infobox UK place
country = England
official_name= Amesbury
population= 8,907
shire_district= Salisbury
shire_county = Wiltshire
region= South West England
postcode_district =
latitude= 51.1667
longitude= -1.7833

Amesbury is a town and civil parish in the English county of Wiltshire, eight miles north of Salisbury. It is most famous for the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge which is in its parish, and for the discovery of the Amesbury Archer – dubbed the King of Stonehenge in the press – in 2002.


Amesbury is located in the district of Salisbury in southern Wiltshire. It is on the southern fringes of Salisbury Plain and lies in the River Avon valley. Historically it has been considered an important river crossing area on the road from London to Warminster and Exeter. This has continued into the present with the building of the A303 across the Avon next to the town. Originally the town developed around the water meadows next to several bends in the river, but in time has spread onto the valley hillsides and absorbed the military airfield at Boscombe Down.


The land around Amesbury has been settled since prehistoric times, evidenced by the monument of Stonehenge. Other finds in the parish point to large scale prehistoric structures and settlements in the whole area, including the numerous monuments around Stonehenge, the discovery of a Neolithic village in the neighbouring parish of Durrington by the Stonehenge Riverside Project, and continuing excavations at Boscombe Down where Wessex Archaeology found the Amesbury Archer and Boscombe Bowmen.

During the Iron Age a large hill fort now known as Vespasian's Camp was built alongside the Avenue and overlooking the River Avon. The fort could easily have catered for up to 1000 people, and likely was surrounded by smaller settlements and farming communities.

Roman remains are poorly documented at Amesbury, but excavations have revealed roman structures in the Stonehenge Landscape, and Wessex Archaeology have discovered a large Roman graveyard in the area of the Amesbury Archer burial. [ [ Wessex Archaeology: Boscombe Down Graves] ] It is likely that there was a large Anglo Roman settlement overlooking the River Avon at this point. [ [ Wessex Archaeology: Boscombe Down Settlement] ]

It has been suggested that the name of Amesbury is derived from Ambrosius Aurelianus - leader of Romano British resistance to Saxon invasions in the 5th Century. If this is the case he is likely to have used the hill fort as a stronghold. It is possible that an order of Monks established a monastery in the area that was destroyed by the Saxons before they settled the area in the 7th Century. [ [ Elfinspell: Amesbury Monastery] ] Amesbury is also associated with the Arthurian
convent to which Guinevere retired was said to have been the one at Amesbury.

In 979AD a Benedictine abbey, the Abbey of St. Mary and St. Melor, was founded on the site of the previous monastery by Dowager Queen Ælfthryth [ [ British History Online: Houses of Benedictine nuns: Amesbury] ] . In 1177 the abbey was dissolved by Henry II [ [ Wiltshire County Council - Church Information] ] and replaced with a double priory of the Fontevrault order. [ [ Catholic Encyclopaedia: Order and Abbey of Fontevrault] ] At some point in time it seems likely that the church became the parish church, and it is possible that this is why it was spared destruction in 1540 when, as part of the reformation, the priory and all other associated buildings were destroyed. Amesbury became an estate and was given to Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford by the crown.

The Seymour family held Amesbury estate until 1675 and had several grand homes built – including Kent and Diana houses, and a new mansion in 1660. The estate subsequently passed to the Bruce family, and then to Lord Carleton, who bequeathed it to his nephew Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry. It remained in the Queensbury family until 1824. It is believed that at some point in the early 19th Century, William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensberry planted the Nile Clumps to commemorate Admiral Nelson and had the Hill fort landscaped as part of the grounds around the mansion. In 1824 the Antrobus family acquired the estate and it remained in their hands until 1915 when, after the last heir was killed in France, Lord Antrobus sold the grounds – including Stonehenge – to private bidders. The mansion remained in their hands until 1979. [ [ Wiltshire County Council - Community History] ]

Recent History

With the establishment of the military Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down in 1939, Amesbury began to expand.As it sits on the A303 commuter belt, Amesbury has seen substantial developments on the land between the old town centre and Boscombe Down. Several new housing estates have been completed, and the most recent one - Archers Gate - has taken its name from the discovery of the Amesbury Archer. At the Boscombe Down junction of the A303 a new mixed business development known as [ Solstice Park] has been built and plans have been submitted for a Regional Distribution Centre for a major retailer [ [ Amesbury Town Council Minutes] ] .

Amesbury has had a mayor since 1999. The current Mayor is Mr Dennis Brown and the Deputy Mayor is Mr Roger Fisher.


Amesbury has 4 main schools:
*Amesbury Primary School,
*The Stonehenge School, a specialist Maths and Computing College
*Christ the King
* [ Amesbury Archer Primary School] .


There is one football team named [ Amesbury Town] who currently play in the Sydenhams League Division One. One junior football team called [ Amesbury Juniors] play in Testway football league, Mid Wilts Youth and Minor league and the South Wilts Youth and Badger league and another, [http://www./ Amesbury Town Juniors] play in the Mid Wilts Youth and Minor league.

Amesbury in popular Culture

Although Stonehenge falls within the parish of Amesbury, the two are not well linked. However Amesbury has appeared in the public eye on its own merits in the past.

The town is linked to the Arthurian legend as it is popularly believed that Guinevere retired to the original convent at Amesbury after leaving Arthur. Legend holds that she is buried in the grounds of the former Abbey. [ [ Time Travel Britain: Amesbury] ] In 1965 The Beatles stayed at the Antrobus Arms Hotel during the filming of 'Help' on Salisbury Plain. The Antrobus Arms and the former plaza cinema were both used as locations for the filming of a BBC Miss Marple mystery. [ [ The Antrobus Arms Hotel] ] In 2002, the discovery of the richest Bronze Age burial site yet found in Britain was made at Amesbury. The remains of two men of apparently aristocratic rank were accompanied by over 100 objects including arrowheads, copper knives and the earliest worked gold in the country. The occupant of the more richly furnished grave has become known as the "Amesbury Archer".

ee also

*Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
*Salisbury Plain
*Amesbury Archer
*Boscombe Bowmen


*J. Chandler and P. Goodhugh. "Amesbury: History and description of a south Wiltshire Town." 1989. ISBN 0950664324
*Crowley, Pugh and Stevenson. "A history of Amesbury, Bulford and Durrington." 2003. ISBN 0860804445
* [ "Wiltshire County Council Community History"]


External links

* [ Time Travel Britain: Amesbury]
* [ This is Amesbury]
* [ The Stonehenge Chamber of Trade]
* [ Vision News - Amesbury]

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