In 1985, 300 years after the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion broke out in the West Country, the police broke up the convoy trying to go to Stonehenge at the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’. In 1986, 300 years after Judge Jefferies’ ‘Bloody Assizes’, every arm of the police and law courts were used to stop another attempt to go for the Stones.
The story is not yet over; but this booklet records what went down in 1986, as experienced by those who took part in the campaign.
It draws on many sources: including articles, news reports, leaflets and poems, as well as a chronology prepared by NCCL observers; but its main substance is a collection of first-hand accounts by people involved in the actions. There are also well over a dozen photographs, mostly taken by the participants themselves.
June 14th, Salisbury … I arrived to find a small rally (about 100 people) going on outside the Guildhall, with about 200 members of ‘the public’ watching to see what would happen (there were rumours of a ‘naked protest’). At the same time the walk from London was on its way, grown from 30 to about 150 over the previous couple of days. The police wouldn’t let them into the city; nor would they allow us to march as a body to meet them; we would have to disperse into small groups and meet up in the Cattle Market car park.
I’d bumped into Sue from Bournemouth, who was busy taking photos of everything, and we went to have a cup of tea and then walked up to the roundabout at the top of Castle Street. We arrived just as the London walkers were coming down the road from the A30, and the rest of the people from the Guildhall were emerging from the Cattle Market to meet them. The roundabout was soon completely blocked and we all started walking up the Amesbury road.
This the police took great exception to, linking arms across the road and forcing us all back towards the Cattle Market. It got a bit tense for a few minutes, especially as a few people had ended up on the wrong side of the police line, but eventually we were all moving again with local people leaning over their garden gates to see what was going on, mostly very encouraging. One old lady was even pointing up a side road saying ‘Go that way, you can get to Stonehenge that way,’ but the police once again blocked the road.
It remained tense until we were in the Cattle Market car park, where we were effectively boxed in and worried about riot police suddenly appearing. The authorities has exhumed some law from about 1847 which apparently gave the local council the power to decide where a march should go; and since they didn’t want us going up the Amesbury road and letting us into the city centre on market day was unthinkable to them, the only route left was around the ring road. I think they wanted to point us all in the direction of Pilton and have done with us.
At this point Sue’s camera broke down and we cut through the town to try (unsuccessfully) to get it fixed. We re-joined the march up by the London road roundabout, and by now it had grown enormously. Lots of people from Salisbury had joined in and vehicles arriving hoping to find a festival had joined in too, so that by now there was an enormous carnival cavalcade cascading down Salisbury ring road creating the most bizarre traffic jam in the history of Wiltshire.
At one point we were blocking up three successive roundabouts, and before we left Salisbury there were over 500 people, maybe 1000, and 52 vehicles all with people sitting on the roofs and leaning out of windows and playing musical instruments and having a wonderful time. The sponanaiety of it all made it feel like a revolution was beginning. And the Assistant Chief Constable said what a wonderful day it had been and hadn’t we all been peaceful and well behaved. All along the way people were giving us drinks of orange juice and friendly waves.
We all headed off through Wilton and into Grovely Wood …