Stonehenge on stamps
26th October marks 100 years since Stonehenge was left to the nation. Assistant Curator Georgina explores some wonderful designs of this world famous monument.
History of Stonehenge
Stonehenge in Wiltshire was initially a henge monument until the large stone circles were added in the late Neolithic period (around 2500BC). The stones consist of two types; the larger sarsen stones from the Malborough downs and the smaller bluestones believed to have been sourced from 150 miles away in the Preseli Hills. Stonehenge was bought by Cecil Chubb at auction in 1915 as a present for his wife. However three years later he left the monument to the nation. It is now maintained and conserved by English Heritage.
World Heritage Site
Stonehenge along with Avebury in Wiltshire became a World Heritage site in 1986 as unique examples of pre-historic monuments. However, it was an image of Stonehenge that featured in the World Heritage stamp series in 2005.
Stonehenge also appeared in the Astronomy stamp issue from 1990 depicting the stones used as an astronomical clock with the rising and the setting of the sun. The design was produced by Jeff Fisher and I especially like the decoration around the value.
Stonehenge has featured in preliminary designs for other stamp issues. Here we have an example for the Geographical Congress of 1964 and a design for new England definitive stamps in 2001.
Stonehenge is a world famous attraction. More than 800,000 tourists visit it a year. This led to its inclusion in the South West England universal stamp issue for international postage. Universal stamps are produced for tourists and feature iconic buildings and landmarks from around the country.
Here is an example of a stamp from the Maldives looking at ‘Mysteries of the Universe’. This individual stamp featured on a souvenir sheet where the image continues outside of the stamp.
The World Heritage stamp set from 2005 was a joint issue with Australia Post to coincide with the Pacific International Stamp Exhibition held in Sydney the same year. For each value, there was a British and Australian World Heritage Site and two British stone circles featured, Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar.
Stonehenge isn’t the only stone circle that we have in Britain. Avebury, like Stonehenge a World Heritage Site, is one of the largest stone circles in the country. It consists of one large outer circle with two smaller circles within. Castlerigg in Cumbria is a stone circle on a much smaller scale originally consisting of 42 stones. Here you can see a postman standing by the site which you can still visit, as an English Heritage site.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Stonehenge a few times now and am always amazed at how this stone circle was produced. Such an iconic image works well for stamp design and I hope to see it used again in the future.
-Georgina Tomlinson, Assistant Curator (Philately)