• Rock was 'used by Druids in a burial mound' before being excavated by an archaeologist 200 years ago, researchers believe
  • The 200lb space rock is four times larger than the next biggest discovered
© Steve Roberts/SWNS.com
Prof Colin Pillinger with the rock, now on display for the first time in 30,000 years
The biggest meteorite to ever fall to Britain has gone on display for the first time.

The rock lay undiscovered on the doorstep of a house for at least 80 years before being revealed as a 200lb space rock, measuring 1.6ft long.

After sitting on the step of Lake House near Wilsford-cum-Lake, Wiltshire, since the 1900s, it is on display for the first time at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum from today.

Experts there initially believed the meteorite had landed in another part of the world several thousand years ago before being brought over to England.

But researchers worked out that the rock had actually landed here 32,000 years ago - making it bigger than any other meteorite found in Britain.

It was handed in to the Natural History Museum when the Bailey family sold Lake House to musician Sting in 1991.

Professor Colin Pillinger, said he realised the meteorite's amazing history when he spotted a photograph of it in Country Life magazine.

© SWNS.com
Direct to the door step from space: Experts previously assumed that the rock landed in another part of the world before being brought over to England
He said: 'We know that it fell onto this part of the world around 30,000BC, and it probably would have fallen onto an ice sheet, which preserved it.

'We think it must have been found by Neolithic people who built Stonehenge and all the hundreds of burial barrows all over Salisbury Plain.

'They buried it, which preserved it again, in the chalk, because meteorites don't tend to last long in the British climate.

'It was when we realised from photos in Country Life, that this stone had been at Lake House before the Baileys and going back into the 19th century that we realised it must have been dug up by Edward Duke, whose family lived there for 11 generations, who was a trained archaeologist and who excavated lots of barrows on his estate.

'It was a real mystery that needed a lot of detective work. That's the great thing about science, that you start off with one thing and then end up with a different story altogether.'

The significance of the rock first became apparent in 1991 when the family of the previous owner of Lake House decided to sell the property.
© Wikipedia Commons
Stately: Lake House, near Wilsford-cum-Lake, Wiltshire, where the rock sat on the doorstep for 80 years
They took the specimen - which they called 'grandfather's meteorite' - to the Natural History Museum but experts could not verify if it had been found in the UK.

The family had always assumed that their grandfather had collected the rock on his travels abroad.

But Professor Pillinger, who has been researching the meteorite's history for more than a year, found photographic evidence of the rock on the steps of the house before the family owned it.

The expert, famed for his work on the Beagle II Mars explorer, believes the rock could have landed on Salisbury Plain 30,000 years ago before being picked up by druids.

They might have used it in the construction of a chalk mound - such as Silbury Hill near Avebury, Wilts., - which would have protected it from decay, he explained.

The meteorite, known as a common chondrite, went on display at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire museum, in the city, on Tuesday.

Adrian Green, director of the museum, said: 'It's not uncommon for exotic rocks to be built into burial mounds.

'And it's still covered in chalk which is the bedrock of the landscape.

'And it's colossal - it would take four people to lift it - and it's not aesthetically pleasing, so common sense dictates that this has not been shipped from abroad at ridiculous cost and significant effort, but that it came from the UK.'

The meteorite is on long-term loan to the museum from the Bailey family and will be displayed there until September 22.