The Great Millennium Henge

by Robert McCaffrey


The ancients did it, so why can't we?

Think of it: the world's largest henge monument. With a circumference of 750km and a radius of about 120km, it would be the largest possible circular henge monument in the UK, coinciding neatly with the Great Millenium Circle. In total there would be nine enormous henge markers, one each at the cardinal points of the circle, and one each at the mid winter and mid summer sunrises and sunsets as (theoretically) seen from the ninth henge, at the centre of the circle.

Anyone who has been to visit any of the UK's many stone circles will realise that there is something very special about them. For example, at Callanish in the Outer Hebrides, seen below, each stone seems to have a character of its own, and the place certainly has a very special feel.

Left: Standing stone at Callanish.

The construction of the Great Millenium Henge would be a massive undertaking, but then, we would have the benefit of modern technology. The circle would be precisely aligned, so that in two thousand years' time, when our civilisation is long gone, and all our careful records have turned to ash and have been blown away on the wind, astronomers can look at the alignment of the markers and say, this was built to commemorate the start of the third Millennium. (Having said that, perhaps they will not be using our system for dating the years by then).

I am not necessarily suggesting that we attempt to put into place stone the size of those at Baalbek, in Lebanon. Indeed, the one pictured below seems to have been so massive that it bested even the skills and manpower of the Romans.

Lewis McCaffrey standing on an unmoved quarried stone, Baalbek, Lebanon.

However, to put into place nine stones of 3m x 3m x 15m (around 500t each, probably about a quarter of the mass of the stone pictured above) should not be beyond our modern means. Someone will inevitably say, 'We live in a modern world, why don't you make it out of concrete?' Well, it would certainly be a lot easier and cheaper. However, there are two main reasons why this henge should not be made of concrete.

1. Stonehenge has lasted perhaps 5000 years. Do you think that concrete will also stand the test of time that well?

2. Find a lump of conrete and find a lump of natural stone. Feel them in your hands. Which one gives you the best feeling? That, basically, is the answer. Could you imagine the ancients worshipping at a henge made of concrete? It's like concrete cows. Cows weren't meant to be made of concrete, and nor were henges!

Alternatively, you might say, "If not concrete, what about metal?" Well, this actually has a lot of benefits. The marker could be made hollow, in segments, perhaps of polished aluminium or stainless steel, and would be easy to erect and would be visible from afar. Modern manufacturing methods could make the segments fit perfectly, and a polished silver or gold obelisk gleaming in the morning or evening sunlight would be an amazing sight. It would probably also be cheaper than trying to put into place the 500t stones, which is not an unimportant consideration.

Where would the markers be positioned?

Four of the markers would be placed at the (magnetic) northernmost, southernmost, easternmost and westernmost points of the circle. Given that the magnetic pole wanders around, and is currently in northern Canada, the orientation of these markers would give a good indication to our ancestors of the position in time when the circle was built.

To back this up, there would be four other markers marking the midwinter sunset and sunrise and midsummer sunset and sunrise (in 2001), as (theoretically) seen from the central marker. I have calculated the positions of these points using the MoonCalc 4.0 programme of Dr Monzur Ahmed. The positions are as follows:

Midsummer sunrise marker: Sunrise at 04.46, at azimuth 48.389°. This corresponds to Nocton Fen, close to Lincoln, and is 1km from the River Witham.

Midsummer sunset marker: Sunset at 21.30, at azimuth 311.692°. This corresponds to Hawarden, near Chester. The marker might be sited close to Bilberry Wood, 1km from the A55 (T) road, 3km from the River Dee, at an altitude of 100m.

Below: my impression of the henge marker at Bilberry Wood, Hawarden.

The polished silver marker is on the right: the site is on the edge of the Hawarden Estate, ancestral home of the Gladstone family. The site looks out over Chester and the Cheshire plain, and would be visible by hundreds of thousands of people.

Midwinter sunrise marker: Sunrise at 8.17 at azimuth 129.862°. This corresponds to Harpenden Common, and is 200m from the B487, 1km from the A1081m 4km from J9 of the M1, at 110m altitude.

Midwinter sunset marker: Sunset at 15.52, at azimuth 230.255. This corresponds to a spot close to Abergavenny. The marker might best be positioned at Coldbrook park, on the side of a hill, next to a dual carriageway. The site is 1km from the River USk, and is 2km from the Monmouth and Brecon Canal.

I would like to have all of my calculations checked, but these points are pretty accurate.

As a by-product of the construction of the Great Millenniumn Henge, the number of walkers undertaking the Great Millennium Circle would increase, and each of the individual henge markers might expect to receive a number of visitors throughout the year, and especially at the solstices and perhaps at the equinoxes.

Please, someone, tell me I'm not mad.

Robert McCaffrey on the mighty (unmoved) stone at Baalbek, Lebanon.

What can you do?

Write to me to express your support. If you have got any good ideas so much the better. If you are the Minster for Culture and Sport, please decide that this will be a fitting tribute to the government of the day: a monument costing perhaps 0.01% of the cost of the Dome, but which might outlive the Dome by a thousand times. And having decided that, earmark £800,000 for the project, round up a bunch of skilled engineers and geologists, planners and project managers, and get it going!

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