Stonehenge restoration work begins: Scaffolding is erected next to famed monument

Scaffolding has been erected next to Stonehenge this morning as the ancient monument undergoes the first major repairs in more than six decades so cracks and holes in the stones can be refilled. 

Strong winds buffeting the 4,500-year-old stone circle in Salisbury Plain two miles west of Amesbury have taken their toll on its horizontal stones, called lintels, which may start rocking or become unstable.

English Heritage began large-scale restoration this morning by putting 22ft scaffolding up so holes, cracks and joints can be refilled. It is hoped no further repairs will be needed for the rest of the century. 

The last major job began in 1958 when several fallen stones were hauled back into place within the UNSCO world heritage site, whose origins have long remained a source of mystery and wonder.

Scaffolding has been erected next to Stonehenge this morning as the ancient monument undergoes the first major repairs in more than six decades so cracks and holes in the stones can be refilled

Scaffolding has been erected next to Stonehenge this morning as the ancient monument undergoes the first major repairs in more than six decades so cracks and holes in the stones can be refilled

Scaffolding has been erected next to Stonehenge this morning as the ancient monument undergoes the first major repairs in more than six decades so cracks and holes in the stones can be refilled 

The last major job began in 1958 when several fallen stones were hauled back into place within the UNESCO world heritage site whose origins have long remained a source of mystery and wonder

The last major job began in 1958 when several fallen stones were hauled back into place within the UNESCO world heritage site whose origins have long remained a source of mystery and wonder

The last major job began in 1958 when several fallen stones were hauled back into place within the UNESCO world heritage site whose origins have long remained a source of mystery and wonder 

Man, 71, who sneaked a 1958 halfpenny under a sarsen stone during Stonehenge repairs in the 1950s as a child is due to place a commemorative 2021 coin within the monument

Richard Woodman-Bailey, now 71, placed a 1958 coin under one of the sarsens when during his school holidays he joined his father Aubrey, who led the conservation project more than six decades ago

Richard Woodman-Bailey, now 71, placed a 1958 coin under one of the sarsens when during his school holidays he joined his father Aubrey, who led the conservation project more than six decades ago

Richard Woodman-Bailey, now 71, placed a 1958 coin under one of the sarsens when during his school holidays he joined his father Aubrey, who led the conservation project more than six decades ago

A man who sneaked a halfpenny under a sarsen stone during Stonehenge repairs in the 1950s as a child is now due to place a commemorative 2021 coin within the monument.

Richard Woodman-Bailey, now 71, placed a 1958 coin under one of the sarsens when during his school holidays he joined his father Aubrey, who led the conservation project more than six decades ago.

He is now due to place a commemorative 2021, £2 silver coin featuring Britannia within Stonehenge.

The conservation team will use a more flexible lime mortar to avoid further erosion to the stones.  

Heather Sebire, English Heritage’s senior curator for Stonehenge, told The Times: ‘Four and a half thousand years of being buffeted by wind and rain has created cracks and holes in the surface of the stone, and this vital work will protect the features which make Stonehenge so distinctive.’  

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The new work, which will be done in full view of visitors, will be light-touch.

Heather Sebire, senior curator for Stonehenge with English Heritage, said: ‘Stonehenge is unique among stone circles by virtue of its lintels and their special joints, which prehistoric builders fitted together almost like Lego or Ikea furniture today.

‘Four and a half thousand years of being buffeted by wind and rain has created cracks and holes in the surface of the stone, and this vital work will protect the features which make Stonehenge so distinctive.’

The work was made possible after tiny cracks, some three feet in length, were identified by a laser scan in 2012, which also picked up prehistoric ‘graffiti’ of axe heads carved into the stones.

The new project will use lime mortar to replace concrete mortar previously used to fix lintels together, which is now disintegrating.

Conservators will fix nine lintels, with no work planned on the smaller bluestones, which suffered damage from Victorian visitors chipping away at the stone circle to take part of it home as a souvenir.

To mark the new restoration, English Heritage has invited Richard Woodman-Bailey, who was eight years old when the stones were last repaired.

His father was chief architect at Stonehenge, and the repair team asked the schoolboy to drop a 1958 halfpenny beneath a giant sandstone called a sarsen during the works.

After unexpectedly seeing his picture in an English Heritage magazine, Mr Woodman-Bailey got in touch with the charity to tell them who he was.

He will now place a 2021 coin, struck at the Royal Mint, on top of the same sarsen, beneath a newly repaired lintel.

Mr Woodman-Bailey, 71, who went on to become a stonemason and later a chartered surveyor, and now lives in Epsom with his wife, Jenny, said: ‘Dropping the coin below the 50 or 60-tonne sarsen hanging over my head has always been imprinted in my memory.

‘I didn’t think anybody else knew about it until the photograph turned up in the magazine, and didn’t expect to be asked back to do the same again, which is a real privilege.’

The conservation work will take place between September 14 and 25, with visitors encouraged to watch and ask questions.

According to the monument’s website, Stonehenge was built in four stages. The first version of Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, bank and the Aubrey holes, all probably built around 3100 BC. 

The Aubrey holes are round pits in the chalk, about one metre (3.3 feet) wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms. They form a circle about 86.6 metres (284 feet) in diameter.  

Excavations revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk filling, but the holes themselves were likely not made to be used as graves, but as part of a religious ceremony. After this first stage, Stonehenge was abandoned and left untouched for more than 1,000 years.  

The new project will use lime mortar to replace concrete mortar previously used to fix lintels together, which is now disintegrating

The new project will use lime mortar to replace concrete mortar previously used to fix lintels together, which is now disintegrating

The new project will use lime mortar to replace concrete mortar previously used to fix lintels together, which is now disintegrating

How Stonehenge’s stones have lasted so long: 20-tonne blocks are made up of interlocking quartz crystals that have stopped the monument weathering over the last 5,000 years, analysis reveals 

Stonehenge may have lasted so long because of the unique geochemical composition of the standing stones, a new study suggests.  

An international team of scientists analysed wafer-thin slices of a core sample from one of the great sandstone slabs, known as sarsens, under a microscope.

The 3.5-foot-long sample, called Philip’s Core, was extracted more than 60 years ago and only returned to Britain two years ago after being kept souvenir in the US for decades.

Philip’s Core has broken into six separate pieces since it was extracted – one of which, measuring just 2.6 inches (67mm) in length, the researchers borrowed for their analysis. 

The analysis shows the sarsen is made up of mainly sand-sized quartz grains that are cemented tightly together by an interlocking mosaic of quartz crystals. 

This explains the stone’s resistance to weathering over the last 5,000 years and why it made an ideal material for building such a monument, according to the experts. 

 

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The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 years BC, when about 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It’s thought that the stones, some of which weigh four tonnes each, were dragged on rollers and sledges to the waters at Milford Haven, where they were loaded onto rafts.

They were carried on water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again near Warminster and Wiltshire.

The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury. 

The journey spanned nearly 240 miles, and once at the site, the stones were set up in the centre to form an incomplete double circle. 

During the same period, the original entrance was widened and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. The nearer part of the Avenue, connecting Stonehenge with the River Avon, was built aligned with the midsummer sunrise.

The third stage of Stonehenge, which took place about 2000 years BC, saw the arrival of the sarsen stones (a type of sandstone), which were larger than the bluestones. They were likely brought from the Marlborough Downs (40 kilometres, or 25 miles, north of Stonehenge). 

The largest of the sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weighs 50 tonnes, and transportation by water would not have been possible, so it’s suspected that they were transported using sledges and ropes. 

Calculations have shown that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone, with an extra 100 men needed to lay the rollers in front of the sledge.  These stones were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels – horizontal supports. 

Inside the circle, five trilithons – structures consisting of two upright stones and a third across the top as a lintel – were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, which can still be seen today. 

The fourth and final stage took place just after 1500 years BC, when the smaller bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle that can be seen today.

The original number of stones in the bluestone circle was probably around 60, but these have since been removed or broken up. Some remain as stumps below ground level. 

Geochemical analysis shows Stonehenge (pictured) may have survived so long due to sand-sized quartz grains that are cemented tightly together by an interlocking mosaic of crystals

Geochemical analysis shows Stonehenge (pictured) may have survived so long due to sand-sized quartz grains that are cemented tightly together by an interlocking mosaic of crystals

Geochemical analysis shows Stonehenge (pictured) may have survived so long due to sand-sized quartz grains that are cemented tightly together by an interlocking mosaic of crystals

The Stonehenge monument standing today was the final stage of a four part building project that ended 3,500 years ago

Stonehenge is one of the most prominent prehistoric monuments in Britain. The Stonehenge that can be seen today is the final stage that was completed about 3,500 years ago. 

According to the monument’s website, Stonehenge was built in four stages:   

First stage: The first version of Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, bank and the Aubrey holes, all probably built around 3100 BC. 

The Aubrey  holes are round pits in the chalk, about one metre (3.3 feet) wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms. 

They form a circle about 86.6 metres (284 feet) in diameter. 

Excavations revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk filling, but the holes themselves were likely not made to be used as graves, but as part of a religious ceremony.

After this first stage, Stonehenge was abandoned and left untouched for more than 1,000 years. 

Second stage: The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 years BC, when about 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It’s thought that the stones, some of which weigh four tonnes each, were dragged on rollers and sledges to the waters at Milford Haven, where they were loaded onto rafts.

They were carried on water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again near Warminster and Wiltshire.

The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury. 

The journey spanned nearly 240 miles, and once at the site, the stones were set up in the centre to form an incomplete double circle. 

During the same period, the original entrance was widened and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. The nearer part of the Avenue, connecting Stonehenge with the River Avon, was built aligned with the midsummer sunrise. 

Third stage: The third stage of Stonehenge, which took place about 2000 years BC, saw the arrival of the sarsen stones (a type of sandstone), which were larger than the bluestones.

They were likely brought from the Marlborough Downs (40 kilometres, or 25 miles, north of Stonehenge). 

The largest of the sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weighs 50 tonnes, and transportation by water would not have been possible, so it’s suspected that they were transported using sledges and ropes. 

Calculations have shown that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone, with an extra 100 men needed to lay the rollers in front of the sledge.

These stones were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels – horizontal supports. 

Inside the circle, five trilithons – structures consisting of two upright stones and a third across the top as a lintel – were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, which can still be seen today. 

Final stage: The fourth and final stage took place just after 1500 years BC, when the smaller bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle that can be seen today.

The original number of stones in the bluestone circle was probably around 60, but these have since been removed or broken up. Some remain as stumps below ground level. 

Source: Stonehenge.co.uk 

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