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.

Celtic Cabinet Stonehenge, Wiltshire Heritage Museum

BrittonCabinet stonehenge 2photos by Pete Glastonbury, with permission

The plaque on this cabinet in the Wiltshire Heritage Museum reads:

The Britton ‘Celtic’ Cabinet [Clonehenge thanks whoever is responsible for those single quotation marks!] The cabinet was originally made in about 1824 for G Watson Taylor, MP for Erlestoke. It is made in the shape of one of the trilithons at Stonhenge [sic], with pollarded elm and birds eye maple veneer, and contains inset watercolours by contemporary artists including Cotman. By 1832 it had been acquired by the historian John Britton (1771-1857) and stood in his library, where it housed manuscripts and drawings. It was bought by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1853.

BrittonCabinet chThe replica at the top of this post, seen in glass on top of the cabinet, is one of the cork models by Henry Browne, whom we have mentioned before. On the left side of the ‘trilithon’ you can see a charming watercolour of an aerial view of Stonehenge. A similar picture of Avebury is on the right. The other painted panels are hard to make out, but the bottom right is Stonehenge again. Others seem to represent a concession that Wiltshire doesn’t own the megalith franchise.

This is an absolutely fabulous bit of megalithia, in our not-all-that-humble opinions. So much so that we are giving the Avebury model inside the cabinet a post of its own, to follow in a few days.

BrittonCabinet2 ch

Score: 8½ druids. It might have been 9 if it weren’t for that word Celtic in its name. Our thanks to Pete G. for bringing this amazing item to our attention!