‘Stonehenge of the North’ saved for the nation

The future of Thornborough Henges — been dubbed 'The Stonehenge of the North' — has been secured, with the entire site now saved for the nation. Annunciata Elwes reports.

This time last year, the general public had little knowledge of Thornborough Henges — a series of three interlinked henge earthworks, each more than 656ft in diameter and dating back to 3,500BC–2,500BC, where once thousands of people gathered for ceremonies — near Ripon in North Yorkshire.

Now, the site is referred to as the ‘Stonehenge of the North’, following a triumphant 12 months that saw English Heritage open two out of the series of three henges to the public for the first time — after the land was handed over by construction companies Tarmac and Lightwater Holdings.

The third henge was acquired just this month.

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The purchase was made possible by a grant of £150,000 from The National Heritage Memorial Fund, as well as support from Jamie Ritblat and family and The SCS Trust. Now, for the first time in 1,500 years, this ‘remarkable survivor from the prehistoric past, from deep, deep history’, has a single owner.

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A close-up of one of the earthworks at Thornborough Henges, two vast 200m diameter henge monuments. Image credit: Damian Grady © Historic England

‘We are incredibly proud,’ says Gerard Lemos, chair of English Heritage.

‘Reuniting the henges like this means that the public is now able to explore all three and re-connect with the people who gathered here 4,500 years ago.’

The northern henge — the one most recently acquired — is actually the best preserved of the three (indeed, one of the best preserved henges in the country), as the central and southern henges have been farmed. Evidence shows that, once, all three of the huge circular banks were covered in gypsum crystals and ‘would have glowed white for miles around’.

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