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25 November 2004
Stonehenge's past brought to light

From the invention of the camera in the mid 19th century, Stonehenge became one of the world's most photographed monuments: the earliest he found, in the Royal Collection - because it was probably taken by the gadget-mad Prince Albert - dates from 1853. By 1878 mass tourism arrived in the form of the entire village of Market Lavington. On May 29 they paid a shilling and thruppence each, and set off at 7am in a cart drawn by a steam traction engine, the first in Wiltshire, owned by their local brickworks owner Edward Box. The engine's top speed was 4mph, so their 28-mile round trip took most of the day. By then the stones already had an official photographer, one William Judd, who churned out tourist souvenirs from a horse drawn caravan on the site. The tourists range from Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, lounging, cigar in hand, on a royal picnic, and the 1,000 druids who bowled along in 1905 for a mass initiation, described by the Star as "a train load of sham druids indulging in childish tomfoolery of cotton-wool beards, calico nightshirts and tin insignia."
     These photographs are just a few of hundreds excavated for 'Stonehenge, A History in Photographs': a new book by archaeologist Julian Richards, from the National Monuments Archive in Swindon and other public and private archives. There are startling 20th century images of Stonehenge as a building site, with massive lifting gear hoisting up the stones, while workers pour in tons of concrete to re-set them. "It shouldn't demystify the site if we see how much concrete went into it," Dr Richards said.
     In 1901 the circle was choked with people and vehicles, horses and carts this time, as the people of Amesbury mounted a mass protest against their landowner, Sir Edmund Antrobus, who had fenced off the circle and introduced a staggering one shilling admission fee. The fences and admission fees have endured for another century, as has the tradition of Stonehenge protests.

Source: The Guardian (22 November 2004)

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