thinking about archaeology

Archive for September, 2009

Where Digging Deeper leads…


… the Architects’ Journal and Building Design follow. Sort of. While I reported that Denton Corker Marshall’s proposal for the new Stonehenge visitor centre was “difficult to fault… within the severe limitations of the commission”, the pros tell of a less (more…)

Do you have ancestors who went to Patagonia?

Routledge Patagonia

Looking at some evocative photos of the Patagonian coast (I seem to know a lot of people who’ve recently been out there), I was reminded of a boat that went through the Straits of Magellan in 1913. This was the auxiliary schooner Mana, registered in Whitstable in 1912, captained by William Scoresby Routledge, stewarded by his wife Katherine Routledge (nee Pease) and crewed by a curious collection of seamen, fishermen, scientists and the odd Royal (more…)

LXXIX and a bit miles from London

Amesbury estate map c1800

Dave Field, an archaeologist who works at English Heritage, has sent me a photo of a fascinating map of the Amesbury estate (I’ve copied a detail above) which adds to the Stonehenge milestone story. He says the map is undated, but he guesses was drawn around 1800.

As he points out, it shows milestone 79 on (more…)

The old new Stonehenge visitor centre


And while we’re on the subject, somewhat bizarrely Barrie Marshall’s designs for the eastern Stonehenge visitor centre that is not to be (above), appear to be touring in an exhibition called Museums in the 21st Century: Concepts Projects Buildings – as one of “27 of the world’s leading museum building projects realized since the turn of the century”. Or not realized.

But if you happen to be in Edmonton next week (as I write), you can see the show, (more…)

LXXX miles from London

Stonehenge milestone1

Did you know there’s an old milestone at Stonehenge? It was once on the other side of the road from where it now stands, close to the Heelstone (above). Before that it had been sited a quarter of a mile away, but at some time between 1810 and 1877 it was moved to Stonehenge – as all the milestones on that bit of road were nudged westwards the same way.

This is the sort of Stonehenge trivia I enjoy. It doesn’t help us know anything about why Stonehenge is there or the people who built it, or solve any of life’s great problems. But like a little detail of family or local history that can be so important to some, and mean almost nothing to most, for me it helps colour the bigger picture that is Stonehenge down the centuries, whose entirety has been with me on and off for so long (like, to take a few random musical examples, the Beatles, Bach and Kurt Weill). And I know there are a few out there who share that sort of fascination with Stonehenge.

Enough rambling. Where this comes from is that at the Stonehenge panel meeting I mentioned in my last post, there was a reference to a milestone at Airman’s Corner that will have to be moved if the proposals go ahead. It’s a metal one, so not part of the Heelstone set, but it reminded me of that, and when I mentioned it I discovered noone there knew the story of the Stonehenge milestone. So here it is (or part of it). I might occasionally continue to add Stonehenge trivia in this way: when you spend as much time as I and a few colleagues do around Stonehenge, you pick up a lot of little tidbits that others might like to learn about and that might be worth recording.

So what happened, is that in 1983, when I was curator at the Alexander Keiller museum in Avebury, I was asked to watch the milestone being moved from beside the Heelstone across to the other side of the road (people were using it to help them climb over the wire fence into the stones – this was two years before the infamous Battle of the Beanfield). Here are copies of the memo to me making that request, and my one page typed report on what I found out. My original report will be in English Heritage files somewhere, but this is the first time it’s been published!

Stonehenge is not just a ring of megaliths, it’s a universe of stories.

two inscriptions

two inscriptions

lifting away

lifting away

placing across the road

placing across the road

bedding in

bedding in

Stonehenge mstone1

Stonehenge mstone2

The new new Stonehenge visitor centre

Airman’s Cross as seen walking back from Stonehenge early on a June solstice morning in 2006. The proposed coach park would be behind the trees on the right, with car park and visitor facilities in the field in front

Airman’s Cross as seen walking back from Stonehenge early on a June solstice morning in 2006. The proposed coach park would be behind the trees on the right, with car park and visitor facilities in the field in front

Last week I went down to Amesbury (the town closest to Stonehenge) for the English Heritage panel that meets occasionally to discuss the information and ideas that will be presented to visitors in the new Stonehenge arrangements – whatever, and still, even, if, they might be. This was the first time I had seen Denton Corker Marshall’s architectural concept for (more…)

William Golding

Golding house

I started dipping into John Carey’s new biography of William Golding yesterday. Lord of the Flies – Giles Cooper’s radio dramatisation, Peter Brook’s film and the book itself, which I was given to read by an inspired English teacher when I was the same age as the boys it features – played a big part in my childhood education. I loved it, and as with Orwell’s Animal Farm, read the book several times over.

So there was a little bit of coming home when some years ago I came to live in the town where Golding grew up, and now regularly walk with my young daughter past the blue plaque put on his family’s house (left end of row in the photo above) by Marlborough town council. Carey’s book seems to be that of a literary critic (which of (more…)