History of the ownership of Stonehenge.
The estate of Amesbury, including the land on which Stonehenge stood, and
roughly equating to the modern day parish of Amesbury, was a royal estate
from the early medieval period (since the time of King Alfred (d.899)). It
stayed with the Crown until the 1140s, after which it was then granted to
various royal followers, including the Earls of Salisbury and later the
Earls of Warwick. At the time of the dissolution (between 1536 and 1541),
the 200,000 acre estate, including the nunnery of Amesbury Abbey, was
gifted by Henry VIII to the Duke of Somerset, Sir Edward Seymour.
The Amesbury estate was owned by several generations of the Seymour
family, until 1676 when it was passed by marriage to Thomas Bruce, Earl of
Ailesbury. His son Charles Bruce sold it in 1720 to his cousin Henry
Boyle, Lord Carleton (d.1725) who gave it to his nephew Charles Douglas,
Duke of Queensbury (d.1778). The manor passed in 1778 with the dukedom to
his kinsman Archibald Douglas, Lord Douglas, and in 1825 he sold it to Sir
Edmund Atrobus (d.1826). It descended with the baronetcy to Sir Edmund’s
nephew Sir Edmund Antrobus (d.1870), to his son Sir Edmund (d.1899) and in
turn to his son Sir Edmund (d.1915).
In 1901 the last of these, Sir Edmund Antrobus, 4th Baronet, enclosed
approximately 20 acres around Stonehenge and began to charge for
admission: his right to do this was confirmed by the High Court in 1905.
In the opening months of World War I, Sir Edmund's son and heir was killed serving in the Grenadier Guards. When Sir Edmund died in 1915 the state passed to his brother, Sir Cosmo, who decided to sell the estate. The
sale was put into the hands of Messers Knight, Frank and Rutley and lot 15
was ‘Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 rods, 37 perches of adjoining
downland’. Cecil Chubb's interest in the local area led to him attending
the sale, which took place at the Palace Theatre, Salisbury on the 21st
September 1915. Apparently he went with instructions from his wife to
purchase some chairs. He had no intention of bidding, but in his own
words: "while I was in the room I thought a Salisbury man ought to buy it
and that is how it was done". Stonehenge cost him £6,600 (about £392,000
today). After the bidding Cecil admitted that he put his hand up on
Cecil Chubb remained its owner for three years and then, on the 26th
October 1918, he formally handed it over to Sir Alfred Mond, the First
Commissioner of Works, who received it as a gift on behalf of the nation.
The deed of gift included several conditions or covenants many of which have been changed over time.
One condition was that an entrance fee not exceeding one shilling (5 pence in modern currency) could be charged for entrance. The shilling entry price of a shilling ended during the 1970’s and the entry price was increased. This decision was authorised
by the then Stonehenge Working Party to try to cap the number of visitors
at the time (and thereby limit the strain on the monument itself as well
as the local area services/amenities and infrastructure etc.).
The 1918 Deed of Gift by Cecil Chubb did not specify free access for local residents, but at that time public rights of way passed very close to the Stones. These
proved inconvenient to the management of the site, and in 1921 the
Commissioners of Works sought to address this. An agreement was reached
that the rights of way would be diverted further from the stone circle,
outside of the fenced area, on the basis that residents of the then
Amesbury Rural District and Parish of Netheravon would be granted the
right of free access to the monument.
A resolution was passed by Amesbury Parish Council on the 12th April 1921
“… the Council relinquishes all claims on the right of way now enclosed,
on condition that all householders and their families, (or all
inhabitants) of the parishes, comprising the Rural District of Amesbury,
and the householders and their families (or inhabitants) of the Parish of
Netheravon, be granted free admission to Stonehenge at all times. Subject
to the usual rules and regulations made by the Board for the proper
management of Stonehenge as an Ancient Monument.”
Free entrance remains for residents within a defined local area and for members of the National Trust on whose land some of the facilities are situated along with 'members' of Englsih Heritage who manage Stonehenge for the Government.
There is also free entrance to the inner circle on the two solstices and equinoxes each year.
(Source whatdotheyknow.com with corrections)
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