The Vitruvian Stonehenge: Inigo Jones, William Stukeley and John Wood the Elder

By Tessa Morrison.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 7, 2014 $US5.00

Stonehenge has always been veiled in mystery of ancient times past. It had featured in the Arthurian legend as a war monument where King Aurelius, Arthur’s uncle, was buried and, this made it not only mysterious but an important political tool. To be aligned with King Arthur, was an astute political move and was one practiced by all of the Tudors and the Stuarts. James I was particularly keen to be aligned with the legend and he had several family trees made which showed that he was a direct descendant from Arthur. Additionally in 1620, he sent his architect Inigo Jones to survey and examined Stonehenge. Jones’ work on Stonehenge was posthumously published by his assistant John Webb. Webb had edited it from a ‘few indigested notes’ that Jones had left. The book contained a reconstruction and an explanation of Stonehenge’s origins. For Jones, it was an early Roman temple. In 1720, William Stukeley carried out his own survey of Stonehenge and from this survey he also reconstructed it. He disagreed with Jones (but he blamed Webb), since for Stukeley it was a Druid temple. He did not publish his work for another twenty year by which time it had gained mystical elements, but the actual reconstruction over these twenty years did not change. In 1747, Bath architect John Wood the Elder published his reconstruction. He disagreed with both Jones’ and Stukeley’s reconstructions and although he agreed with Stukeley that it was a Druid temple he completely disagreed with his rationale and the architecture of his reconstruction. However, there was one thing they all agreed on was that Stonehenge was built to ‘Vitruvian’ principles. Each developed harmonious and symmetrical plans which were built to strict architectural principles. This paper examines the late seventeenth and eighteenth century concepts of the rationale for the building of Stonehenge and its development from its association with the Arthurian legend to its alignment with British nationhood and the Druids.

Keywords: Stonehenge, John Wood, Inigo Jones, William Stukeley, Classical Architectural Rules

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 11, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 7, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 827.189KB)).

Dr. Tessa Morrison

Research Fellow in Architectural History, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

Dr. Morrison has a background in art, mathematics and philosophy. She is currently working as a researcher in the School of Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Newcastle, and has published extensively on 17th and 18th century sacred and utopian architecture and spatial symbolism.