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Chapter 4 Journal Activity

Stonehenge's influence on British Culture


One area in which Stonehenge has had a unique impact on British culture is in the arena of architecture. John Wood’s heroic attempts to forge a unique British building style drew heavily on Stonehenge for inspiration. This can be seen in his design for the city of Bath.

The 17th and 18th century saw a rise in interest in the occult and neo-paganism. This trend did not by-pass the antiquarians of the day, and even influential players like William Stukeley incorporated notions from this new movement into their understanding of Stone Age monuments.

John Wood was particularly intrigued with the occult and neo-paganism. He wrote a book The Essay towards a description of Bath where he not only retells the story of mythical British monarch Bladud, but augmented it significantly and claimed it to be factual. His interest also lent to an incredible precise surveying of Stonehenge, the most accurate of the day. Through his passion for neo-paganism he came to believe that Stonehenge was a ceremonial druidic temple, used for pagan worship.

John Wood’s other pursuit was architecture and he envisioned a unique British architectural style that combined features from classical architecture with key features found at Stonehenge. The prime examples of this are ‘The Circus’ and ‘The Royal Crescent’ in Bath. The key elements borrowed from neo-paganism being the circumference (318ft) of the ‘The Circus’ matching that of the inner stones at Stonehenge and the presence of druidic symbols on the frieze, which include serpents and pan-pipes and 108 stone acorns crowning the parapet. The circle and the crescent shape formed by The Circus and ‘The Royal Crescent’ symbolise both sun and moon.

Although, Woods architectural style was continued by his son it never caught on beyond that. However, the indelible mark he left on the city of Bath marked it out as an exceptionally designed British city. In 1987, Bath was awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site, in part due to the contributions of John Woods.

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