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Stonehenge, the Avenue, and three barrows adjacent to the Avenue forming part of a round barrow cemetery on Countess Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Amesbury, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.182 / 51°10'55"N

Longitude: -1.8142 / 1°48'51"W

OS Eastings: 413082.5855

OS Northings: 142543.7729

OS Grid: SU130425

Mapcode National: GBR 4ZV.XV3

Mapcode Global: VHB5B.HKR7

Entry Name: Stonehenge, the Avenue, and three barrows adjacent to the Avenue forming part of a round barrow cemetery on Countess Farm

Scheduled Date: 18 August 1882

Last Amended: 27 July 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010140

English Heritage Legacy ID: 10390

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Amesbury

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Amesbury St Mary and St Melor

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument, which falls into three areas, includes Stonehenge, the Avenue,
and three bowl barrows forming part of a linear round barrow cemetery which is
bisected by the Avenue 1500m east of Stonehenge on Countess Farm. Stonehenge
is located towards the western edge of a natural amphitheatre some 2km in
diameter. This area is bounded in the west by the high plateau forming
Stonehenge Down, on the north by an east-west ridge on which is located the
western sector of the Cursus and its associated round barrow cemetery, on the
east by a north-south ridge on which are sited the barrow cemeteries of New
King Barrows and Old King Barrows and the Coneybury henge monument, and on the
south by an east-west ridge on which is located the Normanton Down round
barrow cemetery.

Stonehenge has a series of features, contained within a circular earthwork
enclosure, which have been added to the monument or modified in layout over a
period of about twelve hundred years (c.2450 BC to c.1250 BC) The outermost
and earliest element is a circular bank c.6m wide and a maximum of 0.6m high,
surrounded by a ditch c.7m wide and a maximum of 2m deep. There are slight
traces of an outer bank c.2m wide surrounding the ditch on the northern and
eastern sides, giving an overall diameter of 115m. The ditch possesses two
original entrance gaps or causeways, one at the south of the enclosure 4.5m
wide and the other in the north east sector 10m wide forming the entrance from
the Avenue. There are corresponding gaps in the bank at these points.
Excavations in the area of the north east entrance have revealed a series of
postholes between the ditch terminals and two pits which once held stone
uprights in the gap in the bank. These uprights will have formed a formal
entrance to the original monument prior to the construction of the Avenue; the
Slaughter Stone, a horizontal sarsen stone 6.4m long and 2.1m wide located
on the southern side of the entrance gap, has been interpreted as a survivor
of the pair of uprights.

Immediately within the inner margin of the bank are a series of 56 roughly
circular pits arranged at intervals of c.5m in a circle 88m in diameter. The
pits are known as `Aubrey Holes', after the 17th century antiquary who
discovered them. Thirty four have been excavated and are marked on the ground
by patches of concrete; the others are difficult to identify but their
location has been established by probing. Excavation of these pits revealed
that 25 of the 34 contained cremations, some accompanied by long bone pins and
flint fabricators. A further 26 cremations have been found within the bank and
within and under the ditch silt. This Neolithic cremation cemetery is located
mainly in the eastern Aubrey Holes and corresponding section of ditch and
outer bank.

Set among these outermost features is a series of two sarsen stones and two
earthworks which are believed to represent significant locations in the
ceremonial function of the original monument. The two sarsens known as
`Station Stones', are located on the line of the Aubrey Holes within the north
west and south east sectors of the monument. The south east stone, some 2.7m
in length, lies against the inner face of the bank, but according to an 18th
century record was at that date much less inclined. The north west stone is
upright but shorter, some 1.2m high.

The two earthworks, also on the line of the Aubrey Holes and within the north
west and south east sectors, are roughly circular and known as `North Barrow'
and `South Barrow' respectively. North Barrow is a circular area c.10m in
diameter containing a slight central mound, surrounded by a ditch 2.5m wide
and a bank 2.5m wide, giving an overall diameter of c.20m. The feature is now
difficult to identify on the ground, but partial excavation in the early 20th
century revealed that it contains a large stone-hole. South Barrow which is
located diametrically opposite, consists of a flat area c.8m in diameter
surrounded by a shallow ditch c.2.5m wide and 0.3m deep. There is evidence
from an 18th century record that it contains a stone-hole, and this has been
verified by probing.

At the centre of the enclosed area are the remains of a series of megalithic
stone settings, composed of sarsens and `bluestones'. The former are thought
to have been transported from the Marlborough Downs, the latter from the
Preseli Mountains in SW Wales. All the settings have an axis of symmetry which
is centred on the bank and ditch enclosure and is aligned south west-north
east to accord with the north east entrance and the first section of the
Avenue. The settings are largely represented by uprights, but partial
excavation has provided information on the sequence and complete plan of each
phase by locating stone-holes no longer in use which survive as buried
features. A number of these stone-holes have a ramped profile which
facilitated erection of the stones.

The outermost setting consists of 17 sarsen uprights averaging 4.1m in height,
the remains of 30 which formed a complete circle of uprights linked by
horizontal sarsen lintels. Six lintels survive in their original position,
fixed in place by mortice-and-tenon and tongue-and-groove features. Another
eight sarsens scattered around the circle are interpreted as members of the
original setting, which is 30m in diameter.

Within the outer sarsen circle is a circular setting of bluestones, 11 of
which survive as uprights standing to a maximum height of c.2.5m; another 17
are present as fallen stones or stumps at or below ground level. The rest of
the circle is known from excavations to be represented by buried stone-holes,
giving a total for the setting of about 60. Two of the stones in this setting
were carved to form lintels in a trilithon but have been set up as pillars.
Within the sarsen and bluestone circles are two further settings, each of
horseshoe shape. The outermost consists of three sarsen trilithons each
formed from two uprights and a lintel, and two uprights together with fallen
stones representing the remains of two further trilithons. The tallest
upright stands to a height of 7m. Measurement of the stones indicates that the
height of the five trilithons was graded, with the tallest at the centre or
curve of the horseshoe. Within the sarsen horseshoe setting is a similar
setting of bluestones. Of an original horseshoe-shaped array of 19 uprights,
six survive as uprights, three are present as stumps and two are represented
by fallen bluestones, one broken into two pieces. All were carefully
carved, two terminating in tenons indicating that the uprights originally
carried lintels.

Near the centre of Stonehenge is a large recumbent sandstone block known as
the Altar Stone, some 4.9m long by 1m wide and 0.53m deep, embedded in the
earth so that its top is level with the surface. Two fallen members of the
central sarsen trilithon now lie across it.

In addition to the architectural features, carvings denoting axes and daggers
of Early Bronze Age type have been found on three of the sarsens. Carvings on
three other sarsens may be of the same date.

In addition to the visible stone settings, four further settings have been
revealed by partial excavation. In the space between the circular enclosure
bank and the outer sarsen setting two circles of stone-holes survive as buried
features. These settings have diameters of 38m and 45m. The excavations
indicate that they were never used to carry uprights. Just within the sarsen
circle the stone-holes of a double circle c.25m in diameter survive as buried
features, apparently utilised for a bluestone setting which was subsequently
removed. A further setting has been located within the sarsen horseshoe. This
consists of an oval arrangement of bluestones some 12m by 16m, rearranged
shortly after erection to fashion the bluestone stuctures which are visible

Three inhumations have been located within the monument, two coming to light
during the course of partial excavation in the early 20th century. Neither is
dated. The third, found in 1978 during an investigation of the Stonehenge
ditch, was a crouched inhumation, accompanied by a stone wrist-guard and flint
arrowheads, placed in a grave dug into the upper silt of the ditch.

Integral with Stonehenge is the Avenue, a linear feature providing a formal
approach to Stonehenge and linking it with the River Avon at West Amesbury.
The Avenue consists of parallel banks c.6m wide and 0.2m high enclosing a
corridor c.12m wide. The banks are flanked by an outer ditch c.3m wide and
0.2m deep. The Avenue varies slightly in overall width, with an average of
c.30m, as do the widths of the bank and ditch. From its junction with the
north east entrance to Stonehenge, the Avenue is constructed to maintain the
axis of the monument for a distance of 560m in a north east direction. On the
west side of Stonehenge Bottom it turns to run WSW-ESE for a distance of 760m
towards King Barrow Ridge, from which point it curves gradually towards the
south east for a distance of 500m, running in a straight line again for the
final 900m to the bank of the River Avon. The monument is visible as a slight
earthwork for the first 1000m to the centre of Stonehenge Bottom, and from
that point is difficult to identify on the ground but is visible on aerial

Partial excavations in 1973 established its position immediately to the north
of West Amesbury House, and a measured survey south of the house in 1987
located the banks of the Avenue preserved within an area of post-medieval
garden earthworks, and running to within 20m of the the River Avon. The
overall width of the Avenue at this point is c.42m. Partial excavations near
Stonehenge on the north side of the A344 produced from the ditches bluestone
chips and an antler pick which yielded a radiocarbon date of c.1730 BC. Worked
flint and pieces of antler were found in the excavation at West Amesbury.
Within the Avenue at a distance of 24m from the entrance to Stonehenge is the
Heel Stone, a sarsen block standing 4.9m high and inclined distinctly towards
the centre of Stonehenge. The stone is surrounded by a ditch 12m in diameter
and 2m wide, partly visible as a slight earthwork. Partial excavation in 1979
revealed the presence of a stone-hole 2m to the north west of the Heel Stone,
and geophysical survey along a 240m length of the Avenue north of the A344 in
1979-80 suggested possible positions of further stone-holes.

Some 1500m east of Stonehenge on Countess Farm, the Avenue passes through a
gap in an east-west line of six round barrows forming a round barrow cemetery.
The three barrows east of the Avenue are too distant to be included in this
monument and are the subject of a separate scheduling. This monument includes
the three barrows forming the western half of the cemetery. All three barrows
have been levelled by cultivation and are difficult to identify on the ground.
The ditches which surround them, from which material was quarried during their
construction, are visible on aerial photographs, from which their overall
diameters are known to range from 30m to 45m. The central barrow of the three
was partially excavated in 1924 when an empty central pit was found. The
Avenue exhibits a narrowing and a distinct change in alignment at the point
where it passes through the cemetery, indicating that the cemetery pre-dates
the Avenue.

All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these
features is included. The tarmacked surface of the visitor track which crosses
the western part of Stonehenge is excluded from the scheduling, but the ground
beneath is included. The surfaces of the A344 and the Wilsford Road in West
Amesbury are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included.
The track forming the northern boundary of West Amesbury is included in the
scheduling. The parcel of land to the north west of West Amesbury House,
through which part of the Avenue passes, was the subject of total excavation
in 1973 and is therefore excluded from the scheduling.

Evidence of the existence of two bowl barrows immediately east and north east
of Stonehenge has been examined but rejected.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for
ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.
Two of the best known and the earliest recognised areas are around Avebury and
Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a World Heritage Site.
The area of chalk downland which surrounds Stonehenge contains one of the
densest and most varied groups of Neolithic and Bronze Age field monuments in
Britain. Included within the area are Stonehenge itself, the Stonehenge
cursus, the Durrington Walls henge, and a variety of burial monuments, many
grouped into cemeteries.

The area has been the subject of archaeological research since the 18th
century when Stukeley recorded many of the monuments and partially excavated a
number of the burial mounds. More recently, the collection of artefacts from
the surfaces of ploughed fields has supplemented the evidence for ritual and
burial by revealing the intensity of contemporary settlement and land-use.
In view of the importance of the area, all ceremonial and sepulchral monuments
of this period which retain significant archaeological remains are identified
as nationally important.

Stonehenge and the Avenue constitute a ceremonial monument of great fame and
rarity. Stonehenge itself has been shown by partial excavation and detailed
recording to contain unique evidence of ceremonial activity and architectural
prowess unparalleled on contemporary monuments in the rest of England.
Archaeological excavation has played a significant role in unravelling the
complex history of the monument, and recent geophysical survey has indicated
that the Avenue contains buried remains which will contribute towards a fuller
understanding of the monument.

The alignment of various features of the complex, allegedly relating to
astronomical observations, continues to provoke a lively debate on the role of
the monument and the nature of the ceremonies with which it was associated.
In spite of levelling by cultivation the three bowl barrows on Countess Farm
will contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the
monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. Since the cemetery of
which they form a part is bisected by the Avenue, the date of the latter may
be clarified by evidence contained within the barrow mounds and ditches.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Atkinson, R J C, Stonehenge, (1979), 67
Atkinson, R J C, Stonehenge, (1979), -
Atkinson, R J C, Evans, J G, Recent Excavations at Stonehenge, (1978), 235-6
Chippindale, C, Stonehenge Compleat, (1983)
Grinsell, LV, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume V, (1957), 152
Grinsell, LV, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume V, (1957), 27-28
Hoare, R C, Ancient History of Wiltshire, (1812), 128-153
RCHME, , Stonehenge and its Environs, (1979), 11-13
RCHME, , Stonehenge and its Environs, (1979), 8-11
Richards, JC, Stonehenge, (1991)
Richards, J C, The Stonehenge Environs Project, (1990)
Stukeley, W, Stonehenge, a Temple Restored to the British Druids, (1740)
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, , Vol. 49, (1958), 238
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, , Vol. 49, (1942), 238
'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in On The Road To Stonehenge, , Vol. 48, (1982), 75-132
Atkinson, R J C, Piggott, S, 'Antiquity' in Recent Work at Stonehenge, , Vol. 28, (1954), 221-224
Clay, R C C, 'Antiquity' in Stonehenge Avenue, , Vol. 1, (1927), 342-4
Crawford, O G S, 'Antiquaries Journal' in The Stonehenge Avenue, , Vol. 4, (1924), 57-59
Cunnington, H, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Stonehenge Notes - the Fragments, , Vol. 21, (1884), 141-149
Gowland, W, 'Archaeologia' in Recent Excavations at Stonehenge, , Vol. 58, (1902), 37-118
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Fourth Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge, , Vol. 4, (1924), 30-39
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Second Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge, , Vol. 2, (1922), 36-51
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during 1924, , Vol. 6, (1926), 1-25
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during 1925 and 1926, , Vol. 8, (1928), 149-176
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in The Excavations at Stonehenge, , Vol. 1, (1921), 19-39
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge during 1923, , Vol. 5, (1925), 21-50
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Third Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge, (1923), 19-20
Hawley, W, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Third Report on the Excavations at Stonehenge, (1923), 13-20
Long, W, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Stonehenge and its Barrows, , Vol. 16, (1876), 1-241
Newall, R S, 'Antiquity' in Stonehenge, , Vol. 3, (1929), 75-88
Pitts, M W, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in On the road to Stonehenge, , Vol. 48, (1982), 75-132
Smith, G, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Excavations of the Stonehenge Avenue at West Amesbury, Wilts, , Vol. 68, (1973), 42-56
Vatcher, F de M, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Excavation And Fieldwork In Wiltshire, 1967, , Vol. 63, (1968), 108
Vatcher, F de M, Vatcher, H L, 'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Excavation And Fieldwork In Wiltshire, 1968, , Vol. 64, (1969), 123

Source: Historic England

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