England’s prehistoric monuments span almost four millennia. Scattered across the English landscape are hundreds of these mysterious sites, from isolated standing stones to massive stone circles, and from burial mounds to multi-ramparted hillforts.

The structures that survive from prehistory might not be what we’d normally think of as architecture, but these buildings still inspire awe today, whether through the mysteries of their meaning, the intricacy or scale of their design, or the ingenuity of their construction. From these monuments we can discover what prehistoric daily life may have looked like, what people believed and the technologies they would have used.

English Heritage is a charity that cares for over 400 historic places in England. We look after nearly 60 prehistoric sites across England, from world-famous Stonehenge and Avebury to isolated standing stones and mysterious fogous. Learn more about Stonehenge and England’s prehistoric monuments and ask Susan a question.

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Comments: 109 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

Just_AnotherMoose26 karma

What is the hardest site that you have to maintain?

AskEnglishHeritage49 karma

Well, it terms of visitor numbers then Stonehenge tops them all – we welcome about 1.5 million people to the site and we want them all to enjoy their visit – exploring the exhibition, listening to the audio tours, getting refreshments and the all-important loo stop! But we also have to protect the monument, so we do a lot of work moving the ropes and restoring the grass around the monument to help it cope with all those feet. Chysauster, an Iron Age and Roman village in Cornwall, is a site where there is a tricky balance between making the site intelligible and easy for visitors to understand and conserving the ruins – we have to clear the bracken off the site regularly for example.

SuperSheep300015 karma

What kind of qualifications/ experience would be needed to work for English Heritage? I did a Musuem and Heritage course at Uni that's yet to pay off.

AskEnglishHeritage24 karma

That's a great start! A visitor facing role at one of our sites is a good way to learn about the organisation. Beyond that it depends what area you are interested in - marketing, fundraising, social media, collections care, interpretation, some of which might need more specialist skills. Volunteering for your local museum or heritage site might be a good way to build up experience if you are able to?

Rkenne1612 karma

Which one do you find the most interesting and what’s one that is less heard of, but should be visited more?

AskEnglishHeritage58 karma

I’m really fascinating by Grimes Graves, the flint mining site in Norfolk. People were digging enormously deep shafts to extract really high quality black flint which was traded widely, but there is also evidence of rituals relating to going deep underground, like the placing of a greenstone axe in one of the galleries. They dug the shafts much deeper than they needed to be – why? And what was it like for a Neolithic person to descend into the mines? It’s the only site you can visit in the UK where you can still go down into the mines and capture something of that experience.

One of my favourite sites that more people should try and visit, is Stoney Littleton long barrow near Bath. It’s a chambered long barrow that you can go inside, and it’s set in a beautiful location overlooking a valley. Built into the entrance is a fossil ammonite – it’s fascinating to wonder what prehistoric people thought of it!

Parasisti11 karma

What happened to the parking lot in which Richard III's remains were found?

AskEnglishHeritage23 karma

This isn’t a site under the care of English Heritage so it’s not something that we were involved in, however our friends at Historic England granted protection to recognise the site where King Richard III was buried – you can read more about it on their website here: https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/news/former-burial-site-of-king-richard-iii-granted-protection/

lynx_thing8 karma

What’s the oldest site you look over? Have any projects been disrupted by the coronavirus?

AskEnglishHeritage33 karma

Two monuments near Avebury have been dated to about 3600 BC, making them the oldest that have been accurately dated – Windmill Hill, a ditched enclosure that was used for gathering and feasting, and West Kennet long barrow. But Kit’s Coty House in Kent might be older that these as a similar monument nearby has been recently dated to 3980–3800 BC, right at the start of the Neolithic period. We also help to look after a really important site in Surrey, Boxgrove Quarry, where the oldest human remains in Britain have been discovered, dating to 500,000 years ago – now that is old! In regards to coronavirus, in line with government guidelines, our staffed sites have closed in the interests of public health.

SqueegeeLuigi7 karma

Was there a British chalcolithic?

AskEnglishHeritage22 karma

Ooh – tricky one! The Chalcolithic is the Copper Age, the period between the end of the Stone Age (the Neolithic) and the beginning of the Bronze Age. There is a lot of debate about whether such a period existed here in the British Isles, as there was probably only about 200 years between the arrival of copper and gold, and then the arrival of the knowledge to make bronze. On the continent, there is a much longer period that can justifiably be called the Chalcolithic – Otzi the Ice Man lived in this period. I would say we should stick with just the Late Neolithic and early Bronze Age because the gap is so short, but it is a really fascinating of transition. New DNA evidence is showing that people arrived from the Continent at this time with new religious beliefs, new language and new tools, and people stopped building elaborate monuments like Stonehenge. But we don’t really understand how these people integrated (if at all) and how their new ideas rapidly took hold.

smutketeer7 karma

Thanks for your hard work, Susan. I've got an odd one for you - seeing as how many of these sites are associated with paranormal activity does EH keep track of such events as they are reported to you?

AskEnglishHeritage40 karma

Well, I’ve not heard of any paranormal activity reported at our sites before. Although I did take a photograph inside Halliggye Fogou in Cornwall once that captured dust particles and my colleague was convinced it was a ghost. And when we showed Buzz Aldrin around Stonehenge he asked us where we kept the aliens!

fappton6 karma

Hi Susan, do you have a favourite spot out of all of them?

AskEnglishHeritage21 karma

I think Stanton Drew stone circles has to be my favourite – it’s not far from where I live in Bristol, and it’s a beautiful setting. Not many people know about it, but the stone circle there is second largest in the country, only beaten by Avebury. The stones are enormous and knarled, and we know that there were really complex timber circles set within the stone circles – intriguing!

ArcticFenrir5 karma

Why is Stonehenge so ridiculously expensive?

AskEnglishHeritage27 karma

English Heritage is a charity and we look after over 400 historic sites across England, costing about £20 million a year, over half of which are free to enter. When you visit Stonehenge, or take out membership of the charity, your support not only goes towards maintaining Stonehenge, paying the staff and keeping the visitor facilities open, but it also helps to conserve and open all those other important sites across the country.

solongandthanks4all9 karma

Do you not receive proper funding from the government as you should?

AskEnglishHeritage24 karma

Since becoming a charity in April 2015 we are independent of government. The support of members and visitors help us look after the historic places in our care.

El_Codgerino5 karma

How is the organisation currently coping with this crisis? I imagine you've already taken a substantial hit over the Easter.

Will this have any impact on maintenance of existing sites, and procurement of others in the future?

On a lighter note, is there rivalry with the National Trust? Have either of you gazumped sites from each other you've both been after? :)

AskEnglishHeritage3 karma

We have closed our sites to visitors in response to the guidelines from the government and to protect the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors. The care of our historic places does continue, and we'll be very excited when we can welcome everyone back when it is safe to do so. As organisations with a shared aim, us and the National Trust are definitely friends, not rivals. We share the care of some of our historic places with the National Trust, for example, Stonehenge we care for the monument but lots of the landscape is cared for by the National Trust. Any organisation which protects the historic environment is an ally to us!

BobaFatt245 karma

When I buy a bottle of say the chilli mead at the gift stores does all the proceeds from the sale go to English Heritage?

AskEnglishHeritage14 karma

The profit from our retail sales helps us to care for England's unique heritage for future generations to enjoy.

mjg1233 karma

I remember a couple of years ago when we had a really hot dry summer there was news of how the conditions had revealed new sites - (eg). Made me think there are probably things like that all over the place which we don't know about. So my question is what recent discoveries about prehistoric England have you found exciting?

AskEnglishHeritage3 karma

That’s right – often when it is dry, it is particularly good for cropmarks, and so brand new sites can be discovered! In the summer of 2015, some parchmarks showed up at Stonehenge where the stones were missing – that was quite exciting as it showed that the outer stone circle had been completed. In recent years, I have to say that the most exciting discoveries have been in Ireland (sorry, English Heritage!) where a whole series of new henges and enclosures have been found in the area around Newgrange, many of them found by drone photography. But new discoveries are happening in England all the time due to developer-funded archaeology. Recently a new causewayed enclosure, an early Neolithic ditched enclosure, was found just to the north of Stonehenge at Larkhill where they were building some new houses and three new cursus monuments, strange rectangular monuments also dating from the early Neolithic, were found near Milton Keynes ahead of gravel extraction. A few years ago, geophysical survey as part of the Hidden Landscapes project at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge revealed that the henge had an enormous timber circle that pre-dated it – that was quite exciting!

vodkee2 karma

Thank you for your work, I especially love the youtube videos at and about Audley End House. It is intriguing how people used to live there. Any change on ramping up the videos made there? I can't get enough!

AskEnglishHeritage2 karma

Thank you very much, so glad that you enjoy our YouTube. The team are working hard to produce more so keep an eye out!

RudeTurnip2 karma

Will Phil Harding's home be added to the list of protected sites?

AskEnglishHeritage2 karma

Its our friends over at Historic England which is the government body that list and protect historic buildings and sites. You can apply for a historic building or site to be protected online through their website!

Talonsminty2 karma

Do you have any sites in the Midlands?

Living in Brum it sometimes feels like pre-indistrial history is just something that happened to other parts of the country.

AskEnglishHeritage3 karma

Yes there's lots of great sites! If you're near Birmingham then Kenilworth Castle isn't too far away, Boscobel House and White Ladies Priory too. You can find lots of places nearby here on our website https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/#?page=1&place=birmingham&mp=false&fe=false

gentleman_bronco2 karma

Oh wow! Amazing! I hope you are still answering!!

American here who loves to visit historical sites around the world I am a huge fan of prehistoric sites in the UK - specifically Caithness (seemingly endless supply of Brochs and Cairns). But I just finished a run (pre-corona lockdown by a couple week) in Cornwall and saw some amazing sites. Mên-an-Tol being the coolest (in my amateur opinion). So I have two questions: 1. What is your favorite prehistoric site in Cornwall? 2. Northern Wales is next for me, what site do I NEED to see?

AskEnglishHeritage2 karma

Cornwall is a fantastic place for prehistory! So many lovely places, and some ancient field systems that have recently been dated to the Bronze Age, that are still in use today! If I had to choose just one, my favourite Cornish prehistoric site that we look after has to be Trevethy Quoit – it’s a fantastic dolmen monument, one of the oldest types of funerary monument that we have here in the British Isles. The capstone is so enormous, and its propped up somehow by magic on the uprights. I also have a bit of a soft spot for the passage graves that we care for on the Isles of Scilly – but that’s mostly because they have the most astonishing coastal views! North Wales has some amazing prehistoric sites, many of them looked after by our colleagues at CADW (the Welsh equivalent to English Heritage). I’d recommend going to Anglesey in order to see Bryn Celli Ddu and Barclodiad y Gawres – two amazing passage tombs. If you’re up in Snowdonia, I highly recommend seeking out Dyffryn Ardudwy burial chamber, and also Capel Garmon burial chamber which has fabulous views over the Snowdonian mountains. I’m quite jealous now – enjoy your trip!

a-conservation-nerd1 karma

I work for the National Trust: would you consider us allies or rivals? 😂

AskEnglishHeritage2 karma

I would consider you friends, colleagues and fellow history lovers! The National Trust do an amazing job looking after their properties and landscapes, and we often work collaboratively together, particularly where we share ownership of sites adjacent to each other – e.g. at Stonehenge, or at Dunstanburgh Castle, for example. I think the general public often see us as rivals, because of the membership offer perhaps, and sometimes the two organisations might disagree but we don’t really want to compete with you! In fact, I think we should work together more :)

BitPoet1 karma

If you had to be holed up in one of your sites for the zombie apocalypse, which would you choose?

AskEnglishHeritage3 karma

Oh, definitely Carn Euny Ancient Village. There is an underground chamber, called a fogou, which would be a great place to hide out and a nice cool place for storing food. There is a ruined cottage there that could easily be made habitable again, and it’s in a beautiful part of western Cornwall with fertile land to grow some veg and the coast not far away. Sounds quite tempting in fact!

FroHawk981 karma

Stonehenge is well expensive, I visited with me, my partner and 2 year old (Nearly 3 years ago) and was looking at £55 + just to see the site. We bailed and went avebury instead which was awesome, and free.

Why is Stonehenge so expensive?

AskEnglishHeritage1 karma

English Heritage is a charity and we look after over 400 historic sites across England, costing about £20 million a year, over half of which are free to enter. When you visit Stonehenge, or take out membership of the charity, your support not only goes towards maintaining Stonehenge, paying the staff and keeping the visitor facilities open, but it also helps to conserve and open all those other important sites across the country. As our most popular historic place and globally iconic site, our prices at Stonehenge are in line with other major international visitor attractions.

HonPhryneFisher1 karma

What are your top 5 most popular sites aside from Stonehenge?

AskEnglishHeritage1 karma

After Stonehenge it would probably be Dover Castle, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Hadrian's Wall, Tintagel Castle in Cornwall and then maybe Framlingham Castle.

dkirby34341 karma

I came across Time Team program on Amazon Prime. What is your opinion of the program?

AskEnglishHeritage1 karma

It’s a great programme! It ran on Sunday nights here in the UK between 1994 and 2013, and was a staple part of my teenage years. Although the set-up of three days to find out as much as possible seems contrived, it is actually quite similar to how commercial archaeologists have to quickly evaluate sites. They integrated traditional historic research, landscape survey, geophysics and excavation in one programme – people learnt a huge amount from it. Bring back Time Team!

69clementines1 karma

I visit Stonehenge for summer and winter solstice and always wander if anyone causes any damage? Particularly in summer where a lot of people treat it as a big party.

AskEnglishHeritage3 karma

We’re committed to providing open access at the solstice and equinoxes for those who want to celebrate these occasions, but we have to work hard to ensure that no damage takes place. We try to get across a ‘Respect the Stones’ message, and some of our friends in the druid and pagan community act as ‘peace stewards’ to stop people climbing on the stones. We also have security and police on hand, and our property curator conducts thorough checks before and after the event. Sadly sometimes there is damage – in recent years for example people have chalked graffiti on the stones or put oil on them, so we have to carefully clean these off afterwards. But it is actually the grass within the stone circle that suffers the most, which is important because it helps to protect the fragile archaeology below ground. So each year in the autumn we re-seed and re-turf the grass so that it can recover.

MajorMol1 karma

What is your personal favorite English Heritage site and why?

AskEnglishHeritage2 karma

I think Stanton Drew stone circles has to be my favourite – it’s not far from where I live in Bristol, and it’s a beautiful setting. Not many people know about it, but the stone circle there is second largest in the country, only beaten by Avebury. The stones are enormous and knarled, and we know that there were really complex timber circles set within the stone circles – intriguing!

damarius1 karma

Is there a similar role in Scotland? I have some questions about structures on the Isle of Lewis.

AskEnglishHeritage2 karma

Yes there is Historic Scotland who care for historic places in Scotland :)

thinkdeep1 karma

What is the least visited site that deserves more recognition?

AskEnglishHeritage2 karma

It’s tricky to know which is our least visited site, but certainly one that many people drive past without knowing it is there, is the stone circle of Nine Stones in Dorset. It’s a cute little stone circle, set within a fenced enclosure and woodland, and nearby is a really extensive barrow cemetery dating from the Bronze Age called Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows. There are lots of different types of earthwork barrows here, and scattered all around the valley – it must have been a special place in prehistory.

xibipiio0 karma

I watched a documentary about Crop Circles (I think it was literally called Crop Circles) years ago that made a case that crop circles are formed by electromagnetic plasma and are a natural phenomena that occurs over areas with aquifers which hold electromagnetic charge in the ground in a large feild, causing electricity from the sky to be pulled down and make these impressions in crops.

This documentary stated that a lot of the investigation was done in and around Stonehenge structures in UK and they believed that ancient people's constructed Stonehenge to pay honor to the gods/miracles they regularly seen there.

Are you aware of the people doing this research, as well as these theories? What do you think of them?

Thank-you so much for doing this AMA!

AskEnglishHeritage2 karma

Crop circles are very much a modern phenomenon – created by clever hoaxers. Although some are quite beautiful, they do quite a lot of damage to crops! People tend to create them near prehistoric sites, particularly in Wiltshire. In terms of archaeological investigations at Stonehenge, yes, there has been a lot of recent research – excavations, surveys using geophysical equipment to show what is under the ground, investigations into the stones and their origins. It is quite likely that Neolithic people built the monument for religious purposes – to honour their gods or deities. They must have chosen the place of Stonehenge for a reason – some have suggested that natural geological ridges and stripes there which happen to line up with the solstices, might have been noticed by prehistoric people and made it a special place.

honestAndResponsible-2 karma

Why are archaeologists not digging below the Stonehenge to reveal extra parts? I watched in a recent movie that the Stonehenge is used as a teleportation device. Is that true?

AskEnglishHeritage21 karma

We don’t think Stonehenge was used as a teleportation device, though that would be rather cool! About half of Stonehenge has been excavated by archaeologists in the past the most recent in 2008. When you excavate, you destroy the archaeological evidence, so we generally don’t go rummaging about unless the site is under threat or if someone comes to us with a really good research proposal. Generally archaeologists assume that our equipment and methods in future will be much better – we’ve recently had great results from laser scanning the stones, geophysics of the monument and geological analysis of the stones, without needing to do any digging! So we leave the precious and fragile archaeology below ground for future archaeologists to investigate.

solongandthanks4all-16 karma

As a "charity," why are the fees you charge to access sites like Stonehenge so outrageous? Whenever I've gone, I've settled for just taking a look from the road because of this.

AskEnglishHeritage24 karma

As a charity, we rely on the support of our visitors and members to help us keep our historic places open for generations to come. We care for over 400 historic sites across England, costing about £20 million a year, over half of which are free to enter. Your admission cost is a vital contribution to helping us care for these places.