Thornborough Henges, the 'Stonehenge of the north', reunited

  • English Heritage acquires the final of three Thornborough Henges
  • Acquisition by the charity guarantees public access to all three monuments
  • All three henges united under a single owner for the first time in 1,500 years

One of Britain's most significant prehistoric monuments – Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire – is now finally reunited.

With the generous support of The National Heritage Memorial Fund, Jamie Ritblat and family, and The SCS Trust, the charity has now acquired the monument's third and final henge.

The northern henge now joins the central and southern henges within the National Heritage Collection and under the care of English Heritage. It is thought to be the first time that all three henges have been under one single owner for at least 1,500 years.

The acquisition not only guarantees public access in perpetuity to the entirety of this remarkable Neolithic monument but allows us to share with visitors the full story of Thornborough Henges.

With all three henges under our care, we can better explain the henges' significance and scale as well as how each individual henge relates to the others.

Gerard Lemos CMG CBE, Chair of English Heritage, said: 'The Thornborough Henges are a remarkable survivor from the prehistoric past, from deep, deep history. We are incredibly proud that all three henges are now reunited under one single owner and their future secure.

'English Heritage will ensure the entire monument is given the care it deserves. Reuniting the henges like this means the public is now able to explore all three and re-connect with the people who gathered here 4,500 years ago.'

Often referred to as 'the Stonehenge of the North', the Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire comprise three large circular earthworks (known as 'henges') each more than 200m in diameter.

Dating from 3000 to 2500 BC, the henges are of outstanding national significance, a place where people gathered for ceremonies for at least 2,000 years. Thornborough is one of the most important prehistoric sites between Stonehenge and the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

Currently under woodland, the northern henge is the best preserved of the three – and one of the best preserved henges in the country – and gives a strong impression of how the others would have appeared originally.  

At the start of 2023, the central and southern henges plus their surrounding lands were gifted to Historic England and English Heritage by the construction companies Tarmac and Lightwater Holdings.

English Heritage – with the support of £150,000 from The National Heritage Memorial Fund as well as support from Jamie Ritblat and family, and The SCS Trust – has now purchased the northern henge from its private owner, represented by global property consultancy Knight Frank.

This purchase places all parts of the monument under one single owner for the first time in at least 1,500 years and sees Thornborough Henges – in its entirety – joining Stonehenge, Iron Bridge, Dover Castle, Kenwood and numerous Roman sites on Hadrian's Wall within the National Heritage Collection, under the care of English Heritage.

Entry to Thornborough Henges is free although the northern henge is currently closed. A number of trees were damaged in the recent storms and we are carrying out works to ensure that area of the site is ready to welcome visitors soon.

Later this year, the northern henge will receive new interpretation explaining its significance.  

Dr Simon Thurley CBE, Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: 'The National Heritage Memorial Fund is proud to have supported this magnificent acquisition, reuniting the henges in single ownership and securing public access. Adding the henges to the National Heritage Collection in the expert care of English Heritage is a long-held ambition and the Fund offers its congratulations to those who made it possible.'

Rishi Sunak MP, whose Richmond (Yorks) parliamentary constituency includes Thornborough Henges, said: 'Having recently visited the henges site, I know how truly remarkable the totality of the monument is. Bringing all three henges together in the ownership of English Heritage ensures their preservation and enhances the charity's ability to tell the story of the earthworks and their importance to the pre-history of our nation.'

Arts & Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: 'I'm delighted that these three very special sites have been reunited, providing an extraordinary opportunity for people to immerse themselves in Yorkshire's prehistory. Generous support from English Heritage and The National Heritage Memorial Fund means that this unique and intriguing monument will now be accessible to the public for generations to come as part of our National Heritage Collection.'

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive, Historic England, said: 'Thornborough Henges is one of England's most impressive and important prehistoric monuments so it's wonderful news that the entire site is now in the care of English Heritage for the benefit of the nation. The acquisition of the third henge marks the culmination of years of hard work and tenacity to unite and safeguard Thornborough Henges for future generations.'

Find more information about Thornborough Henges here.

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