The day that Stonehenge was sold via the pages of Country Life

Stonehenge is shortly to be changed forever, following news that the planned tunnel below the world-famous stone circle has been given the green light. But it's not the first time that the site has witnessed upheaval.

The wildly popular neolithic monument/temple/tourist attraction has long been protected from development under British law, being one of the first sites in the country to gain conservation status back in the 19th century.

Yet that status has long been undermined by the rumbling traffic from the A303, which thunders day and night just a few hundred yards away. It’s surely the only UNESCO heritage site in the world which is as famous for being a traffic blackspot as it is a wonder of civilisation.

Some, of course, are up in arms, citing the environmental impact of tunnelling and the loss of the rather lovely view from the road across Salisbury Plain to the stones.

Anyone who has ever driven from the London area to the South West knows the view only too well, since there is ample opportunity to take it in while creeping past at 4mph as part of a two-mile tailback.

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It wasn’t always like this, of course. These pictures of Stonehenge from the wonderful Country Life Picture Library show just how peaceful the spot used to be.

Stonehenge in Country Life - 1977

Stonehenge in Country Life – even as recently as 1977 it was a peaceful spot. ©Country Life Picture Library

And before the widespread adoption of the car, it was even more peaceful still.

Take 1915, for example: the landmark date when Stonehenge was last sold:

Stonehenge advert in Country Life - 1915

©Country Life Picture Library

What’s perhaps most extraordinary about this advert is that the inclusion of Stonehenge is listed at the end of the advert.

As if it’s a nice added bonus to a country estate rather thanm you know, the main thing that you’re actually buying:

Stonehenge advert in Country Life - 1915

©Country Life Picture Library

That would be very different today, in the unthinkable situation that the site could ever be sold back into private hands.

And with almost 1.4 million visitors a year, many of whom pay the full £16.50 admission fee, we’d imagine the sale price of £6,600 would be very different as well…

The eventual buyer, Cecil Chubb, gifted the land and the site to the nation three years later. It was an act of magnanimity which earned him universal praise, a baronetcy from Lloyd George, and a reputation which means that even today he still has his own Wikipedia page.