Maumbury Rings is a Neolithic henge in the south of Dorchester town in Dorset, England. It is a large circular earthwork, 85 metres in diameter, with a single bank and internal ditch and an entrance to the north east. The ditch was created by digging a series of funnel-shaped shafts, each 10 metres deep, which were so closely positioned as to create a continuous trench. Human and deer skull fragments were found in the ditch fill when it was excavated in the early 20th century.
Two thousand five hundred years after construction, during the Roman occupation (about 100AD), the site was adapted as an amphitheatre for the use of the citizens of the nearby Roman town of Durnovaria (Dorchester). The entrance was retained and an inner enclosure built in the south west interpreted as being for the use of the performers. The inside of the henge was lowered, with the material produced piled onto the banks.
During the Civil War the site was again reused as an artillery fort guarding the southern approach to Dorchester. The site as it exists today is a product of the remodelling during this era - the most significant modification was the large ramp opposite the entrance.
Its amphitheatre role was briefly revived in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, as a place of public execution. In 1685, at the close of the Monmouth Rebellion, Judge Jeffreys ordered eighty of the rebels to be executed here. In 1705 Mary Channing, a nineteen-year-old woman found guilty of poisoning her husband, was executed by strangulation and burning at the Rings. Thomas Hardy used this event in his poem The Mock Wife and mentioned it in The Mayor of Casterbridge, as well as recording some details of his research into the event in his personal writings.
The monument is now a public open space, and used for open-air concerts, festivals and re-enactments.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Maumbury Rings.|
- Location: grid reference SY690899
- Maumbury Rings site page on The Megalithic Portal
- Photos of Maumbury Rings from visit-dorchester.co.uk
- Maumbury Rings website