Stonehenge, the Avenue, and three barrows adjacent to the Avenue forming part of a round barrow cemetery on Countess Farm
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Sep-2021 at 19:20:07.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SU 13083 42544, SU 14057 41825, SU 14173 41481
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 Bronze Age periods.
Two of the best known and the earliest recognised areas are around Avebury and
Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a World Heritage Site.
The area of chalk downland which surrounds Stonehenge contains one of the
densest and most varied groups of Neolithic and Bronze Age field monuments in
Britain. Included within the area are Stonehenge itself, the Stonehenge
cursus, the Durrington Walls henge, and a variety of burial monuments, many
grouped into cemeteries.
The area has been the subject of archaeological research since the 18th century when Stukeley recorded many of the monuments and partially excavated a number of the burial mounds. More recently, the collection of artefacts from the surfaces of ploughed fields has supplemented the evidence for ritual and burial by revealing the intensity of contemporary settlement and land-use. In view of the importance of the area, all ceremonial and sepulchral monuments of this period which retain significant archaeological remains are identified as nationally important.
Stonehenge and the Avenue constitute a ceremonial monument of great fame and rarity. Stonehenge itself has been shown by partial excavation and detailed recording to contain unique evidence of ceremonial activity and architectural prowess unparalleled on contemporary monuments in the rest of England. Archaeological excavation has played a significant role in unravelling the complex history of the monument, and recent geophysical survey has indicated that the Avenue contains buried remains which will contribute towards a fuller understanding of the monument.
The alignment of various features of the complex, allegedly relating to astronomical observations, continues to provoke a lively debate on the role of the monument and the nature of the ceremonies with which it was associated. In spite of levelling by cultivation the three bowl barrows on Countess Farm will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. Since the cemetery of which they form a part is bisected by the Avenue, the date of the latter may be clarified by evidence contained within the barrow mounds and ditches.
The monument, which falls into three areas, includes Stonehenge, the Avenue,
and three bowl barrows forming part of a linear round barrow cemetery which is
bisected by the Avenue 1500m east of Stonehenge on Countess Farm. Stonehenge
is located towards the western edge of a natural amphitheatre some 2km in
diameter. This area is bounded in the west by the high plateau forming
Stonehenge Down, on the north by an east-west ridge on which is located the
western sector of the Cursus and its associated round barrow cemetery, on the
east by a north-south ridge on which are sited the barrow cemeteries of New
King Barrows and Old King Barrows and the Coneybury henge monument, and on the
south by an east-west ridge on which is located the Normanton Down round
Stonehenge has a series of features, contained within a circular earthwork enclosure, which have been added to the monument or modified in layout over a period of about twelve hundred years (c.2450 BC to c.1250 BC) The outermost and earliest element is a circular bank c.6m wide and a maximum of 0.6m high, surrounded by a ditch c.7m wide and a maximum of 2m deep. There are slight traces of an outer bank c.2m wide surrounding the ditch on the northern and eastern sides, giving an overall diameter of 115m. The ditch possesses two original entrance gaps or causeways, one at the south of the enclosure 4.5m wide and the other in the north east sector 10m wide forming the entrance from the Avenue. There are corresponding gaps in the bank at these points. Excavations in the area of the north east entrance have revealed a series of postholes between the ditch terminals and two pits which once held stone uprights in the gap in the bank. These uprights will have formed a formal entrance to the original monument prior to the construction of the Avenue; the Slaughter Stone, a horizontal sarsen stone 6.4m long and 2.1m wide located on the southern side of the entrance gap, has been interpreted as a survivor of the pair of uprights.
Immediately within the inner margin of the bank are a series of 56 roughly circular pits arranged at intervals of c.5m in a circle 88m in diameter. The pits are known as `Aubrey Holes', after the 17th century antiquary who discovered them. Thirty four have been excavated and are marked on the ground by patches of concrete; the others are difficult to identify but their location has been established by probing. Excavation of these pits revealed that 25 of the 34 contained cremations, some accompanied by long bone pins and flint fabricators. A further 26 cremations have been found within the bank and within and under the ditch silt. This Neolithic cremation cemetery is located mainly in the eastern Aubrey Holes and corresponding section of ditch and outer bank.
Set among these outermost features is a series of two sarsen stones and two earthworks which are believed to represent significant locations in the ceremonial function of the original monument. The two sarsens known as `Station Stones', are located on the line of the Aubrey Holes within the north west and south east sectors of the monument. The south east stone, some 2.7m in length, lies against the inner face of the bank, but according to an 18th century record was at that date much less inclined. The north west stone is upright but shorter, some 1.2m high.
The two earthworks, also on the line of the Aubrey Holes and within the north west and south east sectors, are roughly circular and known as `North Barrow' and `South Barrow' respectively. North Barrow is a circular area c.10m in diameter containing a slight central mound, surrounded by a ditch 2.5m wide and a bank 2.5m wide, giving an overall diameter of c.20m. The feature is now difficult to identify on the ground, but partial excavation in the early 20th century revealed that it contains a large stone-hole. South Barrow which is located diametrically opposite, consists of a flat area c.8m in diameter surrounded by a shallow ditch c.2.5m wide and 0.3m deep. There is evidence from an 18th century record that it contains a stone-hole, and this has been verified by probing.
At the centre of the enclosed area are the remains of a series of megalithic stone settings, composed of sarsens and `bluestones'. The former are thought to have been transported from the Marlborough Downs, the latter from the Preseli Mountains in SW Wales. All the settings have an axis of symmetry which is centred on the bank and ditch enclosure and is aligned south west-north east to accord with the north east entrance and the first section of the Avenue. The settings are largely represented by uprights, but partial excavation has provided information on the sequence and complete plan of each phase by locating stone-holes no longer in use which survive as buried features. A number of these stone-holes have a ramped profile which facilitated erection of the stones.
The outermost setting consists of 17 sarsen uprights averaging 4.1m in height, the remains of 30 which formed a complete circle of uprights linked by horizontal sarsen lintels. Six lintels survive in their original position, fixed in place by mortice-and-tenon and tongue-and-groove features. Another eight sarsens scattered around the circle are interpreted as members of the original setting, which is 30m in diameter.
Within the outer sarsen circle is a circular setting of bluestones, 11 of which survive as uprights standing to a maximum height of c.2.5m; another 17 are present as fallen stones or stumps at or below ground level. The rest of the circle is known from excavations to be represented by buried stone-holes, giving a total for the setting of about 60. Two of the stones in this setting were carved to form lintels in a trilithon but have been set up as pillars. Within the sarsen and bluestone circles are two further settings, each of horseshoe shape. The outermost consists of three sarsen trilithons each formed from two uprights and a lintel, and two uprights together with fallen stones representing the remains of two further trilithons. The tallest upright stands to a height of 7m. Measurement of the stones indicates that the height of the five trilithons was graded, with the tallest at the centre or curve of the horseshoe. Within the sarsen horseshoe setting is a similar setting of bluestones. Of an original horseshoe-shaped array of 19 uprights, six survive as uprights, three are present as stumps and two are represented by fallen bluestones, one broken into two pieces. All were carefully carved, two terminating in tenons indicating that the uprights originally carried lintels.
Near the centre of Stonehenge is a large recumbent sandstone block known as the Altar Stone, some 4.9m long by 1m wide and 0.53m deep, embedded in the earth so that its top is level with the surface. Two fallen members of the central sarsen trilithon now lie across it.
In addition to the architectural features, carvings denoting axes and daggers of Early Bronze Age type have been found on three of the sarsens. Carvings on three other sarsens may be of the same date.
In addition to the visible stone settings, four further settings have been revealed by partial excavation. In the space between the circular enclosure bank and the outer sarsen setting two circles of stone-holes survive as buried features. These settings have diameters of 38m and 45m. The excavations indicate that they were never used to carry uprights. Just within the sarsen circle the stone-holes of a double circle c.25m in diameter survive as buried features, apparently utilised for a bluestone setting which was subsequently removed. A further setting has been located within the sarsen horseshoe. This consists of an oval arrangement of bluestones some 12m by 16m, rearranged shortly after erection to fashion the bluestone stuctures which are visible today.
Three inhumations have been located within the monument, two coming to light during the course of partial excavation in the early 20th century. Neither is dated. The third, found in 1978 during an investigation of the Stonehenge ditch, was a crouched inhumation, accompanied by a stone wrist-guard and flint arrowheads, placed in a grave dug into the upper silt of the ditch.
Integral with Stonehenge is the Avenue, a linear feature providing a formal approach to Stonehenge and linking it with the River Avon at West Amesbury. The Avenue consists of parallel banks c.6m wide and 0.2m high enclosing a corridor c.12m wide. The banks are flanked by an outer ditch c.3m wide and 0.2m deep. The Avenue varies slightly in overall width, with an average of c.30m, as do the widths of the bank and ditch. From its junction with the north east entrance to Stonehenge, the Avenue is constructed to maintain the axis of the monument for a distance of 560m in a north east direction. On the west side of Stonehenge Bottom it turns to run WSW-ESE for a distance of 760m towards King Barrow Ridge, from which point it curves gradually towards the south east for a distance of 500m, running in a straight line again for the final 900m to the bank of the River Avon. The monument is visible as a slight earthwork for the first 1000m to the centre of Stonehenge Bottom, and from that point is difficult to identify on the ground but is visible on aerial photographs.
Partial excavations in 1973 established its position immediately to the north of West Amesbury House, and a measured survey south of the house in 1987 located the banks of the Avenue preserved within an area of post-medieval garden earthworks, and running to within 20m of the the River Avon. The overall width of the Avenue at this point is c.42m. Partial excavations near Stonehenge on the north side of the A344 produced from the ditches bluestone chips and an antler pick which yielded a radiocarbon date of c.1730 BC. Worked flint and pieces of antler were found in the excavation at West Amesbury. Within the Avenue at a distance of 24m from the entrance to Stonehenge is the Heel Stone, a sarsen block standing 4.9m high and inclined distinctly towards the centre of Stonehenge. The stone is surrounded by a ditch 12m in diameter and 2m wide, partly visible as a slight earthwork. Partial excavation in 1979 revealed the presence of a stone-hole 2m to the north west of the Heel Stone, and geophysical survey along a 240m length of the Avenue north of the A344 in 1979-80 suggested possible positions of further stone-holes.
Some 1500m east of Stonehenge on Countess Farm, the Avenue passes through a gap in an east-west line of six round barrows forming a round barrow cemetery. The three barrows east of the Avenue are too distant to be included in this monument and are the subject of a separate scheduling. This monument includes the three barrows forming the western half of the cemetery. All three barrows have been levelled by cultivation and are difficult to identify on the ground. The ditches which surround them, from which material was quarried during their construction, are visible on aerial photographs, from which their overall diameters are known to range from 30m to 45m. The central barrow of the three was partially excavated in 1924 when an empty central pit was found. The Avenue exhibits a narrowing and a distinct change in alignment at the point where it passes through the cemetery, indicating that the cemetery pre-dates the Avenue.
All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these features is included. The tarmacked surface of the visitor track which crosses the western part of Stonehenge is excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included. The surfaces of the A344 and the Wilsford Road in West Amesbury are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included. The track forming the northern boundary of West Amesbury is included in the scheduling. The parcel of land to the north west of West Amesbury House, through which part of the Avenue passes, was the subject of total excavation in 1973 and is therefore excluded from the scheduling.
Evidence of the existence of two bowl barrows immediately east and north east of Stonehenge has been examined but rejected.
MAP EXTRACT 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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Atkinson, R J C, Stonehenge, (1979), 67
Atkinson, R J C, Stonehenge, (1979), -
Atkinson, R J C, Evans, J G, Recent Excavations at Stonehenge, (1978), 235-6
Chippindale, C, Stonehenge Compleat, (1983)
Grinsell, LV, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume V, (1957), 152
Grinsell, LV, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume V, (1957), 27-28
Hoare, R C, Ancient History of Wiltshire, (1812), 128-153
RCHME, , Stonehenge and its Environs, (1979), 11-13
RCHME, , Stonehenge and its Environs, (1979), 8-11
Richards, JC, Stonehenge, (1991)
Richards, J C, The Stonehenge Environs Project, (1990)
Stukeley, W, Stonehenge, a Temple Restored to the British Druids, (1740)
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, , Vol. 49, (1958), 238
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, , Vol. 49, (1942), 238
'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in On The Road To Stonehenge, , Vol. 48, (1982), 75-132
Atkinson, R J C, Piggott, S, 'Antiquity' in Recent Work at Stonehenge, , Vol. 28, (1954), 221-224
Clay, R C C, 'Antiquity' in Stonehenge Avenue, , Vol. 1, (1927), 342-4
Crawford, O G S, 'Antiquaries Journal' in The Stonehenge Avenue, , Vol. 4, (1924), 57-59
Cunnington, H, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Stonehenge Notes - the Fragments, , Vol. 21, (1884), 141-149
Gowland, W, 'Archaeologia' in Recent Excavations at Stonehenge, , Vol. 58, (1902), 37-118
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Fourth Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge, , Vol. 4, (1924), 30-39
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Second Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge, , Vol. 2, (1922), 36-51
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during 1924, , Vol. 6, (1926), 1-25
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during 1925 and 1926, , Vol. 8, (1928), 149-176
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in The Excavations at Stonehenge, , Vol. 1, (1921), 19-39
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during 1923, , Vol. 5, (1925), 21-50
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Third Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge, (1923), 19-20
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Third Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge, (1923), 13-20
Long, W, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Stonehenge and its Barrows, , Vol. 16, (1876), 1-241
Newall, R S, 'Antiquity' in Stonehenge, , Vol. 3, (1929), 75-88
Pitts, M W, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in On the road to Stonehenge, , Vol. 48, (1982), 75-132
Smith, G, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Excavations of the Stonehenge Avenue at West Amesbury, Wilts, , Vol. 68, (1973), 42-56
Vatcher, F de M, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Excavation And Fieldwork In Wiltshire, 1967, , Vol. 63, (1968), 108
Vatcher, F de M, Vatcher, H L, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Excavation And Fieldwork In Wiltshire, 1968, , Vol. 64, (1969), 123
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing