Reasons for Designation
A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for
ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
periods. Two of the best known and earliest recognised, with references in the
17th century, are around Avebury and Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a
World Heritage Site. In the Avebury area, the henge monument itself, the West
Kennet Avenue, the Sanctuary, West Kennet long barrow, Windmill Hill
causewayed enclosure and the enigmatic Silbury Hill are well-known. Whilst the
other Neolithic long barrows, the many Bronze Age round barrows and other
associated sites are less well-known, together they define one of the richest
and most varied areas of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and ritual
monuments in the country.
Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of
standing or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by
earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Stone circles are
found throughout England although they are concentrated in western areas, with
particular clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south
west and the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north west. Where
excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle
Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and laid out
carefully, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the heights of
which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand
the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but it is clear
that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies that used
them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus
for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead. Some
circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of
time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to
mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or
midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the
landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal
gathering point for a specific social group.
Only 250 or so stone circles of all sizes have been identified in England and
as a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric
ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.
`Falkner's Circle' is situated close to the West Kennet Avenue, between the
Avebury henge and stone circle monuments and the `Sanctuary' on Overton Hill.
The surviving stone represents the only surviving portion of the original
circle and provides a focal point against which the documentary material
provided by Falkner, Stukeley and others can be understood. In addition,
there is a possibility that some of the other elements of the circle will
survive below ground despite years of cultivation; further discoveries in the
vicinity might justify an extension of the protected monument at a future
The monument includes a single standing sarsen stone situated 180m east of the
West Kennet Avenue, south east of the Avebury henge monument, forming the
only visible remains of what was once a stone circle. Although the presence
of the stone circle is recorded on early plans, it cannot be accurately
located and therefore only the visible remains are currently recommended for
scheduling. The stone survives within a hedgeline while the surrounding area
has been cleared of stones and levelled by cultivation. The stone measures 1m
across and stands c.1.2m high. Fragments of sarsen stones scattered along the
hedgeline are probably the remains of other stones which originally formed
part of the circle.
The monument was described by Falkner in 1840 and there is also a plan drawn
by W Long which shows that this stone was originally part of a circle of at
least 12 stones with a diameter of c.37m. Falkner lists, in addition to the
surviving stone, two recumbent stones and nine holes from which stones had
been extracted. The area between and around these stones was flat in 1840 and
there was no surface indication of a ditch or bank being present.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.