The new visitor centre - the first phase of the long-awaited improvements to the setting and visitor experience of Stonehenge - will be open to the public soon. Come back for regular project updates.
Apart from modern facilities, visitors can expect a stunning exhibition that will fascinate even those who have seen the Stones before. This is the first time Stonehenge has had a proper place to tell its story, and visitors will be able to find out much more about this complex monument, distinguishing facts from theories.
A 360-degree virtual, immersive experience will let visitors 'stand in the stones' before they enter a gallery featuring various displays and nearly 300 prehistoric artefacts. The archaeological finds on display are on loan from the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, the Wiltshire Museum, and the Duckworth Collection, University of Cambridge. All of the materials were found inside the World Heritage Site and many are on public display for the first time.
The new visitor building, designed by leading practice Denton Corker Marshall, is reaching the final stages of construction and interior fit-out has started. It is a low key structure featuring many enhancements over what is on offer at Stonehenge now, including
- an environmentally sensitive and fully accessible building with a high BREEAM rating (the industry standard assessment system for sustainable building design and construction). There are a number of green features such as an open loop ground source heating system, mixed mode ventilation and a treatment system for recycling grey water;
- dedicated education space;
- a bright and spacious café with indoor and outdoor seating for up to 260;
- a bigger shop;
- a visitors carpark with space for 500 vehicles and 30 coaches;
- ample toilets, including disabled toilets;
- a pre-booked timed ticket system to help minimise queues and avoid over-crowdedness at peak times; and
- new, downloadable and hand-held free audio guides in 10 languages.
Transforming the Landscape
When the new visitor centre opens, the transformation of the landscape setting of the Stones will not be finished but visitors will get a good sense of the vision we are trying to achieve.
The closed section of the A344 road will have been seeded with grass and the fences along it will have been removed. In January 2014 work will start on decommissioning the existing facilities and returning the car park to grass. This work will be complete by the end of June 2014, although it will take some time after that for the newly seeded areas to establish and for the full landscape vision to be fully realised.
Continued Access to Stonehenge
Switching over to the new visitor centre will happen overnight, which means there is no disruption to visitors and you can still visit Stonehenge now. There is continued road access to Stonehenge - motorists will need to use a diverted route via Longbarrow Roundabout (junction of A303 and A360) and Airman's Corner (junction of A360 and A344). Motorists travelling west on the A303 will see a sign in the vicinity of Stonehenge Bottom indicating that they should continue straight ahead for Stonehenge. There will also be signs at Longbarrow Roundabout.
A New Home for Airman's Cross
The other good news is that Airman's Cross, the memorial erected at Airman's Corner in 1913 to commemorate two pioneering airmen who lost their lives whilst flying on duty, has been relocated to a position with easier and safer access.
The Grade II-listed Airman's Cross memorial commemorates Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Richard Wilson who lost their lives on 5 July 1912 whilst flying on duty - the first members of the Royal Flying Corps to do so. As the Cross is one of the very first monuments to military flyers anywhere in the country, it has come to be regarded as a symbol of all early flying on Salisbury Plain, the cradle of British military aviation, and we are very pleased to have provided a new home for it.
It is now located close to the pedestrian path linking the car park with the new Stonehenge visitor centre, away from traffic and overlooking the most likely position of the crash site itself. Thousands of visitors will now be able to see it at close distance and find out more about its fascinating history.
If you have any questions regarding the project please email English Heritage at firstname.lastname@example.org