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Stonehenge, A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids, by William Stukeley, [1740], at


Of the name of Stonehenge. These works prior to the Roman times. Who were the builders? Of the general situation of it, again. Of the beauty of its general proportion. A peep into it. A walk round the area. Remarks on two stones standing on the vallum, and two corresponding cavities for water vases: explained from ancient coins. That the Welsh are the remains of the Belgæ from the continent, who lived here at the Roman invasion, and by whose reports, Stonehenge was built by the most ancient oriental colony, that brought the Druids hither.

COME we to the name of Stonehenge, so called by our Saxon ancestors; an argument sufficient, they were not the builders of it; they would have called it by a more honourable name. Rode hengenne is in Saxon a hanging-rod

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or pole, i.e. a gallows; and Stonehenge is a stone gallows, called so from the hanging parts, architraves, or rather imposts, the more remarkable part; and which only can persuade people from thinking, the stones grew in the very place, (as they express it.) And so Mr. Camden, Dr. Holland, Mr. Webb and others think, of the wonderful work at Abury; because there are none of these overthwart stones, as here. Many are so astonished at the bulk of these stones, that measuring all art and power by their own, they had rather think, they sprouted up in their places, like mushrooms, at regular distances, in mathematical circles; than that they were plac’d there by human industry, for excellent purpose. But pendulous rocks are now called henges in Yorkshire, and I have been informed of another place there called Stonehenge, being natural rocks. So that I doubt not, Stonehenge in Saxon signifies the hanging stones. In Cornwall is a Heath call’d now Hengston down, probably from such a work as ours, now demolished. It is in the hundred of Easte. And near it, is that other memorable Antiquity, composed of many upright stones, call’d the Hurlers, a Druid temple. The old Britons or Welsh call Stonehenge choir gaur, which some interpret chorea gigantum, the giants dance: I judge, more rightly chorus magnus, the great choir, round church, or temple. As Banchor (where probably was of old, another Druid temple) means the high temple. But they mistake it for chorea, chwarae χuare, a ball, dance; as Necham sings;

Nobilis est lapidum structura, chorea gigantum:
Ars experta, suum posse, peregit opu

[paragraph continues] Mr. Camden defines the work coronæ in modum. The Latin corona a crown, corolla a ghirland, and the British crown comes from its circular form, as côr chorus. The armoric Britons call cryn rotundus, kruin the Irish. Coryn is the round tip of any thing, many such like words in all the Celtic dialects. The chorus of a building among Roman christians, became appropriate to the more sacred part, or east end of churches, always turn’d of a circular form; from the time of Constantine the Great. Thus all the churches in the holy land, thus the chapel in Colchester castle, and in the Tower of London, (both, in my opinion, built about his time) are round at the east end. The old Britons or Welsh, we find, had a notion of its being a sacred place, tho’ they were not the builders of it; for I take them to be the remains of the Celtic people that came from the continent, who chiefly inhabited England, at least the south part, when the Romans invaded the island, they are more particularly the remains of the Belgæ. I suppose their name Welsh, a corruption of Belgæ, Ὀυέλγαι in greek, Belgichen and Welichen in german. Strabo IV. speaks of their way of making flannel, called [λαῖνα, χλαῖνα, Latin laena--JBH] for which our Welsh are so famous. Strabo gives the celtic word without the guttural aspirate, chlæna in latin. The most ancient inhabitants, the remains of the old Phœnician colony and primitive Celts who built Stonehenge, were the Picts, Scots, Highland and Irish, all the same people, tho’ perhaps differing somewhat in dialect, as in situation: no otherwise than a Cumberland-man and one of Somersetshire now. The Cornish, I suppose, some remains too, of the old oriental race. But at this very day in Wales, they call every antiquated appearance beyond memory, Irish. Upon view of land, that from before any ones remembrance appears to have been plow’d, or very ancient ruins of buildings, and the like, they immediately pronounce, That it was in the times of the Irish. The very same is observable in the north, of the Picts or Pights, as they pronounce it, gutturally, in the oriental fashion, which we cannot imitate. They call old foundations, Pights houses, &c. Every thing is Pictish, whose origin they do not know. These people are conscious, that they are not the Aborigines, who by time and successive inundations, were forc’d northward and westward, into Scotland and Ireland. And also in the days of the Romans, such of the then inhabitants,

Plate 5. The Front View of Stonehenge
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Plate 5. The Front View of Stonehenge

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as would not submit to their gentile yoke, took the same road. The Irish therefore, or ancient Scottish, is the remnant of the Phœnician language, mixt with old Biscayan and Gallic, dialects of Celts; and some oriental, Arabic in particular: as Mr. Toland observes. And they are the descendants of the people who built Stonehenge, and the like Works. Whence spring the strange reports of these stones, coming from Egypt, from Africa, from Spain, from Ireland. As retaining some memory of the steps, by which the people who preceded their ancestors, travelled; nor they themselves, nor even the Belgæ pretending to be the builders of this wonderful work. For the Belgæ could not be ignorant of their own coming from the Gallic continent.

I have taken notice of another remarkable particular, as to the name of Stonehenge; which I apprehend to be of highest antiquity: that it was called the Ambres, or Ambrose, as the famous main Ambre by Pensans in Cornwall, another work of the Druids akin to this. And from hence the adjacent town of Ambresbury had its name. But of this matter, I must beg the readers patience, till I come to the last chapter, and discourse of the antiquity of there works in general.

So much at present as to the name of our fabrick; it is time to draw toward the sacred pile, and fancy ourselves walking upon this delightful plain:

---------------juvat arva videre
Non rastris hominum, non ulli obnoxia curæ
.   Virg.

nought can be sweeter than the air that moves o’re this hard and dry, chalky soil. Every step you take upon the smooth carpet, (literally) your nose is saluted with the most fragrant smell of serpillum, and apium, which with the short grass continually cropt by the flocks of sheep, composes the softest and most verdant turf, extremely easy to walk on, and which rises as with a spring, under ones feet. The following drawing TAB. III. is a prospect taken fromTAB. III. the king's barrow, west from Vespasian's camp, in the way from Ambresbury to Stonehenge, by the Bristol road. Tho’ the graver has not done it justice: yet it will give one a general notion of the situation of the place. It is admirably chosen, being in the midst of those wide downs, call’d Salisbury plain; between the river Avon to the east, and a brook that runs into the Willy, on the west. These two streams half round encompass it, at 2 miles distance, forming as it were a circular area, of 4 or 5 miles diameter, compos’d of gentle acclivities and declivities, open and airy. Yet agreeably diversify’d with the appearance of barrows, every where upon the edges of the highest grounds. Which very barrows are curious and entertaining, when view’d at hand, as well for the nicety and handsome turn of their forms, as for their great variety, and all within sight of the temple. These downs feed many flocks of sheep, and no doubt furnish’d the idea of Thessalian and Arcadian plains, to the noble Sydney residing at the neighbouring Wilton. The rivers are planted very thick with towns. Six miles south of Stonehenge is Salisbury, a mile nearer is Sorbiodunum, or old Sarum, by the side of which passes the Roman road via Iceniana reaching from Norfolk, into Dorsetshire. As this road goes southward, a mile beyond Woodyates, where it enters Dorsetshire and Cranburn chase, it passes over a heath where are many old barrows, like these on Salisbury plain. It happens there, to infringe upon one of the barrows, which luckily affords us a demonstration, of the road being made since those barrows; of which I took notice in my itinerarium p. 180. and further to gratify the curious have here inserted a print of it TAB. IV. TAB. IV. and may take the opportunity once for all to advertize them, of the disadvantage under which all drawings from these plains must appear. They are made for use and instruction, like mathematical figures, and cannot be expected much to please the eye; being form’d chiefly from bare lines, admitting no picture-like decoration.

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I have observ’d another similar proof of these works being older than the Roman times here, in that Roman road that goes from Marlborough to Bath. It is near Abury, and I have a print of it engrav’d, which will be exhibited, when I next publish an account of that great work. But in the former TAB. IV. plate IV. I call those Druid barrows, which are often found on these plains: a circular trench, sometime of 100 foot diameter, with only a small tump of earth in the middle, under which there is commonly an urn. Sometime two or three of these little tumps or diminutive tumuli within one circle, which it is natural to suppose, were friends or relations. These circles are always excellently well mark’d out.

The particular spot of ground where Stonehenge stands, is in the lordship of west or little Ambresbury: the possession of the reverend Mr. Hayward, who at present may be call’d the Archdruid of the island. ’Tis a delicate part of this large plain, with a gentle declivity from the south-west to the south and north-east. So that the soil, which is chalk, is perfectly dry and hard. Hence the infinite numbers of coaches and horses, that thro’ so many centuries have been visiting the place every day, have not obliterated the track of the banks and ditches. The water cannot possibly rest any where hereabouts. The founders consulted well for the stability of their work, and salubrity of the place. Cæsar informs us in his commentaries, B. G. vi. 13. that among the Druids, "one has the supreme authority. When he is dead, whoever excels in dignity succeeds. But if there be more candidates, the Archdruid is chose by the votes of the Druids: and sometimes they fight for it. At a certain fix’d time of the year the Gaulish Druids meet, in the territories of the Carnutes, which country is in the middle of Gaul, in a consecrated place. Hither all persons from all quarters come, who have any controversy, and stand to their determination. The discipline of the Druids arose in Britain, and is said from thence to have been brought into Gaul. And now, they who design to be more throughly initiated therein, go over to learn." Here in few lines the great author acquaints us with a vast fund of ancient history, and upon which whole volumes have been wrote. I observe no more from it at present, than that we may very reasonably conclude, the elegant and the magnificent structure of Stonehenge was as the metropolitical church of the chief Druid of Britain. This was the locus consecratus where they met at some great festivals in the year, as well to perform the extraordinary sacrifices and religious rites, as to determine causes and civil matters. Cæsar calls these appointments of the Druids in Gaul consecrated places, where probably was nothing but a circle of rude stones. Had he seen those of our island, an Abury or even a Stonehenge, he would scarce have given them the title of temples: he was not used to the old patriarchal way. But I reckon the true reading in that passage quoted from him, to be loco consecrato, not luco, which was put in by some bold transcriber, who had heard of the fondness of the Druids for groves. But how unfit is a grove for a great and public meeting upon civil affairs? And this for the excellency of its situation upon a vast plain, was well calculated for a publick meeting of those of the order, at an election of a new Archdruid. As Cæsar's words give light to the work before us, so it confirms what the warlike author says, of the discipline being originally in Britain; which the critics upon the continent cannot bear, and vainly endeavour to spirit away Cæsar's meaning. The very building of Stonehenge, to say nothing of other like works here, shows it was not in vain, that the youth of Gaul came to learn of men, who could contrive and execute so mighty a work.

Stonehenge stands not upon the very summit of a hill, but pretty near it, and for more than three quarters of the circuit you ascend to it very gently from lower ground. At half a mile distance, the appearance of it is stately and awful, really august. As you advance nearer, especially up the avenue, which is to the north-east of it, (which side is now most perfect) the greatness of its contour

Chart converting English feet to Cubits
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Chart converting English feet to Cubits

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fills the eye in an astonishing manner. TAB. V. is the front prospect fromTAB. V. the entrance of the avenue. The stone that leans o'er the high attar appears thro’ the grand or principal entrance: because we stand upon lower ground. If the reader pleases to cast his eye upon Plate XII. there ’tis represented in orthography,TAB. XII. (to speak technically) as here in prospect. Hence by this method of comparing the designs together, we may, without confusion, gather a true notion of the work. Stonehenge is a good deal more in diameter, than the outside of St. Paul's cupola. And from a comparison of these two buildings, I was able to judge of the vanity of the architect of St. Peter's at Rome, who in order to degrade the Pantheon, (whilst he was imitating it) boasted, he would set the Pantheon 200 foot high in the air, meaning the cupola there. But the architect of the Pantheon, Valerius Ostiensis (had he been alive) would have told him, that the vastness of the diameter in these cupola's is lost by the very height. Whatever we would have admired, ought to be preserved as the largest dimension. Therefore Valerius, with admirable judgment, has made the outward breadth of the Pantheon one fifth part compleatly longer than its height, taken in front; but if we measure it sidewise, taking in the portico, the breadth to the height, is more than 6 to 4. By this means the wonder of the Pantheon, the curve or arch 150 Roman feet in diameter, remains. So the curve of Stonehenge, which is above 100 English feet, appears extraordinary large and well proportion’d, upon a height of 18 foot, which reaches to the top of the outer cornish; that of the inner cornishes is but 24 foot high, at a medium. For the cornishes of the inner part of Stonehenge, or that which Webb calls the cell, are not all of equal height, of which in proper place. Thus both parts of the wonder is preserv’d, the greatness of the circuit of the whole work, the greatness and height of the parts that compose it; the height being one fourth of the diameter. The greatness too of the lights and shades in Stonehenge, as well as their variety arising from a circular form, gives it all possible advantage, and makes it deserve the appellation of;

Deorum gloriosa domus,

as Theocritus and Herodotus generally call temples. And its situation is correspondent to the antient notion. Pausanias praises the Tanagrei in Beotia, for having their temples in clean and distinct area's, distant from profane buildings and traffic.

Stonehenge is inclosed within a circular ditch. After one has pass’d this ditch, says the right reverend annotator to Camden, he ascends 35 yards before he comes at the work itself. This measure is the same, as that which Webb calls 110 foot, the diameter of the work. For the area inclos’d by a ditch, wherein Stonehenge is situate, is in diameter three times the diameter of Stonehenge. See the Plate of the area. XXIII. Therefore the distance between the verge TAB. XXIII. of the ditch within side, quite round, to the work of the Temple, is equal to the diameter of the Temple. The reader remembers what I promis’d, about the scale or measure whereby this work and all others of the Druids, is form'd; that ’tis the old Hebrew, Phœnician or Egyptian Cubit, which compar’d with the English foot, amounts to 20 inches and 4/5. Therefore I have drawn the ensuing comparison and proportion, between our English and Hebrew Scale; which is to accompany us in the future description. TAB. VI. the scale of TAB. VI. cubits and feet compar’d. That I might not be suspected to savour an hypothesis, I produce other peoples measures, where I can find them in print, provided they be done with tolerable judgment and accuracy; for both are necessary in our case, with proper allowance. ’Tis not to be suppos’d, that in this work, the minuteness and extreme curiosity of Desgodetz, with which he measur’d the remains of old Rome, is expected, or even possible. For tho’ the stones are not chizel’d and squar’d, to such preciseness, as Roman works are; yet they are chizel'd, and are far from rude. Nevertheless every body has not

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skill, properly to measure them. For they are much impair’d by weather: much is knock’d off by wretched hands. Those stones that stand, are luxated various ways, by time and their own weight; by silly people digging about them, and by the unfortunate colony of rabbets lately translated thither. So that we may well say with Claudian,

Seram ponderibus pronis tractura ruinam,
Pars cadit affiduo flatu, pars imbre peresa
Rumpitur, abripuit partem vitiosa vetustas

[paragraph continues] I was forc’d to make many admeasurements and repeated, before I could obtain an exact ground-plot; and it requir’d much consideration to do it, and to find out the true scale by which it was compos’d, the Druid cubit, which they TAB. VI. brought with them from the east. Therefore by the annexed scales, TAB. VI. which I have contriv’d to answer all lengths, the reader. will most perfectly understand the subsequent description, and see the truth of my assertion: and may from thence be enabled to measure any other like works, in our islands, which I have not had the opportunity of viewing. It was the eastern way, in laying out a building, to use a staff of 6 cubits long. This was of a convenient, manageable length; and its divisions being half a dozen, suited well a reckoning by duodenaries. Thus in Ezek. xl. 3, S. Apoc. xxi. 16. the angel that laid out the temple of Solomon, is described, as having a reed of 6 cubits (a measuring reed or cane) in his hand. This being the universal and first measure of antiquity, was in time spread all over the world. In particular, it became the decempedum of the Greeks and Romans; the common measuring standard. But ’tis remarkable, they alter’d the divisions, thinking it more artful and convenient to have them in less parts: and instead of 6 cubits, they made it consist of 10 feet. And by time and change, the whole measure became somewhat alter’d from the primitive. For the Greek decempedum was swell’d somewhat too long, as the Romans diminish’d theirs a little. Ezekiel's reed is our 10 foot and 4 inches 2/3; 400 cubits is the stadium of the ancients, or furlong, 100 feet.

When you enter the building, whether on foot or horseback and cast your eyes around, upon the yawning ruins, you are struck into an exstatic reverie, which none can describe, and they only can be sensible of, that feel it. Other buildings fall by piece meal, but here a single stone is a ruin, and lies like the haughty carcase of Goliath. Yet there is as much of it undemolished, as enables us sufficiently to recover its form, when it was in its most perfect state. There is enough of every part to preserve the idea of the whole. The next TAB. VII." Plate, TAB. VII. the peep (as I call it) into the sanctum sanctorum, is drawn, at the very entrance, and as a view into the inside. When we advance further, the dark part of the ponderous imposts over our heads, the chasm of sky between the jambs of the cell, the odd construction of the whole, and the greatness of every part, surprizes. We may well cry out in the poet's words

Tantum Relligio potuit!

if you look upon the perfect part, you fancy intire quarries mounted up into the air: if upon the rude havock below, you see as it were the bowels of a mountain turn’d inside outwards. It is pleasant likewise to consider the spot upon which ’tis situate, and to take a circular view of the country around it. For which purpose I have sketch’d the following prospects, taking in the country almost round the circumference of the horizon. This Use there will be in them further; is ever it happen, that this noble work should be destroy’d: the spot of it may be found, by these views.

TAB. VIII.TAB. VIII. north prospect from Stonehenge.

TAB. IX.TAB. IX. south-west prospect from Stonehenge.

TAB. X.TAB. X. south-east prospect from Stonehenge.

Plate 7. A peep into the Sanctum Sanctorum
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Plate 7. A peep into the Sanctum Sanctorum

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The vallum of the ditch which incloses the area, or court, is inwards, and makes a circular terras; walking upon which, we take the foregoing prospects. The lowest part of the area is towards the entrance. The tops of all the circumjacent hills, or rather easy elevations, are cover’d o’re, as it were, with barrows, which cause an agreeable appearance; adorning the bare downs with their figures. And this ring of barrows reaches no further, than till you lose sight of the temple, or thereabouts. Stand at the grand entrance by the stone that lies upon the ground, and the view of the temple presents itself as in the Vth Plate, the front prospect of Stonehenge. Directly down the avenue, TAB. V. to the north-east, the apex of an hill terminates the horizon, between which and the bottom of a valley you see the Cursus, a work which has never yet been taken notice of. Being a space of ground included between two long banks going parallel east and west, at 350 foot distance, the length 10000 feet. This was design’d for the horse races and games, like the Olympic, the Isthmian, &c. of the Greeks. But we shall speak more particularly of this afterwards. In the valley on this side of it, the strait part of the avenue terminates in two branches; that on the left hand, leads to the Cursus; that on the right goes directly up the hill, between two famous groups of barrows, each consisting of seven in number. The farthest, or those northward, I call the oldest king's barrows; the hithermost are vulgarly called the seven king's graves.

If we walk a little to the left hand, TAB. VIII. is presented. See the TAB. VIII. northern long barrow: on this side of which, the eye takes in the whole length of the Cursus. Many barrows at the end and on both sides of it. That mark’d P. was open’d by my Lord Pembroke, those mark’d S. were open’d by myself. What was discover’d therein will be treated of hereafter. Further to the west, the highest ground of that spot whereon Stonehenge stands, eclipses a distant view, and there are the nearest barrows planted with rabbets, which do much damage too at Stonehenge, and threaten no less than the ruin of the whole. Upon the vallum of Stonehenge is one of the stones there, which seems to be a small altar, for some kind of libations, and at the letter A. the mark of a cavity; of which more particularly, in the next page. The next or south-west prospect, TAB. IX. from Stonehenge, takes in the country from TAB. IX. Berwickbarn, and my Lord Pembroke's wood of Groveley, to Salisbury steeple: a chain of barrows reaching a 6th part of the whole horizon. Many from the great quantity of these sepulchral tumuli here, injudiciously conclude, that there have been great battels upon the plain, and that the slain were bury’d there. But they are really no other than family burying-places, set near this temple, for the same reason as we bury in church-yards yards and consecrated ground. Salisbury steeple seen from hence, brings to my sorrowful remembrance, the great Thomas Earl of Pembroke, whose noble ashes are there deposited. He was patron of my studies, particularly those relating to Stonehenge. Virtue, piety, magnanimity, learning, generosity, all sublime qualities recommended and added to his illustrious descent. Glorious it will be for me, if these pages live to testify to another age, the intimacy he was pleased to honour me with.

             -------------quis talia fando
Temperet a lachrymis
---------- --------!

[paragraph continues] In this Plate, the reader may remark another of the cavities within the vallum, to which that corresponds on the opposite diameter before hinted at.

The south-east prospect finishes the circle, TAB. X. looking towards the TAB. X. valley southward, where the rain-water passes, from the whole work of Stonehenge, the whole tract of the Cursus and the country beyond it, as far as north long barrow; and so is convey’d into the river Avon at Lake. That road between king barrow and the seven barrows is the way to Vespasian's camp and so

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to Ambresbury. The barrow under those seven kings of later form, is that nearest to Stonehenge.

Doubtless in the sacrifices and ceremonies which were here practis’d, water was us’d, and I observe most of our Druid temples are set near rivers. The reason why Stonehenge was not set near a river, has hitherto effectually preserv’d it, this part being uninhabitable upon that account, and rather too far off a town for tillage. But when I curiously contemplated the beauty and convenience of this court, I observ’d two remarkable places, which plainly have a conformity with the two stones set upon the vallum; which stones puzzle all enquirers. Those particulars seem to explain one another, and more especially by the help of a coin in Vaillant, tom. II. p. 240. for which reason I caus’d it to be engravenTAB. XXIII. on that plate, TAB. XXIII. the area of Stonehenge. ’Tis a coin of Philip the Roman emperor, struck by the city of Heliopolis in Cœlesyria under mount Libanus, now call’d Baldec, where is an admirable ancient temple remaining, describ’d and pictur’d in Maundrel's travels of the holy land. In the walls of it are two or three stones of an immense length, which seem to be the fragments of an obelisk, dedicated to the sun, whence the name of Heliopolis. The coin presents a temple built upon a rock: to which they ascend by steps. The temple is inclos’d in an area with a wall. On the left hand by the circuit of the area is a stone altar. A little further, is a great vase for water to be us’d in the sacrifices. The legend is COLonia IVLia AVGusta FELix HELiopolitana. Now the two cavities in the circuit of our area, very probably were the places where two great stone vases were set, and the two stones were two altars for some particular rites, which we don’t take upon ourselves to explain. See another coin II. in Descamp's selectiora numismata, p. 23. which is to the same purpose. Those stones are set in their proper places in my scheme of the area of Stonehenge: and I leave them to the better conjectures of the learned in these matters. Mr. Webb fancies them the jambs of two portals of two entrances, besides the great entrance; and makes them favour his imaginary triangles, from which he forms the work of Stonehenge, upon a Vitruvian plan. And in order to bring this about, he draws one stone, that toward the east, or on the left hand, from the true and only entrance, no less than 120 foot out of its real place. No doubt, the reader will be surpriz’d at this, and the easier credit me, when I say his ground-plot in other parts, is very far from being exact. The reader XXIII. will observe from my scheme, that the two semicircular hollows mark’d A A, wherein I suppose the water-vases were set, are plac’d alternatively, with the two stones: I don’t pretend to show why the Druids did so. But that stone standing, together with the upper A, and the center of the grand entrance by the stone that lies flat there, make an exact equilateral triangle; yet really have not the lean relation to the scheme of the work of Stonehenge in general, or to the cell in particular. Nor do the stones, or those hollows, point out any other entrance cross the ditch into the area. So in the tabernacle of Moses and temple of Solomon, great vases in brass were set for water, in the court before the temple.

Next: Chapter III