magine being married to a man who uses your fortune to buy you a unique and expensive present (that you didn’t really want) only to gift it to the public shortly afterward. On 15 September 1915, a British Barrister named Cecil Chubb went to an auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England to purchase some curtains for his wife. He did not come home with the item his wife had requested. Rather, on a whim, he bought Stonehenge using £6,600 of her £100,00 fortune. Mary Chubb was reportedly not very thrilled about this romantic gesture, possibly because the price equated to as much as £680,000 in today’s money, and what on earth would she do with a bunch of grey stones that cannot be worn on one finger?!
Stonehenge – A gift like no other
UNESCO calls Stonehenge the “most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world”, and it has been on the world heritage list since 1968. Located in Southern England, Stonehenge comprises several massive upright stones in a circular layout. According to its caretakers at English Heritage, the first monument was built more than 5000 years and the late stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500BC.
Stonehenge had been in private hands since the Middle Ages and controlled by the Antrobus family since the early 1800s. When the heir to the estate died in World War I, it was put at auction. The auction catalog listed the site as “Lot 15. Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 rods, 37 perches of adjoining downland.”
Ahead, of the auction, there was speculation that a wealthy foreigner might buy Stonehenge, dismantle it and transport it abroad. Perhaps, Mr. Chubb’s wild shopping spree was driven more by his wish to keep this monument within the English heritage, rather than a romantic gesture. Although the purchase was supposed to be a present to his wife, Chubb didn’t think that Mary Chubb should be the only person to enjoy and marvel at the striking beauty and mystic appeal of this monument. He gave it to the government in 1918, via a deed of gift with a stipulation that the public does not pay a sum exceeding one shilling per visit and that locals should get in for free. Today it costs £14.50 for adults, and locals still get a free pass.
When Cecil Chubb purchased Stonehenge, he also bought himself a place in history and a posh title. A year after the purchase, prime minister David Lloyd George awarded him with a title. He became Sir Cecil Chubb, First Baronnet of Stonehenge.
Stonehenge, a gift that keeps giving
For centuries, historians and archeologists have tried to unveil the mystery of Stonehenge and to date, there are no definite answers as to why it is located where it is and who built it.
Many modern scholars agree that Stonehenge was once a burial ground, but they have yet to determine what other purposes it served and the most intriguing question of all is how a civilization without modern technology – or even the wheel (which was invented in the 4th millennium BC, in Mesopotamia – modern Iraq)– produced and erected this mighty monument.
Its construction is even more baffling because, while the sandstone slabs of its outer ring come from local quarries, scientists have traced the bluestones that make up its inner ring all the way to Preseli Hills in Wales, some 200 miles from Stonehenge. How did prehistoric builders without sophisticated tools or engineering techniques haul these boulders, which weigh up to 4 tons, over such great distances? Several theories have been put forward.
According to the 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, who is known for his tale of King Arthur and mythical account of English history, Stonehenge is the handiwork of the Wizard Merlin. King Aureoles Ambrosias wanted to erect a memorial in honor of his fallen subjects. He heard about a stone circle in Ireland known as the Giants’ Ring which was built by giants from magical African bluestones. Ambrosias’ soldiers successfully defeated the Irish but failed to move the stones, so Merlin came to the rescue and used his sorcery to spirit the Stones’s circle across the sea and arrange them above the mass grave of the fallen heroes. Legend has it that Ambrosias, and his brother Uther, Kind Arthur’s father, are buried there. The problem with this theory it the creation of Stonehenge predates Merlin – or at least, the real-life figures who are said to have inspired him – by several thousands of years.
In the 17th century, archeologist John Aubrey made the claim that Stonehenge was the work of Celtic high priests known as the Druids. However, the radiocarbon dating demonstrated that Stonehenge stood more than 1,000 years before the celts inhabited the region.
In the 1960s, the astronomer Gerald Hawkins suggested that the cluster of megalithic stones operated as an astronomical calendar, with different points corresponding to astrological phenomena such as solstices, equinox, and eclipse.
The mystery remains. One thing for sure is that Stonehenge is one of the most famous and recognizable sites in the world and draws a huge number of tourists every year If you happen to live in Salisbury, you have the privilege thanks to Cecil Chub to visit the site as often as you wish and free of charge.
Author, Blogger & Storyteller with an urge to write about history, philosophy, and human nature. You can find out more about myself, my book “This Is Your Quest” and my blog at https://authorjoannereed.net/. I welcome the opportunity to engage directly with my readers so feel free to contact me should you feel the urge to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. A good story makes history!