Time for a new Stonehenge?

News has emerged that the new Stonehenge visitor centre will contain a 360 cinema so that visitors to the site can experience what it feels like to stand inside the stone circle.

How about this for an idea – rather than reconstruct the experience digitally, why not just build a new one there instead?

**Update – people have contacted me and expressed concerns about the accuracy of a physical reconstruction – well the good news is that in 2011 Stonehenge was laser scanned and surveyed to within a micrometre of its life – the data from this project would be ideal reference material for such a project.

Stonehenge - © Adam Stanford

Stonehenge – © Adam Stanford

Pros and cons

Pros of a digital version.

You’ll be inside out of the rain. You can have midsummer/winter sunsets/sunrises any time you like.


You’ll be inside. Some of you will have travelled halfway around the world to catch a glimpse of a group of artfully arranged rocks on a wide chalk plain. Rubbing shoulders with a bunch of people in a darkened room in a building 1.5 miles from your desired destination may not add to your feelings of accomplishment.

Regardless of how much money is spent on the movie, it’s going to look dated in 5 years time.

Pros of a stone version.

You’ll be outside. You won’t have sunrise/sunset on tap, but you will be able to wander around and get a sense of the scale of the monument.

The opportunities for experimental archaeology will be almost as HUGE as the publicity it would generate.

If it is built to scale it will be 3 times the size of the 360 degree cinema.

Even if the initial build price is higher than the cinema (and I have my doubts), the maintenance will be zero.

It won’t look dated in 5 years time. Come to think of it, depending on the materials used, it won’t look dated in 5,000 years time.


Answers on a postcard please. Or, better still, use the comments section below.

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7 Responses

  1. polly says:

    Interesting idea, building a stone replica… where would it be built? I personally would prefer that to a cinema screen. The cinema would allow you to see the stones close-up, but I think you need setting and landscape just as much as this to get a real sense of awe. We can all see the stones on a screen at home… how about something new?

  2. It’s difficult to think of anything positive to say about the cinema experience idea. A stone version would be very expensive to construct: Getting people to visit could be difficult unless perhaps it were constructed to suit how it would have looked? (white with lintels in place)

    If you were able to work out what it was for, it may not be necessary to construct it from the original materials. A realistic version could well prove to be inexpensive to construct.

  3. David says:

    I like the idea of a new henge monument, not only would it make a wonderful tourist attraction which would last millennia but with all the money spent on angels of the north etc why not and you also have a new place of worship for all the new age and neo pagans of which there are plenty so I’m sure if properly organised it could pay for itself . I live in Caithness which has numerous ancient monuments and I’d love something like that up here !

    • heritageaction says:

      People tend to be hostile towards the 360 degree cinema on principle because it’s not as good as going inside. We think that’s a bit unfair – see our article here

      I’d be uncomfortable with an outdoor exact replica 1.5 miles from the original. It would devalue it wouldn’t it? However, I went into “Foamhenge” which, as you know, replicated the monument in it’s non-ruined form. (It didn’t cost a fortune – timber and fibre glass). It was stunning, honestly, being complete added a huge and unsuspected dimension and I’m sure anyone that experienced it would say the same. That’s an experience that everyone should be given. It’s a bit late now but the ideal “educational” solution would be an indoors replica of the non-ruined monument with cinema screens surrounding it giving an impression of the original landscape. And a planetarium dome over it onto which stars and solstice sunsets could be projected. That would be great in itself but also wouldn’t detract from a visit to the real monument.

      A planetarium pod – what’s not to like?!

  4. James Davis-Mann says:

    Not sure it would look dated at all. Photogrammetry combined with the laser scan would be able to recreate it perfectly.

  5. nancy wisser says:

    And one big problem with the cinema version is that you miss the view that the non-elite of the time would have seen, which is the view from just outside the monument. Not to mention the sense of wandering among the stones, through the trilithons and between the bluestones and the sarsens.

    It goes without saying, to those who know me, that I would prefer a stone replica, but the ditch and bank would also be necessary, and it would be good if some vague semblance of the hedge that once surrounded it were included. As many stonehenge replicas as there are around the world, the definitive Stonehenge replica has yet to be made. Why shouldn’t it be here?

    Failing that, a piece of land should be set aside for guest artists or scientists to, from time to time, create temporary Stonehenge replicas from various materials, for the fun and tourist lure of it all, and sometimes to give people a laugh, which is always sorely needed.

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