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The magic of Avebury Stone Circle: Ancient British monument

Updated on December 29, 2012

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.

Avebury stone circle
Avebury stone circle | Source
Aerial view, screenshot from Google maps
Aerial view, screenshot from Google maps | Source
One of the huge standing stones at Avebury
One of the huge standing stones at Avebury | Source

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.

View of Avebury stone circle, showing part of the surrounding ditch
View of Avebury stone circle, showing part of the surrounding ditch | Source

Location map

A
Avebury, UK:
Avebury, Wiltshire SN8, UK

get directions

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.


Comments

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    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Yes, Avebury is a magical place! I love to visit. Standing stones ~ at Avebury and elsewhere ~ are truly intriguing.

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      6 years ago from Southwest England

      Hi tony - I have some roots near there too, and it is a fascinating area. thank you for your comment,

      all the best, Imogen

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      6 years ago from Yorkshire

      Imogen,

      I like the way you have used a map and photographs to help set the scene. I have always been fascinated with stone circles and I find them a link to our forefathers. One time I was tracing my family roots who were from Wiltshire, I went to see this circle. I've even hubbed a fictiouscious dream I had there. I may actually make it into an ebook.

      voted up and buttons too.

      regards Tony

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      6 years ago from Southwest England

      It is well worth a visit, Nell. I hope you manage to get there one day - it's less than 2 hours drive from Bournemouth, so would make a good day out if you're near there.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi Imogen, I keep meaning to come down to Avebury as I tend to go on holiday in your neck of the woods so to speak! Usually Bournemouth, or Clovelly. so one of these days I will get there, its a fascinating place, and the hub was really interesting, thanks nell

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      6 years ago from Southwest England

      Lucky you, Kerry - I live in Dorset, but love to visit Avebury as often as I can.

      Gloshei and mecheshier, thanks for your comments, glad you found it interesting.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 

      6 years ago

      A great HUB.... Wonderful pics and read

    • Gloshei profile image

      Gloria 

      6 years ago from France

      Another great hub Imogen, it's making me feel homesick, I love History and Stonehenge facinates me but spooks a bit as well.

      Voted up and interesting,

    • profile image

      Kerry McKenna 

      6 years ago

      I live here and its magical. I paint the stones onto Welsh slate which is as old as the stones themselves.....

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      6 years ago from Southwest England

      Thanks for your nice comment Dave. I think the first settlers in the village were Saxon, from around the 8th or 9th Century, but until this time the circle and stone formations were a site that people visited for whatever they did there. As for what was there before the circle - who knows?

      Karen, yes it does have a great air of mystery - I love it! I think it must be the shear age of the place, and all that long forgotten history, it is quite awe-inspiring.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 

      6 years ago from Georgia

      This type of thing really freaks me out, as does Stonehenge. I can't tell you why...its just too mysterious. Great hub though. Voted up and interesting.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 

      6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      IMOF: Great hub, beautiful photographs. The historical aspects of England have always fascinated me. How old is Avebury town? Was something there before? Always questions...but that is what history asks of me... ds

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