Thornborough Henges - the 'Stonehenge of the North' now open to the public
A little-known group of ancient henges in North Yorkshire – older than the great Pyramids in Egypt - will be open to the public from today.
The mile-long complex of three 5,000-year-old henges near Bedale are collectively known as Thornborough Henges and form part of a series of ancient structures across the county which are known as the ‘Stonehenge of the North’ – although the northern site actually pre-dates the famous monument.
The structures are huge earth banks rather than stone circles like Stonehenge, but it is believed they were once covered in gypsum and the white glittering surface would have been seen for miles around.
Two of the three henges have been on Historic England’s "at risk" register due to erosion from agriculture and a large population of rabbits burrowing into the banks.
But those structures have now been handed over to the nation and will be looked after by English Heritage, which is opening the monuments to the public from today.
It is believed they may have had a ceremonial or religious purpose and took a large amount of ancient manpower to construct.
There are also theories that they were built to reflect the three stars in the middle of the Orion constellation and were built between 3500 and 2500 BC.
English Heritage said they are probably the most important single ancient site between Stonehenge and the Orkney Islands in Scotland, and will be sharing the story of the site with those who visit.
Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive, said: “Thornborough Henges and their surrounding landscape form part of the most important concentration of Neolithic monuments in the North of England.
"They are a link to our ancient ancestors, through thousands of years, inspiring a sense of wonder and mystery. We are thrilled to have acquired this highly significant site for the nation, ensuring that these magnificent monuments are safe and will be preserved for generations to come.”
The henges will join Stonehenge, Iron Bridge, Dover Castle, Kenwood and numerous Roman sites on Hadrian’s Wall within the National Heritage Collection.
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