These could be seen for miles around, presumably attracting revelers to party throughout the shortest night. Sometimes, people would jump through the flames or run through the dying embers in the belief it would bring luck.
With the coming of Christianity to England, many midsummer celebrations were moved to the feast of St. John the Baptist, on June 24, but still involved outdoor revels.
But things can go full circle.
In 1997, a group of Brockley artists, inspired by an interest in the past, came up with the idea of creating a new stone circle to act as a giant sundial and a focal point for people to gather and celebrate.
The idea infiltrated various groups such as churches, schools, and clubs and was eventually adopted by the Brockley Society as a millennium project. The circle was laid out on Hilly Fields, Brockley, a park dedicated to the public since 1896 and the site of an annual midsummer fair for just over 25 years.
Boulders were transported from Scotland and set in place on the morning of the spring equinox, March 21, 2000. It was opened in May last year and the gateway dedicated to Brockley's patron saint, Norbert.
Michael Perry, who watched the solstice sunrise at 4:45 a.m. on June 21 last year, said: "A visit to the stones gives you an opportunity to reflect on your life and how this is integral to time. Myths and legends surround stone circles. It is up to us to continue this process."
This year, the Brockley Society's summer fair takes place on Saturday, June 23, from noon. The day's events will be designed to entertain people of the 21st century but its timing, at the height of summer, follows an ancient tradition.
(c) 2001 Newsquest Media Group
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