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Archive for August 12th, 2011

An ancient burial site which dates back thousands of years has been reopened to the public after two years of repairs.

The Long Barrow, known as Hetty Pegler's Tump, could date back as far as 3200BC

The Long Barrow, known as Hetty Pegler's Tump, could date back as far as 3200BC

Uley Long Barrow in Gloucestershire, known as Hetty Pegler’s Tump, was closed while urgent structural work was carried out at the Neolithic site.

Structural damage to the interior dry stone walls of the burial chamber had left it in an unsafe condition.

English Heritage has overseen the work to restore the 120ft (37m) long monument which dates back to 3200BC.

Mark Badger, from English Heritage, said: “We are delighted that this very significant Long Barrow is once again open to visitors.

“The archaeological investigations carried out during the urgent works by the Cotswold Archaeology team have also confirmed the original plan of the burial chambers which were excavated in both 1821 and in 1854.”

Samples of original Neolithic mound material will now be taken away for analysis in a bid to establish a more accurate date.

The scheduled monument is managed by Gloucestershire County Council on behalf of English Heritage and is named after Hester Pegler, the 17th century owner of the field in which it sits.

It is one of a series of ancient stone structures known as the Cotswold-Severn barrow group, sited near Dursley and overlooking the Severn Valley.

Very little is known about who was buried there other than that they were from some of the first settled farming communities

Link: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/uley-long-barrow-hetty-peglers-tump/

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Penelope Keith hosts To The Manor Reborn at AveburyA manor house in Wiltshire is to be completely restored for a new BBC One series presented by Penelope Keith.

Avebury Manor House

Avebury Manor House

The four hour-long episodes will see the National Trust property Avebury Manor refurbished by a team of historians, experts, and volunteers.

Keith, who played snobbish aristocrat Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in the sitcom To The Manor Born, will be joined by Flog It! presenter Paul Martin.

To the Manor Reborn will be broadcast later in the year.

The series will follow the refurbishment of the 500-year-old property in Avebury as it is brought back to life.

Teams of craftsmen, furniture makers and interior design experts will restore the interior of the Grade I listed house to reflect its long history.

‘Push the boundaries’

BBC One controller Danny Cohen said: “Our partnership with the National Trust on this ambitious project encapsulates so many of the BBC’s ambitions.

“The channel aims to keep engaging audiences in new ways and this series offers them the chance to follow the story on screen, and to experience it first hand.”

Sarah Staniforth, the museums and collections director for the National Trust, said: “It is not only a unique opportunity to engage viewers in the history of interior design and architecture but is also a way for the trust to push the boundaries in bringing properties to life.”

Among the guests on To The Manor Reborn will be architectural expert Dan Cruickshank and gardener David Howard.

Avebury Manor will be closed for much of the year while the series is being filmed. It will be reopened as an “immersive experience” in the autumn.

Avebury Manor and Garden

An establishment of monastic origins, the present buildings dates from early 16th century with Queen Anne alterations and Edwardian renovations. The gardens are of an Edwardian style and features much topiary.

Link: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-avebury/w-visit-avebury_filming-at-avebury-manor.htm

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The ancient standing stones at Avebury, lie between Swindon and Devizes on the A4361. Avebury rings are a World Heritage site and attracts thousands of visitors annually, who are no doubt intrigued by the mystery that surrounds their construction.
Avebury Stone Circle
The henge is believed to date back to around 2600BC; just what motivated our ancestors to construct such an elaborate site and their ultimate purpose in doing so remains largely a mystery. It has been suggested (one of many theories) it may have been used as a place of worship and sacrifice. Some favour an astral observatory, difficult to prove I shouldn’t wonder, in view of the fact that many of the stones are missing and any alignment with the stars must be considered near impossible. Others believe it had a connection with Silbury Hill (see sidebar for more info)and was used to gauge the seasons for agriculture. Whatever the reasons for its construction, its true purpose still eludes archaeologists and scholars to this day.

It is unfortunate that not all of Avebury’s 154 sarsen stones (most likely quarried and transported on wooden rollers from the Marlborough hills) have survived. Of the three rings and the Avenue that make up the henge, only 36 stones are still standing. Many were destroyed or buried (some still are) in massive pits during the 14th century by devout local Christians because a) they believed them to be the harbingers of ill luck and b) to eradicate pagan worship from the monument.

It was during the 18th century that the stones came under attack once more, not from zealous Christians this time but from local construction workers who decided it would be a jolly good idea to utilizes the stones to construct several of the cottages in the village; the grand 15th century Tudor manor and the modernization of 12th century church of St. James. Some of these magnificent stones even went to cobble the streets of Devizes seven miles to the south.

It wasn’t until the intervention and purchase of the site by Marmalade tycoon and archaeologist – Alexander Keiller in the 1930’s, that the destruction ceased. Keiller was responsible for much of the conservation and re-erection of the stones. His work was interrupted during the outbreak of the WWII and remains unfinished to this day, unfinished because there are still stones which lay buried.

Keiller purchased Avebury Manor in 1937 and utilized and modernized the stable block to house a museum of his work and findings. Although small, it is well worth a visit.

Folklore

Folklore has evolved over a millennia regarding the alleged power of Avebury’s standing stones. A fascination has grown for these enigmatic sarsens, which appear to cast their spell on many who see them. The stones are often referred to as ‘grey wethers’ on account of their resemblance to grazing sheep when seen from a distance. Some believe the sarsens have healing properties and by a ‘hugging’ one, it will release its magical properties and cure most ills. Others have claimed whilst hugging a stone, to have felt vibrations emanating from within its very core. ‘Stone hugging’ is a common sight at Avebury. Often when I have been driving past, I can pretty much guarantee that someone will be flat against a stone, adopting a pose reminiscent of the crucifixion and gazing heavenward in eager anticipation of “the vibe‘. I think “the vibe,” can more than likely be attributed to the rumble and subsequent vibration of traffic passing close by on the A4361. There’s nout queerer than folk and Avebury attracts them in swarms – bless ‘em. As mentioned earlier, the locals used to believe the stones were harbingers of ill luck, so hugging one is probably not such a good idea.

Dowsers, crystal pendulum swingers, new age folk, druids, pagans and an assortment of other folk all looking for that something, descend on the village annually, and why not, everyone to their own I say.

With all the magic, mystery and ancient rituals which have grown up around the stones, you would have thought the circle would be a paranormal hotspot. If truth be known, the opposite is very much the case, especially when compared to the generous helping of ghostly history from the likes of The Red Lion pub, which stands within the circle; the resplendent Tudor Manor and the 12th century church of St. James. All these buildings positively exude tales to chill you to the marrow. The few hauntings and folklore that have been reported from the henge are as follows:

Back in the Sixties, a woman driving through the village late at night, reported seeing ghostly figures dressed in period costumes dancing amongst the stones. I would question, that what she actually saw, was probably nothing more than one of the many rituals and parties which take place regularly at Avebury.

There are claims of dwarf like creatures seen darting amongst the stones in the dead of night and of a spectrum of tiny twinkling lights believed by some to be fairy folk. These lights have been seen countless times dancing above the stones, especially the mysterious Diamond Stone, which is located at the north-west quadrant, a stone incidentally, said to uproot itself and crosses the A4361 at the stroke of midnight, no mean feat at around 40 tonnes.

The henge is thought to have several ley lines (hypothetical veins of invisible energy beneath the earth, said to connect ancient megalithic sites, monuments and even buildings, particularly churches) which dowsers especially believe crisscross beneath the henge and are most likely responsible for generating subterranean “earth energy.”

Avebury is a fascinating place and well worth a visit, if only to marvel at its construction and debate its mystery. That said, the claims surrounding the stones abilities will, I’m sure, stretch even the most vivid of imaginations.

Links:
http://hauntedwiltshire.blogspot.com
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-avebury
http://www.StonehengeTours.com

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