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For many years the so-called Druids have celebrated the rising of the sun over the Heel Stone at dawn on the Summer Solstice.
However modern archeological thinking now sees the setting of the sun through the middle Great Trilithon on the Winter Solstice as being the more important alignment.
Certainly if contemporary society is anything to go by, we make a huge fuss about the winter solstice (Christmas, New Year, etc.) whilst the summer one goes largely unmarked (Druids aside).
To say that the Stonehenge Visitor Centre has been mired in controversy would be understating things. From the time that the 'temporary' centre opposite the stones open in 1968,
the debate about where its replacement should be and what should be done about the two main roads flanking the site has rumbled on and on.
It is still a work in progress, but at least we have now got a new centre sited at Airmanʼs Corner, and what a beauty it is.
Designed by Australian practice Denton Corker Marshall, it consists of an undulating roof supported on poles, under which are three boxes.
There are two large boxes, a glass one containing the cafe, shop and education facilities, and a wooden one containing the interpretation and exhibition space.
Between them is the small ticket office, in what is admittedly a bit of a wind tunnel. Not to everyoneʼs taste, but I must admit I liked it.
Now all theyʼve got to do is sort out the A303 and the horrendous traffic chaos that closing the A344 has cause.
I often used to drive past this little memorial when it was marooned in a small triangle of grass in the middle of the busy A344/A360 crossroad.
Rumour had it that it commemorated an army officer killed in an accident, but there was no easy way to stop and look at if more carefully.
It is nice to see that when the crossroads were replaced with the current roundabout, the Airmenʼs Cross was moved next to the Visitor Centre. The inscription reveals the full story:
To the memory of Captain Loraine and Staff-Sergeant Wilson who whilst flying on duty, met with a fatal accident near this spot on 5th July 1912. Erected by their comrades
Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff-Sergeant Richard Hubert Victor Wilson, pioneers of the Royal Flying Corps, were test flying a
Nieuport monoplane on the morning of Friday 5th July 1912.
On taking off for the second time, the plane climbed, banked to turn, then immediately fell to the ground. Sergeant Wilson was killed instantly and Captain Loraine died later at Bulford Hospital.
External Links and References
The Death of Captain Eustace Loraine
Article on Captain Loraine by the Bramford Local History Group http://www.bramfordhistorygroup.org.uk/100-years-ago-the-death-of-captain-eustace-loraine/
Ever since I visited the Kasubi Tombs in Kampala, Uganda, Iʼve found it almost impossible to see a ring of post holes (or even a small ring of stones)
without imagining a roof on it.
Woodhenge is no exception. Clearly any society that is capable of dragging enormous sarsen stones twenty plus miles from the Marlborough Downs,
or transporting the smaller blue stones all the way from the Precilli Mountains in Wales, should be capable of building very large roofed buildings.
However Durrington Walls just across the way, like Avebury, is on an altogether different scale and could never have been roofed.
It appears to have been the site of some sort of summer fair.
Rather than speculating about possible rituals, perhaps we should think more in terms of of a Bronze Age Glastonbury Festival, with Durrington Walls as the campsite and Woodhenge as the Pyramid Stage.
External Links and References
English Heritage handbook entry http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/woodhenge/