About 1000 years ago, William the Conqueror was at the town when it was called Sarum. He forced several treaties to be signed, giving him land and law over the local populace. A quick walk through the town found many buildings that have been part of the town for over 500 years. The Poultry Cross was erected in 1335 as one of the gates to the old market square…it still stands today to remind people of their history. The town has many wooden/thatch buildings that still have roofs made of bark and thatch. One such building was built prior to the 1500′s and still has thatch stuffed between its shingles! It truly was amazing to see history everywhere you looked. It certainly is a different kind of history than what we have back home in Rockford.
On Monday, Josh and I were ready for another adventure. We decided to take the train from Bristol Temple Meads Train Station to Salisbury. Josh and I were already impressed with British Rail from our trip to Bath the day before. The trains are almost always on time, and the conductors are very helpful and courteous to confused-looking Americans (if you ever come to England, I highly recommend the train…and it’s fun!).
After about an hour, we arrived in Salisbury, a town with tons of medieval history.
After our time in Salisbury, Josh and I got our first ride in a real British Double Decker bus! We rode it as we took the Stonehenge tour. Stonehenge is only a ten minute ride from town and is one of the most amazing places I have seen. This is one of the most familiar places in the world to many people.
The origins of this enigma date back 5000 years to about 3000 B.C. when the first ditches, logs, and embankments were built. By 2500 B.C. the large limestone and bluestone monoliths were put into place (some of which weigh over 45 tons). This had to have been a heroic feat of engineering, given the capabilities of neolithic peoples. There is still a bit of debate as to the original purpose of Stonehenge. Though it can be used as a kind of calendar, it may have had spiritual or religious importance for the ancient people living in the area. For miles around Stonehenge you can find burial sites called bearrows. Sometimes these mounds have single occupants, or in some cases, whole families buried there. Pets, personal items, and gold have been found with some of the buried. Contrary to popular mythology, the Druids did not build Stonehenge; in fact, they did not come to Stonehenge until 2000 years after it was built.
Consider this…Stonehenge was already an ancient relic when the Romans invaded England in the first century. There is an energy to this place as you look around and realize that over 5000 years ago people were living their lives in the surrounding area. They decided to build something of importance where we now stood, and after all this time it is still there.
However, even as you become more aware of your surroundings the old meets new theme keeps coming back…a helicopter from the Royal Air Force flew right over the site, reminding me that this is the 21st century. What an amazing place! I hope everyone who wants to make the journey to Stonehenge gets to!