The Sanctuary



United Kingdom. (OS Ref: SU 118679)


The Sanctuary was first noted by 17th and 18th century antiquarians, including John Aubrey and William Stukeley, and the famous diarist Samuel Pepys. In 1930, the location was re-discovered from Stukeley's illustrations and the site was excavated. Further excavation, carried out in 1999, revealed a more complex sequence of construction and use than previously thought.

The Sanctuary was probably constructed 4,500 years ago as a ceremonial site. It is believed that the monument was originally formed by wooden posts only later to be replaced by standing stones. Today colourful concrete posts mark the position in blue for the lost stones and red for the long gone wooden posts. A ceremonial site it is believed to have been in use for perhaps 500 years, it is connected to the Avebury stone circle by the processional way of West Kennet Avenue. It has been speculated that many of the 'lost stones' once formed the floor of a local barn, the building was refurbished into living accommodation and the floor of the old cow shed was dug up. The barn dates from the time the Sanctuary was broken up and lies at the back of Overton Hill, in the grounds of East Kennet Manor. The size and bulk of the stones would fit those drawn by William Stukeley in his "Prospect of the temple on Overton Hill - 8th July 1723" from his publication, Avebury - A Temple of the British Druids. These stones today form part of a wall at Orchard Farm.

The Sanctuary drawn by William Stukeley, 1723. (
The Sanctuary drawn by William Stukeley, 1723. (

The Sanctuary is one of many prehistoric monuments in the area, including Avebury henge and stone circle, Silbury Hill and West Kennet Longbarrow.