ……. 73
CHAPTER IX. Ancient British Trackway … 83
CHAPTER X. St. Ann’s Hill—Remarks on the Feudal System …. 91
CHAPTER XI. Temples of Mars and Jupiter ……. 102
CHAPTER XII. Stonehenge ……. 110
CHAPTER XIII. Names of Stonehenge …….. 115
CHAPTER XIV. Stonehenge continued ……. 126
CHAPTER XV. On the Fosse of Stonehenge, and the Stones located on it ……. 133
CHAPTER XVI. Stonehenge the conjoint Temple of Saturn and the Sun …….. 150
CHAPTER XVII. Temple of Saturn continued ……. 164
CHAPTER XVIII. The Platonic Cycle ……. 177
CHAPTER XIX. Summary of the foregoing Arguments, and Conclusion ……. 184

THE DRUIDICAL TEMPLES OF WILTSHIRE by the Rev. E Duke. Thanks to Chance on The Modern Antiquarian for bringing this to our attention.

The Past is Another Country: an Exhibition by the Elementals Art Group. Artwork inspired by the pre-history of Wiltshire at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes from 10:00am on Saturday, 5 November 2011 until  Monday, 2 January 2012.


“The Elementals art group brings together the ideas and inspirations of six different artists under a central theme – Jenny Ford, Jan Knight, Julia Leyden, Christine Shorney, Josephine Sumner, plus guest artist Charlotte Sainsbury. The project has been as much about the process of an idea, as the finished works of art. The group studied archival maps and diagrams, artefacts in museums and photographic aerial views of the landscape – and walked and looked, and looked and walked! Rather than recreating the past they have distilled their own personal and emotional responses to the creations of the Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples of Wessex.”

More here –


March 2023

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