22nd July 1654 - diarist John Evelyn visits Stonehenge

Portrait_of_John_Evelyn_by_Robert_Nanteuil_1650.jpg On 22nd July 1654 the diarist John Evelyn visited Stonehenge. He wrote:

22nd July 1654. After dinner, continuing our return, we passed over the goodly plain, or rather sea of carpet, which I think for evenness, extent, verdure, and innumerable flocks, to be one of the most dehghtful prospects in nature, and reminded me of the pleasant lives of shepherds we read of in romances.

Now we were arrived at Stonehenge, indeed a stupenduous monument, appearing at a distance like a castle ; how so many and huge pillars of stone should have been brought together, some erect, others transverse on the tops of them, in a circular area as rudely representing a cloister or heathen and more natural temple, is wonderful.

The stone is so exceeding hard, that all my strength with a hammer could not break a fragment ; which hardness I impute to their so long exposure. To number them exactly is very difficult, they lie in such variety of postures and confusion, though they seemed not to exceed 100 ; we counted only 95.

As to their being brought thither, there being no navigable river near, is by some admired ; but for the stone, there seems to be the same kind about 20 miles distant, some of which appear above ground. About the same hills, are divers mounts raised, conceived to be ancient intrenchments, or places of burial, after bloody fights.

We now went by the Devizes, a reasonable large town, and came late to Cadenham. [1]

Etching of John Evelyn by Robert Nanteuil [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


[1] Full text of “Diary and correspondence, To which is subjoined the private correspondence between King Charles I. and Sir Edward Nicholas, and between Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, and Sir Richard Browne”