The first major repairs to Stonehenge in more than 60 years will begin today.
Strong winds buffeting the stone circle in Salisbury Plain have taken their toll on its horizontal stones, called lintels, which may start rocking or become unstable.
The two-week job will see 22ft scaffolding go up so holes, cracks and joints can be refilled. It is hoped no further repairs will be needed for the rest of the century.
The last large-scale restoration began in 1958 when several fallen stones were hauled back into place within the 4,500-year-old circle.
The new project will use lime mortar to replace concrete mortar previously used to fix lintels together, which is now disintegrating
The new work, which will be done in full view of visitors, will be light-touch.
Heather Sebire, senior curator for Stonehenge with English Heritage, said: ‘Stonehenge is unique among stone circles by virtue of its lintels and their special joints, which prehistoric builders fitted together almost like Lego or Ikea furniture today.
‘Four and a half thousand years of being buffeted by wind and rain has created cracks and holes in the surface of the stone, and this vital work will protect the features which make Stonehenge so distinctive.’
The work was made possible after tiny cracks, some three feet in length, were identified by a laser scan in 2012, which also picked up prehistoric ‘graffiti’ of axe heads carved into the stones.
The new project will use lime mortar to replace concrete mortar previously used to fix lintels together, which is now disintegrating.
Conservators will fix nine lintels, with no work planned on the smaller bluestones, which suffered damage from Victorian visitors chipping away at the stone circle to take part of it home as a souvenir.
To mark the new restoration, English Heritage has invited Richard Woodman-Bailey, who was eight years old when the stones were last repaired.
His father was chief architect at Stonehenge, and the repair team asked the schoolboy to drop a 1958 halfpenny beneath a giant sandstone called a sarsen during the works.
After unexpectedly seeing his picture in an English Heritage magazine, Mr Woodman-Bailey got in touch with the charity to tell them who he was.
Conservators will fix nine lintels, with no work planned on the smaller bluestones, which suffered damage from Victorian visitors chipping away at the stone circle to take part of it home as a souvenir
He will now place a 2021 coin, struck at the Royal Mint, on top of the same sarsen, beneath a newly repaired lintel.
Mr Woodman-Bailey, 71, who went on to become a stonemason and later a chartered surveyor, and now lives in Epsom with his wife, Jenny, said: ‘Dropping the coin below the 50 or 60-tonne sarsen hanging over my head has always been imprinted in my memory.
‘I didn’t think anybody else knew about it until the photograph turned up in the magazine, and didn’t expect to be asked back to do the same again, which is a real privilege.’
The conservation work will take place between September 14 and 25, with visitors encouraged to watch and ask questions.
Source: Daily Mail UK