Moai Coffee, Ratchaburi, Thailand: a meeting of moai, cyclopean walls, coffee, and of course Stonehenge. Seriously, humanity, how did this happen? This is one of those instances when the Stonehenge replica gods seem almost malevolently whimsical.
We understand we may have a few new visitors to this site soon, after an advertisement in which Clonehenge is mentioned is shown widely, and this replica may demonstrate the Clonehenge aesthetic to the curious as well as any: contextless prehistory offered as entertainment, with a healthy side of cringe. Here at Clonehenge, this is part of what we love!
Apparently this Stonehenge has been around since at least 2013 (at which time there were sheep grazing through it, but sadly it seems they have disappeared), but somehow we did not get wind of it until last year. Up front, we want to offer real respect to whoever decided to go so hard for the ‘”so bad it’s good” vibe they have going there. Moai Coffee is an instant classic.
The business itself is a coffee and snack-to-light-meal stop on a popular route in western Thailand. In order to amuse and attract people it seems someone decided to give it an Easter Island head, also known as moai, theme. It isn’t clear just how many moai they have, but there are many and each is unique. Some are just big heads of various sizes, some show the entire torso. You can even buy moai mugs as souvenirs. Humourously the rest rooms are differentiated by a moai with a prominent mustache for the mens’ and a moai with brilliant red lipstick for the ladies’! This place clearly was created with the Instagram selfie celeb in mind.
How Stonehenge crept in there is as yet unknown but there is some confusion among many people about whether Stonehenge and Easter Island heads are related. Stonehenge replicas as far flung as Texas, Japan, and Illinois feature moai as accompaniment for reasons that have never been clear to us. Search ‘Stonehenge’ on Etsy and usually you will see one or two moai listed under that tag. There is also a horrible cartoon that shows a moai on one side of the world and Stonehenge somehow exactly opposite on the other side, with a body between them so that Stonehenge looks like its toes. People send us this cartoon often. (Please stop!)
Listen, we know there is a Youtube video of someone walking around Moai Coffee pointing at the moai and describing them as “stone men from Stonehenge, England” but we will not post that link here. He has been corrected many times in the comments, and besides we refuse to let it continue to ruin our lives. (Is it true that we gripped our heads in both hands and yelled at the screen the first time we saw it? I’m afraid that is merely unconfirmed rumour.)
There are cyclopean walls at Moai Coffee much like those at Sacsayhuamán in Peru, and a few photos show an ancient Egyptian motif in one area or another. We’re all about the Stonehenge stuff here, but the conglomeration of random cool-looking ancient stuff is also a phenomenon worth examining. Not by us, of course. Please, someone go examine it and get back to us.
As for the quality of the replica itself, we judge it very good. The shapes of the stones are rough and close to accurate, which is rare. There is no attempt to make them uniform, a common error, but instead they capture the ancient rugged feel of the real thing. We don’t know whether it is aligned to the winter solstice, or if the lintels are curved but it does appear someone made sure that the inner trilithon horseshoe points toward the three-lintel stretch, one of our favourite tests for whether a builder actually looked at the current Stonehenge when they made it.
This clonehenge gets the official Clonehenge stamp of approval. 8/10, would visit! We will add this to our growing list of large permanent replicas. We have enough left that we have yet to post to take us over the coveted 100 number, so stay tuned. Don’t forget, you can get much more wholesome Clonehenge content on our Facebook group, which is the most active, our Twitter account, and our Facebook page.
We’ll be doing a post about the advert we appear in before long. Until then, friends, new and old, happy henging!
We have mentioned that Indonesia seems to have a thing for Stonehenges. We know there are at least 3. A couple years ago we posted the most famous one: the one at Yogyakarta in the shadow of the volcano called Merapi. The one in our post today is less than a 2 hour drive away! We hope to bring you yet another Indonesian one soon, on the island of Sumatra, but for now let’s have a look at this Stonehenge in the Javanese park called Celosia Happy and Fun. Of the many attractions at this new amusement park, Stonehenge seems to be among the most popular, especially for selfies.
But there are many other very happy and fun things at this park: rides, costumes to wear, Teletubbies to pose with, a hobbit house, an Eiffel Tower, flower gardens, dancing to watch and much more. It takes a lot to live up to a name like Celosia Happy and Fun, but they are certainly making the effort here!
It strikes us, looking at Stonehenge replicas worldwide, that this attitude toward Stonehenges as being something happy and fun is largely an Asian thing. Except for obviously silly ones like Carhenge in Nebraska, rarely do we see as many joyous smiling selfies at replicas elsewhere. Moods can get kind of serious and witchy in photos taken at some of the European ones and those in the States, but in many of the Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian, and Chinese Stonehenge selfies we see real joy. That may be why we see the most rapid proliferation of Stonehenges happening in that part of the world.
We don’t know anything about whose idea this small and handsome Stonehenge was, what it is made of, or what inspired its creation in the first place. It just adds to the intrigue of how Stonehenge gets chosen again and again as something that will draw people, something that people around the world want and will visit even in replica form. Has the advent of the selfie been a driver of the increase in Stonehenges? Why aren’t Ph.D candidates flocking to explore this??
At very few Stonehenge replicas can you do this!
When we add all the Stonehenge replicas we have learned of recently our list of large permanent replicas will go over 100! If we ever get around to adding all of them, we should say. And that’s not counting questionable ones like modern trilithons that have recently been erected in Japan and the Czech republic.
We are in the situation in our personal life of having, as they say, irons in too many very different fires right now, and as a result the Clonehenge blog has been sorely neglected. Our apologies! Meanwhile it seems to be more relevant than ever as the replica numbers mount. You know, it’s strange: when we ask for apprentices no one seems to be interested in doing hours and hours of work with no hope of ever making any money. Where, oh where are the foolish idealists of old? 😉
Foolishness, in our—well, maybe not as humble as it should be—opinion, is criminally underrated! As you no doubt have noticed, the fact does nothing to scare us off from our trademark foolishness. It’s too late to stop now!
We hope to bring you more from our list of as yet unlisted large permanent replicas, but who knows? We have been undependable about posting, monumentally so, one might say. haha Until we do post again, Gentle Readers, we wish you a happy equinox season and, as always, happy henging!
That day at the Red Lion, photo courtesy of Standing with Stones. We’re in there somewhere.
click on this picture to access the podcast
This post has been a while arriving. Way back in September, Clonehenge once again made the journey across the sea to visit old stones and old friends and meet new people. It felt like a headlong rush at the time, with insufficient sleep and more than sufficient alcohol, but it was also glorious. We would love to give you an account of it, but even our family fell asleep when we showed them the pictures, so we’ll let you off easy.
Since we’ve been home we have suffered some small-ish but distracting health problems, and it has taken us until now to get around to reflecting upon the wonder of it all. But wonderful it was, and among the wonders was the serendipity of having been staying just outside Avebury when there was a meeting planned at the Red Lion pub there, for both those affiliated with our longtime friends at The Heritage Journal and for those who made and those who admire the Standing with Stones film and podcast.
It was a treat to meet Nigel Swift from the Heritage Journal, who gave Clonehenge its first good write-up a long time ago, and a fun follow-up interview later. But we knew next to nothing, we are embarrassed to say, about Michael Bott and Rupert Soskin, who together make up the entity that is Standing with Stones. Very much to our surprise, they exclaimed upon meeting us that they had just mentioned Clonehenge on their podcast two weeks before!
Of course we have since listened to it. That whole episode of the podcast, which happens to be about megaliths around the world, is like all of their podcasts, entertaining and informative. The Clonehenge bit comes right at the end, their Bit of Whimsy. It is a delightful and flattering discussion of Clonehenge, the blog and affiliated bits. Yes, they do say we’re barking mad, and we have no argument with that, but they also call it brilliant—twice, if we recall. We’re still basking in the glow of it!
We are delighted to have met them, and it was also our very good fortune to meet the person they talk about in the segment of this podcast just before the Whimsy, what they call their Stone Head of the Month, but in this case, the Stone Head of All Time, who is founder and head of the Megalithic Portal, editor of the book you must have, The Old Stones, with information and in many cases pictures of over 1000 ancient sites in the British Isles, none other than Andy Burnham, the Megalith Master himself!
We met him. It was a good day. After all, it was due to a small competition or exchange with him in a chat box that used to be on the front page of his Megalithic Portal that Clonehenge was started at all. But that story has been told elsewhere. Among people interested in megaliths, in the U.K. and elsewhere, it is widely acknowledged that the Megalithic Portal has not only broadened horizons but changed lives. It has brought couples and good friends together and is an essential resource for fans of ancient sites around the world. Making Clonehenge possible is the least of its accomplishments.
The temptation now is to start listing all the other wonderful people we met during our trip to that fabled isle. We would love to say how delightful each one was, but the focus of this post, which has already gone on too long, is meant to be the podcast, and tangentially the meet-up, where we also had the great pleasure of the company of friends of the blog Brian Edwards and Simon Banton, and also new friends Hazel and Graham Orriss and their brilliant children.
We are flattered if not flabbergasted to have been mentioned by Standing with Stones. We are fortunate beyond imagining to have made the trip and to have gone inside Stonehenge twice, and to join friends to look for the sources of the bluestones in the Preseli Hills of western Wales. All of you who make Stonehenge replicas of every size and material have made this possible for us! We thank you.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
in the drawer, a Henry Browne model
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,
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.
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!