Guest Post: The Cyber-Coenobite Goes to Hemsby!

A henge? At Hemsby? How could it possibly be?

A henge? At Hemsby? How could it possibly be?

A warm welcome to friend of the blog Burton Dasset, and thank you for permission to use this post, only slightly altered, from his blog, The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley!

…somebody put a sack over my head. I was thrown into a car, and driven for a number of hours, and then I was thrown out onto a beach. When I had pulled the bag off my head, I investigated the pain I had been suffering from in my chest. I discovered somebody had stapled an envelope to it. Inside the envelope was a chalet key, and the message “research the Henge”.

A henge? At Hemsby? How could it possibly be? And yet, there it was:

And yet there it was!

And yet there it was!

Its location took some time to understand. My first thought was that it was placed there, almost the most easterly point of England, to receive the first beams of the Summer Solstice sunrise. However, the enormous dunes that block off the henge from the eastern horizon suggest that this is not the case.

View-blocking dunes

View-blocking dunes

It is, however, close to a couple of bars, and very handy for the cafe next to the beach. On closer investigation, I was able to start to piece together some of the details of the way the Henge was created. It seems that the structure was built in three distinct phases. I call these Hemsby Stonehenge Phases I, II and III. However the man in the guardian’s hut referred to them as “9-hole, 12-hole and 18-hole”. He also claimed it was built in about 2003. Which is later than the Wiltshire Stonehenge, of course, but still – a 4,000 year old monument is quite something.

In fact, I suspect I may have found signs of an earlier-yet construction: for are these posts not remnants of the “Hemsby Woodhenge”, which predated the pink concrete version? The hole in the centre may be used for ritual purposes, akin to the Aubrey Holes at the Wiltshire version of this great monument.

Hemsby Woodhenge

Hemsby Woodhenge

And so we are left with a mystery. We may know where Hemsby Stonehenge is, we may be able to see the wondrous way the sun sets through the Great Trilithon, and over the chip shop opposite. But what can we make of the strange rituals of the Pilgrims at this monument? They walk around the Henge as if it is labyrinth – making strange swinging motions with their metal sticks, which gleam in the sunlight. Perhaps they are honouring their dead? Or is their clockwise path round the monument an homage to the sun’s diurnal journey? Are they walking alongside the sun? Or attempting to strengthen it – to bring back the long days of summer – maybe even encourage it to stay out for more than ten minutes at a time? Do the mats of green represent the world of life – while the gravel and stone-effect surroundings represent the world of the dead?

I believe that the ritual where the pilgrims roll small balls down a slope and into a brook represent the very act of passing over to the afterlife. Certainly, when they enact this ritual they say some very strong oaths. At other times, the Pilgrims seem to speak in strange tongues, or at least in code – for what could “That number 11 is never a par 2” possibly mean?

I have had a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen and will now lay me down to rest in my little chalet to ponder further into these things. But I believe that it will always be with me – the mystery of the Hemsby Stonehenge.

Our heartfelt gratitude to Burton Dasset and whoever kidnapped him to Hemsby! For the curious, Clonehenge’s former mentions of the Hemsby golfhenge can be seen here, and here. Until next time, friends, happy henging!

A Gerald Hawkins Model, Long Before Spinal Tap!

Model built for Gerald Hawkins at Boston University

Model built for Gerald Hawkins at Boston University

First off, let us say:

If, before reading this, you already had an opinion about Stone Number 11 at Stonehenge, or even if you have just thought of arguments against someone else’s opinion on the subject, then even if we never get to meet you, you are one of our favourite people in the world! Clonehenge loves you and henceforth wants to make itself a better blog for you.

As part of that effort, today we offer you some Stonehenge model history.  For those who are not familiar with his name, Gerald Stanley Hawkins was a British archaeoastronomer best known for his 1963 (1965? sources differ) book, Stonehenge Decoded, in which he advanced the now well-known ideas about Stonehenge being a precise astronomical observatory. We won’t go on more about that, but if you’re curious, Google or Bing or DuckDuckGo can help you out!

Shot of the model showing stone shapes

Shot of the model showing stone shapes

Dr. Hawkins was chairman of the Department of Astronomy at Boston University in the States from 1957 to 1969, and during that time he had the above model built for him to use in teaching undergraduate university students and for use in documentary films and television shows. The model is now at Boston University and we show it here by the kind permission of Quinn Sykes, the very generous help of Vance Tiede, and of course, the inspiration and tireless work of Hengefinder General Extraordinaire Mr. Pete Glastonbury (Is that the brilliant Wiltshire photographer and author of the must-have Stonehenge Guide ebook, you ask? Yes, friend, none other than!) . Clonehenge thanks you, dear sirs!

It is clear that this is a brilliant model of a sort very rarely built any more. These days archaeoastronomers prefer computer models for their demonstrations of how light would shine on ancient sites and what stars were visible where at various times of year. But back then, something like this was the only option. The description, by Mr. Vance Tiede, is as follows:

The model appears made of plaster and each quadrant measures roughly a 24″ on a side or 16 feet square in total area. The detail is very good, even with individual post holes to the NW of the Heelstone. Stone 57* is missing, as the model was made before the hole for a Stone 57 was discovered. Stone 11 is two times too big and the lintels should be removed.

And there it is:  Stone 11. Stop everything! What is he talking about?

Well, Gentle Reader, we thought you would never ask! It turns out that there is a controversy about Stone 11. Mr. Tiede, when we asked him about it, answered:

“…the two lintels shown above Stone 11 should be removed, as Atkinson pointed out, Stone 11 is one-half the width and height of the other 29 uprights of the Sarsen Circle. The is a highly significant astro-architectural detail as the total number of uprights is literally 29.5 stones, i.e., one stone for every day of the Moon’s Synodic Period of 29.53 days. Similarly, Stonehenge’s 30 Y-Holes and 29 Z-Holes together represent the Double Month (later used in Athens, ca. 500 BC) of alternating 30 and 29 Days (and still used in the Jewish Liturgical Calendar) also producing an average of 29.5 days.

So there is a short stone in the outer circle, Stone Number Eleven, and Mr. Tiede thinks it never had lintels. Another opinion we have run across is that Stone 11 was short on purpose, as Mr. Tiede says, but that it still had lintels, and may even show the marks where they would have fit. Meanwhile, Sue Greaney, Senior Properties Historian with English Heritage, says that recent laser survey analysis suggests the stone is short because it is broken, and therefore may have been just as large as the others at the start.

Who’s to say? But it’s something to keep in mind when you make a replica. Find a chart showing where each numbered stone is at Stonehenge and make number 11 short if you want.

Before ending the post we should add  that there is reason to suspect that this model had another part. Another model we have seen Gerald Hawkins use on a television show had an alternate center circle in which the stones stood pretty much as they stand today, a ruined Stonehenge that could be switched in and back out again to show differences between how it looks now and how it may have looked in its heyday. This may have included something similar.

Score? Because of its historic association with Dr. Hawkins, and the detail such as good stone shapes, the Aubrey holes and outlier stones being included, we award this miniature Stonehenge 8 druids! Well done, indeed!

One more thing to consider. Someone recently told us that the outer sarsens were once uniform in size and shape, and only the wear of thousands of years has given each its idiosyncratic shape. To us it is hard to believe that the beautiful oddities of Stonehenge were not a part of it in its youth, but who knows? Many little mysteries: Stonehenge continues to guard its secrets.

And there is your Stonehenge history lesson for the day! There is a lot to learn about this little pile of stones. Until next time, friends, Happy Henging!!

*As to the comment about Stone 57, see the correction in the comment below, by Mr. Simon Banton, who knows Stonehenge well.