As the Summer Solstice approaches and thoughts turn to gatherings at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise, could it be Brighton and Hove once had its own ritual prehistoric stone circle? Sites such as the Neolithic enclosure at Whitehawk indicate that Brighton was a major prehistoric centre but where is the ‘Brighton Henge’?
A three metre high stone, known as the ‘Goldstone’, stands today in Hove Park surrounded by a circle of smaller sandstone blocks. This appears to be the product of early 20th century landscaping – but is the story more complicated than this?
The central stone once stood upright in what is now the area near the southern entrance of Hove Park. It attracted so much interest during the 1830s that the landowner buried it to avoid sightseers trampling his crops. It was later located, excavated and eventually moved to its existing location in 1906.
However, there is no real evidence this stone was part of any prehistoric monument.
What appear more interesting are the smaller stones, which currently surround the ‘Goldstone’. These stones originally occupied a site in the northern part of present day Hove Park and from a sketch made in c1828 by H.G. Hine it would appear they were carefully arranged next to each other in a circular formation, similar to other surviving prehistoric stone circles.
Around the same time as the burying of the ‘Goldstone’, these stones were removed and used to infill a local pond. They were not seen again until the re-siting of the Goldstone, when a few were used to form the surrounding small circle.
Although the present arrangement of the stones is a modern construction, it is possible that at least some of the stones once formed part of a prehistoric monument; which may have been used to celebrate the solstice. At the very least they act as reminders of Brighton and Hove’s fascinating prehistoric past.
Andy, Volunteer Local History & Archaeology