Thursday 28 April 2016

Sherrington Round Mound

Dr Jim Leary has a great project going at the University of Reading looking at Round Mounds: which "seeks to uncover prehistoric mounds that were adapted for medieval defence or have been misidentified as later mottes – a previously unrecognized phenomenon that could re-write our understanding of both the Neolithic and Norman periods."

Such mounds as Silbury, Marlborough and Hatfield: "all three of these great Wiltshire mounds date to the second half of the third millennium cal BC, and all three mounds could be contemporary. They are also all located next to a river...Springs appear to be incorporated within and around the enclosure and even today the enclosure ditch holds water for part of the year. Clearly the low-lying nature of the topography and the brooks, streams and springs are key to understanding it."

I visited the mound at Sherrington, near Warminster in southern Wiltshire today and was struck how it looks like a small Silbury hill, an augmented end of a spur which has then been cut off with a moat.
At Sherrington the moat is filled with the clearest spring water and the mound is overgrown with trees.

It in private hands so there is no access to it, so photographs are hard to take even from the churchyard which overlooks it.

Click to enlarge

There are two very good sources to learn about Sherrington from- The Gatehouse Gazette, which has lots of links and Paul Martin Remfry (report by Sally Thomson 2013)

Sherrington Motte is seen as the Norman castle of the Giffords, but has no visible remains of masonry.   "The motte is 48m across and rises 5.5m above a 3.5m deep ditch, which widens in the east to form a water-filled moat. Vestiges of a perimeter bank on the top of the motte remain, but there is no trace of any structure. There is no evidence of an associated bailey." (Field Investigators Comments F1 MHB 17-FEB-75)

But " A ditch 110m NW of the motte was sectioned in 1972 and found to be 25 feet wide. It probably represents a bailey ditch. The enclosure map of Sherrington shows the road pattern to the south of the motte forms a D-shape enclosing the parish church, probably indicating a second bailey." The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine93, 2000 Page(s)114-5

So not the best evidenced Castle Motte, but even if it was ancient mounds can be reused, and it would be strange if they weren't. Historical documentation seems to be sparse as well.

There is not a shred of evidence that it is an ancient mound but I have a feeling it might be. I will be putting forward to Dr Jim even though it fails one of his criteria, it is only 5.5m high not 6m.

Stonehenge Plain Barrow Map

Amazing work by Simon Banton:

A map of the barrow data contained in Richard Colt Hoare's 'Tumuli Wiltunenses - a Guide to the Barrows on the Plains of Stonehenge', cross-referenced to Goddard/Grinsell barrow numbers.

Sunday 24 April 2016

Stonehenge Measurements

Richard Bartosz writes:

There is no definitive data set for Stonehenge measurements. There can never be because the various dimensions quoted come from surveyors who undertook their respective surveys in different epochs and the state of Stonehenge's construction varied greatly. Comparing, just as illustration, Petrie would have undertaken his at a time when the stones were in disarray - the lintels over uprights 29,30, 1 and 2 would have been leaning heavily outward - and current plans, however apparently accurate such as Anthony Johnson's (AJ) were prepared considerably later after a great deal of restoration.

So we can rely on AJ's plans as being perhaps the most precise available (at least publicly) in terms of post-restoration, and the high resolution offers opportunity for creating a benchmark. But, in turn, these rely on the restoration having been accurately undertaken, which however painstakingly expedited, is open to question. Equally Petrie's measurements, often used as "definitive" in many instances, actually can't be confidently accepted due to the condition of the layout at his time of survey, and he will have no doubt made assumptions and educated guesses.

As a result the door has been left open for various researchers to "adjust" dimensions to fit their own particular ideas and hypotheses. Unfortunately there is no way that any one researcher can actually be proven wrong, and the veracity of any hypothesis linked to "definitive" measurements, i.e. claimed to be the ones that were actually designed into the monument will depend on the quality of argument, supported by scientifically accepted evidence. Most hypotheses, both from academia and independent researchers fall far short of scientific rigour.

In this brief context, I have prepared a set of preliminary dimensions as in the images below. The purpose is to present dimensions, in one location, which have been scrutinised by both academia (hopefully) and independent researchers, from which existing theories can be rigorously reviewed or new hypotheses more confidently presented, whenever dimensions are involved. I've used various sources and put them together to produce a couple of high resolution plans - within practical means - from which the dimensions were determined.

At this stage I am just presenting the first set of dimensions to start the ball rolling, together with a diagram which is more or less self explanatory. I am preparing an accompanying set of notes detailing the methodology and explaining which can be taken with a finer tolerance as opposed to others which have to be treated with greater caution, or simply can't be trusted at all.

However, I will be looking initially to first reactions and comments as to which other dimensions should/might be included, to see if the plans I have will cover them, or how they might be best measured before adding to the list. It will be a work in progress over the coming months, with a view to creating that one stop answer to much of the confusion that appears to exist.


Please note that all measurements are in Imperial Feet. People will have to convert, to whichever hypothesis they are pursuing, themselves. It is not the purpose of this data set to support any particular theory - not even my own! All dimensions are rounded to four decimal places maximum.

Click to enlarge

Thanks to Richard for sharing this ongoing work with us

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Wiltshire's next Police & Crime Commissioner - Statements on Solstice Policing

The election of Wiltshire's next Police & Crime Commissioner is a contest that hasn't generated much interest yet.

The election is on 5th May and details can be found on

In an attempt to learn a bit more about the candidates and see how they responded to a specific question I thought I would ask about Solstice Policing. In reaction to some social media comments from people objecting to English Heritage's introduction of car parking charges I included a mention of this. I sent all four candidates the following email:

Sent: 17 April 2016 14:04 
Subject: Statement on Stonehenge Solstice Policing costs 
If you are elected to the position of PCC of Wiltshire what will you guidance be on the costs of policing the solstice celebrations at Stonehenge? If you could provide me a statement for publication as to the justification of the force’s expenditure and estimated size of it, it would be much appreciated. You will be aware that this year the organisers English Heritage are starting to charge for parking at the event and are now an independent charity. 
Many thanks 
Tim Daw

As of 20 April (22:00) I had only had two answers:

The first arrived very quickly from Dr Brian Mathew (Lib Dem):

Hi Tim, 
You pose an interesting question. One that I had not until now considered. I have been more concerned with the appalling burglary detection rate of Wiltshire Police, the worst in England and Wales according to Churchill insurance.
Rather than guestimate figures, which I have no real access to as a candidate, why don’t you give me your perspective, as this is clearly something you have looked into. 
I once attended a Stonehenge free festival, in I think 1984. I was appalled by the events at the 1995 ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ when festival goers were set upon by police recently militarised by the Coal strikes. It happened after I had left the UK to work on my first professional Aid project in Western Province Zambia as a water engineer assisting refugee Angolans who were fleeing the fighting in neighbouring Angola. 
In principal the idea of a festival for the solstice is for me an appealing one. If English Heritage and the National Trust could get their heads together then a properly organised festival could make money for these two excellent organisations as well as pay for the policing, and many people could have a good time. 
Best wishes
And from the next day one came from Kevin Small (Lab)

Hi Tim 
I was a County Councillor when the policing of the summer solstice was a major issue for Wiltshire police and remember a Joint Leader being advised each year of the orders that had been imposed to close certain roads to help prevent access to the stones. 
Thankfully the Stonehenge Summer Solstice is less of an issue as each year passes and there is now a far more open approach to allowing people near the stones during the summer equinox, whilst a policing presence is needed like for any large crowd event, I do not think policing levels need to be of a high nature unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. 
On your final point about car parking charges, I take it that you are referring to who should pay for the policing of this occasion? If we were in a situation of what was witness in the 1980/90's then I do think it would totally acceptable for Wiltshire Council tax Payers to foot most if not all the bill. In these more calmer times then the recharging of policing activity is one that should be considered, and maybe the football ground model maybe one that should be adopted. 
Best wishes
Kevin Small

No reply from the Conservative or UKIP candidates.

Make of that what you will..

Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2016 - Times, Dates and Prices

Access to monument field - 7pm
Sunset - 9:26pm

Sunrise - 4:52am
Monument field closes - 8am

The Solstice Car Park opens at 7pm on 20th June with last admissions at 6am (or when full, if earlier) on 21st June. The car park will close at 12 noon on 21st June.

Alcohol is not permitted in the monument field during Summer Solstice.

Admission to the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge is free of charge, however please note that parking fees in the official car park apply - cars: £15, commercial coaches and minibuses: £50,
motorcycles: £5.

Conditions of Entry
 Amplified music is not permitted in or around the monument field.
 No alcohol is allowed within the monument or the monument field. Alcohol will be
confiscated or individuals in possession of alcohol will be asked to leave.
 Drunken, disorderly and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated and anybody
considered to be behaving in this way will be asked to leave by security staff and/or
the police and will not be allowed back in.
 Illegal drugs are illegal at Stonehenge as they are anywhere else. The police will be
on site and will take action against anyone breaking the law.
 Please don’t bring any glass in to the monument field. Many people walk barefoot
and livestock and wildlife also graze in the area. Any glass items will be confiscated.
 Please do not climb or stand on any of the stones – this includes the stones that
have fallen. This is for your own safety and also to protect this special site and
respect those around you.
 Please be aware that in order to keep everybody safe, random searching may be
undertaken. Any items found that might be used in an illegal or offensive manner will
be confiscated.
 Camping equipment, fires, Chinese lanterns, fireworks, candles, tea-lights or BBQs
are not permitted at Stonehenge, in the Solstice Car Park, or anywhere in the
surrounding National Trust land.
 In the interests of safety, sleeping bags or duvets are not allowed on site. Sleeping
on the ground creates a trip hazard and can interfere with the work of emergency
services and hinder their ability to help people. Small ground sheets and blankets are
permitted for people to sit on but please do not bring chairs etc (unless used as a
recognised disability aid). Shooting-sticks are not permitted.
 To help us reduce the amount of litter on site, leafleting or flyering is not allowed.
 Drones or any type of remote-controlled flying devices are not permitted at
Stonehenge or in any of the Solstice Car Parks.

Admission to Stonehenge

• Admission to the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge is free of charge.
• There is a charge for parking – cars: £15, commercial coaches and minibuses: £50,
motorcycles: £5.
• Public transport is available from Salisbury.
• Access to the car park will start at 7pm
• Children under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Please remember that you will not be allowed access to the Monument with the following
- Alcohol
- Drugs
- Large bags or rucksacks (or similar items)
- Sleeping bags or duvets
- Flaming torches, Chinese lanterns, fireworks or candles etc.
- Dogs (with the exception of registered assistance dogs), pets or other creatures
- Camping equipment, including foldaway chairs, garden furniture, shooting-sticks
- BBQs or gas cylinders
- Glass bottles or other glass objects
- Trolleys, wheel barrows or any other form of porterage
- Pushchairs or buggies that are not exclusively used for a child
- Large “golf-style” umbrellas, gazebos
- Drones or any kind of remote control aircraft

From :

Monday 18 April 2016

Long Barrows on Cannings Down

Searching Pastscape  I have produced an aerial composite of all the Long Barrows listed with their numbers or name on the Downs above All and Bishops Cannings. Now to get the boots on.

Click to enlarge.

WKLB = West Kennet Long Barrow

Sunday 17 April 2016

Charles Darwin visits a sacred tree

Charles Darwin described a sacred tree on a vast plain venerated by the native inhabitants - in a different universe this could have been visitors to neolithic Wiltshire... 

The Voyage of the Beagle

Charles Darwin

Chapter 4 - Rio Negro to Bahia Blanca

JULY 24th, 1833. -- The Beagle sailed from Maldonado, and on August the 3rd she arrived off the mouth of the Rio Negro. This is the principal river on the whole line of coast between the Strait of Magellan and the Plata. It enters the sea about three hundred miles south of the estuary of the Plata. About fifty years ago, under the old Spanish government, a small colony was established here; and it is still the most southern position (lat. 41 degs.) on this eastern coast of America inhabited by civilized man.
The country near the mouth of the river is wretched in the extreme:....

To the northward of the Rio Negro, between it and the inhabited country near Buenos Ayres, the Spaniards have only one small settlement, recently established at Bahia Blanca. The distance in a straight line to Buenos Ayres is very nearly five hundred British miles. The wandering tribes of horse Indians, which have always occupied the greater part of this country, having of late much harassed the outlying estancias, the government at Buenos Ayres equipped some time since an army under the command of General Rosas for the purpose of exterminating them. The troops were now encamped on the banks of the Colorado; a river lying about eighty miles northward of the Rio Negro When General Rosas left Buenos Ayres he struck in a direct line across the unexplored plains: and as the country was thus pretty well cleared of Indians, he left behind him, at wide intervals, a small party of soldiers with a troop of horses (a posta), so as to be enabled to keep up a communication with the capital. As the Beagle intended to call at Bahia Blanca, I determined to proceed there by land; and ultimately I extended my plan to travel the whole way by the postas to Buenos Ayres.

August 11th. -- Mr. Harris, an Englishman residing at Patagones, a guide, and five Gauchos who were proceeding to the army on business, were my companions on the journey. The Colorado, as I have already said, is nearly eighty miles distant: and as we travelled slowly, we were two days and a half on the road. The whole line of country deserves scarcely a better name than that of a desert. Water is found only in two small wells; it is called fresh; but even at this time of the year, during the rainy season, it was quite brackish. In the summer this must be a distressing passage; for now it was sufficiently desolate. The valley of the Rio Negro, broad as it is, has merely been excavated out of the sandstone plain; for immediately above the bank on which the town stands, a level country commences, which is interrupted only by a few trifling valleys and depressions. Everywhere the landscape wears the same sterile aspect; a dry gravelly soil supports tufts of brown withered grass, and low scattered bushes, armed with thorns.

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of a famous tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar of Walleechu. It is situated on a high part of the plain; and hence is a landmark visible at a great distance. As soon as a tribe of Indians come in sight of it, they offer their adorations by loud shouts. The tree itself is low, much branched, and thorny: just above the root it has a diameter of about three feet. It stands by itself without any neighbour, and was indeed the first tree we saw; afterwards we met with a few others of the same kind, but they were far from common. Being winter the tree had no leaves, but in their place numberless threads, by which the various offerings, such as cigars, bread, meat, pieces of cloth, etc., had been suspended. Poor Indians, not having anything better, only pull a thread out of their ponchos, and fasten it to the tree. Richer Indians are accustomed to pour spirits and mate into a certain hole, and likewise to smoke upwards, thinking thus to afford all possible gratification to Walleechu. To complete the scene, the tree was surrounded by the bleached bones of horses which had been slaughtered as sacrifices. All Indians of every age and sex make their offerings; they then think that their horses will not tire, and that they themselves shall be prosperous. The Gaucho who told me this, said that in the time of peace he had witnessed this scene, and that he and others used to wait till the Indians had passed by, for the sake of stealing from Walleechu the offerings.

The Gauchos think that the Indians consider the tree as the god itself, but it seems for more probable that they regard it as the altar. The only cause which I can imagine for this choice, is its being a landmark in a dangerous passage. The Sierra de la Ventana is visible at an immense distance; and a Gaucho told me that he was once riding with an Indian a few miles to the north of the Rio Colorado when the Indian commenced making the same loud noise which is usual at the first sight of the distant tree, putting his hand to his head, and then pointing in the direction of the Sierra. Upon being asked the reason of this, the Indian said in broken Spanish, "First see the Sierra." ..

Friday 15 April 2016

The Land Trains at Stonehenge - Background to Failure

At long last English Heritage have admitted that after over a year off the road the Land Trains aren't coming back to Stonehenge:

"Over time it became clear that the land trains were unable to cope with the daily demands of a site as busy as Stonehenge and English Heritage now intends to find new homes for them at other English Heritage sites," said a EH spokeswoman....There were problems with the land trains themselves – they were sent to a vehicle depot for much of 2015 for 'refurbishment', and one of the key problems centred around their manoeuvrability at the Stonehenge end of the journey. Drivers found the area where the old visitors centre was, next to the grassed-over former A-road, was too tight for the trains. The main problem was that at peak times, despite timed ticketing being introduced, they could not cope with demand."

This misses the fundamental cause of the problems with the Stonehenge VTS – the doors were put on the "wrong" side.

The manufacturers will have built them to EH’s approval so it would be unfair to blame them.

Looking at the plans and CGI of the proposed Land Trains (below) it is obvious that the passenger doors were meant to be on the passenger side. This would have allowed the trains to drive up to the platforms and even to the now abandoned proposal of a platform at Fargo Woods. Because the doors were the "wrong" side when delivered it meant the trains couldn't turn round in the compact turning areas and also get close to the platform. More details of the plans are in the planning application S/2009/1527

Click to embiggen

Visitors when the VTS was running will remember the large gap between the carriages and the platform. English Heritage will be less keen on remembering the injuries to visitors who fell into the gap.

Because the turning circles were too small (and square rather than the more usual round shape of a circle) the carriages had to dragged round which put a lot of strain on the wheels. Tyres were being replaced every few weeks and eventually the wheel hubs started to warp, wheel nuts failed, a wheel fell off, the brakes bound on causing dangerous overheating etc. There was no way that the Drivers or VOSA (the vehicle licencing authority) were going to let them return without major modifications.

I hope the trains enjoy a useful retirement at a more spacious property, or else I have some tomato seedlings that are looking for greenhouses.

Whilst it is a shame that it has taken so long for EH to admit a failure there is nothing wrong in them having tried. If you don't make mistakes you don't make anything. Google is always scrapping projects because they don't work as well as expected and that is part of their success. But to learn from failures you must admit them, learn from them and move on. You don't learn to kick penalty goals without thousands of less than perfect shots in practice, and analysing what you can do better each time.

The land trains were known to the staff (and happy younger visitors) as the Ninky Nonk, much to the management's annoyance. In happy memory of them here is the reason why.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Unauthorised Development and a Hazard Warning at Stonehenge

In July 2015 Kate Davies, English Heritage's manager of Stonehenge ( of English Heritage put in a planning application to Wiltshire Council  (15/07038/VAR) to retrospectively vary the conditions imposed (S/2009/1527/FUL) when the New Visitor Centre at Airman's Corner was built.

As of 13 April 2016 this application has still not been approved, which as most of the variations to the conditions  have already been built means they are unauthorised development within the World Heritage Site.

The problem is that the Highway's Officer objects to the bus stop arrangements :

I object to the proposed arrangements shown on drawing 10110301-SK-154 in relation to the temporary path and hardstanding on the highway verge. This arrangement has been provided, and the application is retrospective in this regard. The hardstanding has been made in a gravel finish and presents a potential hazard for those boarding the buses which are being used to supplement the demand not catered for by the VTS facilities. I have previously drawn this issue to the attention of EH. The verge hardstanding is of insufficient length to adequately address the purpose for which it is used. It has previously been agreed with EH agents, Gardner Theobald, that the area be extended so that adequate space can be provided for up to two buses, and that a durable finish be applied. If EH want loose stone on their internal path leading to the highway, I have no objection to that.

He also comments:

I have concerns about the details shown on drg 10110301-K-DT064L; the proposals appear to provide reinforced grass finish on the alignment of the byway, which is subject to frequent vehicular traffic and potential premature failure.

I hope for the safety of visitors and staff at Stonehenge this is resolved soon.

(If links don't work search )

UPDATE: The planning application was passed on 13th May 2016 but to quote:

Note: Originally, this application was also seeking the following:

Revision to the approved Visitor Centre visitor transit system drop-off details to include bus drop-off
within A344 verge to north of the Visitor Centre shop;

Minor revision to approved layout of Kent Carriage Gap on A344 near to the Stonehenge Monument

Formation of short section of gravel path from the Visitor Centre shop to bus drop-off;

Replacement of approved grass surface path from external orientation area adjacent to the VisitorCentre to the A344 with temporary track surface;

however these proposals have been removed from the application following the receipt of consultation responses and will be added to a future planning application taking into consideration the objections received.

So the Bus drop off point and path that the returning visitors use has no planning permission and has been condemned by the Highways Officer as "a potential hazard".

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Summer Solstice Changes at Stonehenge

There are two changes that being implemented and they have little relationship to each other apart from getting people annoyed.
Firstly the car parking charge: it costs a charity money to provide it, paying to park is not unusual, even when attending a religious ceremony. It would be hard to not to have to pay if you wanted to drive and park for a service at Salisbury Cathedral. So a charge would appear to be reasonable. Is £15 reasonable? It seems a lot and will lead to a lot of people trying to avoid it. The hope is that they will get the bus but I think it is more likely they will park in Larkhill and on any roadside they can. It could be argued, and I would, that the cost to the community of such unplanned parking means that the car parking charge should be a more nominal amount or not introduced.

The second change is an alcohol ban. I have never drunk alcohol at Stonehenge and I have cleared up on my hands and knees on the morning after the solstice for the last few years as a member of staff. I have also taken my young daughter to the solstice.

It is interesting to read  Dennis Price's thoughts ( ) :

"I wandered around for hours, talking to the others who were patiently waiting to be allowed in to one of the most enigmatic and mesmerising locations on the planet and it was clear to me that everyone just wanted to have a good time, to relax and to be present at a place and time that somehow elevated the spirit and provided a tangible connection with something greater than ourselves.
These people all went on to enjoy their stimulant of choice at Stonehenge, whether it was the company of like-minded others, the cool night air, singing, poetry, live performance, the presence of the eldritch stones, alcohol or some other substance, all without in any way making others feel uncomfortable and all adding to the enjoyment of the collective experience. Unfortunately, there were some visitors who quite literally did not give a shit for the feelings or enjoyment of anyone else, and they conducted themselves accordingly.
So, I think it will be a great shame if alcohol is indeed to be banned at the Stonehenge open access events, because it will be demonstrably unfair on the overwhelming majority of people who venerate the place and the occasion, who have consideration for their fellow pilgrims and for the monument that has become the centre of their celebrations. It would be great if those who felt compelled to drink themselves into a vomiting, urinating, defecating, foul-mouthed, vandalising, shambling stupor in order to honour the achievements and beliefs of our ancestors could do this somewhere else..."

Quite. The security team members are professional and every year get better at their jobs. It is a pity there have been so many changes in the EH Solstice management team and the accumulated wisdom has been lost. Just like a well run pub it needs proper policing, the drunks and the wasted need to be ejected and the families who want to spend a summer evening and night on a blanket with a picnic and a glass or two encouraged. It is obvious that the annoying revellers aren't tanked up on alcohol but on substances beyond my knowledge.

More interestingly is how EH has portrayed the problem they want to solve, and how this year's pronouncement differs from previous reports.

7/4/2016 English Heritage said it had seen more "drunken and disrespectful behaviour" as crowds had increased each year.

Year - number of arrests - estimated crowd from contemporaneous news reports

2009 - 37 - 36,500
2010 - 34 - 20,000
2011 - 20 - 18,000
2012 - 37 - 14,500
2013 - 22 - 21,000
2014 - 25 - 37,000
2015 - 9 - 23,000

2014 - "Kate Davies, English Heritage's manager of Stonehenge (, believes all sides have come a long way since the days of the exclusion zones, describing today's event as a "peaceful celebration enjoyed by many thousands".
She puts their success down to a "close working relationship" with the druid and pagan groups as well as Wiltshire Police."

2015 "23,000 people went to Stonehenge to watch the summer solstice sunrise this morning but the General Manager of the site, Kate Davies, English Heritage's manager of Stonehenge (, says that is fewer than she was expecting. She added that the celebration was a calm and peaceful one that passed off with relatively few problems"

(this post was originally written as a comment on )

Wednesday 6 April 2016

UNESCO Astonomical Heritage Stonehenge Dossier

The web portal for UNESCO’s Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative exists to raise awareness of the importance of astronomical heritage worldwide and to facilitate efforts to identify, protect and preserve such heritage for the benefit of humankind, both now and in the future.

Serving UNESCO’s Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative, the portal aims to open pathways for co-operation between, and the sharing of knowledge among, State Parties to the World Heritage Convention, the academic community, and other individuals and organizations with a strong interest in promoting and safeguarding the planet’s most precious astronomical heritage.

It has just released a detailed dossier of the Stonehenge area Astronomical Heritage.

Just follow the link for a wealth of detail. Of course my own pet theory of an alignment of the Great Trilithon across its width, and the other associated stones, including the Altar Stone, isn't mentioned. I flatter myself in thinking that it is too recent to have been considered during the write up but take comfort from this line: "it is possible—perhaps even likely—that other astronomical alignments and sites existed within the WHP and are waiting to be discovered."