A New Future for Stonehenge
At 2 PM on Wednesday 18th December a brand new and much needed visitor centre for Stonehenge opened its door to the public. The £27 million building was completed and funded by English Heritage with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This marks the culmination of decades of work and several plans and schemes to provide a modern and world class visitor centre for this much-visited site.
The new centre is located 2 km west of Stonehenge at Airman’s Corner, between Amesbury and Shrewton. As well as providing the expected array of visitor necessities (parking, shop, restaurant, toilets) the building incorporates an impressive exhibition and interpretation facility. For the first time visitors can read and see the full story of the site and how it has been investigated just prior to seeing Stonehenge. The exhibition includes some of the real objects found during the archaeological excavations, helping to bring the interpretation of the site to life. After visiting the exhibition, visitors have the option of walking to Stonehenge, taking in many other prehistoric monuments on the way, or taking the land train there and back. This has all been made possible by the closure of the A344 which until recently allowed vehicles to drive close to Stonehenge. The removal of this road has greatly enhanced the setting and ambiance of the site.
Just prior the public opening, several previews and formal opening events were held. Simon Thurley, the Chief Executive of English Heritage, spoke about the new facilities and thanked the many people involved in delivering the Centre. A highlight of these events was the revealing and cutting of an edible Stonehenge cake!
The work at Stonehenge is not finished. Over the next year work will continue on the demolition and removal of the facilities and underpass close to the Stones which had served visitors since the 1960s. In the longer term there is an ambition to remove the A303 trunk road from the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge, possibly placing it in a tunnel. This will take a lot longer to achieve. In the meantime, we can all enjoy the fabulous new facilities English Heritage have successfully provided in the heart of Wiltshire for the 850,000 annual visitors to this iconic prehistoric monument.
To find out more about the site and the new facilities visit the link below this article.