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Beechingstoke G1

primary name: Beechingstoke G1

other name: RCH: Hatfield Barrow

archaeology / bronze age

SiteName: Inside Marden Earthwork, Parish: Beechingstoke, County: Wiltshire, LocalityType: bowl barrow, LocalityType: round barrow, Coordinates: NGR:ST09205820

Bowl barrow with 2 primary (?) cremations with wood ashes and deer, pig and bird bones. A huge mound was then constructed on top of the burials (22.5ft high).
author: Martin, Andrew, Dr.

The large round barrow, being the most prominent feature within the area, claims our first attention. Neither labour nor expense has been spared in endeavouring to ascertain the original purpose for which this immense mound was raised ; but each has failed, and full scope is still left for conjecture. As that may in some degree be assisted by a full statement of facts attending the operations of our spade, I shall here insert them from our journal of the year 1809. " The enormous tumulus within this work, called HATFIELD BARROW is situated on the East side of the area; it is of a circular form, and has a deep and wide ditch around it, which in winter is nearly full of water, although the soil consists of a greenish sand. From having been some time in tillage, the height is probably decreased some feet; its elevation above the floor of the barrow (viz. the original soil) is at present twenty-two feet and a half: the area, within the circumvallation, supposing the works perfect, would amount to fifty-one acres. We began our operations by making a large square opening in the centre, but the tumulus being composed of sand, which continually slipped down, we afterwards carried our section in the form of an inverted cone. When at the depth of about twenty-two feet on the east side of the section, and eighteen on the west side, we came to the bottom of the barrow, but from the heavy masses of sand that still continued to slip down, several days elapsed before we could clear the space of about twenty-three by twenty-four feet of the floor. During the operation of digging, our discoveries where exactly similar to those we have made in many other circular barrows where cremation has been practiced. From the depth of two or three feet from the summit of the tumulus to the bottom, the men frequently met with charred wood, animal bones of red deer, swine, and those of a large bird, as well as two small parcels of burned human bones. Upon the floor of the barrow, we found charred wood scattered over the part that we cleared, and in one place, where there were large quantities of charred wood, we picked up some small pieces of human burned bones ; and as similar circumstances often occur in barrows where burning has been practised, we concluded that in this spot the body of the person here interred, was consumed, and that here his remains were gathered up, to be finally deposited in a cist, or under the shelter of a sepulchral urn; and our anxiety as well as our hopes of information began rapidly to increase: but alas! notwithstanding all our energy and exertions, we were doomed to remain in ignorance respecting the original destination of this gigantic barrow; and fortunately had not (added to our disappointment) to regret the loss of several of our labourers, who most providentially escaped an untimely end by having been called off from their work by Mr. Cunnington, at a time when the soil of the barrow appeared sound, but proved otherwise, by falling in very shortly after the men had quitted their labours. Mr. Cunnington was of opinion that this mound was sepulchral, but from the discoveries we made in digging down from the summit to the floor, I do not think he found a sufficient basis to support his hypothesis. With respect to its high antiquity, and being the work of our British ancestors, no doubt can be entertained; and its situation about midway between Stonehenge and Abury, with the vicinity of a British trackway, seems to indicate an intermediate connexion with those two grand sanctuaries. Although I have so frequently agreed in opinion with Mr. Cunnington upon British topics, I cannot justify myself in coalescing with him respecting the sepulchral origin of this tumulus, though I think it may have been devoted to religious as well as civil purposes. It may probably have been either a Hill Altar, or a locus consecratus, at which the Druids attended to decide various causes, and issue their decrees; such which are described by Caesar as existing in Gaul. " Once in every year the Druids assemble at a consecrated place in the territory of the Carnutes, whose country is supposed to be situated in the centre of Gaul. Hither such as have any suits depending, resort from all parts, and submit implicitly to the decrees of the Druids. Their institution is said to have come originally from Britain, from whence it passed into Gaul." That this enclosure was not destined for military purposes, the circumstance of the ditch being placed within the vallum, most satisfactorily proves; and we can never imagine that so laborious an earthen work could have been constructed merely to protect a mound raised over the body of a simple individual. In the ditch. and vallum we perceive a resemblance to the grander temple at Abury ; and a huge tumulus supplies, within the area, the place of a stone temple, for here nature has not produced that material, which is so abundant in the immediate neighbourhood of Abury. I am therefore inclined to think that this barrow was designed for an hill altar, or a place of general assembly, not a sepulchre; and the numerous remains of the horns and bones of men, birds, and beasts, which have been discovered within the barrow, and area of the earthenworks, seem to corroborate this opinion.*

Ditch filled with water in wet weather. Destroyed before 1818. The height, as given by RCH, was 22 1/2 ft., but Gough's Camden gave it as 50 ft. (1806 edn. i. 159) Diam. as in op. cit. Ex. RCH and WC: wood ashes, animal bones, and 2 small deposits of burnt human bones (secondary?). AW ii. 4-6; WAM Iii. 2I'7. Query whether a Norman motte (MEC, Intro. Arch. Wilts. 1949 161) See also WAM lvi, 4-I I.

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