Work to transform Stonehenge, which officially started on site in July last year, is progressing well.
This year, the centenary of the 1913 Ancient Monuments Act, will culminate in the opening of English Heritage’s new Stonehenge exhibition galleries and visitor centre at the end of the year.
Building work is currently taking shape at Airman’s Corner, 1.5 miles to the west and out of view of the stones, where the new galleries and facilities will be located.
The sensitively designed building will comprise two “pods” which will house museum-quality exhibitions, a spacious café with indoor and outdoor seating, a bigger shop and dedicated education space.
Main contractor Vinci Construction is about to erect a ’bird-cage’ scaffold which will be used to install the undulating canopy roof, a distinctive feature of the building’s design, while a visitor car park and coach park, with capacity for 500 and 30 vehicles respectively, have been laid out and are clearly visible.
Precious objects on loan from the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes and the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum are currently being conserved by English Heritage staff ready for display.
They will form the centrepiece of the permanent exhibition at the new building, helping to tell the story of Stonehenge in vivid detail.
Next month volunteers will help with an archaeological experiment at Old Sarum Castle near Salisbury where prototypes of Neolithic houses excavated at Durrington Walls will be built. The lessons learned from this experiment will inform the reconstruction of three Neolithic houses at the outdoor gallery of the new visitor centre in Spring 2014, offering visitors a glimpse of the lives of prehistoric people.
The A344 road between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12 will be closed at the end of June, once the new roundabout at Airman’s Corner is operational. Work will follow to remove the fences along this section of road and the road surface itself will be removed and grassed over.
No part of the Stonehenge operation will close while the works are being carried out, and the switchover to the new visitor centre will happen overnight. Until then, access to the existing Stonehenge car park will continue along the A344 but from the west via the A360 and Airman’s Corner.
The date of the opening at the end of 2013 will be announced later in the year.