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

Alton Priors

Christianised Site


Visited 14.6.14

In the village of Alton Priors. Due south of Avebury.

Ever since my previous visit, when I didn’t get to lift the trap doors to see the sarsens, I had been itching to come back At last, today was the day.

Karen stayed in the car while myself, Sophie and Dafydd walked through the wooden turnstile (yes, it’s still there!) and across the field to the church. At first I feared we had had a wasted journey as the church doors were closed but it was relief to find they were closed but not locked. Earlier in the day I had visited the church in Tockenham (to see the Roman sculpture embedded in the wall) but that church was locked – not a problem as the sculpture is on the outside. A sign on the door said that the church is open during daylight hours from May to September and access can be had via a local key holder between October and April.

Unlike my last visit, this time the church was empty. I looked to my right and saw the first of the two trap doors – it is approximately 1m x 0.5m. The organ which stood on top of the trap door last time I visited had been moved over to a small recess. The handle to lift the door was broken but I was able to put a finger in a ventilation hole and prise the door open. There below me was a stone about the same size as the trap door, broken in two, with a hole drilled into one end.

The second trap door is near the step leading to the altar. This one is the larger of the two. Approximately 1m x 1m. The little brass handle made this a lot easier to open. Upon lifting the door the whole of the space is filled by the sarsen stone. Dafydd quickly jumped down onto the stone but Sophie wasn’t keen and wanted the trap door closed. I assume she was afraid of what may come up out of it!

I picked up a leaflet issued by the Church Conservation Trust which gave a detailed history and contents of the church but strangely makes no mention of the trap doors and sarsen stones. Perhaps the church is embarrassed of its origins?

As far as I know this is the only church that has trap doors in order to be able to see the stones. Top marks to the person who was thoughtful enough to put them in when laying the floor. This is an excellent place to visit and well worth the detour when visit Avebury. From the church you get a good view of the white horse and Adam’s Grave.

I am surprised more people don’t visit intriguing place.
Posted by CARL
18th June 2014ce

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