The Thornborough Henges

Posted in >

The Thornborough Henges

The Thornborough Henges

The Thornborough Henges are an unusual complex of megalithic features of pre-Christian ritual significance. The site is essentially comprised of a variety of structures including:
  • Three distinct henges from where the complex overall takes its name. These henges are essentially round banks in varying states of preservation and you shouldn't expect to turn up in the hope of seeing rings of standing stones such as those found at Stonehenge.
  • A cursus - a set of parallel ditches thought to have formed a ceremonial or processional way
  • Burial grounds and round-barrows
  • The remains of Iron and Bronze Age settlements
The formations are thought to date to between 3500 and 2500BC and are often compared in significance to the more famous Stonehenge, especially when taken in as part of a wider ritual landscape in the area which include features such as the Devil's Arrows. Unlike some of their more celebrated relations, the henges have had very little formal archaeological excavations carried out on them, so many of their secrets still remain uncovered. 

One unusual feature of the site is the arrangement of the henges. They are clearly aligned, but not in a straight line as you might expect. Instead, there is a distinct dogleg in the line (clearly visible on the satellite view of the map under the 'location' tab). There is much speculation that this relates to the alignment of the 3 stars that comprise Orion's Belt.

The Northern henge is overgrown with woodland, but is remarkably well preserved. The other two henges have fared less well over the millenia since they were raised, but still present an impressive aspect - particularly from arial viewpoints.

The henges are essentially identical and of considerable size - over 700ft in diameter - and together they extend for over a mile from end to end. It is thought that the banks around the henges were at one time covered in white gypsum which would have made them a startling feature of the ancient landscape.

The site has been threatened several times by ongoing development - particularly by quarrying. Various proposals have been put forward to bring quarrying to within a mile of the site and are the subject of ongoing dispute between commercial interests and North Yorkshire County Council.

More happily, access has been allowed to the site over recent years to revellers wishing to celebrate Beltane - a Celtic/Gaelic festival tied to the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, the date of which falls between the 5th and 7th of May each year. Whether the site has any historic connection with the festival is of course unknowable at this remove, but as with many prehistoric landscape features various connections have been made between the astronomical calendar and features of the complex.

Comments and Discussion

Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 11th June 2012 | © Weird Island 2010-2019
3.00 based on 1 reader ratings 5 stars
1 person thought this was interesting enough
Rate this entry:

The Thornborough Henges: location




Beltane at Thornborough Henge: 2012

Scenes from the celebration of Beltane, which takes place in the central henge on the closest Sunday to May 1st each year