It was a clear day in the early summer of 1925 as Sqn. Ldr. Insall sat at the controls of his Sopwith Snipe and watched the countryside slip past below him. The experienced flyer, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in the Great War, was familiar with the gentle rolling farmland and as he approached the vast 520 metre circle of the Neolithic earthworks at Durrington Walls, he casually glanced at the recently ploughed remains of several disc barrows which had been almost obliterated by decades of farming.
One particular barrow in Dough Covert caught his eye as it appeared to differ from the others because he could make out a number of white spots or holes inside the circle.
He glanced to the west and, noticing the resemblance of Stonehenge, visible two miles away, to that of the barrow below him, he immediately decided to pay close attention to this peculiarity on all his future flights over the area.
The days lengthened into summer and by June the darker patches of the crop marks confirmed the presence of an earlier soil disturbance undetectable from ground level. This was obviously worthy of further investigation, especially as the Squadron Leader’s subsequent aerial photography showed that there were indeed circles of holes or pits in the chalk.
Excavations were carried out over the following three years by the Wiltshire archaeological team of Mr and Mrs B H Cunnington and, by 1928, a clearer picture of what was there began to emerge. The site was very similar to that of Stonehenge, as the astute Insall had already observed, in that it was slightly oval configuration with its axis approximately in line with Midsummer sunrise.
It consisted of an outer ditch and bank some 76 metre (250 feet) in diameter enclosing several concentric circles of holes, originally intended for timber posts long since disappeared. Unlike Stonehenge, there was no central alter stone although this particular circle had a much more macabre centrepiece.
One and a half metres from the actual centre, the skeleton of a child of about three years of age was exhumed from the chalk, its skull cleaved open in what was almost a predetermined act. This according to experts, is one of the very few pieces of evidence of human sacrifice in prehistoric Britain.
Further investigation showed that the monument, dated at 2300BC, was older than parts of the Stonehenge complex. For the want of a better name the investigators christened the new discovery ‘Woodhenge’, as this title seemed so appropriate it was adopted permanently.
Woodhenge is signposted from the A345 road just north of Amesbury. Admission and parking is free
Although there is little to be seen on this site today, it was an impressively huge henge monument measuring some 520 metres north to south, by 450 metres east to west. A short distance from Woodhenge, it consisted of an outer bank that measured nearly 30 metres wide with an internal levelled berm that varied between 6 and 40 metres wide. Within this was the internal ditch structure – over 6 metres deep and 7 metres wide with entrances at the north west and south east.
The remains of this henge have been badly damaged by ploughing and it is even cut in two by the A345 road from Netheravon to Durrington yet excavations in the 1960’s revealed much valuable information, including 2 wooden structures. The first, near the south eastern entrance consisted of a series of 5 concentric wooden post holes, the outer diameter being 38 metres and the innermost being 27 metres. It is believed that this building was rebuilt in several stages. There was a second smaller wooden structure around 120 metres to the north about 27 metres in diameter with originally 2 rings of posts that were later replaced by 2 smaller rings. Further circular structures have been observed within this 12 hectare site but as yet remain un-excavated.