At centre of pre-historic complex in Marlborough Downs stands Avebury Stone Circle; world’s largest stone circle features most impressive British hinges and remains of stone avenue
By Seema Anand Chopra
After viewing the 4000 years old mysterious marvel, the green chalk – Silbury Hill and the Neolithic period clandestine Avebury Stone Circles we headed for the Old Farmyard area through the Avebury Village. We were on a day long tour in Avebury village in Wiltshire, England. As we walked on we tried to sum up our activities through the long summer day – commencing with the visit to the Silbury Hill in the morning and then the Stone Circles close by. Mythology and Science has been unable to untangle, with clarity, the raison d’être of their formation.
Next we sauntered into the village Avebury Farmyard, one of the oldest of its kind, which encloses the appealing Avebury Manor & Gardens, edifying Museums and early medieval Saint James Church. In the 1500’s Farmyard the Museums were created in a 17th century Stable and Barn! On our side was the Dovecot – that once held hundreds of nesting pigeons that ensured supply of fresh meat to the Manor!
We entered the Alexander Keiller museum founded by him in 1938 in the Stables of the Avebury Manor which he owned at that time. Alexander- Keiller displayed several important discoveries unearthed by him regarding the mysterious New –Stone-Age Avebury-Stone-Circles along with the prehistoric archaeological finds of the area. We came across the coins recovered from the body of a Barber- Surgeon of the 13th century who was buried under a Stone that he had been trying to topple and his body lay trapped there for centuries! This incident had been narrated to us earlier at the Avebury Stone Circles.
Then we walked from the Stables museum to the 17th century threshing Barn, another Gallery that has many interactive displays and children’s area. One of the staff told us about the timber used in the Barn being from the time of William the Conqueror. It was full of fascinating information but we felt the lights to be too dim so it was hard to read. The timeline from 2600 years to the present is also noteworthy. The Museum helped us to understand the Avebury mysteries a little better. We hope that India replicates some of these ideas to attract tourists and highlight our heritage.
While going towards the Avebury Manor we indulged in a form of large Chess game on the ground.
We were eager to see the Avebury Manor which had been refurbished during the shooting of the BBC Serial – The Manor Reborn in 2011 that showed a team of Historians, Experts and Volunteers restoring the 500 years old Avebury Manor . We remembered that actors Penelope Keith and Paul Martin of the popular Television Serial ‘To the Manor Born’ of yesteryears introduced the first part of this serial ‘The Manor Reborn’. It covered the history of the Avebury Manor from the time of Elizabeth 1 to the World War 2- depicting Britain across 5 centuries.
We walked down the long path lined with fragrant Lavenders, slicing the garden into two green halves to reach the historic Tudor Manor house. We were informed that though the House was built in the mid 16th century excavations indicate that a Monastery existed here between the 12th and 14th century. The Manor had been home to numerous owners since being a Monastery and had undergone quite a few makeovers.
As we walked from one room to the other we noticed that each of its many owners had added splendid Interiors to it and presently the Avebury Manor was an echo of their lives and stories! We were informed by the friendly staff that the Television serial – ‘The Manor Reborn’ demonstrated how all of the 9 rooms of the house are refurbished and renovated in 5 styles -Tudor, Georgian, Queen Anne, Edwardian and early 20th century periods. This TV serial had linked different historical periods and the Manor’s owners very well.
Alexander Keiller, the archaeologist and business man whose vision saved the Avebury Stone Circles from complete obliteration lived here too, when he acquired most of the land in Avebury! The Manor was restored by Alexander Keiller in the 1930’s who protected the Avebury Stone Circles to a great extend and finally handed the Manor and Stables -Museum to the National Trust in 1943.
Particularly mentionable is the Georgian styled maroon highlighted Queen Anne room related to her visit to Avebury. Principally memorable experience was that we were encouraged to sit, to read, recline on the beds or listen to Gramophone to get the real feeling of being in a Manor house! We even tried to play Snooker in the Billiard Room. In most of the State-Homes of England the rule is ‘no touch’ but here ‘the free to touch all’ is the novelty. Maybe all the extra efforts are made to overcome the reputation of the Avebury Manor to be a Haunted House!
SAINT JAMES CHURCH
After enjoying the tranquility of the delightful Edwardian Garden and Kitchen Garden with the medieval-Walls intact we headed for the car-park walking through the Saint James Church built in 1000 AD. The best part of the inside of the Church is its 15th century strikingly beautiful Rood Screen that was hidden to save from getting destroyed and almost forgotten for 300 years! The round windows and several remains of Saxon architecture prove it to be originally a Saxon building. Saxons were groups of Germanic tribes that came to Britain from 5th century onwards. Once outside we photographed the Church that was redone in the 12th century and the perpendicular Tower that was added 300 years later. The 11th-12th century Norman architecture was also noticeable.
CHURCH AND LEY LINE
Nearing the car park i recalled that I had earlier read that the Meridian Line from Silbury Hill runs through Avebury Stone Circles, Avebury Church that in turn stands on a Ley line to the world famous tourist attraction of Stonehenge! Ley lines are spiritual and mystical alignments of man -made ancient sites or Holy places in a straight line ranging from 1-2 to several miles in a landscape.
FUN THINGS TO DO
We promised ourselves to be back another time to indulge in various events organized by the National Trust at the Avebury Manor and Stone Circles nearby ; like Walking with the Archaeologist to explore the Stone Circles , browse the Book and Gift shops ,the adventuress Easter Egg Trail , Night Trail , the Christmas special Archaeologist Visit to the Avebury Stones followed by delicious Mince Pies and Christmas Liqueur, visit Avebury Manor to get inspired to create our own Christmas decoration ideas and many more things to do.
We drove back to London with thoughts that from the Silbury hill to Avebury Stone Circles, the Avebury Manor and Museums; it was a complete scintillating experience.