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]

Trilithon flat 2.jpg

trilithon flat 1.jpeg

photos of the parts of the concrete trilithon at rest on Cannings Cross Farm

Stonehengineers

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!

Big News: BBC Replica Trilithon Rediscovered—Just in Time for Clonehenge’s Sixth Birthday!

1996 concrete trilithon replica

1996 concrete trilithon replica

[note: this post was written in 2014. so far this trilithon has not been re-erected.]

We are [please choose one: 1. surprised 2. confused 3. incredulous 4. amused 5. shocked 6. spannered] to announce that today is the sixth anniversary of the founding of the Clonehenge blog!

Timothy Daw, BBC Wiltshire's Karen Gardner, and Julian Richards with the concrete uprights

Timothy Daw, BBC Wiltshire’s Karen Gardner, and Julian Richards with the concrete uprights

And to celebrate it (or rather completely coincidentally) recently renowned Wiltshire farmer and long barrow builder Mr. Timothy Daw, along with well known television presenter and Stonehenge scholar, Mr. Julian Richards, have inaugurated a new and historic project: the resurrection of a 1990s BBC concrete replica Stonehenge trilithon! You can see the original completed concrete trilithon in the photo above.

In the words of the increasingly famous Stonehenge caretaker Tim Daw,

“Twenty years ago Julian Richards led a programme where they dragged and erect a full size replica of the Great Trilithon of Stonehenge. The concrete stones were recently discovered to be in danger of being destroyed and so we have saved them and they are now at All Cannings Cross near the Long Barrow. Next year we hope to remake the programme using neolithic methods to raise it again, and leave it standing.”

The finding and transporting of the pieces of this trilithon has been such an event that BBC Wiltshire actually posted a set of pictures called Replica Stonehenge (!!!) showing the concrete “stones” being moved and transported with crane and lorries. The text reads:

the trilithon pieces at Cannings Cross Farm

the trilithon pieces at Cannings Cross Farm, photo by Andy Burns

A replica Stonehenge has been moved across Wiltshire. The giant concrete stones have been transported to Canning Cross Farm near Devizes. Farmer Tim Daw will use them to test the different theories on how the Neolithic monument was put together 4,000 years ago.

Only a few times in the six years of its existence has the Clonehenge blog covered actual Stonehenge replica news. There was the story of the pink Granite Stonehenge in West Australia, its stones being left at the quarry when the man who commissioned it ran out of money, and its subsequent acquisition by the Beales and installation on their cattle farm; and then of course there was, and remarkably still is, the only full-sized illegal guerilla henge, Achill Henge on Achill Island in County Mayo, Ireland. That one was supposed to be taken down immediately, but three years later is still standing!

And now we have this romantic story of the concrete trilithon lying in pieces in a car park since the 1990s, only to be discovered, claimed, and transported, with plans for its resurrection—on the Wiltshire farm of the discoverer of the missing Stonehenge stone parch marks, Stonehenge caretaker, and long barrow builder, megalithic superstar himself, Mister Timothy Daw.

We are looking forward to next year, watching the progress as various transport methods are used to move the concrete stones, and the trials are filmed for television. (By then no doubt Mr. Daw will be forced to stop every few moments to give autographs, which could slow things down a bit. Haha, we certainly hope he is a good sport.) This is a wonderful project, and we thank all involved, for photos, information, and for giving our whole staff here at Clonehenge something to crow about as we complete our sixth year of nonsense. The smiles you see on all three people in the picture above are the smiles that Stonehenge replicas create wherever they are found. We have loved recording them and being party to this odd corner of human nature for so many years! We see no sign that henge building is slowing down or going out of style.

We know we haven’t been posting much here on the blog lately. Some people tell us they no longer have time to read blog posts and they now only track their Stonehenge replica news on our Facebook group, Facebook page, or on Twitter. Of the three, we would have to recommend the Clonehenge Facebook group, because the most action and up-to-the-minute reports take place there. But once in a while we’ll return here to record something special.

And until the next time comes, dear friends, we wish you some very happy henging!

Our 400th Post: No Stonehenge, No Replica. It’s the Modern Long Barrow at All Cannings!

Tim and Rufus.jpeg

Above: Tim Daw and Rufus at the Long Barrow at All Cannings in May of 2015, when we were privileged to visit

[note: this post was written in 2014, before the completion of the long barrow.]

Despite the fact that we have in effect left this blog on its own like a kitten at a rubbish tip (or dump, if you prefer), it has somehow matured to the ripe age of four hundred posts. To celebrate all of those magnificent and ridiculous Stonehenge replicas, what have we chosen to feature? A new Sconehenge? The long-awaited Space Station replica? (we wish!), a Stonehenge replica owned by some fabulous celebrity? Absolutely not. Instead we are featuring something that not only is not at all a Stonehenge, but is only sort of a replica. BECAUSE IT’S OUR BLOG AND WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT!!!

And what is this delicious non-henge confection we are serving up to you today? It is the remarkable and brand new Long Barrow at All Cannings. Its website says:

Inside the longbarrow at All Cannings

Inside the Long Barrow at All Cannings, photo by Joby R. J. Wheatley

The Long Barrow at All Cannings is a columbarium or place for cremated remains in urns to be kept. It is being built in 2014 in the style of a traditional long barrow in natural materials, but made relevant for today in its internal layout. It is aligned to the sunrise of the winter solstice when the sun will illuminate the internal stone passageway.

Yep, you still gotta have that sunrise alignment! To help us tell you about the long barrow, we have pretended to be responsible bloggers and interviewed the man behind the barrow, Tim Daw, writer of the Stonehenge-related blog Sarsen.org. If you’re a Stonehenge fan, that should already be on your blogroll. Mr. Tim Daw, once a staff member at Stonehenge for English Heritage, owns Cannings Cross farms in Wiltshire.

Clonehenge: What made you decide to build the long barrow? Was there a moment of inspiration, or was this in the back of your mind for a long time?

Tim DawIt was a moment of inspiration that brought together various long cogitated thoughts; it would be nice to build a barrow for myself, lots of people need a place for cremated urns that is a bit special and has a spiritual quality which is hard to find elsewhere, somewhere to revisit and remember;  WOW! this is a great spot.

Clonehenge: How would you say your long term knowledge of Stonehenge and the nearby landscape of Wiltshire’s distant past informed your inspiration and decisions about the long barrow, its purpose and construction?

Tim Daw: I think it made me want to make it authentic and real but not a copy or pastiche. Using ancient techniques but not bound by play acting reconstruction. And making it worthy to be alongside the other monuments in the area.

The barrow during construction, photo by Paul Robinson

The barrow during construction, photo by Paul Robinson

And therein, we think, lies the secret of the fine quality of this barrow. If you have been reading the Clonehenge blog from the beginning (And surely you have, Gentle Reader), you have heard us talk about the sacred landscapes in Wiltshire, not only Stonehenge, Avebury, and Silbury hill, but the cursus, long barrows, round barrows, avenues, and more.

Mr. Daw has been steeping in this environment, learning about it and dwelling in the midst of it his whole life, developing a deep respect for the history and the land itself. That relationship reveals itself in the understated excellence of the design and his willingness to pay for the finest quality stone work. The barrow is not just a fanciful construction, nor just a place to deposit a loved one’s ashes with reverence and permanence. It is, in the best sense, also his gesture to that sacred and legended land that surrounds it and to those who once did and those who still do revere it.

But what kind of talk is that? We’re a humourous blog, much more suited to embarrassingly-shaped vegetables than to that sort of thing! We’re running out of room in this post, so to make a long story short, we say: this is your chance: £1000 pounds to be your own barrow wight seems like a bargain to us! And what if that ancient theory about the solstice sun when it enters the barrow bringing the dead to life turns out to be true? That would certainly be more than your money’s worth, right there! [Note: there is no longer any room in Tim’s long barrow, but other people are building them now, so a little research may help you find a similar resting place.]

Okay, this isn’t a Stonehenge replica, but to us it points up the things that make most Stonehenge replicas ridiculous. Stonehenge is an ancient monument that is a unique part of humanity’s deep history, placed exactly where it is for a reason, in a landscape that still resonates with the reverence of many thousands of years of inhabitants, some of  whose descendants still live there today. No Stonehenge replica, from two upright carrot sticks with a cross carrot on top, to the most carefully accurate full-sized replica, can approach that essence of what Stonehenge is.

But in All Cannings there will now be a long barrow of modern construction that, while it is not a Stonehenge replica in any other sense, may have captured a whiff of the ineffable weight and meaning of Stonehenge both on the land of which it is a part and in the psyches of those for whom Stonehenge and its ancient companions have become an obsession.

Whoever THEY are.

And until next time, friends, happy henging!

P. S: We did ask Mr. Daw if he was planning to add some Easter Island heads to the property later. He said no, but he might add some gibbets in preparation for The Glorious Day….