Clonehenge’s Tenth Year: Starting It Off Right! (ish)

It was suggested to us that we should do a post every month this year, and for each month choose the best Stonehenge replica from the corresponding year of the blog. What a good idea! What a shame we aren’t the kind of people who act on good ideas. But there it is.

And anyway, when we took a look back at all of those early posts, two things leapt out at us. One is that no one should ever have to read their own writing from almost a decade ago, and the other is that somehow every single henge seems like the best henge in its own particular way! So in the real tradition of this blog, we’re just going to ramble aimlessly and pretend it’s a good post. Thank you very much. No applause necessary. Really. We’re good.

It is widely, although not universally, agreed that Stonehenge is mysterious. It was mysterious to me as a child, a representation of the mysteries of the distant past, when people had to wrest their livings directly from the earth, with no social networks but their communities, no videos but the night sky.

Standing alone on Salisbury Plain, unaccompanied by evidence of a city or other signs of advanced civilisation, it went on to tantalise us with its complexities, the carefully worked curved lintels on the outer circle, the woodwork-like mortise and tenon joints that held those lintels in place for millennia, the astronomical alignments, the surrounding landscape with Aubrey Holes, barrows and cursus, to name but a few.

Who built Stonehenge? Why did they build it? How did they build it? What did it look like at its height? Those were the well-known mysteries on which I cut my metaphorical mysteries teeth. But then, through an intricate series of unusual circumstances that seemed to flow normally as they happened but seem strangely contrived in retrospect, I stumbled upon what seemed to me to be a greater mystery still: why are so many people even now in our modern but bewildering times building so many Stonehenge replicas?

I mean, seriously, what is it about? People all over the world are making Stonehenges, large and small, out of materials edible and inedible, from single trilithons to elaborate facsimiles, many if not most of them thinking they are the first to make one like theirs. And that’s true, in a way, because although they are all replicas of the same thing, no two are the same! Although there are countless Stonehenge replicas, a student of the subject can over time learn to recognize each of them by sight.

In the famous words of one Jubal Early of the brilliant but prematurely lamented show Firefly, “Now, does that seem right to you?”

Since then we, which is our polite form of “I”, have been wandering a side path. Let others stop at the enigma Visitor Centre and board the bus to the external mystery. We instead have been set to wander over the Stonehenge landscape of the modern mind, seeking the archetype that will help us make sense of the conundrum of an upsurge of Stonehenge and of faux Stonehenges in the age of Instagram, Google Street View, and virtual reality.

Some will say it all stems from Spinal Tap and make that stale quip about dwarves, but the building of Stonehenges far precedes their time. Henry Browne, by all accounts, was building and selling small cork Stonehenge replicas by some time in the early to mid-1800s. The Quinta Stonehenge in Weston Rhyn, Shropshire is variously said to have been built some time in the 1840s to 1870s. The well known Maryhill replica in Washington State was built in the 1930s. And so on. The famously small stage prop replica in the movie This Is Spinal Tap was just part of a long tradition, itself rumoured tonhave been inspired by a too-large replica built for a Black Sabbath tour.

So instead of a sensible effort like the suggested ten henges for ten months, we, that is to say I, am embarking on a ten month examination of the phenomenon and idea of Stonehenge replicas. What kinds are there? What’s funny about them, what’s poignant about them? We hope to do an interview or two (or three) with people who have special knowledge of the subject of Stonehenge, both in real life and in media perceptions. And some of the people who have built and are building the Stonehenges of our time.

As we approach Clonehenge’s tenth anniversary, we finally plan to confront some of the questions we have playfully raised all this time, and while we do so, we will show you some extraordinary henges/replicas on the way. We invite you along for the ride!

And until next time, Gentle Readers, we wish you happy henging!

*At the top, a Henry Browne Stonehenge, photo our own, taken with permission at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes. Our thanks to the gracious David Dawson, the indispensable Pete Glastonbury, and the kind and brilliant Jezreell.

Stonehenge Merapi: Visit Stonehenge in Indonesia! With Evacuation Routes, Just in Case!

Stonehenge Merapi, photo by rovi tavare

This is your up-to-date Stonehenge reporter, with the latest news tracking Stonehenge as it spreads itself around the globe! Today we present to you…drumroll…Stonehenge in Indonesia! Not just in Indonesia, but on the slope of a recently-erupted volcano!

Built some time in late 2016, it stands on the island of Java, on the slope of Mount Merapi, a volcano that erupted in 2010 and is still considered active. One site, translated from the Indonesian reassures us, “Stonehenge building is actually also located in KRB III (disaster prone area) but not to worry because the manager also provides evacuation routes.” Comforting!

“No need to go to England!” one site proclaims. You can save yourself a trip and take those selfies here!

One remarkable thing we have never seen at another large Stonehenge replica is a sign in front of the monument, a set of large red letters that spell STONEHENGE in our familiar Latin alphabet! Take note, English Heritage!

Stonehenge Merapi, sign and all, photo by Angki Hermawan.

A surprising number of photos and videos of this Stonehenge can be found online, especially considering how new it is, a testament to its popularity with tourists and locals alike. Someone must have known it would receive a hearty welcome. There are even some of those misty, moody photos that reveal the presence of that kind of monument photographer with nothing to do but lurk about in all weathers waiting for the perfect shot—stone botherers, as we’ve heard them called. Doesn’t take them long to show up when something like this appears. They certainly have kindred spirits back in sites around Wiltshire!

And what do we think of it? The stones are nicely uneven if a bit lanky. It does look as if the builders paid enough attention to face the inner trilithon horseshoe toward the three-lintel stretch in the outer circle. But few bluestone-like bits and no ditch or bank, so we’ll award it 8 druids. No, wait! 8 1/2 druids—the extra half is for building it on the slope of an active volcano. That is very much in the spirit of Clonehenge! Kudos to the builders, whoever they are!

So if you find yourself on Java, in the city of Yogyakarta, famous for the beautiful 9th century temple of Borobodur, be sure to make a detour to Lost World Castle to see this amazing lava Stonehenge, and don’t wait too long. At any time another eruption could end its brief but brilliant life! And until next time, friends, happy henging!

Clonehenge Interviewed on BBC Wiltshire’s Breakfast Show!

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Jeremy Deller’s bouncy Stonehenge, called Sacrilege, seen here in Hong Kong. Photo link.

We are chuffed! Clonehenge somehow caught the eye of someone at BBC Wiltshire and we ended up having a brief but delightful chat with Breakfast Show presenter Ben Prater. Now you lucky readers can hear it here, should you so choose. Fear not. It is short and will be over before you know it!

All right, yes, during the interview we did forget to mention the blog address, our Facebook group and page, and our Twitter account, which in retrospect seems to suggest a certain lack of presence of mind, but in our defense, it was 3:00 in the morning here. On the up side, no one can accuse us of too-zealous self-promotion! Here’s the interview:

 

Fun! Don’t forget to send us your messages and your henges on the Facebook or Twitter links above, and until next time, friends, happy henging!

The Bluestone Throne: Have a Seat Among the Trilithons!

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The so-called Bluestone Throne, as posted by Cross Keys Arcade on Twitter

Just feast your eyes. We love this!

The “Bluestone Throne”, as seen above, is a marketing aid for the cathedral city of Salisbury in Wiltshire, the county of the U.K. that is (blessed with? burdened with? guilty of?) Stonehenge. Cleverly made from wood by a local craftsman, it is painted to resemble stone, not actually the famous bluestones, but the equally famous sarsen trilithons that are so emblematic of the ancient heap of rocks we keep talking about here.

The back of the throne is made to look like one huge trilithon and the seat’s arms are made up of two smaller trilithons. The proportions and the stone shapes echo those of the real monument, which may not sound like much but is actually quite unusual when it comes to Stonehenge replicas. We applaud the efforts at making it look real.

And the idea is clever, isn’t it? We think some smart entrepreneur should use this design and create inflatable thrones to sell for sitting in the back garden or by the seashore. How glorious!

Are we still giving tongue-in-cheek Druid ratings on this long-neglected blog? If so, we grant this a solid 8 druids, which is very good for something that doesn’t even form a circle. But it is surely in the Clonehenge tradition—a bit humourous, almost a cheeky (Oh gosh! We’re going to pretend that pun was intended!) thing to do with the idea of the world-renowned monument of mystery and wonder we all know so well. And we like it all the more for being named Bluestone Throne when there is nothing resembling a bluestone in it! Just the sort of thing that delights us.

The selfie-friendly seat will be placed in different spots around Salisbury over the coming weeks, then tucked away over the winter, and if it is popular enough, brought back out for next year! So please, we beg you, make sure it’s popular so we can see it again, or, alternatively, have it sent to us at the end of the season, for us to put in the front garden. Wouldn’t the neighbours talk!

So get thee to Salisbury to sit on the stoney throne. We have a list of people we would love to see in it. Feel free to post Bluestone Throne selfies on our Facebook Group, or tweet them to @Clonehenge on Twitter. And until next time, kind friends, happy henging!

At Solstice Doth Our Fancy Lightly Turn to Thoughts of Stonehenge

Aaron burell, aligner of Odessa's Henge, TX

Aaron Burell, aligner of the Odessa Stonehenge, at the henge itself

Summer solstice about to happen in the northern hemisphere and if there is to be a Clonehenge holiday, this is as good as any. After all, there is nearly consensus that winter solstice was the big holiday for which Stonehenge was built and yet summer solstice draws the largest crowds there. After all, it’s warmer!That is the sort of irony for which Clonehenge is made.

Clonehenge was created because in honesty we were flabbergasted at the discovery that people all over the world at any given time are making Stonehenges out of any available material. From time to time you see someone trying to claim the making of henges for herself or himself, but the whole principle of Clonehenge is that the making of Stonehenges is universal and quite beyond logic and explanation, a human phenomenon that is not likely to end any time soon.

Of course over the years we have not been the only ones tracking henges, although we like to think we have been the most comprehensive. Among the people watching and thinking about the proliferation of henges is a radio producer for the BBC called Mark Burman. In his words,

“I guess when I first fell under the stony shadow I was envisaging a picaresque, mildly piss taking, kookiness road trip through America. Problem is—it is a long, bloody road trip and every story has to be researched and a journey has to be planned and the nature of radio schedules and radio budgets is I don’t have 2 months to scoot through America-which is what it would take. I began in 2014 in Texas as I was making a story out there on the real Searchers. But that’s as far as I have got and my nice WS editor has been happy to wait. So it has been a story greatly interrupted but as I am back in the States at least twice more this year as it seems nuts not to add to my Henge stories.”

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Rehearsing MacBeth at Stonehenge II

Aboveyou can see pictures from his visits to two of Texas’s Stonehenges, the somewhat humourous and strangely proportioned but popular Stonehenge II and the beautifully made Stonehenge at Odessa, surely one of the five best in the western hemisphere if not the world.

The news is that Mr. Burman may be making the trek back to the States once or twice in 2017 and it is possible he may be accompanying the staff of Clonehenge to a Stonehenge replica or two in the eastern United States. It will not be in time for solstice, of course, but as at solstice a person’s fancy turns to thoughts of Stonehenge, it seemed as good a good time as any to bring it up. If we begin the Clonehenge year at solstice (and why not?), this may be the beginning of a resurgence in the vitality of henging and stories of henging! We hear of much worse things on a daily basis, so perhaps people are ready to permit a little weirdness in the mix.

Best wishes to all and of course, happy henging! The entire staff at Clonehenge wishes you well, O Gentle Reader! May the year that begins now bring you good things and better days than we can currently envision!

BEST STONEHENGE REPLICA EVER: Built Near Stonehenge by Hollywood!

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Transformers 5 Stonehenge replica, photo by Rose Senior

This is it—the new standard for hengers everywhere! It is only a partial replica, but the part they did build captures the feel of the real—the right size, shapes, proportions, placement, colours, indentations, markings. Attention was paid to the real thing.

We don’t know what it’s made of or who made it, but we do know the why. It was created for scenes in the fifth and latest movie in the Transformers franchise, a film series based on, well, toys, not to put too fine a point on it. We laugh, but the Transformers series of movies is the: “4th highest-grossing when averaged to gross per film, behind the The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean film series.” So says Wikipedia. Big movie stars including Anthony Hopkins, Mark Wahlberg, and Stanley Tucci will be in this film. In fact, the first two were in Wiltshire this past week filming at Stonehenge and at the replica, and possibly at a rumoured secret second replica (!!!).

There is money behind this film. Big money. It is safe to say that this is the most expensive Stonehenge replica ever created. And we must say, we are impressed with what money can do! Brilliant work has been done in shaping, placing, and colouring these ‘stones’. They are so well done that even as respected an institution as the Daily Mail briefly published an article with pictures of it that claimed it was the real Stonehenge.

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This picture’s caption in the Daily Mail read: “The replica was so realistic it led many to claim the original structure had in fact been used by the filmmakers.” (And that ‘many’ seem to have been writers for the Mail.)

The figure standing in the above picture is Anthony Hopkins. We don’t often get to see celebrities at Stonehenge replicas, so we just wanted to point this out. This is henging at a whole other level.

Making false things appear real is what Hollywood excels at. In this case, how did they do it? There is a lot we don’t know, but the marvelous Rose Senior captured a bit of the magic and is kindly willing to share it with readers of the Clonehenge blog. The following photos show fake lichen being applied to the replica stones, and in one we see pictures of the lichen on the real stones, used as guidance for the ‘painters’ of the false ones.

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‘Lichen’ being applied to the ‘stones’. Photo by Rose Senior.

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Pictures of the real stones being used to guide one of the painters of the replica stones. Photo by Rose Senior.

Rose tells us that when the paint was being thrown at the stones, it made a hollow sound. It isn’t surprising that the stones were hollow, but the question of the material involved remain tantalisingly unanswered. The hollowness of these stones, which were just by Bilbury Rings Hillfort off the A303, also brings us back to rumours of a second and mysterious Stonehenge replica, secreted somewhere in the Wiltshire countryside. Hollow stones might not be ideal to use if you want a good scene of Stonehenge being blown up (and blowing things up is another thing Hollywood and in particular this film series is known for), so might the rumoured secret replica be solid and possibly smaller, built solely for blowing up and exploding the stones in a visually satisfying manner? That is our guess.

If anyone has further information (or photos!) on the rumoured replica or on the materials and creators of the known one, please tell us and we will add the information to this post. There are so many things our inquiring minds want to know! It is exciting to have Hollywood with its famous people and huge quantities of money walk right into our wheelhouse, so to speak.

Once again we are left to marvel at how many walks of life a fascination with Stonehenge replicas can draw one into. Science, religion, art, foods, politics, movies—Stonehenge replicas are built in connection with all these topics and more. Not to mention little toy cars that can change into monsters!

And with that profound philosophical note, we wish you all, friends, some very happy henging!

P.S.: Our thanks to Rose Senior, Tim Daw, Simon Banton, and @Fromegooner for help with this post!

Happy Solstice! A Long Post for the Longest Day!

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The famous Britton “Celtic” Cabinet at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes

Greetings and a very happy solstice to all of you out there in the increasingly strange world of now! We know that people generally don’t find time to read blog posts anymore, what with one apocalypse or another looming at any given moment, but in a contrary spirit we have decided to write a longer one than usual. But with pictures, so there’s that!

As some of you may know, a little over a year ago, the entire staff of the Clonehenge blog flew over the sea to the centre of henging contagion, that hulking grey pile of construction debris on Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge itself. We posted in October about the unabashed promotion of Stonehenge replicas we discovered at the shop in the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, but we have yet to share our other extraordinary encounters with replicas shown us by friends of the Clonehenge blog in the area.

The first of these was a huge concrete trilithon, currently being stored at the farm of Mr. Tim Daw  whose name may be familiar to Stonehenge fans as a result of theories and discoveries he made while employed at Stonehenge. He is also known for his remarkable construction, the Long Barrow at Al Cannings. He kindly treated us to a tour of that beautiful modern long barrow, and then, knowing our interests, led us through chalk mud, a remarkably clingy substance, to the three pieces of the trilithon, currently not set up as a trilithon but in repose. The two uprights, we are told, weigh 40 Tonnes each and the lintel 10 and a half!

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concrete trilithon in the Vale of Pewsy (the markings are not tribal, 😉  but were painted there for visibility on the lorry journey to where they now rest)

These “stones” were used in the 1996 BBC documentary Secrets of Lost Empires: Stonehenge to to represent the stones of Stonehenge’s largest trilithon, in an attempt to demonstrate how those and the other large stones at Stonehenge may have been moved. We assume their length includes the section that in the original stones extended underground to keep them steady and upright. Pictures on this page show their size better than our poor picture above. They are imposing in person, even lying down. Mr. Daw and others are hoping to use them again to test various Stone-Age-appropriate methods for transporting and erecting megaliths, for a programme on how Stonehenge may have been constructed. We look forward to that!

For the next couple days of our trip, we enjoyed the wonders of Wiltshire, its landscape, and many ancient stones and sites (including Stonehenge in the pouring rain, a quintessentially British experience not to be missed unless you have the opportunity to see it in any other weather!). Those days were overwhelmingly beautiful and fascinating, and we extend our thanks to many people for going out of their ways to make it so.

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West Kennet Long Barrow with Terence Meaden, who was kind enough to accompany us there and share his knowledge

And then, on our final day in that county, probably still bearing chalk mud in the treads of our shoes, we visited the Wiltshire Museum in the town of Devizes in the company of long-time friend of the blog Pete Glastonbury. There, to our astonishment, we were greeted by people who already knew of the name of Clonehenge, and who were therefore willing to reveal to us deeply secret Stonehenge models  hidden from the prying eyes of the general public! (Or, yes, possibly just Stonehenge models that would be of absolutely no interest to anyone one but us, but let us have our fantasies.)

After a few minutes surveying small Stonehenge models available in the museum shop, we were introduced to none other than Director David Dawson and led upstairs to view the wonderful Britton Cabinet whose picture adorns the top of this post. We posted about it on this blog years ago, with photos by Mr. Glastonbury, but it was another thing to see it in person! If we described it in detail, this post would be insufferably long (like it is already, only more so), but as it says on this page, “Integral to the design of the cabinet are three models of Stonehenge and Avebury made by Henry Browne.” We are not ashamed to say that we were moved to see in person some of the historical Stonehenge models made by Mr. Henry Browne himself. Browne’s models were, as far as we can tell, the first Stonehenge models to become popular enough to create a demand. The sale of small Stonehenges that we see today in such profusion probably started with him!

A drawer of the cabinet was opened for us, and protective covering carefully lifted from a model so that we might see it. Unlike the model under coloured glass atop the cabinet, which is meant to show the monument as it now stands, this one represents Stonehenge as it is thought to have looked before the destructive forces of time acted upon it.

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in the drawer, a Henry Browne model

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model of Avebury in a drawer of the cabinet, overseen by Pete Glastonbury

When we had finished looking at and photographing the cabinet and its contents, Mr. Dawson then kindly brought out two more Stonehenge models: a resin one made by Michael Postins, who made the ‘template’ for models sold by English Heritage for tourists,

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resin model by Michael Postins, here held by Director Dawson

and a smaller metal one with various military badges, a bit eccentric, which, of course, appeals to us. No history is known for this, but it’s a nice portrayal with stones that look a bit organic, as if they were about to come to life.

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There is much more to the museum, of course, including fascinating and beautiful artefacts from Wiltshire, some found at and near Stonehenge and thought to have belonged to the ancient people who built it and celebrated there. If you’re visiting Stonehenge and want more of its story, you should make a point to stop at the Wiltshire Museum.

We had many more adventures worth telling, and saw more Stonehenge and Avebury models on our trip. But solstice awaits, and the long journey toward shorter days. If you have read this far, we thank you for your time. There truly is a wonderful world of Stonehenge replicas out there, and wonderful people who make them or are fascinated by them. Until next time, friends, happy henging!