Normally I use this blog to write about genealogy, or gin. Today I’m a little off-topic as I recently changed the blog header image and just want to explain why. Long, long ago, when I first started this blog I just wrote what I found interesting and useful, including “tech stuff” such as The Microsoft Image Composite Editor (hereafter Microsoft ICE). This is basically a program for stitching together a set of photographs into a panorama. It’s the same technology as you get in a bunch of mobile phones today. I’m a little old-school and have a ten year old Canon digital camera, so have to do the panorama stuff myself. After I wrote about the Microsoft ICE I though I should use my blog header to show a rather nice panorama I made whilst on holiday in Nice. Since I don’t really have a connection to Nice, I thought it was time to put something more personal as a header, hence one of the Thornborough Henges.
Now I bet you are probably wondering what are the Thornborough Henges ? Let me quickly re-hash what Wikipedia and a couple of other sources have to say. A henge is an old (Neolithic) ritual earthwork, typically a ring-shaped bank and ditch structure – think Stonehenge or Avebury stone circles. The Thornborough Henges are a set of three henges (each c.240m in diameter) built during the Neolithic Era and believed to be set within a ritualistic landscape. The Henges are located near to the North Yorkshire village of Thornborough (duh!), which itself is close to the River Ure in the foothills of the Yorkshire Dales. The Thornborough Henges are sometimes described as the “Stonehenge of the North”, although this is probably a little over the top.
The alignment of the three henges is slightly off-set, which follows the alignment of “Orion’s Belt” with the result that “the structure was aligned so its western end pointed towards the mid-winter setting of Orion which also meant that the eastern end aligned towards the midsummer solstice.” The structure is dated between 3,500 BC and 2,500 BC (or alternatively between 4,000 BC and 3,000 BC, depending on which source you believe). This means it pre-dates other similarly aligned structures, such as the Great Pyramids of Giza.
In addition to the three henges there is an even-older “Cursus” (Neolithic ditch structure) that runs East/West for approximately one mile from Thornborough under the central henge to terminate near the River Ure.
Visiting the Thornborough Henges
The odd thing about the Thornborough Henges is that despite their significance, and being a Scheduled Historic Monument, you can’t officially visit the site. The site belongs to quarrying and construction group, Tarmac. Nevertheless access is fairly simple. The central henge can be viewed from the “back road” between Thornborough to and West Tanfield. When we visited we just walked into the field where the main henge is located.
Thornborough Henges and My Ancestors
Needless to say there is a link between the Henges and my family. The area around the Henges, especially the villages of Masham, Well and Pickhill were the homes of some of my ancestors (see map below). Three of my ancestors (John Sturdy b.1817 Masham, Jane Bendelow b. 1827 Well and Richard Lambert b. 1792 Pickhill) all come from this part of North Yorkshire. It’s also an area that I really don’t know that well. As such, it was a great excuse to drive around and get something of a feel for the area.
Interestingly this is not the only Neolithic site that is “connected” with my ancestors. My East Anglian ancestors came from the area around Grime’s Graves – a Neolithic flint mine. Perhaps these Neolithic sites attracted people, although more likely it’s just an indication of how rich the historical landscape of Great Britain is.