While today stonehenge is owned by the public, many are unaware that it was privately owned for years.
After he died, Stonehenge went to auction — exactly one hundred years ago today, on Monday, September 21, 1915. The attorney, Cecil Chubb, bought the monument as a gift for his wife Mary for 6,600 pounds, or a little over $1 million in today’s currency.
“It’s said that Mary wanted Cecil to buy a set of curtains at the auction,” Stonehenge curator Heather Sebire tells the BBC. “And he came back with something rather different.”
Then, on October 26, 1918, Chubb made history, giving the monument to the British state. The BBC reports that Prime Minister David Lloyd George gave him an admirably impressive title: Sir Cecil Chubb, First Baronet of Stonehenge.
It’s a fascinating story.
Chubb came from humble means — he was the son of a saddlemaker who grew up in a nearby village, made it into Cambridge University, and then turned himself into a barrister — British English for defense attorney. Then he made enough money to casually buy a national treasure for his wife. Then they both gave it away.
According to Trevor Rowley in his “The English Landscape in the Twentieth Century,” in 1927 the British started a movement to revive and restore Stonehenge, and by the 1930s up to 15,000 people a month were visiting the site.
In 1986, UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site.
Today, English Heritage — a charity that oversees a number of historical sites in England — looks after the monument, and the British National Trust has bought up land around the site to preserve the landscape.
A full 1.3 million people visited Stonehenge in 2014, English Heritage said, including one US president:
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