Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Sarsen Stones of Stonehenge and Hounslow.

Last month Robyn and me, we spent the night at Stonehenge, waiting to see the sun rise between the magical stones at the summer solstice.

It was quite an experience and the stones really are magical.

Here's the moment of sunrise;

Some of them, the 'Bluestones', are believed to have been brought from Wales which is a very long way for Stone age people.

The majority of the stones are known as 'Sarsen' stones  which is a corruption of an old English word 'Saracen' which once meant 'foreign'. They came from about 20 miles away on the 'Marlborough Plain' and they were considered foreign because they didn't seem to fit in.

So, I thought I'd go to Lampton park in Hounslow to uncover where those stones came from.

That's because boring old Lampton park has its very own 'Sarsen' stone and here it is;

Not so boring, is it? The weird patterns are caused by erosion and are very similar to patterns you can see in the Sarsen stones at Stonehenge;

And actually, Lampton Park isn't so boring either - it features in the movie 'Bend it like Beckham'.

Here's the sign;

It doesn't look as though the stones got here via alien spacemen or left behind by glaciers. This one was found in a gravel quarry in Heston and brought here. We saw similar stones when we were looking for fossils in the London Clay at Sheppey, last September.
Sarcens seem to be formed as a layer between sands and gravels and clays, when sand layers are subjected to pressure and turn into quartzite. There must be something else going on too, because it's reasonably rare.
Erosion then wears away all the other layers and breaks up the quartzite layer, removing most of it so that just odd stones (which happened to be harder than the rest) remain.
The 'Plain of Marlborough' must have seemed like a mystical place to Stone age man; littered with strange, giant stones amongst the chalk.
They would have been ideal for building. Because they were formed from a layer which was then broken up means they were naturally rectangular.
What interested me about the Hounslow Sarsen is that the quarrymen must have been sufficiently entranced by the stone they found that they brought it over to Hounslow for display - the old magic of the stones was still working!
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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