Wednesday, October 14, 2020

C.A. "Peter" Newham and the Station Stone Rectangle

There's an excellent little book by C.A. "Peter" Newham called "The Astronomical Significance of Stonehenge" (originally published in 1972) in which he lays out his ideas about the monument, and specifically a new thought about the possible Lunar significance of the Station Stone Rectangle.

What's not as readily available is the first publication of his ideas, which occurred in an article written by Science Correspondent Douglas Emmott in The Yorkshire Post on Saturday March 16th 1963.

The article is entitled "The Mystery of Hole G", and I've been trying to find a copy of it for years without success. Until today, when the local and family history librarian at Leeds Central Library, Helen Skilbeck, kindly sent me a scanned copy from their archives of The Yorkshire Post.

I've reproduced the text of the article here for posterity.

The Mystery of Stone G

========= BY DOUGLAS EMMOTT =========

Attention this week has once again been focused on Stonehenge, where one of the uprights was blown down in a gale.

In this article, The Yorkshire Post Science Correspondent discusses an amateur astronomer's intriguing theories which may add a new chapter to the story of Stonehenge.

STONEHENGE, that mysterious monument which rises above Salisbury Plain, may be a little less inscrutable than had been supposed.

An amateur astronomer, Mr. Peter Newham, 63, of Tadcaster, has formulated an intriguing hypothesis which, if proven, might open up whole new fields of inquiry in a subject which has yielded very little significant new information since the last major excavation nearly 40 years ago.

If Mr. Newham's line of reasoning is sound, the positions of certain hitherto inexplicable features of Stonehenge would be explained.

For the purposes of this inquiry the plan of Stonehenge given here is reduced to the elements bearing upon the new theory.



In 1846, the Rev. E. Duke discovered that the North mound 94 lined up with a stone numbered 93 at the last light of the setting sun on the shortest day of the year. Conversely, a line drawn from the South mount (92) to stone 91 aligned with the rising sun on the longest day of the year.

It was discovered, too, that the axis of the Sarsen stone circle was similarly aligned. In fact, the positions of sunrise and sunset are slightly different today owing to the progressive shift of the earth's axis.

So much, then, is established. What follows is speculation. On several occasions in the past few years Mr. Newham has visited the site and made careful observations of his own.

The first remarkable discovery he made was that a line drawn from mound 94 to 91 would appear to coincide with the point on the horizon where the moon rises at its most southerly point during its 19-year cycle.

Conversely, the line from 92 to 93 marks the moonset at its most Northerly setting point. The suggestion that these two alignments are of significance is bolstered by the curious fact that the main Sarsen circle of stones is about a yard off-centre with the outer Aubrey circle of burial holes.

Had it been quite concentric, the 92-93 sighting would have been obscured. Is this the reason for the off-centredness which has puzzled generations of archaeologists?

It must be remembered that the layout of Stonehenge has been drawn up generally with remarkable precision. The ancient architects were evidently knowledgeable geometricians: indeed, the feat of measurement would tax a modern surveyor with the most up-to-date instruments and techniques.

Unusual feature

From this point, attention is turned to another unusual feature. This is catalogued as "hole" G, the middle of three equally spaced "holes" lying to the East and just beyond the Aubrey circle, and for which there is no convincing explanation.

Most Stonehenge authorities have dismissed these disturbances as natural or "shrub-holes." Their disconcerting symmetry and the absence of similar features within the whole of the area that has been uncovered have prompted doubts in more cautious minds.

Mr. Newham has noted that a line drawn from 94 to G appears to mark the rising sun on the shortest day of the year. Mound 92 to G marks the moonrise at its most Northerly point.

Thus, six of the eight major solar/lunar events of the year are apparently accounted for within the theory. To complete the octet, Mr. Newham has postulated the existence of a further marker hole in the unexcavated part of the site about 16 yards South of 93. This he has provisionally designated G2.

Now, a line drawn from 92 to G2 would mark the setting sun on the longest day, while 94 to G2 would mark the moon set on its most Southerly point. Thus, the hypothesis has the added merit of inviting confirmation. If the hypothetical G2 should, in fact, be discovered the possibility of coincidence could be virtually eliminated. The key which now seems to fit the lock would surely turn.

Advanced culture

It would seem, therefore, that Stonehenge might be a far more comprehensive calendar in stone than has been supposed. This, in turn, would suggest that the builders of the later portions of the monument were of a more advanced culture than the native inhabitants of Britain at that time says Mr. Newham. There is supporting archaeological evidence for this view.

A few years ago, there would have been no difficulty in obtaining permission to search for positive confirmation of the existence of G2. One would simply have dug about the point indicated and sought the necessary proof.

Today, however, archaeologists tread with infinite care. In the past, crude pickaxe excavating has destroyed a wealth of detailed information which modern science would have been capable of deciphering. Such brutal methods have wrought such havoc with the "shrub-holes," for example, that it is now almost impossible to determine their real significance even with advanced techniques.

Reluctant to dig

Conscious of this fact and realising that future generations of investigators will read much greater meaning into undisturbed evidence than we might hope to do, the custodians of Stonehenge are reluctant to dig. Nearly one half of the site remains virtually unexplored below ground and only in exceptional circumstances will the Ministry of Works sanction further excavation.

It is conceivable, however, that archaeological advisers will recommend a search for Mr. Newham's ghost-hole, G2 by preliminary above-ground detection methods. Encouraging soundings would indicate a call for spade and trowel - and, perhaps, the opening of a new chapter in the story of Stonehenge.