Kavishaila in Kuppalli, Bangalore, India: photo by @nikhilvshetty on Instagram.
This one is lovely.
It is rare to run across a replica that is built for reasons that are truly moving, but this is one. Kuvempu, the poet playwright and novelist in whose honour it was built (portrayed in a Google doodle on the anniversary of his birth in 2017*) when he died in 1994, was and is truly beloved by many speakers of the Kannada language in which he wrote, especially those who love the natural world and high-minded philosophy. Wikipedia says of this monument:
“Kavishaila is a rock monument made of megalithic rocks and dedicated to Kuvempu. It is on the top of a small hill in Kuppalli. Arranged in a circular fashion, the rocks have been placed to resemble the Stonehenge in England. At the centre of this rock monument is the place where Kuvempu was laid to rest after his death and a memorial has been constructed at that location. Near this monument, is a small rock where Kuvempu used to sit and discuss about literature and other topics with his other literature friends.”
The view from this high place is said to be breathtaking, green forest stretched out below with a view to the hills. It is recommended to be there at sunset when, as you see in the picture above, on a clear evening the light streams through the trilithons onto the place where the poet was laid to rest.
We know of many monuments and sculptures that resemble Stonehenge around the world, but that we hesitate to post here because we are not certain they were built with Stonehenge in mind. In this case, however, there seems to be no doubt. We don’t know what the connection is that inspired someone to erect a Stonehenge in this man’s honour (and perhaps we could discover that if we could read his language), but maybe it was just that the mystery and beauty and sense of something truly great that Stonehenge represents to so many people is the same feeling that the writings of this poet and thinker inspire in people.
Yes, as far as form goes, it is only a partial circle of straight-sided stone trilithons. But as with the beautiful partial Stonehenge in the far north of the Galician section of Spain placed high and looking out to sea to honour those who died at the hands of the brutal Franco regime, its meaning helps it to transcend its form. If we were still awarding our (humourously meant! Yes, we know they had nothing to do with it.) druid scores, this would get a solid 8 druids. A thing of beauty.
Before we finish talking about it, here is a fun addition. Looking through Instagram one day, as you do, we found an image of a replica of this replica. If you know us, you know we love the meta quality of that. Here it is, built for a display at the Lalbagh Botanical Garden in Bengaluru, India. It also speaks to how well known Kavashaila is in India.
Our thanks to friend Barry Teague for making us aware of this memorial, and to Nikhil V. Shetty for kind permission to use his lovely photograph here.
Oh, wait! We almost forgot to mention, Clonehenge was mentioned in the Guardian newspaper this week! We got a mention and a link in the thoughtful and many-faceted article about the Stonehenge tunnel dilemma, The Battle for the Future of Stonehenge, by Charlotte Higgins. Truly a privilege and a little moment of fame for this humble blogger. Many thanks to you, Ms. Higgins, and to whatever little bird may have whispered our name in your ear!
And so until next time, Gentle Readers, once again we wish you happy henging!
*The Kuvempu Google doodle, in which he appears to be seated at the site where Kavishaila was built:
From @EH_Stonehenge on Twitter:
“No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, there are two monuments at Stonehenge today. One is a giant cake fit for 2,500 hungry guests! #SH100
Look at this! (And yes, we include the obvious rain in that demand.) Look at the lichen on those lintels! Look at the shapes of those stones, including the little bumps and creases! The three-lintel stretch and Stone #56! This has to be the most accurate Stonehenge cake ever (and we’ve heard it includes spiced apple and blackberry cream, or similar. We will look into this and report back with corrections to that crucial information). And there it is, with Stonehenge in the background! *sigh* Perfection.
Not far away, at the Visitor Centre, Jeremy Deller’s inflatable bouncy Stonehenge is inflated and ready for bouncing. What a day for Stonehenge and English Heritage, yes, but more importantly, what a day for Stonehenge replicas! How we wish we were there, gentle readers.
Still, we are a humble blog about Stonehenge replicas, sitting safely in the warm and dry an ocean away from the festivities and for now we are enjoying the clonehenges associated with this celebration! Congratulations to all, including everyone at English Heritage, and may Stonehenge continue to reign in the hearts and minds of people around the world!
(And inspire them to build more and better models of it!)
We are finally posting our interview with historian Brian Edwards, Visiting Research Fellow at University of the West of England, Bristol. Even if he were connected with Clonehenge in no other way, the fabulous Stonehenge replica above would cement his fame on this blog! We have never seen one with this level of detail: the bus, the Visitor Centre, the ice cream truck (!), little replicas of replica round houses (we always love little metas!), Stonehenge landscape mounds, and much more, including the bustard we saw when we were hosted at Stonehenge by Mr. Edwards three years ago, and, underneath, the much-dreaded tunnel! This Stonehenge replica is absolutely brilliant.
But there is more to this gentleman than this unique and wonderful replica. He is a historian whose broad area of interest contains within it the phenomenon of Stonehenge replicas and their history—perhaps the only such historian in the world! His article called ‘Mr Toagis’s Stonehenge: An exploration of an uncelebrated benchmark in replica henge monuments to mark the tenth anniversary of Clonehenge’, published in an academic journal, actually mentions us, and once he mentioned Clonehenge on the radio during an interview. Truly a friend of the blog!
That said, we found it advisable, due to the academic style of writing, to append a [tl;dr] at the end of his answer to the first question, for those who find it a bit intimidating. After that, the academic language eases up a bit and you’re on your own. The answers to questions 2 and 5 are particularly good, but if you are interested in Clonehenge and Stonehenge replicas, do read it all. And at the end we’ve posted a link to that Clonehenge mug you’ve all been meaning to buy. Solstice giving time is approaching!
Clonehenge: What do you do, and how does it tie in with Stonehenge replicas?
I am the author of ‘Mr Toagis’s Stonehenge: An exploration of an uncelebrated benchmark in replica henge monuments to mark the tenth anniversary of Clonehenge’ (The Regional Historian, Annual Journal of the Regional History Centre, New Series No 1, 2018, pp. 26-31). Although not central to what I do, Stonehenge replicas offer entertainingly informative examples that illustrate my focus as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Regional History Centre, at the University of the West of England. My field is public history and historiography in relation to monuments. My research involves highlighting and interpreting contemporary and historical impressions of the past in the public domain, in comparison to what academic and professional historians discuss through learned journals and scholarly tomes. Having in excess of a three hundred year history of expressing consciousness of a prehistoric original, Stonehenge replicas highlight that throughout history monuments have been increasingly adopted, interpreted and reproduced in a variety of forms through layer upon layer of lay public interest irrespective of, and sometimes in contrast to, learned analysis and official sanction. Stonehenge replicas are not just fun, they are an important route through which anyone and everyone can join in. Moreover, as ‘Mr Toagis’ illustrates, replicas and their individual and collective histories offer various routes to studying.
[tl;dr: Part of what he studies is the public’s impressions of historic monuments, including Stonehenge. Also, as we said, he mentioned Clonehenge and it’s 10th anniversary in an article he wrote that was published in an academic journal!]
Clonehenge: What and when was the earliest Stonehenge replica you know of?
It is commonly believed that the earliest known Stonehenge replica was produced in 1714 by the great antiquary William Stukeley (1687- 1765): a model of the stones “as is” that he put on display in London in 1751. Between these times a Stonehenge replica in the form of a stage set appeared in a pantomime, and Stukeley advised on a large scale “as was” replica of Stonehenge that was to be erected in nearby Wilton in Wiltshire. However, the earliest replica is potentially an item of very early eighteenth century jewellery, later recorded as being acquired for a royal collection in Europe. If confirmed, it would predate Stukeley’s model by between seven and twelve years. Even that may not be the earliest example in recorded history, and of course for all that is known a replica may have existed in prehistory.
Clonehenge: When did you first get interested in Stonehenge replicas? When and how did you first learn about Clonehenge?
From memory Clonehenge almost immediately started to feature in conversations, it was topically discussed online by Wiltshire based enthusiasts, so I imagine I was aware through archaeological forum chatter quite early on. My personal introduction probably dates to encounters as a child, but I don’t recall any specific examples before the experience of witnessing the original from the A303. This was a typical stimulating encounter as experienced on journeys to and from the West Country for hundreds of years of course. That first time, in my case as a nine or ten year old, stands out because it fosters interest and makes one alert to other potential opportunities. Around the same time, I inherited an old unused sepia postcard of a Stonehenge model ‘in origin’ (early twentieth century San Bride postcard) that had been used as a bookmark inside a 1950s copy of Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki Expedition. This was among several books passed on by a friend of my mother, whose sons had reached adulthood and flown the nest. From the same family I received an ostrich egg, a boomerang, and a pair of Indian clubs.
Clonehenge: How many Stonehenge replicas or models do you own?
Anything Stonehenge or Avebury related that I acquire, I tend to donate to a Wiltshire archive or museum sooner rather than later. The only example of a replica still in my possession is a large glass topped coffee table housing a model of Avebury henge, destined for Wiltshire Heritage Museum at some point.
Clonehenge: How many Stonehenge replicas have you made? Would you describe one? We understand English Heritage is in possession of one that was of your making. How did that come about?
Earlier this year I built a replica from cheese puffs in order to photograph easy to follow stages for a competition. This was in connection with the Stonehenge Chubb Centenary Day, a village celebration of Cecil and Mary Chubb donating Stonehenge to the nation and us all one hundred years ago. Obliged to build a further replica for the same competition, but determined to be disqualified, I chose to make a model that was in excess of the size limit of 300 mm diameter. Supplemented by glue and paint, the materials were nearly all from what had been set aside for recycling. The basic idea started to expand as more and more of the contemporary dynamics that surround the original Stonehenge got included, and it grew into a three-tier construction.
The stones, visitors and official coaches formed the top layer, which also included some examples of the homes of some of the residents living on Byway 12, sometimes referred to as ‘The Drove’. A Great Bustard also features, in homage to the actual bird witnessed by the founder of Clonehenge when visiting Stonehenge. Complete with Perspex entrance kiosks and some of the replica huts seen at the actual site, the middle layer was a model of the visitor centre made from medicine boxes and water damaged cocktail sticks. The bottom layer included a replica of the Winterbourne Stoke barrow group, the other flanks featured the visitor centre car and coach parks, and on a corner a Speed-watch volunteer stood amidst road signage of the nearby village of Shrewton, the birthplace of Sir Cecil Chubb.
This section also included the proposed introduction of an A303 road tunnel, posed as a mock battle between skeletons and traffic within the World Heritage site. This idea of a tug-o-war between awakening skellies and the tunnel was prompted in particular by local traffic activists summarising contemporary traffic woes as the ‘living versus the dead’: this was the theme of a paper I presented at a post-medieval archaeology conference earlier in the year (“Slogans coined, songs written, rumours circulated,” … the withdrawal of post-medieval Stonehenge?) and is the basis of a forthcoming publication (The Living and the Dead: Public Engagement with Archaeology and the A303 at Stonehenge).
Clonehenge: Are there any particular things you like to see in a Stonehenge replica? Of those made by others, do you have any favourites?
Outside of competitions and such as predetermined school projects I am not keen on fixed rules, lest any sort of regulation would chicane imagination. Whilst broadly following a trend a replica doesn’t have to contain anything specific and doesn’t have to resemble the original, it merely requires thought and where possible an original idea or element. In my opinion it is counterproductive to adopt a stiff view about accuracy: to do so even in passing in connection with a painting or a model of Stonehenge, isn’t in the best interests of encouragement and so is not doing our collective experience, and therefore knowledge and understanding, any favours.
Among those of us tending to appreciate anything built in replication and model form, there is always an added element of admiration for anything created by lay individuals, with domestic, mundane and recycled materials, and of course by children. Of those smaller versions I have seen Doe-henge (created for the Stonehenge Chubb Centenary Day) was particularly inspired, but surely we all love the cakes and relate to the food-henges. As regards a full size Stonehenge, my favourite replica is the original, it is not after all a time-honoured ruin but reconstructed with available parts and propped up with concrete.
Clonehenge: What thoughts do you have about the worldwide phenomenon of Stonehenge replicas and the fact that so many people spontaneously make Stonehenges? What do you think it says about public perceptions of Stonehenge?
The worldwide phenomenon of Stonehenge replicas illustrates the extent to which people are not only fascinated by the mysteries posed by the original, but seek to join in and enjoy developing tactile ways of experimenting. What this says to me about public perceptions of Stonehenge, is that those that care for and manage the original have no chance whatsoever of keeping up with public ideas, trends and demands, so expensively fixing on and committing to any given interpretation or presentation will inevitably find it outmoded and frustrating to elements of the wider public by the time it is enacted.
Clonehenge: Are there any further points you would like to make in connection with Stonehenge or the replicas? Do you expect them to become more popular in the future?
There will be replicas as long as there are schools and museums that recognise that every new generation can benefit from a fun way of engaging with the prehistoric original.
There you have it, friends—Stonehenge replicas, Clonehenges, if you will, will be always with us, so as long as we at Clonehenge live forever—and we have every reason to believe that we will—there will always be a Clonehenge blog here, mostly not being posted to. We certainly have many new henges to post, and more are appearing all the time. We have at least three more Large Permanent Replicas to do posts about, so we hope to post more soon. To see frequent henges in the meantime, follow us on Twitter and the Facebook Group and/or Page to see more that are popping up everywhere all the time!
As promised, here is the link to where you can buy a Clonehenge mug, a unique gift for your megalith-loving friends!
(If anyone in the UK would prefer the silver-tone rimmed enamel mugs below, much like the ones we gave to friends and people we admire in the UK, leave a message in the comments or email us at email@example.com. They are £10.10 per mug, shipping included. Shipping costs make it impractical to sell that model outside Europe.)
And so, until next time, Gentle Readers, we wish you happy Halloween*, joyous Samhain, and of course, happy henging!
A translation from German of the original caption of this photo reads:
“Stonehenge in Magdeburg
During a walk around the Salbker Lake, you can see a replica of Stonehenge, which is the stone circle cult site of the Celts in southern England.
Stone mason Jörg Sorge from Magdeburg has built this on his property.”
There is so much to unpack here.
For one thing, a little research makes it clear that although he is a stone mason, Sorge has fashioned these ‘stones’ out of concrete, texturing and painting them to resemble stone. A lot of time and creativity, and so presumably love and enthusiasm, has gone into this.
And then of course there is the whole Celtic thing, which we learn more about in another article, where Sorge, who plays the bagpipe and sometimes wears a kilt, asserts that “inside i am a Celt”. In one article, featuring a picture of him in said kilt, standing in his Stonehenge, we read:
“The culture of the rugged Scottish highlands has fascinated Jörg Sorge for years. He has long felt like a Celt, last summer he also fulfilled the dream of Stonehenge. Now the replica of the Bronze Age stone circle stands in his garden and serves as a backdrop to the Celtic Fire Festival.“
Copyright Dennis Kotzian, used with permission
Well, we’ll allow them the Bronze Age bit. Stonehenge was started and much work was done long before that, but the stone circle the replica depicts does seem to have been completed in the Bronze Age. Certainly the dagger art on the stones dates to that time.
But by all accounts, whether ‘Celtic’ culture (no, we’re not going to enter the discussion of whether the term Celtic itself is so broad as to be almost meaningless, an attempt to lump together too many diverse smaller groupings–such discussions are for serious people and we just ain’t one of them, thank whatever gods there be!) washed in like a tide over peoples already in Britain or if it arrived along with new groups of people landing on the island from the continent, it had not yet arrived when Stonehenge was completed. Of that we can be sure. There is certainly no evidence of kilts and bagpipes in any burial in the area of Stonehenge, then or since!
But luckily, Stonehenge replicas are just for fun, and far be it from us to discourage people from championing their inner Celt, whatever they fancy that means, or their inner Viking, or their inner Elf or Ent for that matter. It is useful to explore what has meaning for you, however outlandish it might seem to others. We may find real hidden parts of ourselves by starting with fanciful things we’re drawn to. We at Clonehenge have seen it happen.
This replica that Sorge has built from his inner inspiration and by the work of his own hands has already brought delight to other people, like those who attended the Celtic Fire Festival, and it is certainly worthy of inclusion on our list of large permanent replicas. Well done,sir, say we!
Let this be a lesson to us all, Gentle Readers, and let us not fear to pursue or more whimsical inclinations, regardless of what others think of them. They may turn out to be a way to enhance not only our lives but the lives of others, and encourage them to be more free as well.
So until next time (which may well be after the official Clonehenge trip to Stonehenge and environs!*), dear friends, happy henging!
*if you are at Stonehenge equinox access on the morning of the 23rd, we may see you there!
Simon Banton and Neil Wiseman ponder their remake of Stonehenge. Photo by Andy Burns.
Actual plan of Stonehenge to compare
We know it for ourselves: these grey blocks are irresistible. Off in one corner of the wonderful Wiltshire Museum which displays, among many wonderful things, a collection called Gold from the Time of Stonehenge, there is a children’s section that includes rectangular grey blocks and a round green base to build on. What possibilities! The very sight of it casts a spell of inevitability on any true henger.
Neil Wiseman admiring his handiwork at the Wiltshire Museum. Photo by Simon Banton.
Enter, from stage left, two Stonehenge experts and over-qualified hengers: Mr. Simon Banton, introduced to our readers a few posts ago and whose blog includes a page for each stone at Stonehenge, and Mr. Neil Wiseman, author of the book Stonehenge and the Neolithic Cosmos: A New Look at the Oldest Mystery in the World. The two gentlemen assert that they did not actually visit the museum solely to make a Stonehenge replica, but the same siren song of the grey blocks that sang to us during our visit three years ago lured them to the children’s section. The result was both extraordinary and, in a way, hilarious—hilarious, we mean, by virtue of the contrast between the simplicity of those grey children’s blocks and the level of expertise Wiseman and Banton brought to bear on them.
You may compare their accomplishment with the aerial view of Stonehenge we have provided for that purpose. Within the limitations of the medium, this is probably the best Stonehenge replica possible. If we were still handing out Druid scores for henges, we would have to give this one 9 Druids. And yes, as the cognoscenti might remind us, Druids had nothing to do with the building of Stonehenge, but it is so much a part of public perceptions of the monument that it amuses us to use it as our metric.
Of course, we hasten to say that we do not expect this kind of precision from the common henger. It is, however, not cheating to actually look at a picture of Stonehenge before you build. You, too, can beat the dreaded Circle of Trilithons Syndrome!
Addendum: pertinent to our previous post about Stonehenge Centenary Day, below is a picture of Mr. Tim Daw (of the first modern long barrow, and the resting concrete trilithon we’ve mentioned here in the past) at that event* and rather dapperly dressed for it, putting together a wooden Stonehenge he made for English Heritage. It is a lovely thing, in the category of replicas that show Stonehenge as it is thought to have looked at its height. Note the diagram at the lower left, being used as a guide.
Photo by Brian Edwards.
If these people who know Stonehenge so well and have spent time there are compelled to build their own, how then are the rest of us to resist the imperative? Give in. Make henges and be happy!
Until next time, friends, we wish you happy henging!
*We hope to post some pictures of henges from the henging contest at the centenary event at some future date.
Simon Banton and a rook at an undisclosed location, photo by Wendy Pallesen or perhaps Carol Druce
“…there’s something about the trilithon form that aches with antiquity and latent symbolism.”
Here is the second half of our interview with Stonehenge man Simon Banton.
5) Why do you think so many people continue to make Stonehenges of all sizes and materials all over the world?
The act of creation lies deep within most of us, and creating a clonehenge seems to foster a deep sense of satisfaction. It has the huge advantage of being instantly recognisable, so no special talent is required. I can’t draw for toffee, but you were kind enough to feature my Etch-a-Sketched clonehenge [see previous post] even though it was 2D. There’s also the growing awareness that there’s a community of clonehengers, and I guess a desire to belong to this elite club must factor in somewhere.
[Editor’s note: You, too, can belong to an elite club!]
6) Why do you think Stonehenge models and replicas so often wind up being an assemblage of trilithons rather than being more like Stonehenge? Why is the trilithon such a powerful and memorable symbol?
That is a very significant question. There’s no doubt that “two uprights and one horizontal” is immediately Stonehenge and it’s been a famous icon in the public’s attention for at least 300 years now. From the standalone pylons of Egyptian temples, through the Temple of the Sun at Tiwanaku to the Greek letter PI [Editor’s note: one could add the Japanese Torii gate and Tonga’s Ha’amonga’a Maui Trilithon.] there’s something about the trilithon form that aches with antiquity and latent symbolism.
Perhaps it’s the “doorways upon doorways” meme that Henry of Huntingdon came up with in the early 12th Century AD [Editor’s note: English scholar Henry of Huntington wrote in 1130, describing Stonehenge as a place “where stones of an amazing size are set up in the manner of doorways, so that one door seems to be set upon another. Nor can anyone guess by what means so many stones were raised so high, or why they were built there.”] that’s the root of it for our culture, or maybe Spinal Tap have had a fundamental impact on humanity that will echo down the ages.
I also think that the idea of a continuous “ring beam” [Editor: Simon is using the term “ring beam” here to refer to the continuous circle of curved lintels that is thought to have topped the upright sarsens of Stonehenge’s outer circle.] doesn’t figure in many people’s consciousness, so they end up doing a ring of separate trilithons instead.
7) Is there anything you would like to say about Stonehenge replicas? Do you have any stories connected with one that you would like to share?
More full size ones please! I realise that’s a big ask, but perhaps it’s something for an ice sculpture festival to tackle. I’ve had a small involvement with one full size trilithon replica with my friends Tim Daw and Julian Richards. Julian’s an archaeologist and Stonehenge obsessive. Back in the 1990s he made a TV documentary called “Secrets of Lost Empires” where he and a team of engineers and volunteers attempted—successfully —to erect two 40 ton concrete uprights and a 10 ton lintel as a replica of the tallest trilithon that ever stood at Stonehenge.
After the programme, the components were dismantled and stored on a nearby military base, in a car park, until a few years ago when the army rang him up and asked if he wanted them back as they were getting in the way of their tanks. Julian asked me if I knew anyone who had some land where they might be moved to, and perhaps re-erected in a new project—and I immediately thought of Tim.
Tim’s a visionary. He built the first new “long barrow”, as a columbarium, in 5,500 years and has spawned an industry of modern barrow-makers as a result. [see Clonehenge’s post on the Long Barrow at All Cannings here] He jumped at the chance and these large lumps of concrete were low-loaded from the military base to Tim’s farm, where they await the attention of an intrepid bunch of Stonehengineers. [see Clonehenge’s post about the rediscovery and moving to Tim’s farm of the pieces of the concrete trilithon here]
photos of the parts of the concrete trilithon at rest on Cannings Cross Farm
Stonehengineers, those who helped erect the concrete trilithon the first time
8) Is there anything you think more people should know about Stonehenge itself?
Everyone who’s interested in the astronomy of the site should read Gordon Freeman’s “Hidden Stonehenge”—not least because he is one of the few archaeoastronomer researchers who actually spent considerable time on-site observing and photographing at key points in the year, over many years. He identified a secondary solstitial axis that runs from Winter Sunrise to Summer Sunset and explains why the Altar Stone is (a) flat on the ground and (b) at 80° to the primary axis. I helped Gordon confirm some of his observation data and had the pleasure of meeting him a few years ago.
If you’re going for realism, don’t forget the Heel Stone, the Slaughter Stone, the Station Stones and the Altar Stone. Note that the central trilithons increase in height towards the southwest and they’re all taller than the sarsen circle that surrounds them. If you’re going to include figures in the middle, make them archaeologists having a fight and—above all—think BIG and have fun! (Hengers, take heed!)
10) Do you have any advice for Clonehenge itself?
Frankly, I don’t think it could be any better. [!!!] Except, maybe—Clonehenge merchandise? I feel the need to make a Clonehenge out of Clonehenge coffee mugs—or is that too much like meta-henging?
[Editor: Not at all. Plus, meta-henging is a good thing! 😉 We will be working to make Clonehenge mugs and perhaps eventually other merchandise available from print-on-demand sites in both in the UK and the States, so that neither place will have to pay exorbitant postal fees, hopefully some time in the near future.]
Thank you very much, Simon! Thus ends our two-part interview with the illustrious Stonehenge devotee. We hope you have enjoyed it and perhaps learned something! You can find the first part of the interview here. We should note with gratitude that upon the occasion of our visit to Stonehenge in 2015, Simon went out of his way to meet us there and give us a calendar with his own photos of Stonehenge. We were quite honoured!
Gentle Readers: Do you have questions about Stonehenge or about Stonehenge replicas in any form? If you have a question that is in any way connected to our topic, get in touch on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a comment below, and we will answer or get in touch with someone who can answer your questions. We will also consider requests for posts on related topics.
And of course, until next time, friends, happy henging!
“You can notice a lot of subtleties about Stonehenge if you spend 6 years looking at it from all angles in all weathers and lighting conditions.”
It may seem to go without saying that the idea of Stonehenge replicas is inextricably tied to Stonehenge, but we’ve been thinking it needs a little more talking about. What do all these Stonehenge replicas look like to people who are actually familiar with Stonehenge?
Well, a peculiar outcome of doing Clonehenge over the years has been the unexpected pleasure of getting to know a number of people who are connected with Stonehenge in one manner or another. Those people have made us aware of aspects of Stonehenge and its landscape that we knew nothing of before we began this blog and our life of folly. That, in turn, has changed what we see and look for in Stonehenge replicas.
It is in this context we would like to introduce to you Mr. Simon Banton. A few readers may remember him as the fellow who when he found himself at a pub that had children’s toys, made and sent us some Clonehenge art on an Etch-A-Sketch (How do we love this? Let us count the ways!).
But there is a great deal more to him than that, as the photo at the top suggests. He is good natured and deeply knowledgable and has two blogs, The Stones of Stonehenge, with a page devoted to each stone at Stonehenge, and Stonehenge Monument, with information about Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape of the World Heritage Site. We asked him for an interview, and to our delight he agreed. The result is remarkable, if a bit technical in places. We intended to post only a short edit of the interview, but it is so full of information and good thoughts, stories, and ideas that we’ve decided to post most of it, split into two parts, with helpful (we hope) commentary, links, and photos added.
The plan on the right, showing numbers for each stone, is linked to a larger version. And now, the first part of our interview with Simon:
1) First, for the reader, what has been your involvement with Stonehenge over the years? I understand you worked there. For how long and in what capacity?
I first saw Stonehenge when I went to the very last Stonehenge Free Festival in 1984, before the authorities clamped down on it at the infamous Battle of the Beanfield of 1985 (Google it and watch the YouTube vids). Being in and around the monument had a profound effect on me, at the time I was only 19 years old.
When, in 2000, English Heritage, the Police and Wiltshire Council did away with the 3 mile radius exclusion zone that had been in place at Summer Solstice ever since 1985, I felt compelled to go along to that first “Managed Open Access” event to get back inside the stone circle. That, too, was a transformative experience. It poured with rain all night long and 5000 people were thoroughly soaked by the time dawn arrived, with no sign of the Sunrise.
I’d developed a keen interest in archaeoastronomy in the mid-1990s (I’ve been an amateur astronomer since I was 9 years old) and I was actively researching Egyptian sky-mythology. Stonehenge was the next logical step. By 2010 I’d moved to within 3 miles of Stonehenge and I became an Education Volunteer for English Heritage… Within a couple of months this turned into a job as a member of the Visitor Operations Team, standing on the path next to the stones and getting paid for telling people about the place. I did this for 6 years and loved it – it gave me unprecedented levels of access to the stone circle and allowed me to carry out my own research. You can notice a lot of subtleties about Stonehenge if you spend 6 years looking at it from all angles in all weathers and lighting conditions.
2) How many Stonehenge models or replicas do you own, if any?
I have a bronzed resin cast model of Stones 4, 5 and 105 that is 8″ high and mounted on a plinth that reads “It’s smaller than I imagined”. I helped a local firm with their project to create these casts as souvenirs to sell in their shop in Amesbury and they gave me a prototype as a thank you. Stone 5 is the one with the large yellow lichen “DI” lettering that’s visible on its eastern face, a remnant of the RADIO CAROLINE graffiti from the 1960s.
I’ve also got a 1′ high x 2′ wide beaten metal and weld sculptural picture of the monument, done by my friend Michelle Topps of Horseshoes4Hounds (https://www.facebook.com/horseshoes4hounds). Both are utterly unique – I don’t go for snowglobes and the like!
[Editor’s note: This is Quite a Nice Thing! Also—a reminder to our readers that opinions of an interviewee are not necessarily the opinions of the interviewer. We love snowglobes and it’s not too late to send us one!]
3) How many ‘clonehenges’ have you made, if any, and what were the materials?
I’ve done one out of bricks (hasn’t everyone?) but these bricks were the ones that used to line the edge of the visitor path around the monument, and I acquired them when they were torn up as part of the refurbishing of the path back in 2013. I did once make a trilithon out of snow, which is a whole lot trickier than you’d think, and then there was the 5-minute “boxes-of-herbal-tea-henge”, which was a joint effort with other members of the Stonehenge staff when management somewhat over-ordered one day 🙂
4) What do you find amusing, irritating, or remarkable about Stonehenge models or replicas you’ve seen? Do any in particular stand out, whether as good, bad, funny, or impressive? Do you have a favourite?
I’m always amused by the lengths people will go to to henge things – but I feel vaguely sad when no attempt is made to make something recognisably close to the original in any way. There’s more to a good clonehenge than that.
It also irritates me when the models that English Heritage sell have glaring errors. Don’t get me started on the large models in the exhibition at the Visitor Centre – the Station Stones are so out of whack that “rectangle” is the last word you’d use to describe their arrangement! They also forgot to include the Altar Stone when the models were first made, and when they did finally add them in, they glued them down at 90° to the primary solstitial axis instead of the correct 80° – that really grinds my gears, because the 80° angle is fundamental to the design of the monument. [Editor’s note: The plan above and to the left shows the rectangle formed by the Station Stones at Stonehenge. The rectangle formed by these stones is considered important by some because, along with the alignments of these and other stones, it may be part of the reason Stonehenge was built where it is.]
The most impressive has got to be Deller’s “Sacrilege” [Editor: the famous inflatable Stonehenge that toured a few years ago. In this we do not disagree!]. Even though it doesn’t have all the stones, it has just enough of them, done accurately enough that it’s unmistakably close to the real thing. And it’s enormous fun to bounce on. [Editor: On the left, or above, depending on the device you’re using to see this, is a photo of Deller’s bouncy Stonehenge with Simon on the right and English Heritage archaeologist Dave Field on the left. Photo by and with permission of the fabulous Pete Glastonbury.]
My favourite is the one at Esperance, Australia. Although I’ve not seen it in person, I love that it’s a close replica made of actual stone and that it’s correctly rotated 180° from the prototype [Editor:because of its location in the Southern Hemisphere]. It’ll last as long as the original and baffle future archaeologists. •
We end the first part of our interview with Simon Banton here. There’s plenty of information to digest. His opinions about why so many people make Stonehenges, what he would like to see in them, and other advice for hengers, as well as a little advice for Clonehenge itself, are ahead in the next part of the interview. Be sure to tune in!