International law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has acted for long-standing client Historic England on the acquisition of two henge monuments and their surrounding landscape, part of the Neolithic complex in North Yorkshire dubbed "the Stonehenge of the North".

The Thornborough Henges complex, near Ripon, is an extremely important site, consisting of three giant, circular earthworks (known as ‘henges’) each more than 200m in diameter. Dating from 3500 to 2500 BC, the henges are of outstanding national significance. The earthworks are thought to have been part of a 'ritual landscape', comparable with Salisbury Plain in south-west England, and are probably the most important single ancient site between Stonehenge and the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

Historic England has acquired the henges from Tarmac, a sustainable building materials and construction solutions business, who have gifted the complex into legal ownership of the government's heritage advisor.

The henges will join Stonehenge, Iron Bridge, Dover Castle, Kenwood and numerous Roman sites on Hadrian’s Wall within the National Heritage Collection. They are now under the care of English Heritage and are free to visit. As part of its interpretation programme, the charity will share with visitors Thornborough Henges’ stories and explain its significance.

The WBD team acting for Historic England was led by Partner William Akerman and Managing Associate Georgina Hook from the firm's Real Estate practice. They were assisted by Paralegal Adam Sykes and Solicitor Ash Kaur.

William Akerman from WBD commented:

"This was an important transaction for Historic England and we are proud to have played a part in the safeguarding of this significant site. We have a particular knowledge and skillset in this area, having worked together with Historic England and English Heritage for a number of years and we are thrilled to continue our long-standing relationship with this important client of our firm."

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive, said: 

“Thornborough Henges and their surrounding landscape form part of the most important concentration of Neolithic monuments in the North of England. We are thrilled to have acquired this highly significant site for the nation and are grateful to the team at Womble Bond Dickinson for advising us on this acquisition."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak MP, whose Richmond (Yorks) parliamentary constituency includes the henges site, said: 

“The Thornborough Henges site has enormous potential to help tell the story of ancient Britain and I very much welcome this announcement about its future – its safeguarding and preservation for the nation. 

Comparatively few people are aware of its significance – both locally and nationally. I hope many more will come to appreciate this little-known gem of our history and while doing so provide a welcome boost to the local visitor economy.” 

Womble Bond Dickinson advises Historic England on acquisition of 'the Stonehenge of the North'