MEMORIES of a unique childhood spent playing around Stonehenge have been shared as part of a photographic exhibition.

Jean Grey, 91, was the daughter of the 1930s Stonehenge custodian, John Moffat, and contacted English Heritage through her granddaughter to share her memories of growing up in the cottage that stood at Stonehenge Bottom, at the fork of the then tranquil A303 and old A344 roads.

Jean’s father was the caretaker of Stonehenge from 1934 to 1938 and the cottage was provided for his family to live in by the Ministry of Works.

Salisbury Journal:

Jean, who was five when she moved to Stonehenge, recalls: “Dad was the custodian of the Stones. He cut the grass and maintained the area round the huge monoliths and made sure no one damaged them. Occasionally school groups would arrive by charabanc for a conducted tour and sometimes visitors who were wealthy enough to have their own transport.

“Most of the time it was a quiet safe place for me to play around the Stones. No neighbours. No other children. No electricity, and only an outside earth toilet. There was no rubbish collection – a pit was dug in the far corner of the back garden and everything was buried, including my father’s old, chain-driven motorbike.”

Salisbury Journal:

Picture credit: Historic England Archive

"The Ministry of Works wages were not very generous and the rabbits my father trapped helped to supplement our diet, and my parents both worked in the vegetable garden. 

"In the autumn we’d go mushrooming. We were told the circles they grew in were fairy rings. Even now, seventy years later, Stonehenge has a lasting place in my memory -  the summer days and the skylarks,” added Jean, who now lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Salisbury Journal:

1930s aerial photo showing the fairy or fungus rings behind Stonehenge custodian's cottage  Photo: Historic England Archive 

English Heritage historian, Susan Greaney, added: “A personal story like this really brings Stonehenge’s more recent past to life. Although demolished in 1938, we can see the house Jean lived in from old photos which show the cottages, their large back gardens and also rings of mushrooms scattered around the landscape, just as she describes.

“The house is now gone, but if you wander down there today you can see some remaining earthworks and remnants of the hedge pop up every year. People have been visiting Stonehenge for centuries, but there’s not very many people who can say they lived there – it must have been an amazing place to grow up. We’re really pleased to now be able to tell the story of someone who did.”

Salisbury Journal:

1930s aerial photo of Stonehenge custodian's cottage  Photo: Historic England Archive 

Jean’s story features in the Your Stonehenge exhibition which has been extended until August 2022 with a series of new displays over the coming months.

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