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Historic England Research Records

Beckhampton Avenue

Hob Uid: 215601
Location :
Wiltshire
Avebury
Grid Ref : SU0876068980
Summary : An alignment of standing stones which, according to William Stukeley, extended from the west entrance of Avebury before heading south west. Despite the undoubted existence of the West Kennet Avenue, also documented by Stukeley, and the rediscovery of the Sanctuary, again recorded by Stukeley but subsequently dismantled, the actual existence of the Avenue has been a subject of some debate, with excavation and geophysical survey tending neither to prove nor clearly disprove Stukeley's description. The existence of the Longstones (SU 06 NE 56) has been regarded by some as representing the last visible traces of the Avenue, but there was little to link them directly to the Avebury monument. In 1999, during excavation focused on the newly-discovered Neolithic enclosure SU 06 NE 200, a series of buried sarsens and shallow pits containing debris from the breaking-up of sarsens were found. They formed two short parallel rows, were regularly spaced, and one of the rows was aligned on the Longstones, approaching them through the large gap on the enclosure's northeastern side. The other is aligned on the southeast ditch of the enclosure SU 06 NE 200. Indeed, the enclosure ditch appears to continue the line of the stones, and it may be that within the enclosure, the avenue was reduced to a single alignment of sarsens. This all seems to represent clear evidence that a stone avenue, as described by Stukeley, existed. However, the course between these features and Avebury is unknown at present, as is the distance the avenue continues (if at all) beyond the Longstones.
More information : Beckhampton Avenue, an avenue of stones which,
according to Stukeley, extended from the west entrance of Avebury across the Winterbourne, and on in a south-westerly direction south of the Long Stones (see SU 06 NE 56), one of which could have probably formed part of the Avenue, to a spot in the valley west of Beckhampton (SU 100690 to SU 082688, see plans (2) (3)) and called by him Beckhampton Avenue. Stukeley considered its length equal to that of the West Kennet Avenue, with the transverse and longitudinal intervals of the stones similar.

By the time Stukeley made his plans there remained only
thirty-odd stones (all but three recumbent) some in pairs, out of possibly two hundred, and by the end of the 18th century nothing remained except the Long Stones.

"On the whole, then, the grounds for accepting the former exsistence of the Beckhampton Avenue seem to be strong, though the question of its full extent and precise relationship to the Long Stones must remain open." (1)

Stukeley's theory was supported by the finding in 1968, during the inspection of cable trenches of (i) the possible robbing pit of a stone in the High Street, Avebury SU 099699 and (ii) a buried stone beside the A4 road SU 087690, both on line with the Avenue. (1-5)

No evidence of the Beckhampton Avenue remains except for the Long Stones. No further information regarding the "finds" made in 1968. (6)

A large buried sarsen at SU 08776897 and a possible stone
robbing hold at SU 08766898, 12.0m to the W, were encountered in October 1965 in a GPO trench. Identified by Mrs Vatcher as almost certainly part of the Beckhampton stone row recorded by Stukeley. (7)(7a)

Accounts of the discovery of the recumbent sarsen (8).
Extracts from this particular record (notably those prepared by R1 and F2 above) were singled out for criticism by Ucko et al (9) as an example of the 'continuing fascination in attempting to fit the occasional find of sarsens, pits, and other features into Aubrey's or Stukeley's presumed patterns'. The debate as to whether the Beckhampton Avenue existed at all is touched on in many of the items listed in the bibliography for Avebury (SU 16 NW 22) and is discussed most recently by Ucko et al, who also published the results of the geophysical survey carried out in January 1989 in the area of the Longstones (SU 06 NE 56), the findings of which 'neither disprove nor support Stukeley's firm assertion of the presence of an avenue.' Burl (10) argues for impartial independent support for Stukeley's 'firm assertion' in the work of Rev Thomas Twining.
Twining's plan is reproduced by Ucko et al (p. 38). Twining depicted a wedge-shaped pattern of avenues which he regarded apparently as representing the island of Britain as conceived by the Romans. (8-10)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Windmill Hill and Avebury : excavations by Alexander Keiller, 1925-1939
Source details :
Page(s) : 216-7
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : The ancient history of Wiltshire
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates : 10
Vol(s) : II
Source Number : 10
Source : The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine
Source details : Burl, A. Two Early Plans of Avebury (pp163-172)
Page(s) : 169
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 85, 1992
Source Number : 11
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : M Barber 07-DEC-1999
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine
Source details : Gillings, M et al. The Beckhampton Avenue and a "new" Neolithic enclosure near Avebury: an interim report on the 1999 excavations.
Page(s) : 01-Aug
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 93, 2000
Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : W Stukeley (1743) Abury, a Temple of the British Druids p14-15 34-39 maps illusts
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Council for British Archaeology : Group 12 (Wessex) & Group 13 (South West) : Archaeological review
Source details : HL & F de M Vatcher
Page(s) : 6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 3, 1968
Source Number : 5
Source : Council for British Archaeology : Group 12 (Wessex) & Group 13 (South West) : Archaeological review
Source details : HL & F de M Vatcher
Page(s) : 25
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 4, 1969
Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 MHB 05-DEC-73
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 MHB 29-OCT-74
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7a
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Inf and plan at 1:2500 (Mrs F de M Vatcher, Keiller Museum, Avebury)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine
Source details : [F de M Vatcher: note on excavation]
Page(s) : 127
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 64, 1969
Source Number : 9
Source : Avebury reconsidered : from the 1660s to the 1990s
Source details :
Page(s) : 195-9, 258
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Late Neolithic
Display Date : Late Neolithic
Monument End Date : -2200
Monument Start Date : -2900
Monument Type : Stone Alignment
Evidence : Documentary Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Wiltshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 117/150
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : WI 006A
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Wiltshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 117
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SU 06 NE 62
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1011280
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1110147
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 215587
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, BECKHAMPTON AVENUE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1912-01-01
End Date : 1912-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, BECKHAMPTON AVENUE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1968-01-01
End Date : 1968-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 06 NE 62
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1973-12-05
End Date : 1973-12-05
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SU 06 NE 62
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1974-10-29
End Date : 1974-10-29
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: AVEBURY WORLD HERITAGE SITE PROJECT
Activity type : FIELD SURVEY
Start Date : 1997-08-01
End Date : 1998-12-01
Associated Activities : Primary, LONGSTONES FIELD, BECKHAMPTON
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 2002-12-31