‘Stonehenge of the North’ is opened to the public and the site is donated to the nation

A huge monument called “Stonehenge of the North” has been given to the nation and opened to the public.

Historic England and English Heritage said they have secured the future of the Thornborough Henges complex, near Ripon, North Yorkshire, after agreeing a deal with construction firm Tarmac to donate part of the site to the nation.

The agreement dates back to 2016 when it was part of a wider planning agreement, made after years of controversy over quarrying by the firm in the surrounding area.

On Friday, English Heritage will be leading the site and welcoming the public to the massive Neolithic monument – a move welcomed by the Prime Minister and local MP Rishi Sunak.

The entire site consists of three massive circular earthworks – or henges – that are more than 200m in diameter and date from 3500 to 2500 BC.

Historic England said the Thornborough Henges site is “probably the single most important ancient site between Stonehenge and Orkney in Scotland”, describing it as the “Stonehenge of the North”.

The central and southern hens were donated by Tarmac to the legal ownership of Historic England, the Government’s heritage adviser, as part of the National Heritage Collection which includes Stonehenge, Iron Bridge and Dover Castle.

They are managed by English Heritage, who are encouraging the public to visit from Friday, with new interpretation on the site.

Mr Sunak said: “The Thornborough Henges site has enormous potential to tell the story of ancient Britain and I very much welcome this announcement about its future – to protect and preserve it for the nation.

“Few people are aware of its importance – locally and nationally. I hope that many more will come to appreciate this little-known gem of our history and, in doing so, provide a boost to the local visitor economy.”

Historic England said that the Thornborough Henges are located in an ancient, ritually prehistoric landscape that stretches from Harbor Bridge to Catterick and are “unparalleled in size, alignment and degree of preservation”.

Like Stonehenge, the enormous amount of power put into their construction is considered a reflection of their importance to the society that created them.

The evidence suggested that they may have been covered with minerals that would have made them glow and would have been visible for miles around.

Thornborough Henges

Hens will meet at Stonehenge, Iron Bridge, Dover Castle, Kenwood and many Roman sites on Hadrian’s Wall within the National Heritage Collection (English Heritage/PA)

Archaeologists have suggested that the heirs were probably built as ceremonial or ceremonial centers and that they may also have been trading centers and meeting places.

Today the three henges are clearly visible as huge circular banks, up to four meters high, surrounded by ditches of varying depths.

The central and southern henges are actively farmed and are therefore not as well preserved as the northern henge, which is still privately owned.

The two southernmost hens were added to Historic England’s Heritage in Danger Register in 2009 and Historic England is working with Tarmac to secure their future.

Thornborough Henges

The Thornborough Henges complex is described as ‘probably the single most important ancient site between Cloughna Clough and Orkney in Scotland’ (Heritage England/PA)

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “Thornborough Henges and the surrounding landscape form part of the most important concentration of Neolithic monuments in Northern England.

“They are a link to our ancient ancestors, through thousands of years, that inspire a sense of wonder and mystery.

“We are delighted to have secured this extremely important site for the nation, ensuring that these magnificent monuments are safe and preserved for future generations.”

Stuart Wykes, director of land and natural resources at Tarmac, said: “Tarmac has a long-term commitment to securing the long-term future of monuments and we are delighted to donate this extremely important historic site to Historic England. With his help, Thornborough’s central and southern heritage will be protected and preserved for years to come.

“We hope that the public will enjoy this wonderful ancient site once it is accessible to them.”

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