Knight Frank Sells Third and Final Henge of ‘Stonehenge of the North’ to English Heritage

Posted by Knight Frank Newcastle on 16th February 2024 -


Knight Frank's Rural team sells the northern henge of The Thornborough Henges, an ancient Neolithic monument in Yorkshire, to English Heritage on behalf of local landowner, Richard Bourne-Arton.

The henge comprises a seven-acre mixed-leaf woodland on the site of one of the country’s most significant prehistoric monuments.

Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire is now finally reunited with English Heritage with the support of £150,000 from The National Heritage Memorial Fund as well as support from Jamie Ritblat and family, and The SCS Trust, has now purchased the northern henge.

Often referred to as “the Stonehenge of the North”, the Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire comprise of three large circular earthworks (known as ‘henges’) each more than 200m in diameter. Dating from 3000 to 2500 BC, the henges are of outstanding national significance, a place where people gathered for ceremonies for at least 2,000 years. Thornborough is one of the most important prehistoric sites between Stonehenge and the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

Currently under woodland, the northern henge is the best preserved of the three – and one of the best-preserved henges in the country – and gives a strong impression of how the others would have appeared originally. At the start of 2023, the central and southern henges plus their surrounding lands were gifted to Historic England and English Heritage by the construction companies Tarmac and Lightwater Holdings.

This purchase places all parts of the monument under one single owner for the first time in at least 1,500 years and sees Thornborough Henges, in its entirety – joining Stonehenge, Iron Bridge, Dover Castle, Kenwood and numerous Roman sites on Hadrian’s Wall within the National Heritage Collection, under the care of English Heritage.

Claire Whitfield, Partner in Knight Frank’s Rural Consultancy team said: “I am delighted that we have been able to negotiate the sale of the final piece of the Thornborough Henges to English Heritage. Reuniting this remarkable ancient monument under single ownership is tremendously gratifying. The northern henge has been exceptionally well-preserved by its previous owners and will be an outstanding addition to the nation's heritage assets now cared for by English Heritage. My thanks go to Bourne-Arton family for entrusting Knight Frank with this historic sale, as well as to English Heritage and the funders who have made this possible.”

The acquisition not only guarantees public access in perpetuity to the entirety of this remarkable Neolithic monument but allows English Heritage to share with visitors the full story of Thornborough Henges so that they can better understand the henges’ significance and scale as well as how each individual henge relates to the others.

Entry to Thornborough Henges is free although the northern henge is currently closed as a number of trees were damaged in the recent storms and English Heritage is carrying out some works to ensure that area of the site is ready to welcome visitors soon. Later this year, the northern henge will receive new interpretation explaining its significance. 

Gerard Lemos CMG CBE, Chair of English Heritage, said: “The Thornborough Henges are a remarkable survivor from the prehistoric past, from deep, deep history. We are incredibly proud that all three henges are now reunited under one single owner and their future secure. English Heritage will ensure that the entire monument is given the care it deserves. Reuniting the henges like this means that the public is now able to explore all three and re-connect with the people who gathered here 4,500 years ago.”

Dr Simon Thurley CBE, Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “The National Heritage Memorial Fund is proud to have supported this magnificent acquisition, reuniting the henges in single ownership and securing public access. Adding the henges to the National Heritage Collection in the expert care of English Heritage is a long-held ambition and the Fund offers its congratulations to those who made it possible.”

Rishi Sunak MP, whose Richmond (Yorks) parliamentary constituency includes Thornborough Henges, said: "Having recently visited the henges site, I know how truly remarkable the totality of the monument is. Bringing all three henges together in the ownership of English Heritage ensures their preservation and enhances the charity's ability to tell the story of the earthworks and their importance to the pre-history of our nation."

Arts & Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “I'm delighted that these three very special sites have been reunited, providing an extraordinary opportunity for people to immerse themselves in Yorkshire's prehistory. Generous support from English Heritage and The National Heritage Memorial Fund means that this unique and intriguing monument will now be accessible to the public for generations to come as part of our National Heritage Collection.”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive, Historic England, said: “Thornborough Henges is one of England’s most impressive and important prehistoric monuments so it’s wonderful news that the entire site is now in the care of English Heritage for the benefit of the nation.   The acquisition of the third henge marks the culmination of years of hard work and tenacity to unite and safeguard Thornborough Henges for future generations.”   

The northern henge is currently closed to the public as English Heritage gets it ready for visitors.

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