Transatlantic Coalition of Stonehenge Experts Builds Stonehenge with Toy Blocks!

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Simon Banton and Neil Wiseman ponder their remake of Stonehenge. Photo by Andy Burns.

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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.


The Stonehenge Perspective on Henging, Part 2: Simon Banton, Continued

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]

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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.

More generally, the most recent research is suggesting that the society responsible for Stonehenge’s construction was almost completely eradicated by an incoming population from the Continent in the early Bronze Age. If this is true, then we have—in Britain—no direct ancestral connection to the builders of it. That’s something of a shock, as Stonehenge is a touchstone of British identity. The argument about the DNA evidence from early Beaker graves that suggests this is likely to get quite heated.

9) Do you have any advice for hengers?

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!

The Stonehenge Perspective on Henging, Part 1: Introducing Simon Banton!

Above: Simon Banton at that famous pile of rocks:

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.img_0552

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.

A note to start, because this will come up:

As some will know, there is a commonly agreed-upon numbering system for the stones at Stonehenge. For example, this trilithon, originally part of the outer circle so it would have supported the ends of two more lintels, shows upright stones 4 and 5 plus the lintel, which is 105.
4 5 105(Just ignore the show-off bustard. Apparently bird tourists are permitted inside the circle of the ditch and bank, unlike the rest of us that day. Not fair, but as they say, what is?)
Stonehenge numbered stone plan by Author ©Anthony Johnson 2008

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 Stonehenge modelcreate 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 ( Both are utterly unique – I don’t go for snowglobes and the like!
Stonehenge weld picture

[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?) Teahengebut 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.

Screen Shot 2018-03-24 at 9.31.48 AMIt 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.]

29570597_10155564264413022_4968747390063919463_nThe 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!

And until next time, of course, happy henging!