Earliest family photos taken at Stonehenge: Snaps taken in 1875 when families could drive a carriage into stone circle and eat a picnic are oldest of the prehistoric monument 

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  • The first family photo of Stonehenge is from 1875 and features the Routh family
  • English Heritage were sent more than 1,000 photos of families at the stones
  • The most recent photo in the collection is of a ‘kissing couple’ with a selfie stick
  • The images will feature in an exhibition marking 100 years of public ownership 

This horse and carriage image was shared with English Heritage by the descendants of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh who can be seen in the photograph

This horse and carriage image was shared with English Heritage by the descendants of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh who can be seen in the photograph

A picnic at Stonehenge featuring Routh Family (pictured) taken in 1875 is thought to be the oldest 'family photo' of the prehistoric monument

A picnic at Stonehenge featuring Routh Family (pictured) taken in 1875 is thought to be the oldest ‘family photo’ of the prehistoric monument

Martin Parr took a photograph of a couple kissing while taking a selfie (pictured) but has no idea who they are

Martin Parr took a photograph of a couple kissing while taking a selfie (pictured) but has no idea who they are

One of the earliest family photos captured at Stonehenge shows a group enjoying a carriage-ride and a picnic at the prehistoric monument 144 years ago.

English Heritage asked people to send in pictures of themselves, family or even ancestors at the site to mark 100 years of public ownership.

After sorting through more than 1,000 photos submitted by the public, researchers believe some of the images from 1875 are the oldest.  

Among the of pictures was a black and white snap from the descendants of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh believed to date back to 1875.

The photograph shows the trio on a horse and carriage in the middle of the stones, which tourists are now given limited access to as a means of preserving the monument.

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In another photograph – believed to have been taken in the same year as the carriage image – the family appear to be enjoying a picnic as they take a rest on the monument stones, something which is also strictly forbidden these days. 

‘They’re wearing fashionable outfits and hats,’ said historian Susan Greaney.

‘Right up until the 1920s and ’30s people did dress up for days out like this, in their Sunday best, suits and hats.’

‘The monument has provided a constant backdrop to millions of family memories, and in some cases has even played a part in changing the course of people’s lives.’

Miss Greaney is now looking for people to send in pictures that could pre-date 1875. She said: ‘It would be quite nice if somebody comes forward and says “We’ve got an earlier one”.’

Photographer Martin Parr acted as guest curator for the exhibition, has selected ten of the photos that appear and took the most recent image.

The newest image in the exhibition features an unknown couple kissing while taking a selfie against the backdrop of the stones during the 2019 Autumn Equinox.

English Heritage says it hopes to be able to identify the couple and give them a signed copy of the image of their memorable day out. 

“I first photographed Stonehenge years ago and it was fantastic to be invited back to photograph it again for this exhibition’, said Mr Parr.

‘I loved looking at the images that people sent in. They really show what the stones mean to people and how our relationship with a site like Stonehenge has changed and yet stayed the same through time.’

English Heritage says the exhibition shows how photography has changed over the years – from the box cameras and people remaining very still to the rise of the selfie stick and the smartphone.

‘The way that people pose – people’s faces have got closer to the camera until they are taking a picture of themselves more than they are of Stonehenge,’ said Ms Greaney who works for English Heritage.

‘People have been visiting Stonehenge for centuries, for all sorts of reasons, and taking photos of themselves and their loved ones in front of the stones since the very earliest days of photography. 

‘The monument has provided a constant backdrop to millions of family memories, and in some cases has even played a part in changing the course of people’s lives.’

Of the possibility of finding an older family photograph, she said: ‘It would be quite nice if somebody comes forward and says ‘We’ve got an earlier one’.’

The earliest known photograph of Stonehenge, not featuring a family, is thought to date back 22 years earlier.

The new exhibition – Your Stonehenge 150 years of personal photo – runs from December 12 2019 to late August 2020 at Stonehenge. 

Stonehenge was built thousands of years before machinery was invented. 

The heavy rocks weigh upwards of several tonnes each.

Some of the stones are believed to have originated from a quarry in Wales, some 140 miles (225km) away from the Wiltshire monument.

To do this would have required a high degree of ingenuity, and experts believe the ancient engineers used a pulley system over a shifting conveyor-belt of logs.

Historians now think that the ring of stones was built in several different stages, with the first completed around 5,000 years ago by Neolithic Britons who used primitive tools, possibly made from deer antlers.

Modern scientists now widely believe that Stonehenge was created by several different tribes over time.

After the Neolithic Britons – likely natives of the British Isles – started the construction, it was continued centuries later by their descendants. 

Over time, the descendants developed a more communal way of life and better tools which helped in the erection of the stones. 

Bones, tools and other artefacts found on the site seem to support this hypothesis.



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