The man who bought Stonehenge in 1915
Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world. Served as an important ceremonial site and burial place from Neolithic times to the Bronze Age.
Today Stonehenge is England’s most important monument, but 105 years ago it was up for sale. The man who bought it helped seal its fate. Stonehenge has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986 and attracts a million visitors a year.
Cecil Chubb paid £6,600 for the monument at an auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire. It happened, he said, “on a whim”.
On October 26, 1918, 16 days before the Armistice ended World War One, Sir Chubb passed Stonehenge into public ownership, via a deed of gift. The deed of gift included the following conditions:
First that the public shall have free access to the premises hereby conveyed and every part thereof on the payment of such reasonable sum per head not exceeding one shilling for each visit and subject to such conditions as the Commissioners of Works in the exercise and execution of their statutory powers and duties may from time to time impose Secondly that the premises shall so far as possible be maintained in their present condition Thirdly that no building or erection other than a pay box similar to the Pay Box now standing on the premises shall be erected on any part of the premises within four hundred yards of The Milestone marked “Amesbury 2” on the northern frontage of the premises and Fourthly that the Commissioners of Works will at all times save harmless and keep indemnified the Donors and each of them their and each of their estates and effects from and against all proceedings costs claims and expenses on account of any breach or non-observance of the covenants by the Donors to the like or similar effect contained in the Conveyance of the premises to the Donors.
The next year Prime Minister David Lloyd George recognised his generosity with a title, Chubb becoming Sir Cecil Chubb, First Baronet of Stonehenge.
To mark this Chubb had a coat of arms made up, bearing a silver lion’s leg grasping two branches of mistletoe – a plant regarded as sacred by the druids who (people believed) worshipped at Stonehenge. The coat of arms bore the motto “Saxis Condita”, meaning “Founded on the stones”.
However, Sir Chubb didn’t forget his roots when he gave Stonehenge away. His deed of gift stipulated the public shouldn’t pay “a sum exceeding one shilling” per visit. A separate agreement with the parish council said local people should get in for nothing.
Sir Cecil, First Baronet
Sir Cecil Herbert Edward Chubb, First Baronet, was the last private owner of the Stonehenge prehistoric monument, Wiltshire. Chubb had come from humble origins. Born in 1876, his father was a saddler and harness-maker in the village of Shrewton, a few miles from Stonehenge.
On September 22, 1934, Sir Chubb died of heart disease at his house in Bournemouth, Rothwell Dene, aged 58.
The story of Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, two miles (3 km) west of Amesbury. It consists of an outer ring of vertical sarsen standing stones, each around 13 feet (4.0 m) high. Seven feet (2.1 m) wide, and weighing around 25 tons, topped by connecting horizontal lintel stones.
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.
- Large-scale human activity first seen around site around 7000 BC; first large earthwork was built around 3100 BC and second stage of construction around 2150 BC.
- Third stage happened 150 years or so later, with the arrival of sandstones. Probably from north Wiltshire, the largest weighing 50 tonnes – men dragged stones using sledges and leather ropes.
- Stones were arranged into the present horseshoe and circle shape around 1500 BC
- Purpose of Stonehenge remains mystery – suggestions include royal burial ground, temple, site for human sacrifices, or building capable of predicting eclipses.
- Site is aligned so sun shines through to particular point on summer and winter solstices, but no academic consensus over why prehistoric Britons thought this important.