Previous Exhibition - Stonehenge: Monumental Journey
9 MAY - 24 JUNE, QUADRIGA GALLERY
For centuries, Stonehenge has been a place of wonder and of religious pilgrimage, of celebration and of protest. The opening exhibition at the Quadriga Gallery will show how the monument has been experienced over time and how Stonehenge will be reconnected with the wider landscape.
"I am come now to Stoneheng, one of our English wonders that hath been the subject of so much Discourse" John Aubrey, 1666.
This exhibition celebrates the journeys people have made in their millions to find Stonehenge. Through a selection of objects and photographs it captures some of their experiences, and champions the project to build a new visitor centre at the site, restore the chalk downland and create a setting that we believe this iconic monument deserves.
Early Visitors to Stonehenge
The early visitors were able to approach Stonehenge from the south and west over unmapped open downland crossed by tracks and paths. Early prints and books from the eighteenth century show the routes that took them through some of Europe’s most impressive groups of barrows - prehistoric burial mounds then thought to cover the remains of the people who built Stonehenge.
The "Stonehenge Triangle"
In mid-18th century the Amesbury Turnpike Trust took over key local roads, improving their surfaces and making them safer for travellers (and charging a toll). The main route across Salisbury Plain was moved close to Stonehenge: with this to the north and what is now the A303 to the south, the “Stonehenge triangle” had been created. Many visitors now approached the site by road from the East. The collections in the exhibition will show the wide response to Stonehenge at this time by artists such as Turner and Constable.
Excavations and Restoration
The barrows have long since been sites of interest for amateur excavations, with finds from the burial mounds yielding pottery, gold and bronze. On display will be the largest known burial pot.
Evocative photographs in the exhibition will show early restoration work, such as the straightening of one of the large trilithons in 1901.
For most of recorded history, people freely crossed private farmland to see Stonehenge. This changed in 1900, when Lord Antrobus, the private owner, erected fences and started to charge admission. A visitor in 1902 saw “nearly a mile of barbed wire”, and praised the peace and tidiness. His family sold the monument at auction in 1915. Lot 15 was bought by a local man, Cecil Chubb – three years later he gave it to the nation, and the first public programme of visitor access, restoration and excavation began.
An Iconic Visitor Attraction
During the second half of the 20th century visitor numbers to Stonehenge continued to rise reaching 800,000 in 1977. A free car park was set out, and soon extended and a pedestrian underpass was opened.
A small midsummer gathering in the early 70s grew into a spontaneous month-long event, with crowds of 50,000, a music stage and use of illegal drugs. The common refrain from most visitors and critics, however, was that attempts to manage the pressure of tourists had failed, and that something should be done about it.
The new Stonehenge project will change the 250-year grip of the roads triangle around the Stones. The car park, fencing, shop and other structures that have accumulated to manage visitors and provide a service close to the site over the past century will be removed. A new Visitor Centre, designed by Denton Corker Marshall will be provided out of sight from Stonehenge.