Leading druid vows to fight ‘desecration’ plan to build road tunnel under Stonehenge


A leading druid, who claims to be a reincarnation of King Arthur, has slammed the proposed road tunnel under Stonehenge and has vowed to fight the ‘desecration’. 

King Arthur Uther Pendragon, 66, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, who considers Stonehenge sacred, has teamed up with archaeologists to take the plans to judicial review.

The £1.7billion tunnel plan is set to be built south of the current A303, which runs within a few hundred metres of the famous UNESCO world heritage site in Wiltshire.

King Arthur Uther Pendragon, 66, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, (pictured) who considers Stonehenge sacred, has teamed up with archaeologists to take the plans to judicial review

The senior druid has claimed that the two-mile tunnel will ruin the pagan pilgrimage site for winter solstice rituals but he has only six weeks to put a legal fight together. 

Mr Pendragon said archaeologists are also onboard with him after they believe digging through the ground under the site will destroy artefacts not yet discovered.

The former biker, who changed his name in 1986, said: ‘It is ridiculous. Everyone is opposed to this.

The senior druid has claimed that the two-mile tunnel will ruin the pagan pilgrimage site for winter solstice rituals but he has only six weeks to put a legal fight together

The senior druid has claimed that the two-mile tunnel will ruin the pagan pilgrimage site for winter solstice rituals but he has only six weeks to put a legal fight together

‘From a scientific view, archaeologists are opposed as well as the spiritual people such as myself so they are biting both ends.

‘We are in discussions at the moment together. It’s not a good thing for a number of reasons.’ 

‘And not only that, it’s very surprising as a lot of us, myself included, gave evidence at a public inquiry.’

The £1.7billion tunnel plan is set to be built south of the current A303, which runs within a few hundred metres of the famous UNESCO world heritage site in Wiltshire

The £1.7billion tunnel plan is set to be built south of the current A303, which runs within a few hundred metres of the famous UNESCO world heritage site in Wiltshire

He continued: ‘It ran for over a year, they had six planning inspectors, they took evidence and at the same time as publishing the findings, the government decided to go ahead.

‘The enquiry found that there will be irreparable damage to the world heritage site at Stonehenge.

‘It is a site of universal value so if they have to do a job, they should be doing it properly and what they are doing is penny-pinching and building a tunnel that is too short.

Like other druids, King Arthur worships the divine through nature and considers Stonehenge sacred

Like other druids, King Arthur worships the divine through nature and considers Stonehenge sacred 

Mr Pendragon said archaeologists are also onboard with him after they believe digging through the ground under the site will destroy artefacts not yet discovered

Mr Pendragon said archaeologists are also onboard with him after they believe digging through the ground under the site will destroy artefacts not yet discovered

‘The trouble with the tunnel is at both ends. At the Eastern corner, it would destroy archaeology which hasn’t even been discovered yet.

‘It will also disturb aqua flows which will cause flooding.

‘At the other end, at the Western wall, which I am more concerned with – it will come out amongst burial grounds and it will also cause light pollution at the exact point where the sun sets during the winter solstice, which is one of the reasons why Stonehenge was built.’

He went on to describe how he was deeply concerned that the remains of ancient people buried beneath the stone structure will be disturbed.

A tunnel will bring to an end a tradition of drivers slowing down to take a glimpse of the Neolithic monument, which can be seen from the current road

A tunnel will bring to an end a tradition of drivers slowing down to take a glimpse of the Neolithic monument, which can be seen from the current road

For decades, motorists on the A303, which passes the stone circle, have endured severe congestion on the popular route to and from the South West

For decades, motorists on the A303, which passes the stone circle, have endured severe congestion on the popular route to and from the South West

The pagan said: ‘Of course, Stonehenge is also a burial ground and no one has given me any reassurances that any of the dead that will be disturbed will be reburied as close as possible to the original resting place.

‘So for those reasons I am very opposed to the building of the tunnel and am discussing with other people the likelihood of applying for a judicial review, which we have been given six weeks to do.

‘There are a number of different campaigns and legal chains and we are all thinking about it.’

He also expressed concerns at the costs involved and what his next move will be in fighting the plans.

Motorists used to be able to get even closer when the A344 existed. But the road was closed in 2013

Motorists used to be able to get even closer when the A344 existed. But the road was closed in 2013

Mr Pendragon said: ‘I have to think about costs, I am not able to do it myself but I will back whoever does.

‘It is quite likely to go to judicial review. There is no magic money tree and I think there’s a chance it may be kicked into the long grass because of financial constraints anyway.

‘In the meanwhile, I am going to oppose it as are a number of others, through the legal system and if need be through protests.

‘Any geologist will tell you that chalk is ancient seabed, so there is no archaeology beneath it, but the fact that they want to dig through it, into the portals at both ends, within the world heritage site is a desecration.

Modern day druids, who each year celebrate the winter and summer solstices at Stonehenge, have hit out at the plans

Modern day druids, who each year celebrate the winter and summer solstices at Stonehenge, have hit out at the plans

‘They should do a longer tunnel and go into the chalk from outside the site and come out the other end outside the site but they are penny pinching.

‘It is the winter solstice soon, on the 20th December and they want to put a portal 150 yards away from where the sun sets, which will cause pollution and will affect our times of pilgrimage.

‘It is not just me that is up against this, or the archaeologists, there are a lot of locals against it too.’

The tunnel is part of a £27billion masterplan to improve the nation's roads, which was announced in March

The tunnel is part of a £27billion masterplan to improve the nation’s roads, which was announced in March

Speaking of the value of the site, Mr Pendragon said: ‘It is not only a world heritage site, it is a place of pilgrimage for pagans all over the world.

‘We go four times a year. It is mega and there is going to be outrage worldwide.

‘They wouldn’t do this to Salisbury Cathedral, this is not a Paris church. It is the main pagan temple in Britain, in the world in fact.

A £1.7billion plan to build a tunnel diverting traffic away from Stonehenge has today been given the green light. Pictured: An artist's impression of the plans

A £1.7billion plan to build a tunnel diverting traffic away from Stonehenge has today been given the green light. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the plans

‘I would say it is one of, if not the major place of pilgrimage for pagans in the world so why mess about with that when their own inquiry said don’t do it.’

He added that he is not against the idea of a tunnel in principle but claimed this one will do more damage than good.  

The controversial plan involves diverting the road into the new dual-carriageway tunnel while the current A303 – a main route for motorists travelling to and from the south west – will be turned into a public walkway.

Those behind the scheme hope it will help tackle congestion in the area – which is often at a standstill during Bank Holiday weekends.

But it will bring to an end a well-known tradition of drivers slowing down to take a glimpse of the Neolithic monument, which can be seen from the current A303.

Meanwhile, critics, including druids, green campaigners and archaeologists, have hit out at the project, with one describing it as a ‘complete violation’. 

The Planning Inspectorate - an executive agency of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government - recommended the Transport Secretary withhold consent. But Grant Shapps has granted a Development Consent Order

The Planning Inspectorate – an executive agency of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – recommended the Transport Secretary withhold consent. But Grant Shapps has granted a Development Consent Order

The latest plans, which were first unveiled by Highways England in 2017, were given the green light on Thursday by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who approved a development consent order.

Highways England says its plan for the dual carriageway tunnel, located 164ft further away from Stonehenge compared to the existing A303 route, will remove the sight and sound of traffic passing the site and cut journey times.   

The battle of Stonehenge: The 25 year fight over plans to build a tunnel near to the historic site 

1995: Proposals for a simple cut and cover tunnel are put forward by the government. They are criticised by groups including the National Trust.

2002: New plans for a properly bored tunnel are announced, at a cost of £183million.

2004: Despite opposition to the plans, a public inquiry finds the proposals as adequate. However, the scheme is ditched, with construction costs spiralling to £470million.

2015: The scheme is touted again, but it comes under fire from historian Dan Snow, who accused ministers of acting like ‘vandals and zealots’.

2017: The government approves plans for a tunnel again.

2018: Highways England holds a consultation for the scheme, with costs now at £1.6million. The new plans include a grass covered canopy at one end to help it blend in with the landscape. The improvements are ‘welcomed’ by The National Trust, English Heritage and Historic England, but groups such as the Stonehenge Alliance continue their opposition. 

2018: Public-private funding model for the scheme is ditched by then-chancellor Philip Hammond.

February 2020: The scheme comes under scrutiny again after survey work shows project could now cost over £2billion.

March 2020: Rishi Sunak says the scheme will be included in a £27billion national roads investment plan.

June 2020: A team of archaeologists had discovered a ring of at least 20 large shafts within the World Heritage Site, a short distance from the stones.

November 2020: The latest scheme is given the green light again by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. The two-mile dual-carriageway tunnel is set to cost £1.7billion.

The Department for Transport wrote to Highways England stating that: ‘The Secretary of State is satisfied that, on balance, the need case for the development together with the other benefits identified outweigh any harm.’

There is now a six-week period in which the decision can be challenged in the High Court.

Preparatory work is due to begin in spring next year, with the five-year construction phase expected to start by 2023.

King Arthur Pendragon, who was born John Timothy Rothwell, is a senior Neo-Druid, which is a form of spirituality or religion that promotes harmony and worship of nature.

He is also an eco-campaigner, media personality, and a self-proclaimed ‘reincarnated King Arthur.’

The former biker claims he is Britain’s Druid King and signs himself Arthur Rex.

Mr Pendragon changed his name in 1986 and has his royal name on his passport and driving licence.

Mr Pendragon, a former soldier, said he realised he was the reincarnation of King Arthur after reading a book on the legendary leader in the mid 1980s.

In 1998 he was crowned Pendragon and Swordbearer to the Glastonbury Order of Druids and was later proclaimed ‘Raised Druid King of Britain’ by representatives from five Neo-Druidic orders.

He has led protests against the building of new roads and continues to battle English Heritage over access to Stonehenge.

Mr Pendragon has also run for Parliament as an Independent, campaigning for an end to austerity measures and the withdrawal of British troops from the Middle East.

In 2017 Mr Pedragon won the right to take a charity to court over ‘pay-to-pray’ parking charges for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, claiming it should be free.

He argued that a £15 parking fee at the prehistoric monument near Amesbury, breached his human rights.

The pagan appeared at Salisbury Crown Court, Wiltshire, to present his case for the right to worship at the neolithic relic without unnecessary restriction or hindrance from charity English Heritage.

Other druids and pagans gathered outside the court waving banners in support of their leader, who claims he is a reincarnation of Britain’s mythical monarch King Arthur.

Mr Pendragon and his supporters found the £15 parking charge, introduced by English Heritage for visitors to Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice in June, to be contentious.

The project was designed to slash travel times on the A303 in Wiltshire which is often at a standstill on bank holidays. Pictured: An artist's impression of the 2002 design

The project was designed to slash travel times on the A303 in Wiltshire which is often at a standstill on bank holidays. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the 2002 design

When the project was revealed in 2002, the tunnel was due to cost £183million. The latest proposals are set to cost around £1.7billion

When the project was revealed in 2002, the tunnel was due to cost £183million. The latest proposals are set to cost around £1.7billion

He believed the charge made druids and pagans ‘pay to pray’, and they should have had the right to park for free.

Visitors to Stonehenge can usually park at the World Heritage Site for free, with a £5 refundable fee being charged during peak times.

To Mr Pendragon’s delight, a full day’s hearing was granted for his case, in which he is seeking a judicial review of the charity’s decision to impose parking charges under articles 9, 10, 11 and 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights – the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression; freedom of assembly and association; and prohibition of discrimination respectively.

In 2017 Mr Pedragon won the right to take a charity to court over 'pay-to-pray' parking charges for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, claiming it should be free

In 2017 Mr Pedragon won the right to take a charity to court over ‘pay-to-pray’ parking charges for the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, claiming it should be free

A hole new ‘Stonehenge’! New prehistoric monument dating back 4,500 years made up of 15ft-deep shafts in a mile-wide circle is discovered in English countryside 

A team of archaeologists discovered a major new prehistoric monument just a short distance away from Stonehenge in June.

Fieldwork and analysis revealed evidence of 20 or more massive prehistoric shafts – more than 10 metres in diameter and five metres deep – forming a circle more than two kilometres in diameter around the Durrington Walls henge.

Coring of the shafts suggest the features are Neolithic and excavated more than 4,500 years ago – around the time Durrington Walls was built.

A  new circle discovered near Stonehenge, pictured above, is more than 10 metres in diameter and five metres deep

A  new circle discovered near Stonehenge, pictured above, is more than 10 metres in diameter and five metres deep 

Coring of the shafts suggest the features are Neolithic and excavated more than 4,500 years ago - around the time Durrington Walls was built

Coring of the shafts suggest the features are Neolithic and excavated more than 4,500 years ago – around the time Durrington Walls was built

It is thought the shafts served as a boundary to a sacred area or precinct associated with the henge.

The discovery was made as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, led by the University of Bradford. Experts from the University of St Andrews also joined along with counterparts from institutes including Birmingham, Warwick, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (at the University of Glasgow).

Professor Vince Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, said: ‘The area around Stonehenge is amongst the most studied archaeological landscapes on earth.

‘It is remarkable that the application of new technology can still lead to the discovery of such a massive prehistoric structure.’ 

Dr Richard Bates, of the university’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: ‘Yet again, the use of a multidisciplinary effort with remote sensing and careful sampling is giving us an insight to the past that shows an even more complex society than we could ever imagine.

It is thought the shafts served as a boundary to a sacred area or precinct associated with the henge. Map pictured above

It is thought the shafts served as a boundary to a sacred area or precinct associated with the henge. Map pictured above 

‘Clearly sophisticated practices demonstrate that the people were so in tune with natural events to an extent that we can barely conceive in the modern world we live in today.’

Tim Kinnaird, of the same school, said: ‘The sedimentary infills contain a rich and fascinating archive of previously unknown environmental information.

‘With optically stimulated luminescence profiling and dating, we can write detailed narratives of the Stonehenge landscape for the last 4,000 years.’

The announcement of the discovery comes after the Summer Solstice, which took place online this year with the annual gathering cancelled due to coronavirus.

English Heritage has provided access to the event since 2000 but warned visitors not to travel to the 3,000BC Neolithic monument this year.

A team of archaeologists have discovered a major new prehistoric monument just a short distance away from Stonehenge. Stonehenge pictured above

A team of archaeologists have discovered a major new prehistoric monument just a short distance away from Stonehenge. Stonehenge pictured above 

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, hailed the ‘astonishing discovery’.

He said: ‘As the place where the builders of Stonehenge lived and feasted Durrington Walls is key to unlocking the story of the wider Stonehenge landscape, and this astonishing discovery offers us new insights into the lives and beliefs of our Neolithic ancestors.

‘The Hidden Landscapes team have combined cutting-edge, archaeological fieldwork with good old-fashioned detective work to reveal this extraordinary discovery and write a whole new chapter in the story of the Stonehenge landscape.’

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