Friday, 12 February 2010

Society supports road closures at Stonehenge

The Society supports the road clsure proposed by Wiltshire Council at Stonehenge and has written to Wiltshire Council.

The Consultation is open until 15 February - full details and an online form are on the Wiltshire Council website.

The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society supports without reservation the proposed Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) prohibiting motorised vehicles, with exceptions, on part of the A344 and the Byways within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

The inscription in 1986 by UNESCO of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site indicated the necessity of closing the A344 by Stonehenge as an urgent consideration , and this has continued to be a just concern of the World Heritage Committee . The closure to motorised vehicles of the A344 is the crucial, necessary, enhancement of the immediate environment of the Stonehenge monument to re-join it to the Avenue, and, equally important, to eliminate the impact of motorised vehicles on the monuments and landscape in the central region of the World Heritage Site through which the A344 currently runs.

The equally imperative permanent TRO on the Byways within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site will not only enhance people’s appreciation of the World Heritage Site through the removal of the distraction of both moving and parked vehicles, but also minimise the ongoing damage to the archaeological remains, both scheduled monuments (e.g. SM 10317 and 10327) and the remains of other features which survive within the unploughed margins of the Byways, where current motorised vehicles have increasingly widened the traffic-worn and rutted tracks.

The Society encourages, for the same reasons and as a matter of parity, the Council to propose as soon as possible the permanent prohibition too of motorised vehicles on Byways in the Avebury part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.

Monday, 1 February 2010

WW2 lectures coming up - Salisbury Plain and Devizes

We have two fascinating lectures coming up in the next few weeks about Wiltshire at War, running alongside our Special Exhibition. Book now to make sure you have a ticket!

Book online from our website!

Silbury Hill - new find in the archive!

New information has emerged from letters written in 1776 about excavations at Silbury Hill and published for the first time in the new volume of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine.

A local hisorian tracked down two letters, written in 1776 by Edward Drax to his friend, Lord Rivers, about excavations at Silbury Hill. Edward Drax from Bath , had hired a team of miners from the Mendips to dig a shaft from the top of Silbury Hill, to the centre of the hill, 125 feet below.

The letters record that at first, the miners found little but large chalk blocks and deer antler. However, at 95 feet, some 30 feet above they expected the base of the mound to be, the miners discovered what Drax records as a 'perpendicular cavity' that was 6 inches across, and that 'we have already followed it already about 20 feet, we can plumb it about Eleven feet more'. He says that ‘something now perished must have remained in this hole to keep it open’.

These letters, preserved in the British Library, suggest that a great timber post once stood in the centre of Silbury Hill, and matches a later account that fragments of oak timber were found at the centre of the mound. The timber may have stood over 40 feet above the earliest low mound which was one of the earliest phases in the construction of Silbury Hill.

Edward Drax went on to write 'I wait with impatience ... and then I hope shall make a further Discovery'. Unfortunately, no later letter survives at the British Library.

This article is one of 11 articles published in the Magazine, which is available only to Members of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. Membership can be purchased online at Other articles include an analysis of fragments of bluestone found near Stonehenge, and new research about a Neolithic Jadeite stone axe in the collections of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.