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Knowlton Church and Earthworks – A Ceremonial Henge

Knowlton Church and Earthworks

Knowlton Church and Earthworks

The ruins of Knowlton Church sit in the centre of the ceremonial henge that predates it by about 3,500 years.  It is one of the most striking examples of how the new religion of Christianity adopted many existing sites of worship and ceremony, and in so doing persuaded the population to convert to the new religion.

However, this conversion was never fully completed and the old religion has endured to this day.  If you click on the aerial photograph above and to the right then zoom in on the area just below the church ruins you will see a small black circular area of bare soil.

Knowlton Church, Knowlton RingsWhen I visited the site early one morning in October 2014 I found a used tea light in that space.  It seems it had recently been used for a ceremony of some kind, perhaps a solitary follower of the path of Wicca.

It would seem that the Old Religion created the site, Christianity used for several hundred years, and now neo Pagans are using it once again.

Knowlton Church and Ceremonial Henge 1Knowlton Church

The Normans built the original church in the 12th Century and in was in continuous use until the 18th Century.  The tower was added in the 15th Century.  After the roof collapsed in the 18th Century it was abandoned in favour of another, more recently constructed church in Woodlands.

Knowlton Earthworks – A Ceremonial Henge

Knowlton Church and Ceremonial Henge 2The earthworks were built about 4,500 years ago in the Neolithic Age.  It is clear from the size and dimensions that the earthworks were designed for ceremonial use and were not defensive structures.  English Heritage suggest that there may have been wooden walls and a roof covering the whole area.

If you want more details and facts about the site’s history then just google it and you’ll find plenty, but I would suggest the best way to get to know the site is to visit it.

Ideally, go as I did in the early morning, preferably when it’s sunny.  To see the sun come up and cast the long shadows you can see in these aerial pictures is very atmospheric.  It reminds you of the timelessness of the space.

Imagine all the history that has passed while the church has been there.   That’s less than a thousand years. Then continue your journey back in time to the point when the earthworks were constructed and you will be going back another three and half thousand years.

The site is managed by English Heritage. For more information please visit their website.

Aerial Photography

I took theses aerial photos (with the permission of English Heritage) using a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ drone in 2014.  This model has been discontinued and you would be best investing your money in a more modern version like the DJI Phantom 4 Drone Camera.

There are cheaper drones available, but DJI are the a market leader that others seek to emulate.  If you intend to buy a drone for personal use then explore the full DJI range and choose one that suits your budget and ambitions.  Below is a link to the DJI Phantom 3 model.

About the Author Ben

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  • Lemeola O

    Hi Ben,

    Apologies for writing this here as I do not know how else to contact you.
    I was wondering if I could reference your images for my essay into aerial prospection techniques in modern archaeology?

    Thank you,

    Kind Regards,
    Jasmine