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!



6 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.

  3. Apparently, you sincerely need to maintain faith in the authenticity of Stonehenge. I understand everything, so i will not insist.

    But for those who are interested in revising the ideas about the past imposed by British armed forces, i will provide this information:

    – First photos of this “reconstruction” on the empty field:

    – The first military exercise was held in the Stonehenge area 121 years ago.

    – From that time until World War II, the Ministry of Defence had been buying up large tracts of land in the area

    – Currently, the Ministry of Defense owns 390 (!) in the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge, some of which are permanently closed, while others have very limited access. (By Wikimapia, the border of the nearest military base is one and a half kilometers from these stones to the north, and the military runway is 5 kilometers to the south-east).

    – In the past, a railway line and an airfield were built in the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge, both of which were subsequently dismantled (there are other sources that the military airfield was much closer, just one mile from Stonehenge)

    – In 1943 the village of Imber (15 km from Stonehenge) and the village of Par Hinton were evicted. The article about Imber states that to this day the village is still under the control of the military

    – 2 km north of Stonehenge is the Royal Artillery School, which carries out real shooting 340 (!) days a year

    – Behind the military airfield, 9 km southeast, there is the Defence Laboratory of Science and Technology, the work of which is mainly classified.

    – There is a military airbase and helicopter airport of combat Apache, 17 km west of Stonehenge.

    – There is no agricultural activity in the area of Stonehenge because of the danger of running into unexploded ordnance, which has accumulated over the last century. Because of this, the green meadows around Stonehenge have acquired scientific value (Site of Special Scientific Interest) as they represent the last natural lawns in England, and possibly throughout Europe.

    – Or look to this old photos (probably later fakes):

    (Megalith hesitates in the ground, sometimes he leans over)

    After all, this object is the foundation of the ancient Anglo-Saxon history of Britain. You can’t just take and stop believing in it.

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