One of the best parts about working on the HEIR project has been the opportunity to experiment with rephotographing sites in the pictures. On Thursday, 26th June I had the chance to visit Stonehenge. As well as seeing the new visitor facilities, which are excellent, I took time to take some pictures.
On arriving back at our office, I realized that my photos don’t look much like those from the archive. In our oldest images, from c. 1870, we can see roads and footpaths, which no longer exist, including the one adjacent to the Heal Stone currently being removed by English Heritage (EH).
In general, many of the viewpoints in our images could only be duplicated now by getting special permission from EH as they require entry to places, such as the centre of the stone circle or the rear of the Heal Stone, which are closed to general visitors.
Most importantly, some of the stones were straightened in the 1950s and 60s to stabilize them, so the leaning stones in our modern images are now standing upright – but this is how Stonehenge looked in c. 1910 when photographer R.W. Wylie visited…
One unexpected feature of my trip was the presence of a rook sitting on a fence post next to the visitor pathway near the stones, calmly allowing itself to be photographed. As rooks are usually wary of humans, I wondered about this odd behavior. Later, I recalled that the old visitor centre had been nearby, with its picnic area where rooks and seagulls had begged for food. I’m sure this “rook star” was a veteran of that era, hoping for a handout.
I’ll close with a note that anyone planning to visit Stonehenge can greatly improve their day there by taking the time to pre-book their mandatory timed entry ticket on-line at the EH website, https://english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge. You can still buy tickets at the site on arrival, of course, but the queues are long and you may have to wait for entry.
Dr Janice Kinory (email@example.com)
Research Assistant, HEIR