John Aubrey (1626-1697). From an engraving by William Faithhorne of 1666

Shiftless, roving and magotie-headed

Described once as shiftless, roving and magotie-headed, John Aubrey was one of the first people to describe and map Avebury in any detail. While out hunting one day Aubrey writes, "...the chase led us... through the village of Aubury: where I was wonderfully surprised at the site of these vast stones, of which I had never heard before, as also the mighty bank and grasse about it."

Maps: John Aubrey's 1663 plan of Avebury

In the afternoon come to Abebury

In the afternoon come to Abebury, where, seeing great stones like those of Stonage standing up, I stopped, and took a countryman of that town, and he carried me and shewed me a place trenched in, like Old Sarum almost, with great stones pitched in it, some bigger than those at Stonage in figure, to my great admiration: and he told me that most people of learning, coming by, do come and view them, and that the King did so: and that the Mount cast hard by is called Selbury, from one King Seall buried there, as tradition says. I did give this man 1s. So took coach again, seeing one place with great high stones pitched round, which, I believe, was once some particular building, in some measure like that of Stonage. But, about a mile off, it was prodigious to see how full the Downes are of great stones; and all along the vallies, stones of considerable bigness, most of them growing certainly out of the ground so thick as to cover the ground, which makes me think the less of the wonder of Stonage, for hence they might undoubtedly supply themselves with stones, as well as those at Abebury.

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)

The Barge Inn. Image credit Willow

Accommodation: The Barge Inn

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet, Alton Barnes, is a 15-20 minute drive from Avebury (with some spectacular views of the Vale of Pewsey as you approach Alton Barnes). No rooms at The Barge Inn but plenty of space at the back of the pub to camp (under canvas or in a campervan). The pub and front beer garden are situated right by the Kennet and Avon Canal, and for narrow boat enthusiasts there are usually plenty of boats moored there, or passing up and down.

A once popular meeting place for crop circle enthusiasts (some of whom still meet there) and also a lively venue for music festivals in the summer. The churches of Alton Barnes and Alton Priors are about 10-15 minutes walk away. More here on Alton Priors.

The Red Lion. Image credit Willow

Pubs: The Red Lion

There's actually only one pub in Avebury and that's The Red Lion. Some people love it, some people hate it; it does have one thing going for it though, and that is that it's right in the stone circle and a convenient place to meet people whatever the weather. The annual Avebury Megameet (an informal meeting of those interested in things megalithic) has met in the Red Lion for the last two years due to bad weather. Other groups also meet there at various times of the year, and the big front room with its well and associated ghost
is occasionally closed off for private functions.

There's a bus stop just outside the Red Lion and a carpark at the side. The pub has a reasonably priced selection of drinks (reasonable that is by London standards) though waiting to be served can take a while at busy times. There's one large dining area at the back of the pub and four other rooms of various sizes in the centre and at the front. Outside, on the cobbled yard, there are a dozen or so wooden benches, and this area overlooks the south-east quadrant of the circle. The nice thing about the Red Lion is that even if you're on your own you can soon strike up a conversation with like-minded people. The pub is presently undergoing a refurbishment and accommodation there is not available.

The Waggon & Horses. Image credit Willow

Pubs: The Waggon and Horses

From the Red Lion the closest pub to Avebury is The Waggon and Horses at Beckhampton. If you're on foot, one of the nicest (and safest) ways of getting there is to follow the road down Avebury High Street, past the church and over the Winterbourne to Avebury Trusloe. There are then paths that take you past the Adam and Eve stones and eventually to the back of the pub - a walk of about thirty minutes, with only one busy road to cross.

The Waggon and Horses is a lovely thatched building with drinking areas to the right as you enter from the road and more formal dining areas to the left. It's usually fairly quiet in there at lunchtime but the restaurant area can get quite busy in the evening. From one of the windows in the drinking area there's a view of Silbury - a view only possible when the trees have lost their leaves. There's parking and a nice beer garden at the rear of the pub and more parking at the front and across the road. The walk to Silbury from the Waggon and Horses takes about fifteen minutes but is along an extremely dangerous road and definitely not recommended.

The Waggon and Horses seems to be the pub mentioned by Dickens in Chapter XIV of The Pickwick Papers under The Bagman's Story. Dickens writes of the pub, "...gabled-topped windows projecting completely over the pathway..." and, "...a strong cheerful light in the bar window, which shed a bright ray across the road, and even lighted up the hedge on the other side..." That could be the Waggon and Horses Dickens is writing about. He also describes, "...a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a dozen shallow ones leading up to it." Today you actually go up a few steps into the pub if you're entering from the road but the bagman and his gig may have gone round to the rear, and from the backdoor there certainly are, "...steep steps leading down into the house..."

The Waggon and Horses II

This is possibly the relevant passage from the Bagman's Story -

"One winter's evening, about five o'clock, just as it began to grow dusk, a man in a gig might have been seen urging his tired horse along the road which leads across Marlborough Downs, in the direction of Bristol. I say he might have been seen, and I have no doubt he would have been, if anybody but a blind man had happened to pass that way; but the weather was so bad, and the night so cold and wet, that nothing was out but the water, and so the traveller jogged along in the middle of the road, lonesome and dreary enough...

"'Whether the vixenish mare was sufficiently well acquainted with the tones of Tom's voice to comprehend his meaning, or whether she found it colder standing still than moving on, of course I can't say. But I can say that Tom had no sooner finished speaking, than she pricked up her ears, and started forward at a speed which made the clay-coloured gig rattle until you would have supposed every one of the red spokes were going to fly out on the turf of Marlborough Downs; and even Tom, whip as he was, couldn't stop or check her pace, until she drew up of her own accord, before a roadside inn on the right-hand side of the way, about half a quarter of a mile from the end of the Downs. 'Tom cast a hasty glance at the upper part of the house as he threw the reins to the hostler, and stuck the whip in the box. It was a strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid, as it were, with cross-beams, with gabled-topped windows projecting completely over the pathway, and a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a dozen shallow ones leading up to it. It was a comfortable-looking place though, for there was a strong, cheerful light in the bar window, which shed a bright ray across the road, and even lighted up the hedge on the other side..."*


Mary S Cope (1852-1882) and her poem on Avebury: A guest feature by Thelma Wilcox

The following poem, written so long ago in America by Mary Cope, is written in tribute to Avebury. At first I was wary of its 19th century romanticism, but reading it again and again made me realise that it had a very special charm in its description of Avebury. After all it was an outside eye that was looking back at the stones and the village, and its neat little manor house serene in its garden. Though I think Mary got it somewhat wrong as to nuns being at the Priory when monks are mentioned in the history. So what inspired such eloquence? Our ancestry haunts us all, and Mary Cope came from a strong Quaker family whose forbearers had travelled to America in the 17th Century. Henry (1793-1865) had established a family 'enclave' at Germanstown and called it Awbury, their house and grounds now are part of the Awbury Arboretum and the following quote explains the reason as to why we find Mary S Cope writing a poem about Avebury.

"The house he built on that land was named "Awbury" after the family ancestral home in the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, England; as the nineteenth century progressed, the name came to indicate the entire enclave and not just Cope's dwelling. John Haines's and Henry Cope's tracts were augmented with purchases made by Henry's son Francis on the southwest and south later in the nineteenth century. The family enclave was expanded in 1885 with a purchase of land made by Clementine Cope, Henry's niece, in 1885."

But let us go back to the original Oliver Cope - a tailor who lived in Avebury and took that momentous step to emigrate to America. Gilbert Cope in his genealogy of the Cope family (1861) seems to think that Oliver was not a Quaker when he left England with his wife Rebecca, they seemed to have had three children at Avebury - William, Ruth, and John, Elizabeth being born in America, Oliver must have left England in about 1682, and could have travelled on the same boat as William Penn who also made a voyage in that year. In a Deed of Land he seems to have bought 250 acres from William Penn in the province of Pennsylvania, this he must have done in England as the Deed is dated 1681.

"This indenture made the 5th day of September in the year of our Lord 1681, and in the thirty-third year of the reign of King Charles the second over England, between William Penn of Worminghurst in the County of Sussex and Oliver Cope of Awbury, in the County of Wiltshire, tailor, on the other part witnesseth that the said William Penn, for and in the consideration of the sum of five shillings of lawful money of England to him in hand paid by the said Oliver Cope, the receipt whereof he doeth hereby acknowledge, have bargained and sold, and by these presents doth bargain and sell into the said Oliver Cope, the full and just proportion and quantity of 250 acres within the province of Pennsylvannia"

There is a lovely note by Gilbert Cope at the end of the page in which he states "Abury (sometimes spelt Awbury, Aveburg or Auburn) is an unimportant village in Wiltshire, about 81 miles west of London.”

Oliver’s arrival in America has a somewhat mixed account in Gilbert Cope's book, Mary is given at one stage as his wife that accompanied him on the voyage and that he came on the boat with William Penn (on his second voyage) in 1701. This account can probably be considered a bit whimsical, though it does say that they landed at Nameen's Creek (the place where Oliver died) and Oliver's will definitely states Rebecca as his wife. There is also a note that in May 1682 William Penn sent to Thomas Holme - Surveyor General - a list of the people who had purchased land and Oliver Cope is listed as having five hundred acres. So it would seem that Oliver bought this land in England, probably making two purchases of 250 acres at separate times, the dream of an American future winning over a drab existence in a small Wiltshire village. John Cope one of Oliver's children is seen as the founding member of the Cope dynasty in America and a prominent Quaker member.

Genealogy notes; The original Oliver Cope was born at Avebury in approximately 1647 he died in April in 1697 at Naaman's Creek DE. Mary Stokes Cope; Her mother was Elizabeth Waln Stokes (1823-1902) and her father Thomas Pim Cope (1823-1900). They had 9 children, including Mary Stokes Cope. Her brother Alban seems to have been committed to an asylum between 1890-1891, and her father a strong Quaker made a religious trip to Europe in 1890, this to be found in the archives of the Cope-Evan correspondence here -

Mary's grandparents Thomas Pim Cope (1768-1854) and Mary Drinker (1766-1825) were also strong Quakers, Thomas was one of the wealthiest merchants in Philadelphia. He was a politician and philanthropist, and Mary his wife who seemed to be very much in love with him wrote a charming love letter to him. Could it be that her granddaughter inherited a love of words from her and a romantic notion of Avebury, which she must have visited and then penned her poem of Awbury, a return to an ancestral home.

Fair fall on thee the morning light

From western lands

From western lands beyond the foam,
We sought our English fathers' home
By few or known or sung.
Which 'neath the quiet English skies,
far from all busy haunts it lies
The wide chalk downs among.

Huge druid stones surround the spot,
Which else had almost been forgot
By the great world without.
The mystic ring now scarcely traced
Is by a grassy dike embraced,
Circling the whole about.

Deep hangs the thatch on cottage eaves,
And buried deep in ivy leaves
The cottage windows gleam.
There little birds fly to and fro,
And happy children come and go
With rosy cheek and rustic walk,
They curtsy for the gentle folk,
As they the strangers deem.

With pinks and stocks the beds are gay,
And box and yew their shapes display
Fantastically trimmed.
And each small garden overflows
With scent of woodbine and of rose
Above the borders trim.

The ancient little Norman church,
With quaintly medieval porch,
Stands 'neath the elm tree tall
Sunk in the graveyard plot around,
The moss-grown headstones scarce are found
Few stoop the lettering to trace
Which time's rude hand will soon efface.
Some there may be of highborn race,
But none the names recall.

The many gabled manor house,
With winking casement sheen,
Seem in the summer light to drowse
And dream of what has been
And we may dream of earlier days,
When the old convent marked the place,
When nuns in gown and coif complete,
Paced the green paths with quiet feet,
And gather herbs and simples small
Beneath the high brick garden wall,
Finding a safe retreat.

Like some small nest securely placed,
With ferns and grass interlaced,
But open to the light,
The hamlets seem to lie at rest
Upon the common's ample breast,
Secure in loneliness of space
From aught that could the charm efface
Of innocence and old-world grace
Worn by ancestral right.

Home of sweet days and thankful nights,
Fair fall on thee the morning light,
Soft fall the evening dews.
Wild winds perchance may sweep the wold
But age, untouched by storm or cold,
In memory's sight thou standest there,
Encircled by serenest air,
In changeless summer hue.

Mary S Cope (1852-1888)