Wiltshire

Stonehenge souvenirs chart tourism history

Stonehenge, Wiltshire Image copyright PA
Image caption English Heritage, which manages Stonehenge, said the site may have been considered a tourist attraction as early as the Roman period

Souvenirs of Stonehenge - ranging from the tacky to the tasteful - are due to go on show at the World Heritage site.

The exhibition, opening on Friday, charts Stonehenge's rise from isolated ruin to famous tourist attraction.

Postcards, china, stamps and souvenir books are among the "Stonehengiana" going on display, amassed by curator and archaeologist Julian Richards.

Mr Richards said the exhibition showed that visiting the stones was "part of a long tradition".

Image copyright English Heritage
Image caption The exhibition includes stamps, souvenirs and guidebooks charting the monument's rise from isolated ruin to world famous tourist attraction

The exhibition, called Wish You Were Here!, begins with the Victorians and traces the Neolithic monument's development into one of the world's most visited sites

Managed by English Heritage, the ancient circle attracts more than a million visitors a year.

However, the organisation said Stonehenge may have been considered a tourist attraction as early as the Roman period.

Image copyright PA
Image caption In 1901 an admission charge was introduced to help pay for a police constable to protect the site

The crumbling curiosity also proved a draw for the Victorian tourist who visited in sufficient numbers to warrant the first guidebooks and souvenirs.

By 1901, the rise in visitor numbers and damage to the stones saw an admission charge introduced to pay for a police constable to protect the site.

Postcards went on sale in the early 1900s, and, from the 1970s onwards, growing international recognition saw Stonehenge feature in an eclectic mix of art, music and popular culture from spoof rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap to the Thor comic books.

Image copyright English Heritage
Image caption International recognition saw the monument featured in popular culture including spoof rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap

"I am fascinated by how Stonehenge has been experienced by visitors over the years and the way in which it has been used as an inspiration for art and music," said Mr Richards, who picked up many of the artefacts on the auction website eBay.

"The 1823 guidebook shows that even 190 years ago there were enough people fascinated by Stonehenge to want to visit it and for a book to be written about it."

The exhibition runs until 31 August.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites