No spin at Stonehenge in 1920

Here are two more press cuttings, reporting the start of excavations and restorations at Stonehenge directed by William Hawley in 1919 and 1920. A lot happened in those first few months of what became a project lasting years: stones 6 and 7 in the outer circle were set in concrete, after their pits had been excavated, and their lintel was secured with lead seals; the Aubrey Holes were discovered; sections of the ditch were excavated; and the new-found origin of bluestones in Pembrokeshire was announced after petrographer HH Thomas had examined pieces of stone from the digs.

Today academic and peer-reviewed publication of Stonehenge work follows press spin and reporting. In the 20s, however, it was quite different. The first article here (from the Salisbury Times, April 1920) describes in plain terms what the journalist saw when he or she visited the site. The second (February 1921) describes what had been found. It is essentially a précis of Hawley’s first report in the Antiquaries Journal; the photos above come from that report (Vol 1, 1921, pp19–41). It had previously been delivered as a lecture to the Society of Antiquaries in London in 1920, and it was then, in the discussion after Hawley’s talk, that Thomas had announced his discovery that most of the bluestones came from “the Prescelly Mountains of Pembrokeshire”. It would be hard to keep something like that out of the press today until after it had appeared in a peer-reviewed archaeological journal.

January 2014: adding photo for Rupert Hawley (see comment below).

Hawley 1919

William Hawley (third from right seated on stone) with Office of Works men in 1919 during early restoration work. They are gathered around the long-fallen fragments of stone 9. Behind them is the leaning stone 7, which has been clad in pitch-pine timbers ready for straightening; the lintel that joined this to stone 6 has been lifted off with the aid of the winch partly visible behind Hawley.

Like his predecessor and pioneering Stonehenge excavator William Gowland, Hawley was distinguished by a fine moustache!




5 thoughts on “No spin at Stonehenge in 1920

  1. hello Mike – great to see those photos of the stones being moved. William Hawley is my great grandfather – do you know if one of the men on the stones in the first picture is him? With thanks and best wishes, Rupert Hawley

    1. A grandad to be proud of! He’s not in those shots, so I’ve added one that does show him. Does your family have memories or records of his archaeological activities? There’s much we’d like to know about his Stonehenge work.

  2. My grandfather, William Harris, is in the group photo (seated on far right). During the the Great War 1914-18 he served with the Royal Engineers. Before and after that time he was with the Office of Works, Ancient Monuments division, He was at Egglestone Abbey when my father was born in 1927. I believe it was his brother-in-law, Arthur Trowbridge (Superintendent of Caernarfon Castle), who took many of the photos. This is mentioned in Sir William Hawley’s diaries: “Wednesday, 14th January, 1920… Mr. Trowbridge took 3 photographs: (1) a group of us all, (2) showing post holes and (3) west side of stone showing rise of chalk.”

    I first saw this photograph in your book on Stonehenge (Hengeworld: Life in Britain 2000 BC as revealed by the latest discoveries at Stonehenge, Avebury and Stanton Drew.). Wessex Archaeology in Salisbury were able to supply a good print, and they subsequently provided my father with photostats of some of the diary entries.

    My thanks to you for helping us on the way with this research.

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