Book of the week: Stonehenge Antiquaries by Rodney Legg
Words Mark Hooper
Photographs Vilma Paasivaara
‘Nine hundred years of fantastic theories concerning Britain’s foremost national monument, brought together as a bizarre compilation of archeological nonsense.’
So reads the back-jacket blurb on this wry look at the unlikely theories, tall stories and and fanciful fictions that surround Stonehenge. Published in 1986, it is a compendium of essays concerning Britain’s oldest manmade landmark, dating back for almost a millennium, which are reproduced in their original format – typesetting, misspellings and all – together with a running commentary from the incredulous author.
Rodney Legg, the former chairman of the Open Spaces Society (and scourge of the National Trust), was an eccentric character who the Guardian described as ‘unignorable’ in their obituary of him in 2011. He was the author of 125 books (or ‘six feet of shelf space’ as he put it), mostly on his native Dorset, its landscape and history. Occasionally he’d stray across the border into Somerset or – in this case – Wiltshire.
Legg’s approach in Stonehenge Antiquities is unusual for its genre: rather than trying to determine historical fact, put forward his own theories or provide answers to centuries-old questions, he instead opts to mercilessly ridicule the pomposity, pretentiousness and pseudoscience of those who went before him. Which only makes it all the more entertaining. Legg mocks the idea that we can presume to explain the unexplainable, and delights in pointing out those who have.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that sometimes you can tell a book by its cover…
Stonehenge Antiquaries by Rodney Legg (Dorset Publishing), via abebooks.com