The Last Man Who Bought Stonehenge in 1915 Paid a Million Bucks
It was 102 years ago, September 21, 1915, the last private owner of Stonehenge dropped 6,600 British pounds on the plot of land around Stonehenge. If that seems nuts, get this. He bought it on a whim, as a gift, to an ungrateful recipient.
The Barrister [read: lawyer] who made the purchase, Cecil Chubb had only popped into an auction when the land hit the auction block. Then he dropped a little over a million bucks in today’s money on a unique parcel.
Chubb told a reporter at the time how he didn’t intend to bid, “but while I was in the room I thought a Salisbury man ought to buy it and that is how it was done”.
Because it’s just what every modern woman wants, he would gift the land to his wife, but there was only one problem. She’d sent him out on a mission to buy curtains. Instead, he brought home the deed to a plot land with a bunch of huge stones on it.
The first construction on Stonehenge began in 3,000 BCE, but for what reason archeologists don’t agree. About 750,000 tourists visit Stonehenge every year, but for a minute, it was Cecil Chubb’s property. He would be the last private owner.
Per the auction catalog, the listing read, “Lot 15. Stonehenge with about 30 acres, 2 rods, 37 perches of adjoining downland.”
Prior to Chubbs, a list of private owners stretched backward through time like history played in reverse. One of the oldest and most venerable owners had been Henry VIII, back in the 16th century.
Then it bounced from earl to duke, to a lord, and then to patron of the arts. Prior to September 21, 1915, Lot 15 had never been up for auction.
At the time Chubb bought it, the land had been in the Antrobus family for the better part of a century. The Great War ended the life of the Antrobus heir, thrusting the property onto the auction block.
As attorneys often do, Cecil Chubb had a lot of money, but it wasn’t always like that. Born in 1876, Chubb grew up in a humble home, four miles west of Stonehenge. His father labored as a saddler for the village.
Chubb studied in the village school, then went on to study, science, and law. He graduated with his master of arts and a bachelor of law.
In 1902, he married a woman named Mary Finch, the woman for whom he would later buy Stonehenge. After Chubb married Finch, he made some broad investments like land, an asylum, and a successful racehorse.
It was these investments which prompted a local boy to recommend he consider the purchase of Stonehenge. Chubb attended the auction with no intentions of bidding, out of curiosity.
After three whole years of ownership, Chubb donated Lot 15 to England, but with a few provisions.
He decreed that the entrance fee should always be free for locals, and no more than a shilling for visitors. That would be about 61 U.S. cents in today’s money. He also insisted that the money made off the site go directly to the Red Cross until the war ended.
Stonehenge remains one of the great mysteries of western civilization, a UNESCO World Heritage site. That hasn’t stopped it from appreciating. Today’s estimates put Lot 15 in the neighborhood of $66-million.