Today started meeting a white, 15 passenger mini bus on the curb outside the YMCA in bath, our current “home.” The bus was our Mad Max tour guide, prepared to take us to notable sights near to Bath. We got to marvel at the mysteries of Stonehenge, learn about the weirdness of Avebury, see the film sights at both Lacock and Castle Combe. This blog will tell you about Avesbury and Castle Comb.
Avebury is, according to our guide, the “lesser known henge”. It is two large circles of stones that were built around the same time as Stonehenge. The stones were both brought from the same place, however, the workers at Avebury had a much easier job. They had to bring the stones 4 miles from their source, instead of the 19 miles stones had to be transported to the sight of Stonehenge. As we made our way to Avebury we saw a field known as the “Sanctuary”. Located just outside the henge it served as a gathering place for worshipers before going to the Avebury stone henge. Here archaeologists found signs of
campfires and pottery, evidence of the people who gathered there. When we arrived at Avebury our tour guide told us about the first destruction and then preservation of the stones. The stones were first destroyed when a Christian church was built in Avebury in 1313. They did not want their church built on a sight of pagan worship. Years later an Alexander Keely, a man whose family created marmalade and was very wealthy, discovered the henge at Avebury. He recognized the henge for the marvel it was and desired to preserve it. Due to the fact that money was not an issue for him, Keely bought the houses around the henge, destroyed them, and worked to preserve them. Out of the 99 stones, 45 were restored. Some of those stones now have interesting names, and stories to go with them. The first one mentioned was the surgeon barber stone. An unfortunate surgeon of the village was standing behind the stone when they were torn down and was crushed beneath it. The man was then taken to a museum in London, which was later bombed by the Germans and scattered. His body was never given a proper burial. This was one surgeon barber who was in the wrong place at the wrong time…twice.
The other stone that was discussed in our tour was the Satan’s seat. The large stone had a natural seat carved into it in which it was believed Satan sat to welcome the pagan people into the circle of worship.
We also went to see the fertility circle of worship. A phallic symbol once stood 30-34 feet high in he midst of a smaller circle of stones. Although there is only a marker and not true stone, women still flock to this site in hopes that it will enhance their fertility. Avebury was a fascinating and strange sight to see, and although it is not as well known as Stonehenge, that seemed to be a good thing. We were able to discover the stones in the peaceful, worshipful way they were meant to be seen.
The other stop I will talk about is Castle Comb. This small town was the film sight for Steven Speilberg’s movie War Horse. With the quaint buildings and stone streets it was easy to see how this could be the street from the movie. A display within the chapel told us that some of the towns people were angered at the interruption of their lives, however many were pleased as they got to be extras in the show.
It was absolutely fascinating to see how much was so close to Bath. Each place we visit I marvel at the strong connection England has to it’s history. Cheers to a day full of adventures!