Can you imagine a monument as precious to the British as Stonehenge being sold at auction? Well, it happened 100 years ago today at an auction in the town of Salisbury. The winning bidder, a barrister named Cecil Chubb paid £6,600 for it (supposedly as a present to his wife), then three years later bequeathed it to the nation. If you want to look at the actual deed used to convey the monument, see here.
This was of course the time of Britain’s Ancient Monuments Act 1913, which for the first time allowed the state to compulsorily buy historic sites from private owners. This was also the time of the First World War and perhaps there was a sense of patriotism when, sixteen days before the Armistice in 1918, Chubb gave the monument over to the public.
Needless to say, the fact that something so important to the country was held in private ownership gives us pause to think. Were it not for the chance purchase by Chubb, would the famed stone monoliths have been bought, shipped and reconstituted somewhere else – say, in America? If it happened to London Bridge, why not Stonehenge too?
Photo: aerial view of Stonehenge, taken not long after the auction and Chubb’s gift.