Stonehenge, A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids, by William Stukeley, , at sacred-texts.com
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Plate 18. A direct view of the Remains of the adytum of Stonehenge
Of the Avenue to Stonehenge.
THE Avenue of Stonehenge was never observd by any who have wrote of it, tho a very elegant part of it, and very apparent. It answers, as we have said before now, to the principal line of the whole work, the northeast, where abouts the sun rises, when the days are longest. Plutarch in the life of Numa says, the ancients observd the rule of setting their temples, with the front to meet the rising sun. Promachidas of Heracleum, and Dionysius Thrax take notice of the same thing. And this was done in imitation of the Mosaic tabernacle and Solomon's temple: probably a patriarchal rite. This avenue extends itself, somewhat more than 1700 feet, in a strait line, down to the bottom of the valley, with a delicate descent. I observe the earth of the ditches is thrown inward, and seemingly some turf on both sides, thrown upon the avenue: to raise it a little above the level of the downs. The two ditches continue perfectly parallel to the bottom, 40 cubits asunder. About midway, there is a pretty depressure, natural, which diversifies it agreeably. Stonehenge, I said, is not on the highest part of the hill. I found, the reason, why the Druids set it just where it is; because it is precisely 1000 cubits from the bottom to the entrance of the area. When I began my inquiries into this noble work, I thought it terminated here, and Mr. Roger Gale and myself measurd it so far with a chain. Another year, I found it extended itself much farther. For at the bottom of the valley, it divides into two branches. The eastern branch goes a long way hence, directly east pointing to an ancient ford of the river Avon, called Radfin, and beyond that the visto of it bears directly to Harradon hill beyond the river. The western branch, from this termination at the bottom of the hill 1000 cubits from the work at Stonehenge, as we said, goes off with TAB. XXVIII. a similar sweep at first; but then it does not throw itself into a strait line immediately, as the former, but continues curving along the bottom of the hill, till it meets, what I call, the cursus. This likewise is a new unobservd curiosity belonging to this work, and very much enlarges the idea we ought to entertain, of the magnificence and prodigious extent of the thing. The temple which we have been hitherto describing, considerable indeed as it really is, in itself; yet now appears as a small part of the whole. I shall therefore describe all these parts separately, to render them more intelligible: and then show their connection, and what relation they have, to one another, as well as I can. But it is not easy to enter at once, into the exceeding greatness of thought, which these people had, who founded it; bringing in all the adjacent country, the whole of nature hereabouts, to contribute its part to the work. Therefore I shall discourse of it backward and forward; first going from Stonehenge to its termination, or more properly its beginning, and then return again. Explaining all the way, what is its present condition, and what, tis reasonable to suppose, was its original, when the Druids made their first design. This together with the several views I have drawn of it, will give us nearly as good a notion of the whole, as we can at this day expect, and perhaps preserve the memory of it hereafter, when the traces of this mighty work are obliterated with the plough, which it is to be feard, will be its fate. That instrument gaining ground too much, upon the ancient and innocent pastoritial life; hereabouts, and everywhere else in England: and by destructive inclosures beggars and depopulates the country.
At the bottom of the valley, and the end of the strait part of Stonehenge TAB. XXVIII. avenue, 100 cubits from Stonehenge, as we said, the eastern wing of the avenue turns off to the right, with a circular sweep, and then in a strait
line proceeds eastward up the hill. It goes just between those two most conspicuous groups of barrows, crowning the ridg of that hill eastward of Stonehenge; between it and Vespasian's camp, separated from them both by a deep TAB. XXVI. valley on each side. These two groups of barrows are called generally the seven king's graves, each. I call that most northerly, the old seven kings graves, for there are really 7, tho but 6 most apparent; they are all set at greater distance, all broader, flatter, and as it is most reasonable to suppose, older than the other. The other are set closer together, of a more elegantly turnd figure, campaniform, and in all appearance, much later than the former. Therefore I call these, being southward and directly between Stonehenge and the town of Ambresbury, the new seven kings barrows. Of the seven old, the most northerly one and probably the oldest, is exceeding flat and as it were, almost sunk into the earth with age; so that it is scarce visible at a distance. The avenue runs up to the top of the hill, just between them: and they make as it were wings to it, and I believe were designd as such, when set there. When the avenue first turns off in the valley, it is much obscurd by the wheels of carriages going over it, for a great way together: for this is the road to Lavington. Nevertheless a curious eye, without difficulty, sees all the traces of TAB. XXIV. it sufficiently, till it is got higher up the easy ascent of the hill, and out of the common road. Then it is very apparent and consists of the two little ditches as before, (when coming directly from Stonehenge) exactly parallel, and still 40 cubits asunder. And it is made with the same degree of variation, or about 6 degrees southward from the true east point. So that it is evident again, the Druids intended it should go full east, but their compass by which they set it, varied so much at that time, according to my opinion of the matter. To perpetuate the mark of it as much as I can: I measured the distance of it from the southern ditch thereof, to the ditch of the nearest i.e. most northerly of the new 7 kings barrows, and when in the right line of those 7 barrows: it is 257 feet. I know not whether there was any design in it, but it is exactly 150 cubits. From the northern ditch of the avenue here, to the nearest of the old seven kings barrows, is 350 foot; which is exactly 200 cubits.
Whilst we are here upon the elevation of this hill, between these two groups of barrows, tis 2700 feet from the beginning of this wing of the avenue at the bottom of the valley, where it commences. It still continues in the very same direction eastward, till unfortunately broke off by the plowd ground, 300 feet from hence. This plowd ground continues for a mile together, as far as the river's side at Ambersbury. So that tis impossible to trace it any farther. The first plowd field, that southward, is Mr. Hayward's; the other is TAB. XXVII. of a different estate, calld Countess-farm. And the plowing of these two go on at right angles one of another. That piece on the north side of the avenue, of the latter tenure, goes along the line of the avenue, is long and narrow, and has (as usual with greedy farmers) encroachd upon and swallowd up so much of the length of the avenue. And that amounts to 750 feet more in length, which must certainly be added to the avenue. This is all along the eastern declivity of the hill we are upon, that of the twice seven kings graves, and reaches near the bottom of the valley, between it and the hill whereon stands Vespasian's camp. Now reason and the judgment I have got in conversing with works of this kind, tell me, the founders would never begin this avenue at the bottom of a valley, but rather on a conspicuous height, which is visible from a great distance of country round. We must suppose the intent of the avenue was to direct the religious procession to the temple; and that at the beginning of it, they made sires early in the morning of that day, when they held their grand festivals, to give notice to all the adjacent country. Therefore when we cross this valley still eastward, with the former direction of the compass, and mount that next hill, whereon stands Vespasian's camp: we find exactly such a place as we could with, and extremely suitable to that purpose. For it commands
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Inward View of Stonehenge from the high altar. Aug. 1722.
[This plate was damaged in my copytext--JBH]
a very extensive prospect both upwards and downwards of the river, and on the other side of it, for many miles; all about that part of the country where it is highly reasonable to think the old Britons livd, who frequented this temple. This eminence is north of Vespasian's camp, north-west from Ambresbury church. Here is a very large scene of the country taken in. It has a fine gentle rise for half a mile and more, even quite from the ford at Radfin. You see the most delightful river Avon flankd with villages on both sides, from almost as far as new Sarum, and then to the head of it, 5 miles off. It was the custom of the Druids to give notice, by fires, of the quarterly days of sacrifice. Thus the Druids in Ireland before christianity, usd to kindle a fire calld in their language Tlachdgha, on All saints eve, to perform a general sacrifice: as Mr. Llwyd mentions in his Irish dictionary. Mr. Toland speaks of others too. I observd there has been a bank across the bottom of the valley, for the more easy passage of the religious ceremony, and this much corroborates my conjecture of the avenue reaching hither.
Plate XXIV. explains all that I have last said about this avenue, and shews TAB. XXIV. its direction to Haradon Hill, on the other side the river.
I am apt to believe from the conformity I have observd in these works, that there was a sacellum or little temple here upon this hill, where the avenue began. We suppose this might easily be destroyd when they began to plow here, being so near the town. I have found several of these kind of large stones, either travelling to Stonehenge, or from it. One as big as any at Stonehenge, lies about 3 miles off northward, in Durington fields. Another in the water at Milford, another at Fighelden; they seem to have been carried back to make bridges, mildams or the like, in the river. There is another in the London road, east from Ambresbury, about a mile from the town. Another in the water at Bulford. A stone stands leaning at Preshute farm near the church, as big as those at Stonehenge. What confirms me in the conjecture that there was a sacellum here originally, is, that an innumerable company of barrows on the opposite hill, on the other side of the river coming down Haradon, TAB. XXIV. and in the line of the avenue seem to regard it; as is usual in these works. For those barrows are not in sight of Stonehenge itself, by reason of the interposition of the hill whereon stand the double groups of seven king's graves. And even those two groups seem to regard this little temple as well as the great one, curving that way. The distance from hence to Stonehenge is 4000 cubits.
In order to have a just notion of this avenue, it is necessary to go to the neighbouring height of Haradon hill, on the other side the river. The largest barrow there, which I call Hara's and which probably gave name to the hill, is in the line of the avenue; the ford of Radfin lying between, as we see in the last Plate. I stood upon this hill May 11. 1724. during the total eclipse of the sun, of which I gave an account in my Itinerarium. Here is a most noble view of the work and country about Stonehenge. Whoever is upon the spot cannot fail of a great pleasure in it; especially if the sun be low, either after rising or before setting. For by that means the barrows, the only ornaments of these plains, become very visible, the ground beyond them being illuminated by the suns slaunting rays. You see as far as Clay-hill beyond Warminster 20 miles off. You see the spot of ground on the hill, whereon stands Vespasian's TAB. XXVI. camp, where I conjecture the avenue to Stonehenge began, and where there was a sacellum, as we conceive. From hence to that spot a valley leads very commodiously to Radfin, where the original ford was.
This Radfin-farm seems to retain its Celtic name: meaning a ford or passage for chariots, the old way of carriage here used. Rhedeg currere, rhedegsain cursitare, in Irish reathaim. Fin in the old Irish, is white. It regards the chalky road which went up from the ford. Tis a pretty place, seated in a flexure of the river, which from hence seems to bend its arms both ways, to
embrace the beginning of the avenue. The place is very warm, shelterd from all winds, and especially from the north. I am persuaded it was originally a seat of an Archdruid or Druid. See Mr. Toland discoursing of the Druids houses, p. 111. The nuns of Ambresbury too had a chapel there. The ford is now quite disusd, because of the bridge by the town's end; and the road of it is foreclosd by hedgerows of pastures on both sides the lane, leading northwards from Ambresbury to north Wiltshire. This road lying between Radfin and the beginning of Stonehenge avenue, is sweetly adornd with viorna. We are supposed now to stand on the tumulus of Hara, an old Irish royal name, and possibly the king who was coadjutor in founding Stonehenge, who lived, it's likely, in the eastern part of Wiltshire: for which reason they directed the avenue this way.
[paragraph continues] Here are very many barrows upon this side of the hill, all looking toward the sacred work. Hence we survey Ambresbury, Vespasian's camp, and Stonehenge, the cursus, and little Ambresbury. Likewise a very ancient barrow which answers to that of Vespasian's camp, seeming to be placd here with some regularity and regard to the sacellum at the beginning of the avenue. This is a long barrow, which I suppose the Archdruids who livd at Radfin, and perhaps the chief person concernd in projecting the magnificent work. The reader must indulge me the liberty of these kind of conjectures; there is no evidence positive left in such matters of great antiquity. I have some little reason for it, which I shall mention when we speak of the barrows. There is this present use, to affix thereby names to things, that we may talk more intelligibly about them.
We are next to advance down Haradon-hill in the same direction, nearer TAB. XXV. Radfin, from whence I drew Plate XXV. This valley leads us very gently to the river.
TAB XXVI.[paragraph continues] This and the two views in Plate XXVI. give us a good notion of the country on this side. There are seven barrows together, in the road from Ambresbury to Radfin, one great one and six little ones, which regard the sacellum, but cannot possibly to Stonehenge. This was a family burying-place probably of some considerable personage, who livd at Ambresbury. These plates show us too, the avenue marching up the next hill, where the old and new seven kings barrows receive it again, as wings to it. This is shown more distinct in the TAB. XXVII. next plate, TAB. XXVII. where the corn ground has began to encroach upon it. I could scarce forbear the wish,
[paragraph continues] When you are gone a little farther toward Stonehenge, and arrivd at the top of TAB. XXIV. the hill, if you turn back you have the view presented to you like that TAB. XXIV. beyond A the beginning of the avenue, is Radfin, beyond that XXVIII. Haradon. The prospect forward, toward Stonehenge, is shown TAB. XXVIII. There you see the union of the two wings of the avenue, at the commencement of the strait part of it C. Again, you may observe the nature of the west wing of the avenue, going with a continued curve round the bottom of the hill, till it enters the Hippodrom or cursus. At a distance you see Yansbury camp, thought to be another of Vespasian's. Next you descend into the valley to the union of the wings of the avenue, and ascend the agreeable part
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Plate 20. An inward view of Stonehenge from behind ye high Altar looking toward the grand entrance. A little oblique. Aug. 1722.
A the altar
of it, to the temple. Along here went the sacred pomp, How would it delight one to have seen it in its first splendor!
I have often admird the delicacy of this ascent to the temple. As soon as you mount from the bottom, tis level for a great way together: and the whole length o it is a kind of ridge, for it slopes off both ways from it on each side; so that the rain runs off every way. Just about half way there is a depressure, as a pause or foot pace, showing one half of the avenue ascending, the other descending, both magnificent, in the ancient gusto. There was a temple of Jupiter Labradæus near Mylasa a city of Caria, much frequented. The way leading thither was called sacred, and pavd 60 furlongs, thro which their procession went. Philostratus says, you went to the temple of Diana at Ephesus, by a stone portico of a stadium. Pausanias in Phocicis says, the avenue to the temple of Minerva Cranea near Elatea is ascending, but so gently that it is imperceptible. Again in Chap. X. we read of a pavd way, to the oracle at Delphos. But the natural pavement of our avenue is much finer. I take notice, that Jupiter Labradæus was a statue holding a halbard in his hand, which instrument like a securis or amazonian ax, was as a scepter to the Lydian kings. And apparently our English halbard is the very word, with an asperate way of pronunciation prefixd, Labrada. So our Druids carried about a sharp brass instrument which we often find, calld a celt, (I know not whence) with which they usd to cut the Misletoe, at their great festival in midwinter. I have represented one hanging at our Druids girdle, in TAB. I. it TAB. I. was to be put into the slit at the end of his staff, when used. But of this hereafter. Now with the Poet in his celebrated Ode
being arrivd again at Stonehenge, from the last print, TAB. XXVIII. though TAB. XXVIII. small, we may see the beauty of the curve in the outer circle of that work, especially from the avenue, when the eye is below it. We observe the same in the grand front view. TAB. V.TAB. V.
And now we are returnd to the sacred fabric, we will discourse a little upon these temples in general, and so conclude this chapter.
In Macrob. Saturn. I. 18. mention is made of a famous round temple in Thrace, where they celebrate most magnificent religious rites. It is upon the hill Zilmissus. The temple is open at top. I suppose like ours, not a little round hole like as in the Pantheon, nor is it a small round sacellum like those little round temples at Rome to Romulus, to Vesta, &c. It is not reasonable to think they should build a Pantheon in Thrace, nor can I understand it otherwise, than that, it was like our Stonehenge, and in truth an ancient patriarchal structure of a primitive model. The Deity here worshippd was calld Sabazius says he, some make him Jupiter, some the sun, some Bacchus. These are the first perversions of the Jehovah of the Jews. In my Judgment, the name Sabazius is a corruption of the Hebrew name of God צבאוֹת sabaoth, Deus exercituum, a title that would well suit the warlike Thracians. In time Idolatry debased every thing. When they performd the religious rites of Bacchus, they cried Evohe, Sabbai, and calld him Evius, Evan, Sabazius, &c. Evohe is a corrupt manner of pronouncing יהוה Jehovah, and this sacred cry is
truly no other than what frequently occurs in holy scripture. יהוה צְבאוֹת Jehovah Sabaoth. He is the king of glory, Psalm xxiv. 10. But I have discoursed on this head in my Paleographia Sacra No I. which will be continued.
Diodorus Siculus in his Book II. mentions a very eminent temple of a round form, among the Hyperboreans, as he calls them, who inhabit an island situate in the ocean over-against Gaul, which is not less than Sicily. He gives an odd account from thence mixd with fable, and seemingly some reports of Stonehenge itself.
Mr. Toland is confident, this hyperborean region is our Schetland isles, whence Abaris the Druid and hyperborean philosopher, famous in Grecian story. Whilst I am writing this, March 6. 1739-40. we had an account read before the Royal Society, much confirming Mr. Toland's notion; speaking of the admirable temperature of the air there, not subject to such extremities, such sudden changes, as even in Britain itself. There are such temples as ours there.
Arnobius in VI. speaking of the origin of temples, "We dont, says he, make temples to the Gods, as is we designd to shelter them from the rain, the wind, the sun: but that we may therein present ourselves before them, and by our prayers, after a sort, speak to them as if present." We may well affirm this of our temple, built after the manner of the patriarchal ones, tho probably an improvement, and somewhat more magnificent. Ours consists of two ovals and two circles. Many in our island, which I suppose older than Stonehenge, consist of one oval, or niche-like figure made of three stones only, (of which our adytum is a more magnificent specimen) and a circle of rude stones fixd in the ground; of which our work, crownd with a circular cornish, is a more magnificent specimen. Sometime I meet with a niche without a circle, sometime a circle without a niche. We may well say, the circle is analogous to our chapels, churches, or cathedrals, according to their different magnitude; the niches correspond to our choirs, altars, and more sacred part of the sacred building, the more immediate place of the residence of the Deity. They are what now the Turks and Arabians call the kebla, derivd, as we said before, from the patriarchal practice, and particularly from the great patriarch Abraham. I doubt not but the altars which he and his posterity made, mentiond in scripture, were a stone upon the ground before three set in a niche-like figure, and the whole inclosd in a circle of stones. At other times they set only one stone for a kebla, as sometime our ancestors did likewise. This practice was propagated generally among all ancient nations. Among many it was forgotten, or not practised, where they had but little religion at all. Among others, after idolatry had prevaild with them, they thought all former manners of worship like their own, and mistook the stones which were kebla's or places of worship, for the objects of worship. Hence Maximus of Tyre says, the Arabians worshippd he knew not what, for he saw only a great stone. Which, no doubt, was the kebla toward which they directed their devotion, as they had learnt from Abraham, or the like patriarchal ancestors. So Pausanias in Achaicis says, the ancient Greeks worshippd unhewn stones instead of statues; more particularly among the Pharii, near the statue of Mercury, were 30 square stones, which they worshippd. If our author could not make his narration agreeable to common sense, he might well mistake this ancient patriarchal temple, somewhat like ours of Stonehenge, for a circle of deities: he himself being a stranger to any other than image-worship. I shall handle this matter more largely hereafter, and now let us descend again from the temple to the cursus. Only I would close this chapter with this short reflection. This avenue is proof enough (is there needed any) that our work is a temple, not a monument, as some writers would have it. But it requires no formal confutation.