The Earl and Countess of Wessex saw for themselves the results of the West’s biggest heritage projects on Thursday as they visited Stonehenge and then Salisbury.
In typical British weather, Prince Edward and the Countess braved torrential downpours and basked in sunshine to officially open the new visitor centre at Stonehenge. The centre was built a mile and a half away from the famous stone circle will now give visitors a new high-tech “virtual” Stonehenge experience, an experience that the Royal couple were more than happy to try out.
The new centre also gives visitors a flavour of how the local landscape has changed over the millennia, before they trundle up the stones in a carriage to see the stone circle for themselves. The new centre has replaced the old 1960’s ‘concrete bunker’, which in the past been described as a national disgrace. The old centre has now been removed and the road closed, with plans to grass over the area in the summer and return the stones to their ‘original environment’.
— Salisbury Journal (@journalupdate) May 1, 2014
The Royal couple then moved on to Salisbury. The purpose of this trip was to see another aspect of the £27 million English Heritage project. As part of the partnership, which has seen some of the artifacts held in local museums be loaned to the new visitor centre at Stonehenge, those museums are now benefiting from multi million pound makeovers.
The new galleries at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes were officially opened by Princess Anne last month. Prince Edward officially opened the new Wessex Gallery of Archaeology, a new £2.4 million world-class gallery at Salisbury museum. The most symbolic moment of the opening came when the Prince placed the final exhibit in to position, the ninth century “Warminster Jewel”.
The Earl and Countess also made a brief visit to Salisbury Cathedral, which lies directly opposite the Museum.
Adrian Green, director of Salisbury Museum said, “The opening of the Wessex Gallery this summer marks the beginning of a larger programme of re-imagining the Salisbury Museum as a centre of discovery and excellence. We know the Earl and Countess of Wessex are keen on history and cannot think of a more appropriate way to launch this next phase of the Museum’s history. They were both invited to help install the Warminster Jewel, a ninth century gold, rock crystal and lapis jewel inset which was found in a field near Cley Hill, Warminster in 1997”.
The visit came just a day before the Earl and Countess of Wessex paid a visit to Weymouth Community Safety Centre in Dorset. The Royal couple are swiftly becoming two of the most travelled members of the Royal Family, with engagement counts increasing each year.
photo credit: Mikepaws via photopin cc