21 September 1915: Salisbury man buys Stonehenge for his wife

105 years ago today, Cecil Chubb paid just £6,600 when he bought 30 acres of Wiltshire and the world’s most famous Neolithic monument “on a whim” as an anniversary present for his wife.

Stonehenge © Matt Cardy/Getty Images
(Image credit: © Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

What might make a good wedding anniversary present for your wife, do you think, presuming you have one? Jewellery, perhaps? Perfume? Dinner at a swanky restaurant? How about 30 acres of Wiltshire and the world's most famous Neolithic monument? Possibly not.

But that's what Salisbury man Cecil Chubb decided on a whim when he found himself at Messrs Knight, Franck and Rutley's auction in the Palace Theatre on this day in 1915.

Stonehenge had been in the possession of the Antrobus family for generations. But the sole heir, Lieutenant Edmond Antrobus, was killed in action in 1914, just 20 days after arriving in France. With him, the family line died, and the estate containing Stonehenge was put up for sale.

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Cecil paid the bargain price of £6,600 (the equivalent of some £475,000 in today's money) for the monument and associated bit of Wiltshire. Unfortunately for Cecil, his wife wasn't too enthused by her romantic gift. So, after enjoying it for just three years, Cecil decided to give it to the nation. And in return, Cecil became Sir Cecil.

But his gift did come with a few conditions, including that the entrance fee should be a "reasonable sum per head not exceeding one shilling for each visit". In 1921, local residents were guaranteed free access in a deal between Parliament and the local Parish Council. To this day, 30,000 locals are entitled to a pass giving them free access. The rest us have to pay rather more than a shilling: the current entrance fee for adults stands at £21.50.

Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.