21
Jun
2018
1

150-year-old Stonehenge photos unearthed on the Summer Solstice

They are some of the oldest photographs ever taken of the ancient Stonehenge landmark and the book in which they are bound dates back to 1867. It’s a chronicle which until now has been lost in the archives of the national mapping agency Ordnance Survey.

From an original albumen print in the 1867 book ‘Plans and Photographs of Stonehenge and of Turusachan in the Island of Lewis; with notes relating to the Druids and Sketches of Cromlechs in Ireland, by Colonel Sir Henry James, Director General of the Ordnance Survey

Photographic research company TimePix.uk is publishing eight photographs on its website for all to see. They depict the Head of Ordnance Survey Colonel Henry James and his family having a picnic on the Stones. Other copies of the book are believed to be in collectors’ hands, but this is the first public chance to see all of its Stonehenge contents, which also shows OS’s immaculate and detailed first inch accurate survey of the stone circle.

With OS very much part of the military at that time, founder of TimePix Elaine Owen revealed research showed that OS used photography extensively to assist with map-making, but this is the only time that a camera seems to have been used away from the headquarters building some 30 miles away in Southampton. It shows the Commanding Officer take centre stage in, I guess, an early version of a family snap.”

Victorian gentlemen thought to be Sir Henry James accompanied by a soldier previously named as Corporal William Sydney Goodwin, Royal Engineers. From an original albumen print in the 1867 book ‘Plans and Photographs of Stonehenge and of Turusachan in the Island of Lewis; with notes relating to the Druids and Sketches of Cromlechs in Ireland, by Colonel Sir Henry James, Director General of the Ordnance Survey’

Elaine added: “Of as much interest is the OS survey which is its earliest record of the national monument.

“It’s a collectors’ item because it shows the location of stones which differs from today. At the time some were scattered across the site. They’ve moved since then after they were restored to their rightful place when the arches and pillars were given a make-over (renovated) from the early 1900s onwards.”

The book also a survey of the ancient stones’ layout, demonstrating how the detailed precision found in OS surveying today was very much present 150 years ago.

Elaine said: “During the last year we’ve been finding and digitally enhancing very many old photos which OS possess through the ages. It’s a real social history of the nation and while OS is famous for its maps it’s been a revelation to see how the use of photography from the very earliest times has always been part of the surveyors armoury, even it seems back to the 1860s.”

“But” she added, “nothing has prepared us for the unique Stonehenge collection, you can imagine our joy when we unearthed this treasure. A dusty old book buried in a stack of boxes which were in deep storage after the agency’s move across Southampton to a new headquarters eight years ago. Let’s hope there are more finds to come.”

 

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