Last Photographed: Saturday 7th June 2008
Knowlton Henge is a Neolithic earthwork dating from around 3000-2400BC. It's dominated by the ruins of a medieval church erected at the site in the twelfth century. The henge is part of a wider complex that consists of three other earthworks (collectively known as Knowlton Rings) and a roundbarrow, as well as numerous other barrows and ring ditches in close proximity.
Knowlton Henge - or the 'Church Henge' - is the best preserved of the Knowlton Rings. Of the four, it's the only one that remains clearly visible from the ground. It's oval in shape and is around 325ft in length when measured along it's greater axis. The outer ditch is up to 33ft wide and 3ft deep in places, with the inner bank rising up to 5.5ft at its highest point.
The flint church was originally constructed in Norman times, with the North chapel and tower dating to the 15th Century. It's been abandoned since the 18th Century when the roof collapsed.
Knowlton Henge is a classic example of the 'Christianisation' of ancient pagan sites. The exact nature and objectives of this process remain somewhat of a mystery though. Neolithic monuments were already around 2,000 years old when the first Christians arrived on these shores and their builders long since departed. Another thousand years passed before the church at Knowlton was built. How much significance did these sites still hold in the religious life of the British people at such a late stage? Did the church seek to dominate, or was their aim simply to inherit the spiritual mantle from their precursors?
There used to be a thriving community at Knowlton until it was wiped out by the black death, but now the landscape around the henge is bleak and desolate. Accordingly, the interior of the henge provides a feeling of sanctuary and otherworldliness. The ruined church further enhances this atmosphere, lending an air of gothic mystery. This effect is slightly marred by a consideration of the church walls - were there standing stones here once and were they absorbed into the fabric of the building? As at so many of these sites, what remains is far less than that which has been lost.