My Britain interview with Heather Sebire, Senior Property Curator at English Heritage
As part of our My Britain series, in which we interview those who live and work all over Britain, we spoke to Dr Heather Sebire, Senior Property Curator at English Heritage
As curator, I am responsible for the conservation of Stonehenge. This varies from ensuring tourists can take selfies without impacting the stones, to monitoring the microscopic lichens that grow on them.
Stonehenge is unique. Every single stone has been worked on, whether smoothed to fit the lie of the land or architecturally designed with toggles and notches so they slot together. Chippings found in the area prove they were honed, in situ, thousands of years ago.
Stonehenge’s smaller blue stones are probably from the Preseli Hills in west Wales. More recent research has matched the larger Sarsen megaliths with local stone originating in West Woods, Wiltshire, about 20 miles north of here – still a fair distance to drag them!
In the 1960s, an engineer took home part of one of the stones. He had been brought in to help prop them up structurally and his request to keep the cut-out part was granted. It would never be allowed today – all research and conservation is generally non-intrusive.
The wider Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site incorporates around 6,500 acres and other lesser-known ancient sites. The Stonehenge Cursus, for example, predates Stonehenge itself. It is a two-mile-long earthwork passageway that was incorrectly thought to be a Roman running track.
I grew up in Bangor in County Down. As a family we often visited Lough Erne, an inland lake in the west, which is dotted with archaeological sites. I remember a ruined monastery on an islet called White Island and the wall of carved Celtic figures that survives there.
As a child I had two loves: ballet and castles. My bedroom was even decorated in stone-effect wallpaper. While I was at university in London, we undertook excavations at Carrickfergus Castle, just north of Belfast. I loved the physical process and excitement of digging. It is still my favourite castle.