Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Avebury Part Two
It doesn't take long to drive from West Kennet to the village of Avebury. As I approached it I saw, to my horror, signs to the National Trust car park! I hadn't realised that the NT own Avebury as well as Stonehenge. I parked and walked the short distance to the village and, sure enough, the NT have begun their atmosphere removal job on the Circle. At least you can still walk round the circle and touch the stones but it is fenced off into four quarters with little gates to get into the fields. There is a road running through the middle of the Circle and two lanes, one to the left and one to the right of the main road so this naturally divides the Circle into four quarters. The fencing is comparatively recent though, I was talking to a couple who had been to Avebury about 20 years ago and it was all open then. At least it isn't as bad as Stonehenge which is totally fenced off now and can only be seen from the edges. You have probably gathered from a couple of my posts that I am not over fond of the NT even though I'm a member:) I fully support the original aims of the NT to acquire and preserve important historic buildings and areas of great natural beauty, but I'm afraid that I don't care for the way it is run these days. However that is beside the point so on to more interesting things. The photo above is of the Barber's Stone which has a sad story attached to it. The stone circle dates back to around 3000BC when building began, though it's completion took over 500 years to achieve. It stood there until the mid 13th century when the Church took a hand and decided it must be destroyed. Over a period of years the stones were toppled one by one and buried in pits until disaster (or retribution!) struck. While one of the stones was being toppled into the hole that had been dug for it one of the workers
was crushed beneath it as it fell. There was no way of lifting the stone again and it would have been pointless anyway so he remained in the grave he had unwittingly helped to dig for himself. His skeleton was discovered 600 years later when Alexander Keiller was locating and restoring the stones to their original places. The skeleton had with it a pair of scissors, an iron probe and three silver coins indicating that the man had probably been a travelling barber surgeon and since then this particular stone has been known as The Barber's Stone. Oddly enough no more stones were toppled after this........
Alexander Keiller located and re-erected the stones in the 1930s using his personal fortune to fund the project. The concrete markers in the photograph were put in where the original stones couldn't be located. The restoration was never completed due to the advent of WW2 and Keiller's money running out.
This is the Diamond Stone, it is one of the North gateway stones and has remained in its original position for around 4500 years escaping the vandalism of the Church in the 13th century unlike the majority of the other stones. Legend has it that at midnight it crosses the road in search of its missing partner. It is also said to spin through 360 degrees on its axis at the stroke of midnight.
I took this photograph to try and give an idea of the huge ditch that was dug. It is a phenomenal achievement, a mile in circumference and originally 30 feet deep and it was dug using tools made of antlers and bone!! The loosened chalk was put in wicker baskets and used to form the banks. It's been estimated FOUR MILLION cubic feet of chalk was moved using these methods. Then they brought those huge stones to the site and erected them solidly enough to be still standing (given chance!) 4500 years later. I find that just mind blowing - how anyone can consider these people primitive astounds me, they were immensely skilled engineers among other things.
This quarter was closed off for conservation work so I had to teeter along a narrow bank at the side of the road to get the photograph of these two stones which formed the South gateway. The one on the right is known as The Devil's Chair. One side, which I couldn't see or get to, forms a natural seat. Apparently you can summon the Devil by running round the stone 100 times in an anti-clockwise direction!
The Red Lion pub which stands at the crossroads inside the stone circle. It has, I gather, a splendid selection of ghosts!
This is getting rather long so I think there had better be an Avebury - Part 3!