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The magic of Avebury Stone Circle: Ancient British monument
Avebury is a small and picturesque village that sits right in the middle of an ancient stone circle in the county of Wiltshire, England. The circle, which has a circumference of around one mile, is the largest of its kind in England, making this a very striking and impressive site of great historical significance.
History and structure
It is thought that the henge was first constructed at around 3000 BC, with the first stones being erected about 500 years later. The site was largely destroyed by the church in the middle ages, when Christians tried to stamp out the pagan influence of the site, and it had laid to waste during the last few hundred years.Thankfully the circle was partially resurrected in the 1930s by archaeologist Alexander Keiller, who bought the site and lived in the manor there. He restored many of the stones that had been pushed over and buried. Old drawings from the 18th Century were very helpful in the restoration of the site. Unfortunately many of the stones had been broken up and used in local buildings at a time when the history and importance of this site was unrecognised, but enough have been put back in place to see what it must once have been like.
An aerial view of the site shows the outer bank and ditch, built from the underlying chalk; inside this is the outer circle of large standing stones, there were originally 101 stones which ranged in size from 10 to 100 tonnes. In the middle of the circle are the remains of two smaller circles, and there was also a tall obelisk at the centre of one of these, but this has now disappeared. Outside the circle there are two "avenues" of standing stones, one of which, West Kennet Avenue, leads southwards for around a mile and a half towards the remains of another circle known as The Sanctuary.
This whole structure probably took hundreds of years to build originally, and must have been of huge religious and symbolic significance. Sadly it's story has been lost in the mists of time, and we can now only speculate as to its original meaning and use. It may have been used to perform fertility rites, to worship the sun or mark the passing of the seasons. Whatever it was for, today it still feels like a truly magical place, and you cannot help feeling a sense of something magnificent and yet peaceful when you walk around the circle.
Location of Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire. Zoom in for a closer look.
Other places of interest in and around Avebury
St James' Church in Avebury dates back to the 10th Century, with later additions, and has a lovely old carved Saxon font from around the 8th or 9th Century. There is a fine example of a Norman archway over the main door, and many other fascinating old features.
Avebury Manor is part of the site owned by the National Trust, and has recently featured in a BBC tv programme called "To the Manor Reborn", which charts the restoration of this beautiful old English manor house to its former glory. It is open to the public alongside the National Trust's museums that are dedicated to the stone circle. (NB: although the stone circle and village are free to wander around, the National Trust car park is quite expensive, and the Museums and Manor House charge an entry fee.)
Other nearby ancient monuments include Silbury Hill, West Kennet Longbarrow, Windmill Hill and Stonehenge.
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