West Kennet Long Barrow Carved from Silver Birch

photos by Les Williams, used with permission

Way back in March we posted a wooden model of the long barrow at Wayland, often called Wayland or Wayland’s Smithy.  The artist, Les Williams, told us he planned to do West Kennet [sometimes spelled Kennett] Long Barrow, a site we’ve mentioned here many times,which is located in Wiltshire very close to Silbury Hill, not far from Avebury, and not too terribly far from Stonehenge. [See comments below for the answer to the Kennett/Kennet confusion.]

Now he has finished carving it and we are honoured to receive first-posting rights for his admirable accomplishment! Mr. Williams’ opinion is that West Kennet Long Barrow (WKLB) is the most atmospheric of the ancient henges and barrows of southern Britain and Wales, and he seems to have captured some of that in this careful rendition.

Curiously he has not chosen to put a finish on this one as he did on the first, perhaps to retain more of the rough-hewn look of the giant stones at the barrow itself.  Also, in order to make the stones large enough he has included only the front end of the long barrow, leaving the rest to the imagination.

But we don’t blame him. The choice he had to make was whether to A. make the stones tiny so he could include the whole barrow, B. use a huge piece of wood, most of which would be featureless barrow anyway, or C. what you see here. Good choice. We can tell you from personal experience that what is most riveting about WKLB is the row of megaliths at its entrance. Not that the interior isn’t  awesome. Amazing place!

And Silbury Hill is visible from there. They and Avebury’s henge and stones, plus several lesser known sites are all part of a mysterious, ancient, and probably sacred landscape. Stonehenge has a unique standing in people’s minds–a curious must-see for tourists who look at it for a bit and then go off to see other English things–but the truly wonderful and remarkable thing in Wiltshire is not that grey linteled circle, or any one of the many remnants of what was done to the landscape all those millennia ago. No, it is the constellation of all of them, the magnificent puzzle they create and the questions they pose, laid out on the hills and down for all to see.

What is that you say? Oh, right–Les Williams and his carving. Heh, I’m afraid we get carried away. Well done–the stones are the right shapes and in the right order. Is anyone else doing anything like this? It is a unique and remarkable creation, somehow holding more mystique than a Stonehenge replica would.

No druids will be awarded, since it is not a Stonehenge replica, just the appreciation of the megarak* nation, and the breathtaking fame and riches that result from being featured on Clonehenge. Don’t let it turn your head, Les!

Did we somehow miss slipping the word eccentric in there? Well, anyway, for those to whom it currently applies, keep cool and to everyone–happy henging!

*A combination of the words megalith and anorak. One who is very interested in megaliths, standing stones, prehistoric stone circles, etc.

More Views of a Museum Stone

photos by Gary of @Avebury_News, the guide coordinator at Avebury NT, used with permission

This is just a small supplement to our post of February 11, More Old Film: Model of an Avebury Stone. Friend of the blog, Gary of @Avebury_News on Twitter, posted these photos of the stone we featured in that post. The photos in the last post were taken in 1955. These were taken fifty-five years later.

This now venerable display has educated generations of children and adults. As @Avebury_News said, “The model depicts how they believe the Avebury, and I guess Stonehenge, stones were potted.” By which we suppose he means set in the ground.

It is fascinating to see that, while the supporting poles do seem to have been moved, and the little antler replicas have disappeared, it looks as if the twine or string remains exactly as it was fifty-five years ago! You may well say, Why not?, but it seems to us somehow remarkable and wonderful, this sturdy stone somehow chosen to be a teacher while its fellows stay out on the landscape ignored, and this twine, probably wrapped in a moment or two by a museum worker, still just as it was.

The whole thing plays in to the timelessness of the larger site around it. We’re charmed! The stone was no doubt chosen to represent the lozenge-shaped stones, thought perhaps to represent the feminine principle. And there behind it is the beautiful, mystical (at least to us) Silbury Hill, like the umbilicus some believe it to have represented.

[This display can be found in the Stables Gallery of the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury, Wiltshire, UK, home of the largest stone circle in the world. In case you just stumbled on us now. (Do try to keep up!)]

And to all of our readers, happy henging!

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Silbury Replica: Because it’s There

SilburyModel2photo by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

At the same Barn Gallery in Avebury that we mentioned in this post, friend of the blog and finder of obscurities Pete G. found this solo replica of Silbury Hill. As far as we can tell, the cirular plaques around it explain the stages by which the mound was made.

We post this as part of this series of museum replicas we’ve been posting, most of them having to do with the greater Avebury landscape. We have a fond place in our hearts for Silbury because when we visited in  1972 we tried to run all the way up it. (Do not do this–it is not allowed, nor should it be, and we apologise. We were young . . . sigh)

This is a very nice replica, probably in better shape than the hill itself at this point. We won’t score it, though. The druid thing seems funny in connection with Avebury and Stonehenge, but just seems stupid in the face of Silbury’s potent form.

More Avebury–And We Thought There Were None!

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photos by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

Hello again from the amazing Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes. Of course we’re not actually there, but we have a rich fantasy life! Today, thanks to our regular supplier of Afghani-grade Avebury photos, we have two Avebury models to post. Avebury is a very large stone circle in Wiltshire England. We hope you already knew that.

The model above is to be applauded for accuracy and detail. It shows the circle as it might have been in its heyday, with circles and avenues leading from the circle complete. Very nice. We would like it better without the labels, but we understand that in a museum, the point is to communicate knowledge and the labels serve that purpose.  8 druids for this one.

AveburyModelWHM 3And then there’s this one, depicting, as it might have been at its height, the entire Avebury region, or nearly so, as it excludes Windmill Hill and, of course, all the ancient crop circles. It includes various barrows, the serpentine avenues (which we discussed here), Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, and if you look closely enough there may be a tiny model of Pete Glastonbury walking around taking pictures (or if there isn’t perhaps there should be). This, too, is an extraordinary piece of work, and we award it 8½ druids. We like to see the whole landscape represented!

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum is said to house numerous models of Stonehenge seen nowhere else, the amazing Celtic Cabinet, and, for now, Clonehenge’s favourite exhibition, Inspired by Stonehenge, which includes “a variety of objects, graphics, music and moving images including postcards and guidebooks, clothing, paperweights and snow globes, jigsaw puzzles, horse brasses, toasting forks and even a stamp from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan that shows Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Pluto at Stonehenge. There is also a quantity of souvenir china – some more attractive than others. Once visitors have viewed the exhibition they can vote for the item they consider to be in the worst possible taste!” Bold emphasis added by us. People, does it get any better than that?!

Hours and admission fees for the museum can be seen here. Oh, and the site says “Youngsters are encouraged to be ‘Inspired by Stonehenge’, and are invited to send in photographs of their own Stonehenge models for display in the Museum over the summer.” We plan to lean on the museum a little in autumn, to get them to let us post the best–and perhaps the worst–ones they get. And you haven’t seen the last of Wiltshire Heritage Museum on this blog. More in a few days!

Avebury Model, Britton Cabinet

BrittonCabinetAvebury2photos by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

When we left you in the previous episode, Clonehenge was in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum examining the remarkable Britton Cabinet. Today Director David Dawson has kindly opened a drawer to show us the detailed Avebury model inside. Wow!

To refresh your memories, we have posted Avebury models before, of varying degrees of detail and accuracy, all, as it happens, found for us by the formidable Pete Glastonbury, champion of Wiltshire. One was lovely, but just the circle;  one was, well, clever but rudimentary; and the third, while it covered a good area and included Windmill Hill, which is a plus, lacked the crucial element of stones.

Compared to those, this is more like a William Stukeley drawing of the site in 3-D, and in fact it includes a drawing of Stukeley’s serpent interpretation of the Avebury landscape at the bottom.

serpentine templeStukeley proposed that the avenues of standing stones, now called Beckhampton and West Kennet Avenues, originally combined with the Avebury circle to form a glyph of a serpent passing through a ring, a traditional alchemical symbol. The head was formed by a circle now called the Sanctuary, alas devoid of stones in modern times, but once a double stone circle.

This model’s scale does not allow the entire “serpent” to be shown, so along with the drawing, it includes small models of the stones that make up its head and tail. Was a serpent really the builders’ intention? Hard to say, but the idea is the darling of those who strive to link megaliths and ancient sites around the world. It is certainly the kind of fancy that draws new people into the world of the megalith. Mind you, Stukeley was a brilliant observer, but he thought Avebury was a druid temple. ‘Nuff said.

Score for this Avebury replica: 9 druids. The only way you could improve upon it would be to make it much larger and show more of the landscape in scale: West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, Windmill Hill, etc. It’s a delectable morsel for the megarak’s eye. Still, even that can’t prepare you for a walk among the stones themselves! May we all get that chance in our lifetimes.

Avebury, Silbury, and West Kennet Long Barrow

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from the Alexander Keiller Museum, by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

Another model of the Avebury landscape has been sent us by faithful reader and ace photographer Pete Glastonbury. This one is of molded stone and shows the landscape as it is now but without houses, cars, etc.

We miss the stones on this one, but the large scale that made them difficult to include also made it possible to include Windmill Hill, almost certainly an important part of whatever was being done on that landscape in the times of the builders.

Avebury is in the middle, the mound below it is Silbury and the cigar-shaped thing toward the bottom in the center is West Kennet Long Barrow. Score: 6 druids. Oh, to be in Wiltshire now that Spring is here!

Avebury and Silbury and the Long Barrow, too

avebury0002

photo from Pete Glastonbury, with permission

Sent in by faithful reader and premier Wiltshire photographer, Pete Glastonbury, this model of the Avebury, Silbury landscape  was made by a local as part of his train set.

We get the question from time to time, “Why replicas of Stonehenge and not Avebury, which is bigger?” Well, this is part of what started us off with this project in the first place. Why is Stonehenge such an obsession with people (at least those who don’t speak Latin-based languages)? Why not replicas of Callanish, the Rollright Stones, Castlerigg, Duloe, Drombeg, Stenness, or any of the many others in the British Isles and around the world? It must be those lintels and trilithons!

At any rate, here is that rare item, the Avebury replica,  Silbury Hill included, their  chalk still white as it must have been before turf grew over them. The little chunk of summat on the lower right is West Kennet Long Barrow. A brilliant bit of work, we think.

Speaking of train sets, a train set at a show in Kemptville, Ontario included a precariously perched bit of Stonehenge, not worthy of a post to itself, but worth mentioning and  [link]ing to. How many Stonehenges are out there gathering dust as small trains roar by?