Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, Dorset

Roman Amphitheatre, Dorchester
Dated 17 Janaury 1912, postmarked 18 Janaury 1913

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Maumbury Rings is a Neolithic henge in the south of Dorchester town in Dorset, England (grid reference SY690899). It is a large circular earthwork, 85 metres in diameter, with a single bank and an entrance to the north east. It was modified during the Roman period when it was adapted for use as an amphitheatre, and the site was remodelled again during the English Civil War when it was used as an artillery fort guarding the southern approach to Dorchester. The monument is now a public open space, and used for open-air concerts, festivals and re-enactments.

The Neolithic Henge’s original function, like so many other structures from the same time, remains enigmatic though scholars have proposed it could have been a place of ritual or astronomical observation, as excavations in the early 20th century revealed the shafts used in its foundation contained fragments of tools made from deer bone, flint, and even fragments of human skull! The reason Maumbury Rings still stands while so many henges have disappeared over time is that it has been adapted to suit various purposes since its creation. The Roman Town of Durnovaria (Dorchester) modified the rings in roughly 100 AD to make it a place of entertainment – an amphitheatre. Throughout this period the rings would be host to gladiatorial fights and executions. There’s no record of the rings use in Saxon times though it likely stayed as a place of meeting and by the middle ages it was again host to violent spectator sports, this time jousting tournaments. In 1642 the earthwork was again remodelled and saw yet another function, this time one of war. The Parliamentarians turned it into an artillery fort guarding the southern flank along Weymouth Road where the Royalists were thought to be advancing. After the civil war Maumbury rings gained a macabre status as its role as a place of public execution was revived, most notably by the infamous Judge Jeffreys who condemned eighty rebels to death in Maumbury Rings.
Dorchester Dorset

The monument includes a henge, a Romano-British amphitheatre and Civil War fieldworks situated in the centre of Dorchester. The henge, amphitheatre and fieldworks are superimposed on one another with visible remains of all three elements. They survive as a roughly circular enclosure bank with an internal diameter of up to 64m, the bank measuring approximately 4m wide, broken and terraced in places with a maximum height of 4m externally and 5.6m internally. There is an entirely buried internal henge ditch, and a bulge in the earthworks to the south west marks the site of the gun emplacement. From the centre of the enclosure the ground slopes gradually upwards. The single entrance is to the north east. The gun emplacement has levelled part of the bank and is composed of a steep ramp of material with a level platform thus created on the summit. . . . During the Romano-British period the henge earthworks were modified by the internal excavation of an oval, level arena floor and the cutting of seating into the scarp and bank which was subsequently revetted with either chalk or timber. Chambers were cut into the bank to the south west and one on each side of the centre. Objects recovered on the arena floor and elsewhere suggested a 4th century date for the final usage of the amphitheatre although there was a 2nd century inhumation. The Civil War fieldworks were begun in 1642 and are visible as terraces and a gun emplacement platform to the south west. . . .Subsequently the interior of the enclosure was under cultivation.
Historic England

Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge – View looking E.
c. 1920?
H.M. Office of Works
“Photogravure by the Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Co, London”

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Stonehenge: To-Day and Yesterday (1916)

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, two miles (3 km) west of Amesbury. It consists of a ring of standing stones, each around 13 feet (4.0 m) high, seven feet (2.1 m) wide, and weighing around 25 tons. The stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred tumuli (burial mounds). Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC, although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.

In about 2500 BC the stones were set up in the centre of the monument. Two types of stone are used at Stonehenge – the larger sarsens and the smaller ‘bluestones’. The sarsens were erected in two concentric arrangements – an inner horseshoe and an outer circle – and the bluestones were set up between them in a double arc. . . . From the middle Bronze Age, less communal effort went into the construction of ceremonial monuments such as Stonehenge and more on activities such as the creation of fields. . . .The earliest surviving written references to Stonehenge date from the medieval period, and from the 14th century onwards there are increasing references to Stonehenge and drawings and paintings of it.
English Heritage

The modern story of restorations at Stonehenge begins in 1880 when the site was surveyed by William Flinders-Petrie, who also established the numbering system for the stones that is in use to this day. The very first documented intervention to prevent stone collapse at Stonehenge happened in 1881 and is described here by Simon Banton. In 1893, the Inspector of Ancient Monuments determined that several stones were in in danger of falling and he was subsequently proved correct when stone 22 collapsed in a New Year’s Eve storm on 31 December 1900. The stone remained intact and was not damaged, but lintel-122 broke into two pieces with such a shock that a fragment was found 81 ft away. They were the first stones to fall since 1797 (after a rapid thaw succeeded a hard frost) and, as the guardian of the site was ill at the time, Sir Edmund Antrobus paid for a police constable to keep sightseers in order.
Silent Earth: Restorations at Stonehenge

“Stonehenge: Stones being repositioned during restoration work (1914)”

Stonehenge – Part of outer circle with Friars Heel
c. 1920?
H.M. Office of Works
“Photogravure by The Vandyck Printers Ltd, Bristol & London”