The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Stone Circle


The following letter from "The Proprietor of Stonehenge" appeared in the Times, of Thursday last:-

In a recent impression of the Times "A Visitor to Stonehenge" complains of the general damage done in thirty years past, and of particular damage done on the day of his visit. I believe no one of our old monuments has suffered less during the period first mentioned, and, considering the thousands who annually visit it, I think the public deserve much credit for the very little damage done.

On inquiry I find that about a fortnight ago an individual of the mechanic class brought a large sledgehammer, and, notwithstanding the remonstrances of a person who is usually at the stones holding horses, persisted in breaking the corners of two of the fallen stones. This is the only recent damage I can find, after a careful inspection. If I knew his name and place of residence, I should assuredly try what the law could do in such a case of wilful mischief; but, speaking generally, and judging from results, I believe an appeal to the public interest in such monuments and to the good feeling so generally entertained is the best preservative.

In the few cases of attempted mischief I am bound to say that the operative class are not those principally implicated. A member of the professional classes was one evening found, in the interests of science, as he asserted, endeavouring to ascertain the depth of the foundations. He apologised in the county paper, and the matter dropped.

A respectable paterfamilias, who arrived in a well-appointed barouche, was heard by a relative of mine asking for "the hammer and the chisel." On being requested to desist from the intended operation, the answer was, "And who the deuce are you, Sir?" On being told the petitioner claimed to be the proprietor of the threatened institution, he declared he had always believed it "public property."

In another instance three young men, being found on the top of two of the standing stones, stated they were about to carry off a piece of what is called the Sarsen stone for a relative of one of them, who was a distinguished archaeologist. On my writing to that gentleman, depracating a renewal of his relative's visits with such intentions, he assured me no relative of his would be guilty of such an act, adding, as a further assurance, that the act was unnecessary, as he already possessed a piece of the stone in question; he added, "given him by a friend."

I think I can re-assure the public mind as to the question, and I may surely ask those who take an interest in it, when they see attempts of the sort, to offer one of those good-natured remonstrances which will carry weight with the offender, and are sure to enlist the sympathy and assistance of the great body of bystanders.
Re-reported in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 23rd September 1871. I love the dry retelling of the anecdotes. And the final paragraph surely still holds as good advice today.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
20th December 2017ce

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