It should be noted that by the beginning of the 19th Century many of the stones had fallen, and were restored to their current positions by Victorian engineers. If nothing else, this means that Stonehenge is not quite as timeless as its tourist publicity would suggest.
The stones of Stonehenge are aligned with particular significance to the solstice and equinox points. As a result, some have claimed that Stonehenge represents an "ancient observatory," although the extent of its use in that regard is in dispute.
Stonehenge is associated with Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth said that Merlin directed its removal from Ireland, where it had been constructed on Mount Killaraus by Giantss who brought the stones from Africa. After it had been rebuilt near Amesbury, Geoffrey further narrates how first Uther Pendragon, then Constantine III, were buried inside the ring of stones. In many places in his Historia Regum Britanniae Geoffrey mixes British legend and his own imagination; it is intriguing that he connects Ambrosius Aurelianus with this prehistoric monument, seeing how there is placename evidence to connect Ambrosius with nearby Amesbury.
Stonehenge remains a place of pilgrimage for druids and those following pagan or neo-pagan beliefs, and was the site of a free music festival held between 1972 and 1984. However, in 1985 the festival was banned by the British government following a violent confrontation between the police and new age travellers that became known as the Battle of the Beanfield.
In more recent years, the setting of the henge on Salisbury Plain has been by affected by the proximity of the A303 road between Amesbury and Stoke, and the A344. In the past a number of projects, including cut-and-cover tunnels have been proposed for the site, and English Heritage and the National Trust have long campaigned to have the roads moved away from the site. In early 2003 the Department for Transport announced a number of major road widening projects, including the A303. On June 5 the Highways Agency published draft plans for 12.5km of road changes at stonehenge, including a 2.1km bored tunnel taking the A303 under its current route. On September 4 2003 the Highways Agency announced a public inquiry, opening on September 17 which will look at whether the plans are adequate for the site. Many organisations are calling for a longer tunnel, which will protect more of the surrounding archeology and countryside. Plans for the site include a new heritage centre, which should be open in 2006. By 2008 the new road schemes should be completed, and the old roads closed.
The stones are as follows:
- The Altar Stone: a 5 metre block of green sandstone The major stones are all made from an extremely hard silaceous sandstone found naturally occuring about twenty miles away to the North on the Marlborough Downs.The internal structure known as the "Bluestone Horseshoe" is constructed of much smaller stones, averaging 4Tons in weight. These are the stones which have been sourced to the Preseli Mountains in SW Wales. Mostly they are of Dolerite but include examples of Rhyolite,Sandstone and volcanic and calcareous ash.*The Slaughter Stone
- The Heel Stone once known as the Friar's Heel, (an anglicisation of the Welsh "Ffreya sul", after Ffreya, a druidic goddess of fertility, and sul (pronounced 'seal') meaning Sun Day). A folk tale, which cannot be dated earlier than the seventeenth century, relates the origin of the name of this stone.
- Station Stones
- The Aubrey Holes
- Y and Z holes