Avebury Village & Stone Henge Circle
Avebury Stone Circle
English Heritage
National Trust
Avebury
Wiltshire SN8 1RF
 
 
 
 
Avebury is a small attractive village in south-west England with an ancient lineage. It has a partly Saxon church, a thatched great barn plus an Elizabethan manor house; however, it is mainly famous for its Bronze Age Stone Circle.
 
The reason for such circles is unknown, but the impression gained is of a landscape being shaped for rituals that involved inclusion, exclusion and procession. If this is correct, then the various monuments may have been built as public ‘theatres’ for rites and ceremonies that gave physical expression to the community’s ideas of world order; the place of the people within that order; the relationship between the people and their gods; and the nature and transmission of authority, whether spiritual or political.
 
The length of time over which Avebury Henge and its two avenues were built is so long that it suggests the community’s relationship with its environment may gradually have altered. Changing rituals may have been the driving force for the building of new monuments and for their eventual abandonment around 1800 BC.
 
Avebury Stone Circle & Earthworks
Banks & Ditches
The Avebury complex is one of the principal ceremonial sites of Neolithic Britain and covers an area of 28.5 acres (11.5 hectares). The size of this circle is outstanding – the circular ditch and bank has a diameter of 1,400 feet (427 metres) and a circumference of well over half a mile (0.8 km).
 
The Henge was built and altered over many centuries from about 2850 BC until about 2200 BC. It is Britain’s most complex surviving Neolithic henge monument and certainly one of the largest.
 
Avebury consists of a huge sub-circular bank and ditch with four causewayed entrances dividing it into four unequal arcs. The bank is now some 14–18 feet (4.2–5.4 metres) high but was once nearly 55 feet (17 metres) above what was originally a 30-foot (9-metre) deep ditch.
 
The irregularity of the circle suggests that it was built by different work gangs. Where the bank ended at an entrance, timber revetments appear to have been used to keep the bank in place.
 
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The Stones
Three stone circles are included in the henge at Avebury - an outer circle and two smaller inner circles that were aligned more or less north and south. The 250 Sarsens used to make the three concentric circles were mined from the nearby Marlborough Downs.
 
The main outer circle probably had between 98 and 105 stones arranged around the perimeter edge of the surrounding ditch. The stones were quite variable in shape and size, but the tallest ones stood at the northern and southern entrances to the henge – presumably placed to form impressive openings. Many of the great Sarsens weighed more than 40 tons (36.3 tonnes) each!
 
Within the large stone circle of upright stones are two stone circles, each with a central feature. A double avenue of stones leads away from the southern entrance towards The Sanctuary stone circles on Overton Hill, about a mile (1.6 km) to the south.
 
Southern Circle and Great Obelisk
The southern circle focused on a central point, the great Obelisk, which was the largest stone in the circle at 21 feet (6.4 metres) high. Twenty-nine smaller stones surrounded the Obelisk in a circle. These were set at regular intervals, about 36 feet (11 metres) apart, the same as the stones in the outer circles and also of roughly the same height. The Obelisk was removed sometime after 1725 and its former position is now represented by a concrete post.
 
Northern Circle
The northern circle probably consisted of 27 stones, also spaced at the interval used elsewhere at Avebury of about 36 feet (11 metres). Most of the original stones are now missing, but two still stand and two more lie on the ground.
 
At the centre are the remains of the Cove, or the Devil’s Brandirons, as it was known. This once consisted of three rectangular shaped Sarsen stones, arranged around three sides of a square with the opening to the north; it obviously served as the focal point of the circle, just like the Obelisk did in the Southern Circle.
 
Avebury Henge Today
Together with procuring the stones, the Great Henge at Avebury took many hundreds of thousands of hours to complete. It was one of the most labour-intensive Neolithic monuments in Britain along with Stonehenge and Silbury Hill.
 
Over the years, many of the stones have been removed and used for other purposes – some used in the construction of the village of Avebury itself. The site now appears as a huge circular bank and ditch which includes 28 remaining Sarsens and part of the village.
 
West Kennet Avenue & The Sanctuary
From the Avebury Stone Circle the West Kennet Avenue runs about 1.5 miles (2.4 kms) south-west towards West Kennett Village and then to the small stone circle called The Sanctuary on Overton Hill. Only parts of the Avenue can be seen.
 
West Kennet Long Barrow & Silbury Hill
In the fields just half a mile to the south of the village of West Kennet (on the A4 between Marlborough and Beckhampton) is the West Kennet Long Barrow. It is one of Britain’s most impressive and accessible Neolithic Chambered Tombs. Also close by is the Neolithic monument Silbury Hill – the tallest prehistoric man-made hill in Europe.
 
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Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a 45 minute drive away.
 
Facilities
The Avebury Visitor Centre is located in the Alexander Keiller Museum Barn Gallery. Entry to the Visitor Centre is free. There you can pick up free maps of the site, free guide books and visit an excellent interpretive display; The Circles Cafe; Toilets and the National Trust Shop.
 
Free disabled parking is available in the village car park.
 
Avebury Stone Circle is under English Heritage guardianship. It is managed by The National Trust on behalf of English Heritage, and the two organisations share the cost of managing and maintaining the property.
 
Opening Times
Open any reasonable time during daylight hours.
 
Admission Price
Free.
 
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Avebury Henge is one of the six pre-historic sites included in the UNESCO World Heritage ‘Stonehenge, Avebury & Associated Sites’ listing. The best way to explore Avebury and some of its various sites is on foot.
 
Alexander Keiller Museum
A small part of Avebury Village, including the Museum, is actually within the earthworks of the Avebury Stone Circle. Begin your visit at the Museum to find out about the six sites within the care of English Heritage and their significance, including Avebury Stone Circle, West Kennet Avenue, The Sanctuary, Windmill Hill and Silbury Hill.
 
Disabled Access
Site is wheelchair accessible; Assistance Dogs welcome; Free Disabled Parking in the village car park.
For further information relating to Disabled Access, go to Web: National Trust Avebury/ Facilities & Access/ Accessibility    External Link
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone +44 (0)1672 539 250
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Website  English Heritage/ Avebury    External Link
Website  National Trust/ Avebury    External Link
 
Getting There
 - By Car (Recommended Method)
The Stone Circle is located at Avebury which is 7 miles (11 kms) west of Marlborough. Leave the M4 at Exit 15 and take the A346 south to Marlborough, a distance of about 8 miles (12.8 km). Take the A4 and follow it west for six miles (9.7 km) to West Kennett and Avebury.
 
There is a National Trust car park south of Avebury, off the A4361. Free parking for English Heritage and National Trust England members.
£5 parking charge applies for non-members.  Free disabled parking is available in the village car park.
 
- By Bus & Rail
For detailed information on other methods of getting to Avebury, go to Web: Wiltshire Council/ Connecting Wiltshire    External Link
 
To check times and frequency of public transport go to Web: National Rail Enquiries    External Link
 
Google Maps - Avebury