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Stonehenge in the 20th Century

Stonehenge in the 20th Century: The Modern Story of an Ancient Monument

This talk by Dr Susan Greaney of Exeter university will chart the fascinating story of Stonehenge over the 20th century. It’ll do so  through historic photographs and personal stories that tell of some key moments and memories.

Stonehenge in the 20th Century - image stonehenge stereoview

Stonehenge in the 20th Century – image Stonehenge stereoview

At the beginning of the century, Stonehenge existed unde private ownership and concerns existed about the state of the monument after one of the stones fell. From that time to the end of the century, visitor numbers reached 1 million per year.

Those 100 years cover major changes in the monument’s appearance and our understanding of it.

In her talk, Susan will cover:

  • The auction of Stonehenge in 1918
  • The experience of a custodian’s daughter in the 1930s
  • Also the story of the team who oversaw restoration in the 1950s and …
  • .. the recovery of a small piece of Stonehenge from America.
    The Curran crane

    The Curran crane

More about the Curran crane

From the Stonehenge Facebook page:

In the 1950s, a major project was underway to restore some fallen stones at Stonehenge. This included an entire trilithon that had fallen in 1797. Even with the technology of the day, it proved a huge challenge needing one of the largest cranes in the country for the job.

The specialist crane, known as a Curran crane, was built for lifting an aircraft up to 60 tons and there happened to be one nearby at Boscombe Down. The heaviest of the stones combined with its cradle weighed around 60 tons, so it was right on the edge of its maximum capability.

Crane operator David Healy remembers when he got the call to help with the restoration work at Stonehenge:

‘At RAF Boscombe Down we were preparing numerous aircraft for the Cold War … I got asked to help the crane operators at Stonehenge … I knew about cranes from the aircraft … We got into the main circle … one of the main Sarsen stones had fallen down … we got it up into position and the other workers packed stones round the bottom. We got one of the lintel stones up and put up a blue stone on the way out.’

A bit about the speaker

Dr Susan Greaney is an archaeologist who specialises in the study of British prehistory. In particular monuments of the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Her PhD (funded by the AHRC, and completed at Cardiff and Southampton Universities) focused on the Neolithic monument complexes of Britain and Ireland. This work involved new radiocarbon dating of several major monuments in the Dorchester complex.


Explore the Friends’ website here:


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Date(s) - 29/11/2023
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm


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