On this day in history : 21st September 1915 – Stonehenge is sold at public auction….to a Mr Chubb – who bought it as a surprise gift for his wife, at a cost of £6,600….
It is hard to think that one of our most treasured national monuments was, only just over 100 years ago, actually put up for auction…. The then neglected stone circle was sold at Salisbury’s Palace Theatre; it featured as Lot No.15 in the sale’s published catalogue….
Cecil Chubb came from a very ordinary background; his father was a saddle and harness maker in Shrewton, a village near to Stonehenge…. Cecil was obviously a bright child, he earned a place at grammar school and later went on to Cambridge University – enabling him to eventually train as a barrister, which he was very successful at and became comfortably wealthy….
It is rumoured Cecil’s wife sent him to the auction in order to purchase a set of dining chairs….and was none too impressed by her husband’s romantic gesture of bestowing upon her a pile of mouldy old stones…. However, it is more likely that Cecil was keen to see a piece of British history remain part of the Country’s heritage – his fear being that Stonehenge may be bought by purchasers from overseas…. In his words – “I thought a Salisbury man ought to buy it, and that is how it was done”…. Three years later he gifted the 4,500-year-old monument to the Nation – his condition being the public should not have to ever pay more than a shilling to visit it – and local people should have access for free….
Stonehenge is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, managed by English Heritage…. Over one million visitors visit the stones every year; an adult entrance ticket currently costs £19.50 (£17.50 if pre-booked), which is a bit more than a shilling – although some 30,000 local people are still entitled to visit for free….