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Twentieth century

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Silbury Hill at sunset



Hello and welcome to the Avebury & Environs web site. If you are expecting lots of articles about Neolithic monuments then you will be slightly disappointed – although there are some! I jokingly tell friends that if it wasn't for all the prehistory at Avebury then folk would visit because of the remarkable amount of Anglo-Saxon history.

As the 'Dark Ages' are the main focus of my research then several articles try to put what was happening here at Avebury over a thousand years ago into a wider context. Around 2013 my attention was drawn to the importance of St James' church to medieval pilgrimage. So as relaxation from Anglo-Saxons I delved into this aspect of history and, with the help of several friends, came up with a variety of new insights.

There is a bit of a gap here spanning the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Not because nothing interesting happened in Avebury at this time – but simply because my abilities as an historian simply do not rise to the demands of this comparatively well-documented era.

However there is one aspect of the village's twentieth century history which proved irresistible: Alexander Keiller. He was responsible for the henge as we now know it and is the best-known owner of Avebury Manor. He was also known in his lifetime as a skilled engineer, a pioneer in the field of fingerprint analysis, an accomplished skier, a lover of fast cars and having a fondness for good food and female company.

Less well-known is Keiller's detailed study of Scottish witchcraft and 'the occult' more broadly. These interests developed while he was still in his teens and, when not at boarding school, living in the family home Aberdeenshire. By his twenties his knowledge and insight into witchcraft was as good as the leading scholars of his time – and superior to better-known writers in this field. I have attempted to draw together everything that has been discovered about his interests in this sphere. And, because the evidence is a bit thin on the ground, I have also put together a short story around a plausible (although unattested) meeting between Keiller and Gerald Gardner, the 'inventor' of Wicca.

Avebury church at sunset

No parish exists independently of the wider world. Sometimes a specific place can be typical of its times, other times it may be something of the 'odd one out', while over a period of several centuries these processes weave in and out, creating the individuality so characteristic of traditional English villages. Mostly the focus of these articles remains within Avebury parish. But some of my research has seeped over into adjoining villages – especially the decidedly curious origins of East Kennett church.

This web site makes no attempt to offer the sort of information typically found on local history sites – I'm entirely happy to leave that to people who are more interested and competent than myself. Instead I hope these somewhat personal and rather eclectic interests cast a little more light on the history of a village which should be famous for many other things than 'merely' its prehistoric monuments!

I've been visiting Avebury and taking photographs since 1980 and lived there between autumn 2010 and spring 2016. While living there I wrote a number of books and articles about the archaeology and history of the village and surrounding landscape. Details of these, and other, books can be found on the Heart of Albion web site. Some of these articles have been published in various print magazines and online resources, although most are previously unpublished.

Unless otherwise credited the photographs are mine; some were taken on obscure film cameras (including a pinhole camera made from a biscuit tin) while others have been 'tweaked' digitally. This web site provides easy access to the whole shebang.

Articles about Avebury and environs are listed under the following sections:





Twentieth century

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Copyright Bob Trubshaw 2015

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Articles about the prehistory of Avebury and environs

Overview of prehistoric Avebury and environs

Altars not burial mounds

Henges – brands or performances

Henges – dead or alive

Simulacra photos

Sound in the prehistoric landscape

Avebury sunrises and sunsets

Avebury and environs in the Roman period

Articles about Anglo-Saxons in and around Avebury

What was a bury?

St Afa

East Kennett: the church on the boundary


Wiltshire battles

Understanding the Wansdykes

Articles about Medieval life in and around Avebury

Overview of medieval Avebury and environs

St James' – from minster to mother church

St James dedications in Wiltshire

Skew passages

The alien priors

Medieval graffiti

The 'barber-surgeon'

Articles about aspects of Avebury's twentieth century history

Overview of twentieth century Avebury

Avebury ghosts

Keiller's occult connections

Halloween 1938

Mary's annunciation

photo gallery