Rolleston’s Barrow, Rushmore, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – ST 95552 18233

Archaeology & History

Plan of Rollestons Barrow, 1880

In what today seems a barely visible tumulus, amidst the large cluster that could once be found upon the large estate grounds of Rushmore House, were once the overgrown ruins of an old tumulus.  It seems to have been rediscovered in the 19th century, when the legendary antiquarian, General Pitt-Rivers, moved onto the huge estate.  It was all but hidden even in his day, he told, but being “of such slight elevation that, like many others, it had never been noticed.”  It was the first of all the barrows they excavated on his Estate, and is to be found “near the house on the south side of the lower south coach road.”

So, in 1880, he got some of the estate lads to help him and Rolleston start a dig into the old tomb – and they weren’t to be disappointed.  It wasn’t anything special, but it was the first amongst many hereby.  In Pitt-River’s (1888) massive tome on the prehistory of the region, he told us:

“This was the first barrow opened at Rushmore, on the 10th August, 1880. Professor Rolleston and the Rev. H. Winwood were present at the opening. The elevation was so slight that it had hitherto escaped notice.  In the centre, 1 foot 6 inches beneath the crest, a layer of charcoal and ashes, 9 feet by 6 feet, was found containing a burnt body.  The body appears to have been burnt on the spot, and not gathered up after cremation, but a mound raised over the funereal pile.  A few fragments of bronze, probably the remains of some implement which had corroded or been burnt, were found in the ashes, and in the body of the barrow two flint scrapers, a well-formed flint borer, and a boat-shaped flint…were found (see illustration above, PB).  A few scattered fragments of pottery found in the barrow were of a superior and harder baked quality than is usual in barrows.  No trace of a ditch was found around the barrow, but towards the north of the centre, a depression—EE on plan—which might, or might not, have been a grave, but filled with mould and without remains, was discovered.  The barrow is undoubtedly of the Bronze Age, and is interesting on account of it being the last at the opening of which Professor Rolleston assisted shortly before his death.”

As a result of this, he decided to name to barrow after his old friend and also planted a beech tree on top of the barrow in remembrance of him.

References:

  1. Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F., Excavations in Cranborne Chase, near Rushmore – volume 2, Harrison & Sons: London 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  50.963501, -2.064711 Rolleston\'s Barrow

Old Pleck Barrow, Rushmore, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference — ST 95459 17548

Old Pleck on 1889 OS-map

Archaeology & History

This long-lost burial mound was one in a large group of prehistoric tombs that were explored in the 19th century by the legendary antiquarian, General Pitt-Rivers. It had already been destroyed before the General came to live on his Rushmore estate in southern Wiltshire, but thankfully, his diligence as an inquirer prevailed and he was able to recover at least something of the old site.  Shown on the 1889 OS-map of the area (despite already having been destroyed), in Pitt-River’s (1888) extensive writings he told how, in the scattered woodlands hereby, was

Pitt-Rivers 1888 site-map
Old Pleck Barrow urn

a collection of large barrows near the South Lodge.  They were covered with a thick grove of hazel and other underwood.  One of the barrows—marked by a dotted circle (see sketch-map, left, PB)—had been destroyed before my arrival at Rushmore in 1880.  The earth of the barrow had been removed and a good urn found in it, which had been broken and scattered, but I was fortunate enough to recover one of the fragments which had been preserved by the estate carpenter.

From a sketch that was made of the urn remnant, Pitt-Rivers told how “the character of its ornamentation” resembled that on another urn found in one of the nearby tumuli.

References:

  1. Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F., Excavations in Cranborne Chase, near Rushmore – volume 2, Harrison & Sons: London 1888.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  50.957341, -2.066026 Old Pleck Barrow

Gough’s Barrow, Long Compton, Warwickshire

Archaeology & History

Only known drawing of Gough's Barrow

Only known drawing of Gough’s Barrow

In days of olde there were heathen sites around the edges of the beautiful Rollright Stones complex that have sadly fallen prey to the intensive agriculture of more modern ‘civilized’ times.  It’s become the way of things….. One site of importance in this geomythic  pantheon was the ‘Gough’s Barrow’—so named after a drawing was done of the site by Richard Gough, editor of the 1789 edition of Camden’s Britannia.  As far as I’m aware, it is the only one ever done of this monument.  The Oxford archaeologist George Lambrick (1988) saw “every reason to accept the position and details of the barrow”, upon which stood at least two large stones—one of which gained the description of a ‘druidical pillar.’

Stukeley's 1743 drawing

Stukeley’s 1743 drawing

The same barrow may have been recorded in one of drawings of the great William Stukeley, who visited the Rollright Stones in 1710 and then again in 1723.  On the left-side of the adjacent drawing you can see a denuded mound close to the edge of the picture, similar in shape and form to that drawn by Richard Gough.  It is probably the same tumulus or barrow.  Trial excavations at the site in 1983 looked for any remains of the old tomb, but nothing significant was uncovered.  Lambrick estimated that the site probably measured “about 18m wide and 20m long east-west,” and “was a megalithic barrow and was therefore probably Neolithic in origin.” 

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul & Chanter, James, The Complete Rollright Stones, forthcoming
  2. Bennett, Paul & Wilson, Tom, The Old Stones of Rollright and District, Cockley Press: Chipping Norton 1999.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, Great Stone Circles, Yale University Press 1999.
  4. Lambrick, George, The Rollright Stones, English Heritage 1988.
  5. Peters, Frances, “An Antiquarian Visit to the Rollright Stones,” in Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine, volume 94, 2001.
  6. Stukeley, Willliam, Abury – A Temple to the British Druids, London 1743.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Gough's Barrow

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Gough\'s Barrow 51.975832, -1.572564 Gough\'s Barrow

Galley Hill, Streatley, Bedfordshire

Long Barrow (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 086 268

Archaeology & History

Aligned east-west, a large neolithic long barrow could once be seen to the west of Galley Hill, on where now we find a golf course.  It was sadly destroyed sometime around 1900 AD and its demolition was witnessed by a Mr A. Cumberland of the Dartford Antiquarian Society, who reported there being no archaeological finds of note in the tomb.  Curious…

Equally curious was the view of archaeologist James Dyer (1964) in his assessment of the site, who wrote how

“Air photographs suggest that the barrow was 300 ft long, but this is much larger than normal in the Chilterns, and 150 ft is more reasonable.”

The neolithic and Bronze Age burial specialist Paul Ashbee (1984) maintained the “300 feet” measurement.

Other tumuli can still be seen on the slopes either side of Galley Hill a few hundred yards to the east; and a henge monument has also be found in the area.

References:

  1. Ashbee, Paul, The Earthen Long Barrow in Britain, Geo: Norwich 1984.
  2. Dyer, J.F., “A Secondary Neolithic Camp at Waulud’s Bank, Leagrave,” in Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal 2, 1964.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 2016

 

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  51.929648, -0.421243 Galley Hill

Kirkshaws, Old Monkland, Lanarkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 7249 6279

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 45792

Archaeology & History

Site location on 1864 map
Site location on 1864 map

On the flat meadowlands below the slopes of Old Monkland, half-a-mile southeast of the legendary Pilgrim’s Stone, an old mound once lived.  It may have been here for thousands of years but, with the encroachment of the toxic Industrialists, its time was coming to an end.  The mound was levelled in 1832 and, beneath it, relics from a truly ancient past were unearthed – and destroyed of course.  The account of its demise was told in the Glasgow Evening Post of May 26 that year.  Many years later, the Royal Commission (1978) lads unearthed the information and included the site in their inventory for prehistoric sites in Lanarkshire.  They told:

“In 1832 four cists were discovered during the levelling of a small mound 900m SE of Old Monkland Church. The cists, which measured about 1m by 0.6m, contained the remains of crouched inhumations, two of them double burials with the skulls at opposite ends of the cists. A stone hammer-head and a coin were found in one cist, the latter no doubt indicating subsequent disturbance. There is now no sign of the site, and it is not certain from the report whether the cists were inserted into a small natural  mound or were covered by a barrow.

“The present farmer states that his father discovered a single cist during ploughing in the same field; it contained a pottery vessel which the landowner, Mr Sholto Douglas, was thought to have presented to a museum, but it cannot now be traced.”

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.841448, -4.037763 Kirkshaws

Firtholme, Easington, East Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 4160 1748

Archaeology & History

In and around East Yorkshire, the fabled Yorkshire antiquarians William Greenwell and J.R. Mortimer uncovered and excavated many now-lost prehistoric tombs—some of which, beneath the rounded tumulus of earth, were constructed out of wood instead of stone.  A little-known site, now long gone, once existed in what is now the North Sea, just a few hundred yards off the Easington coast.  Other sites close by are soon to be completely swallowed back into Earth’s body, right on the water-line, but the site described here has long gone.  What little was known of it was described in Mortimer’s (1905) magnum opus, where he told:

“On the beach at Easington, in Holderness, under a tide-demolished barrow, Dr Hewetson and the writer on April 21st, 1894, discovered a double cist made of broad slabs split from the outer shell of the decayed trunk of a willow tree.  This barrow had been swept away by the waves, and its site was at about half-tide-line, and a considerable way from the very low cliffs.  Lining the grave with wood (the branches of trees) would not be difficult to accomplish and would be practised as a protection to the body.”

A henge monument and several other prehistoric barrows have been located in and around Easington, but they’re fading fast!

References:

  1. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, A. Brown: London n.d. (1905).

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Firtholme tumulus

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Firtholme tumulus 53.634939, 0.142083 Firtholme tumulus

Rudston ‘D’ Cursus, East Yorkshire

Cursus: OS Grid Reference – TA 099 717 to TA 096 679

Archaeology & History

Plan of Rudston D Cursus & associated monuments (after I.M. Stead 1976)
Plan of Rudston D Cursus & associated monuments (after I.M. Stead 1976)

To the north of Rudston village and its giant standing stone, running roughly parallel with the divinatory waters of the Gypsey Race river and passing a mass of prehistoric remains en route, we find one the biggest prehistoric cursus monuments in the British Isles: the Rudston D cursus.  More than twice as long as any of the three other cursus monuments nearby, its northern end or ‘terminal’ is flattened in nature (others are rounded) and is due east of the village of Burton Fleming starting at the intriguingly-named Maidens Grave field, just as the land begins to rise at TA 099 717.  From here it begins its almost southern trajectory and runs almost dead straight for several hundred yards until edging, ever so slightly in direction, to a slightly more secure southern alignment.  Past the site of the Rudston henge, the cursus broadens out slightly and, as it reaches the farmlands of Littlethorpe, edges slightly further to a more decisive direct southern route.  The cursus then maintains a dead straight course for another mile, heading straight for, and stopping just short of the Rudston monolith in its modern churchyard.  A short distance before we reach its southern end, archaeologists found that a section of the Cursus C monument cut right across it.  Altogether, the Rudston D Cursus is more than 4km (2.3 miles) long!  At its narrowest width, this monument is a mere 160 feet (50m) across, and at its widest is 280 feet (90m).  A giant by anyone’s standard!

Along the entire length of this continuous ditch and inner bank there were just 3 small cuttings on the western side and three on the east, but two of the eastern openings were quite large.  Some of these openings were affected by natural elements and others by modern agriculture. Today, much of this gigantic ritual monument (as the archaeologists call them) is not visible at ground level.

In visiting this area, make yourself aware of the other monuments in this class: the Rudston A cursus and Rudston B cursus, southeast and southwest of here respectively. A full multidisciplinary analysis of the antiquities in this region is long overdue.  To our ancestors, the mythic terrain and emergent monuments hereby related to each other symbiotically, as both primary aspects (natural) and epiphenomena (man-made) of terra mater: a phenomenon long known to comparative religious students and anthropologists exploring the animistic natural relationship of landscape, tribal groups and monuments.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Rites of the Gods, J.M. Dent: London 1981.
  2. Harding, Jan, ‘Pathways to New Realms: Cursus Monuments and Symbolic Territories,’ in Barclay & Harding, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monuments of Britain and Ireland, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  3. Loveday, Roy, Inscribed Across the Landscape: The Cursus Enigma, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  4. Pennick, Nigel & Devereux, Paul, Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.
  5. Stead, I.M., ‘La Tene Burials between Burton Fleming and Rudston,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume LVI Part II, 1976.

Links:

  1. ADS: Archaeology of Rudston D – Brief archaeological notes on the longest of the four known cursuses in the region.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Rudston 'D' Cursus

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Rudston \'D\' Cursus 54.114347, -0.321356 Rudston \'D\' Cursus

Rudston ‘C’ Cursus, East Yorkshire

Cursus:  OS Grid Reference – TA 0914 6809 – TA 1014 6803

Archaeology & History

D.P. Dymond's 1966 sketch of Rudston 'C' cursus
D.P. Dymond’s 1966 sketch of Rudston ‘C’ cursus

Of the four giant linear cursus monuments that were laid out around the landscape that holds Britain’s largest standing stone—the Rudston monolith—this one, the Rudston ‘C’ cursus, is the one we know the least about. This is mainly due to it receiving the minimum of archaeological attention, which can be forgiven round here as there is so much material to explore!  Traces of the cursus at ground level are also quite negligible.  Thankfully however, like the other cursus monuments nearby, some of the site can be made out on GoogleEarth.  

The alignment of this cursus runs east-to-west, cutting across the Cursus D monument and then running above the northern course of Nature’s curious river known as the Gypsey Race, which local folklore ascribes as being used in animistic divinatory practices.  Cursus C was first noticed in aerial photographs taken by Prof. J.K. St. Joseph in 1961 and first described by D.P. Dymond (1966) a few years later, who told us:

“Immediately north of the village (Rudston), two parallel ditches, about 60 yards apart, are visible as crop-marks running east-west for 1000 yards… As they are too far apart to be considered as road-ditches and are similar to the linear ditches (of Rudston A and B), they are best interpreted as a fragment of a third cursus, C. The western end fades out near the York road as it climbs onto high ground, while at the east the ditches disappear into Bridlington Gate Plantation.  Like Cursus A, this also crossed the Gypsey Race. Approximately 1½ miles northwest of the last westward point of these ditches is the presumed site of two lost long barrows, joined together at one end. There may, therefore, have been an original connection between Cursus C and these long barrows.”

First faint photo of Cursus C
First faint photo of Cursus C

His final remark is quite a good one! And since Dymond’s initial description (according to the PastScape lads anyhow), Cursus C has been found to be much longer than the initial 1000 yards, growing another 500 yards at least!  The final point or ‘terminal’ on the eastern end still remains hidden, as it was intruded upon by the later Argham Dyke and the trees.  The start or western terminal also remains unfound, so we don’t know for sure the exact length of this giant neolithic ‘line on the landscape’, as Pennick and Devereux (1989) call them.

References:

  1. Dymond, D.P., “Ritual Monuments at Rudston, E. Yorkshire, England,” in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 32, 1966.
  2. Harding, Jan, ‘Pathways to New Realms: Cursus Monuments and Symbolic Territories,’ in Barclay & Harding, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monuments of Britain and Ireland, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  3. Loveday, Roy, Inscribed Across the Landscape: The Cursus Enigma, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  4. Manby, T.G., “The Neolithic in Eastern Yorkshire,” in Archaeology in Eastern Yorkshire, University of Sheffield 1988.
  5. Pennick, Nigel & Devereux, Paul, Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.
  6. Stead, I.M., ‘La Tene Burials between Burton Fleming and Rudston,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume LVI Part II, 1976.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Rudston 'C' Cursus

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Rudston \'C\' Cursus 54.096982, -0.324293 Rudston \'C\' Cursus

St. John’s Green, Colchester, Essex

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 9965 2467

Also Known as:

  1. Monument no. 384079 (PastScape)

Archaeology & History

St Johns Green, Colchester
Decorated prehistoric urn from St John’s Green tumulus

In a prehistoric burial mound that was destroyed by the usual self-righteous arrogance of industrialists, this well-decorated urn or beaker in the old photo (right) was somehow retrieved. Included in Dave Clarke’s (1970) major survey on such vessels (as an Abercrombie type A, no less!), the remains came to light in January 1930, “during the laying of a gas main under the west footpath of Flagstaff Road, about 100 yards south of St. John’s Green.”  Although the barrow or tumulus had already been levelled, sheer diligence and care on behalf—one believes—of antiquarian M.R. Hull saved the vessel from an otherwise inevitable doom!

In Mr Hull’s (1946) article on to this and other similar finds in Essex, he described how the urn, about seven inches high,

“…stood upright in the side of the trench, only 18in below the surface.  The ground had been disturbed before, and one side of the beaker was badly damaged… The clay was fine, but contains some sparse grit, fairly large and white.  It is light brown-red in colour and black in the break. The body is decorated all over with impressed lines, some done with the print of a stick or bone, some in an indefinable way which produces an almost maggot-like impression of varying length, and some with the end of a comb, as on the Type B beakers, but the teeth are oblong (very narrow) instead of square—the comb in fact, was very thin, at least at the point.”

References:

  1. Clarke, David L., Beaker Pottery of Great Britain and Ireland – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1970.
  2. Hull, M.R., “Five Bronze Age Beakers from North-East Essex,” in Antiquaries Journal, volume 26, Jan-April 1946.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St John's Green

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St John\'s Green 51.884865, 0.899618 St John\'s Green

Hamilton Farm, Cambuslang, Lanarkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 633 617

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 45084

Archaeology & History

In days of olde, close to the modern M8 on the edge of the modern industrial estate north of Eastfield, was once an old solitary tomb whose home had laid here, undisturbed, until the coming of the Industrialists.  Thought to have been a Bronze Age tumulus, it was destroyed sometime around 1768 according to the regional historian David Ure (1793) who told that,

“A small mound at Hamilton Farm was levelled about 25 years ago.  In it was found a “stone coffin” containing human bones.”

The Royal Commission (1978) lads think this may have been the same prehistoric tomb that was reported found on the nearby estate of Farme and destroyed that same year.  We have no idea what became of the remains and no trace is left of the site.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland. Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.
  2. Ure, David, The History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride, Glasgow 1793.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.829652, -4.183194 Hamilton Farm