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19 January 2013
Stone circle found at church in Northern England

Archaeologists working at an historic church in North-East England have discovered evidence that the site may have been used for worship since the Stone Age. St Michael and All Angels, Church, in Houghton-le-Spring, has been a site of Christian worship for nearly 1,000 years, but a stone circle found on the site suggests that it may have been used by pagans in Neolithic times.
     Parts of the current church date back to the 12th Century, but new finds began to emerge during work in 2008 to make the church more accessible, which have since been analysed by experts. First an Anglo-Saxon doorway and walls were discovered, but then earlier stonework which archaeologists believe suggest the remains of a Roman temple lie beneath the church chancel and also a whinstone boulder circle which suggests the site was used for worship 4,000 years ago.
     Further evidence supporting this theory is that Romans tended to build temples on old pagan worship sites. Additionally, the site was originally a mound in the midst of boggy land which would leave it as the only location suitable to build on.
     Churchwarden David Turnbull, the official guide of the church said: "When I take schoolchildren round the church, I ask them 'how old is Jesus' and they say 2,000 years. Then I say 'well worship on this site could have been taking place for 2,000 years before him'. The church is special. It has a spiritual feel to it."

Edited from The Northern Echo (18 February 2013)

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