Stonehenge exhibition reveals unique memories of 1930s childhood at the stones

  • 91 year old now living in Melbourne shares her story
  • English Heritage collecting oral histories to bring personal stories of Stonehenge to life

Stonehenge custodian John Moffat and Jean at Stonehenge © Jean Grey

The unique childhood of a 91 year old now living in Melbourne, Australia is one of the new stories revealed by English Heritage as the charity extends the Your Stonehenge photographic exhibition at the ancient site this autumn.

As daughter of the 1930s Stonehenge custodian John Moffat, Jean Grey remembers a unique childhood growing up among the stones. She contacted English Heritage through her granddaughter to share her memories of growing up in the cottage that stood at Stonehenge Bottom in the 1930s, at the fork of the then tranquil A303 and old A344 roads. Jean’s father was the caretaker of Stonehenge from 1934 to 1938 and the cottage was provided for his family to live in by the Ministry of Works.

Looking east towards the custodian's cottage © Historic England Archive

Jean was five when she moved to Stonehenge: "Dad was the custodian of the Stones. He cut the grass and maintained the area round the huge monoliths and made sure no one damaged them. Occasionally school groups would arrive by charabanc for a conducted tour and sometimes visitors who were wealthy enough to have their own transport. Most of the time it was a quiet safe place for me to play around the Stones. No neighbours. No other children. No electricity, and only an outside earth toilet. There was no rubbish collection – a pit was dug in the far corner of the back garden and everything was buried, including my father’s old, chain-driven motor-bike! The Ministry of Works wages were not very generous and the rabbits my father trapped helped to supplement our diet, and my parents both worked in the vegetable garden. In the autumn we’d go mushrooming. We were told the circles they grew in were fairy rings. Even now, seventy years later, Stonehenge has a lasting place in my memory - the summer days and the skylarks."

Jean Grey at Stonehenge 1936 © Jean Grey

Susan Greaney, English Heritage Historian said: "We were so excited when Jean and her granddaughter Emma got in touch. A personal story like this really brings Stonehenge’s more recent past to life. Although demolished in 1938, we can see the house Jean lived in from old photos which show the cottages, their large back gardens and also rings of mushrooms scattered around the landscape, just as she describes. The house is now gone, but if you wander down there today you can see some remaining earthworks and remnants of the hedge pop up every year. People have been visiting Stonehenge for centuries, but there’s not very many people who can say they lived there – it must have been an amazing place to grow up! We’re really pleased to now be able to tell the story of someone who did."

Visitors can find out more about Jean’s Stonehenge Story with a visit to the Your Stonehenge exhibition which has been extended until August 2022 and will feature a series of new displays over the coming months. Your Stonehenge shows how we are all a part of Stonehenge’s story and it is a part of ours. If you have a unique and personal story of how Stonehenge has played a part in your life and would like to share it with us, please get in touch with us at

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