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Stonehenge and Jack the Ripper

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Stonehenge is one of the world's precious prehistoric sites. Standing on Salisbury Plain in England's Wiltshire county, it is made up of earthworks surrounding a circle of large standing stones. The ceremonial landscape contains more than 300 burial mounds and major prehistoric monuments such as the Stonehenge Avenue, the Cursus, Woodhenge and Durrington Walls.

Archaeologists believe the standing stones were erected around 2200 BC, and the surrounding circular earth bank and ditch have been dated to around 3100 BC. It is thought to have evolved from a simple bank and ditch in the Neolithic period and is characterised by wooden materials and the very sophisticated stone circle was built on the axis of the midsummer sunrise and rearranged several times during the Bronze Age. As with most mysterious and historic sites, Stonehenge is considered sacred.

Stonehenge and the Avebury Henge monument were added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites in 1986 and more than a million visitors stream there each year to ponder one of the world's most ancient creations. The site covers 2600 hectares and is owned by English Heritage, the National Trust, the Ministry of Defence, farmers and householders. Stonehenge itself is owned by the Crown.

The medieval town of Salisbury on the banks of the River Avon is just 13km south of Stonehenge and is the best place to base yourself when visiting the sacred area. It is regarded as one of England's most beautiful cities and has much history and intrigue.

Haunch of Venison is Salisbury's oldest hostelry. Its enormous oak beams pre-date the building by several hundred years and are thought to have come from early sailing vessels. The first record of it is circa 1320 when it was used to house craftsmen working on the Cathedral spire. Its use as a brothel in the 14th century caused embarrassment to local and visiting clergy, so a tunnel was built between the tavern and the church.

For 200 years, stories of the Venison being haunted have circulated. Visitors have said they experienced strangely cold feelings, and staff members are frustrated when items vanish, only to reappear weeks later. The "House of Lords" is on the upper floor and was built to accommodation higher clergy orders.

Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper is an alias given to an unidentified 19th-century serial killer (or killers) who was active in the largely impoverished Whitechapel area and adjacent districts of London.

The murders were committed in the latter half of 1888, and the legends surrounding them have become a combination of genuine historical research, conspiracy theory and folklore. The story has been told over and over in books and films and is as intriguing to many as it was when the crimes were being committed.

"Ripperologists" is the term used for authors, historians and amateur detectives who study the case. The lack of a confirmed identify for the killer has led to a wide variety of individuals being accused.

Victims were women earning income as casual prostitutes. Typical murders were perpetrated in public or semi-public places. Victims' throats were cut, probably in order to silence them, and the bodies were then mutilated. The removal of internal organs of some victims was done in a way that indicated the killer possessed anatomical or surgical knowhow.

Five murders were perpetrated at night on, or close to a weekend, in a secluded site to which the public could gain access. Dates formed a pattern of either the end of a month or a week after. Despite the pattern, each case had differences.

A major difficulty in identifying who was and who was not a Ripper victim is the large number of horrific attacks against women during the period.

For those who are inquisitive, it is possible to follow the trail through the creepy backstreets and shadowy courtyards of London's East End on what is acclaimed as being the best Jack the Ripper Tour to be had. Join a London Walks Tour and follow the story of Jack the Ripper's crimes on location.

It takes you into the very streets where this fascinating murder mystery was played out. You are led by experts on the subject and their knowledge and enthusiasm are most impressive. Their delivery almost convinces you that you have stepped back in time.

Group sizes are limited and the atmosphere builds as you walk through narrow shadowy lanes and see houses where victims lived and pubs where they met with friends.


Stonehenge in Wiltshire and around London.


Stonehenge tours are $11 for adults and $6 for children.

Jack the Ripper London Walks are $12 for adults and free for children.

For further information

The Haunch of Venison
1 Minster Street
Ph: +44 17 2241 1313
Fax: +44 17 2234 1774

London Walks
PO Box 1708
London NW6 4LW
United Kingdom
Ph: +44 20 7624 3978

Visas: Visas are not required for Australians entering the UK for tourism for stays of less than months. If you wish to work, you must obtain the appropriate two-year visa in advance.

Electricity: 220V with a three-point plug.

Time: The UK is on Greenwich Mean Time between October and March. Between March and October it is on British Summer Time.

Currency: The British pound sterling.

Telephone code: +44.

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