Earthworks: Long Barrows

Pages 431-433

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 2, South east. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1970.

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Long Barrows: Inventory

Bere Regis

(66) Long Barrow, possibly chambered (SY 89 NW; 82989725), lies on Bere Down, about 200 ft. above O.D., just below the crest of a broad chalk ridge, on ground sloping gently to N.W., W. and S.; it is only seen in silhouette at close range from N. and S.

On a bearing of 70°, it is 176 ft. long, 65 ft. wide in the middle where widest, and some 7 ft. high at the E. end and 6 ft. at the W. A slight terrace, some 45 ft. wide, parallel to the barrow on the S., probably marks the site of the ditch. The centre of the mound has been cut into from the S. and the spine hollowed for 114 ft. from the W. end. Five sarsen boulders, none more than 2½ ft. long and 1¼ ft. deep, lie scattered, two on the hollowed spine and three in the S. excavation where there is a large heap of flints. The barrow was used as a 'Celtic' field boundary (see Ancient Field Group (30)), and lynchets run up to it, crossing the line of any ditch that may have existed on the N. The mound has been damaged by rabbits and ploughing.


(12) Long Barrow (SY 68 NE; 68858515; Fig. p. 24), about 520 ft. above O.D., is prominently sited on the crest of a ridge with ground falling from it on all sides but the S.; it forms part of the Bincombe Hill Barrow Group (R. 10).

Almost E.-W. (88°), it is 270 ft. long but formerly extended at both ends beyond the field boundaries, where the hedges still preserve the mound to a height of 3½ ft. Where undisturbed it has a ridged cross-profile and is some 45 ft. wide and about 5 ft. high from the S.; on the N., where ploughing at some time before enclosure has formed a negative lynchet, it is 6 ft. high at the W. end and 8 ft. at the E. Further damage has been caused by modern ploughing on the S. and by tracks at either end.


(19) Bank Barrow (SY 78 NW; 70288533; Fig. p. 458, Plate 209), at the extreme S.W. of the parish was, identified by O. G. S. Crawford (Antiquity XII (1938), 229). It lies at the S.E. end of the Ridgeway Barrow Group (see p. 426), on the summit of the Upper Chalk ridge, about 470 ft. above O.D., with the ground falling from it to N., N.E. and S.

On a bearing of 102°, it is at least 600 ft. long, with flattened top and steep sides; the W. and E. ends are respectively 49 ft. and 57 ft. wide, and 5½ ft. and 7 ft. high above the bottom of the ditch on the S. The ditch here is continuous and about 25 ft. wide, but on the N. constant ploughing has obscured all but a slight depression except adjacent to a round barrow, Broadmayne (21), where a drop of 9 ft. below the crest of the bank barrow apparently represents the original ditch. Another round barrow, Broadmayne (20), seems deliberately placed over the W. end of the bank barrow, and its ditch on the S., where undisturbed, continues the flanking ditch of the latter. At the E. end the bank barrow has been partly destroyed, but it is virtually certain that it never continued to the S. of the modern road. (See profile on map of Ridgeway Area, in pocket.)

Church Knowle

(34) Oval Barrow, long barrow (?) (SY 98 SW; 92348208), 570 ft. above O.D., is prominently sited on Stonehill Down, a narrow steep-sided ridge falling gently E.

Church Knowle

Aligned almost E.-W. (88°), it is 96 ft. long, 64 ft. wide and 9 ft. high from the N. It is very rounded in profile, except for disturbance at the top, and is surrounded by a sloping berm, narrow and indistinct on the sides but well-marked and up to 8 ft. wide at either end. The ditch, at most 1 ft. deep, is 12 ft. wide along the sides and 20 ft. at the ends where it is now interrupted by causeways 11 ft. wide. The E. causeway, on the main E.-W. axis, is clearly original but the western appears to be a later insertion; it dips as it crosses the ditch, which ends irregularly on either side of it.

Corfe Castle

(181) Long Barrow (SY 98 SE; 99588151; Fig. p. 444), is sited about 600 ft. above O.D. on Ailwood Down, adjacent to the round barrows of Group (L). It lies along the contour of the S. shoulder of the chalk ridge of the Purbeck Hills and is only seen in silhouette from the steep slope to the S.

On a bearing of 97°, it is about 112 ft. long, approximately 40 ft. wide, and about 3 ft. high from the N. and 6 ft. from the S. The sides are apparently parallel but are disturbed by old excavations. Slight depressions to E., S. and W. probably mark the original quarry ditches; a small round barrow, Corfe Castle (217), immediately S.E., seems to impinge on the ditch.


(33) The Hell Stone, Neolithic chambered long barrow (SY 68 NW; 60588670; Plate 208), is situated on Portesham Hill, over 600 ft. above O.D., on the summit of the S.-facing limestone escarpment which here forms a flat-topped ridge running N.W.-S.E.; the ground falls steeply on the S.W. to a re-entrant and less steeply on the N.E. to a dry valley. The long mound is aligned along the ridge (130°), with a reconstructed stone chamber exposed at the S.E. end.

The much-damaged mound is at least 88 ft. long and up to 40 ft. wide, tapering slightly to N.W.; it is of rounded crossprofile and rises to a maximum height of 5 ft. near the chamber, but further S.E. it is much disturbed and at most 2 ft. high. The chamber, incorrectly rebuilt in 1866, now consists of nine orthostats, up to 5¾ ft. high and from 1¼ ft. to 1¾ ft. thick, supporting a roughly oval capstone, 10 ft. by 8 ft. and averaging just over 2 ft. thick. Smaller stones embedded in the mound in front of the chamber may represent a former peristalith, probably not continuous. The stones are sarsen of Bagshot age, a hard Tertiary conglomerate containing flint gravel. A drawing of 1790 by S. H. Grimm (B.M. Add. MS. 15538; reproduced on Plate 208) shows the capstone supported by one or two orthostats and tilting to the S., with another orthostat to the N. and recumbent stones to S. and S.W.; Hutchins, who published a similar illustration (II, facing 759), states that the arrangement of the stones was partly due to shepherds who used the chamber as a shelter (1st edn. (1774), I, 554). Nevertheless the stones clearly represent an original chamber, and the Hell Stone is comparable to the 'Grey Mare and her Colts', less than 1½ miles to the W. on the same ridge (S. Piggott, Dorset Procs. LXVII (1945), 30–3; Dorset I, Long Bredy (15)).

The barrow is now crossed by a stone wall running N.-S., to E. of which it has been disturbed by digging. Ploughing has encroached on the mound, and air photographs (CPE/UK 1824, 3291) suggest that it was used as a 'Celtic' field boundary (see Ancient Field Group (5)).

(C. Warne, Ancient Dorset (1872), 135 and Pl. XXIII; Dorset Procs. XXIX (1908), lxxv-lxxviii.)


(5) Long Barrow (SY 68 NE; 69978567; Fig. p. 458), 400 yds. N.W. of the bank barrow, Broadmayne (19), is sited about 450 ft. above O.D. just below the shoulder of a broad ridge on ground dipping N.W. On a bearing of 46°, it is about 170 ft. long, 50 ft. wide and about 7 ft. high; at the N.E. end is a sharp rise to an additional mound, probably a later round barrow (Whitcombe (8)), with a total height of 12 ft. (see profile, p. 458). Remains of side ditches are obscured by undergrowth and trees. (Hutchins II, 291.)

Winterbourne Abbas

(13) Oval Barrow, long barrow(?) (SY 69 SW; 60459006), is sited about 450 ft. above O.D. on a gentle N.E.-facing slope just below the crest of a broad ridge. It has been much ploughed and is now only about 1½ ft. high and measures 70 ft. (E.-W.) by 40 ft. Under plough it showed only earth and flints as in the surrounding field. It lies N.E. of the Long-lands Barrow Group (AF).

Winterborne Monkton

(3) Long Barrow (?) (SY 68 NE; 66548877; Fig. p. 494), lies 30 yds. due N. of the outer bank of the W. entrance of Maiden Castle, about 350 ft. above O.D. on the E.-facing slope of a chalk ridge. On a bearing of 142°, it is about 90 ft. long, at most about 50 ft. wide, about 5 ft. high from below but almost flat from above with rounded ends returning uphill. At the S. end the plough had exposed a thick spread of heavy flints and there was the remnant of a shallow pit or ditch, over 10 ft. across. Oblique air photographs taken in the 1930's by Major G. W. G. Allen show a narrow mound with unusually tapered ends, possibly sharpened by tracks or ploughing. There has been intensive ploughing since then.

(4) Long Barrow (SY 68 NE; 66568930; Fig. p. 494), within the Lanceborough Barrow Group (AH), lies over 300 ft. above O.D. on a broad flat-topped chalk rise from which the ground drops gently to N., E. and S. Aligned almost N.-S. (2°), it is 320 ft. long, 45 ft. wide on average, and 3 ins. high above the ditch bottom on the W. and 1¼ ft. on the E. The parallel side ditches have clearly defined ends on the S., but both mound and ditches fade out to the N. The W. ditch shows as a straight dark soil-mark, about 12 ft. wide, along a broad shallow depression; the E. ditch, on an almost level shelf, is less regular. The ditch of a ploughed-out round barrow, Winterborne Monkton (5), almost touches the long barrow ditch on the S.W. The mound has been heavily ploughed and perhaps deliberately levelled.

Winterborne St. Martin

(23) Maiden Castle Long Mound (SY 68 NE; 66608855–67128842; Figs. p. 494, opp. p. 498, Plate 213), is a unique Neolithic burial mound, 1790 ft. long, flanked by parallel side ditches, 60 ft. apart; it is nearly three times as long as bank barrow Broadmayne (19). It lies within the ramparts of the great hill-fort, Winterborne St. Martin (142), at 430 ft. above O.D. on a saddlebacked hill forming the W. end of a broad low ridge of Upper Chalk. It is sited to the N. of the crest, and some 600 ft. from its E. end its alignment changes from N.W.-S.E. to W.N.W.-E.S.E. and follows the contour of the hill; it thus seems deliberately placed so as to be wholly visible from the lower ground to the N. (see Lanceborough Barrow Group (AH)). The long mound was built over the filled up ditches of the W. side of the causewayed camp (see under Hill-forts, Winterborne St. Martin (142)), and has in turn been cut by the ditch of the first-phase hill-fort. A length of 1000 ft. on the W. was apparently destroyed as early as the 1st century A.D., and ploughing from at least the 17th century has reduced it further. It was examined by R. E. M. Wheeler in 1936 and 1937, and in 1951 R. J. C. Atkinson made a small cutting across the W. section.

The W. part of the mound is now barely visible. From immediately N. of the W. entrance of the hill-fort it runs E.S.E. as a very low, rounded scarp for about 1000 ft.; it then continues for 190 ft. as a well-defined mound 60 ft. across and up to 4 ft. high. East of the ditch of the first-phase hill-fort it is over-ridden by the remains of the hill-fort rampart and continues S.E. for a further 500 ft., very spread and rounded and rarely more than 2 ft. high. The flanking ditches do not return round the ends of the mound; the S. ditch is largely undetectable on the ground, and the N. appears as a slight shelf. The W. end of this ditch is covered by the inner rampart of the final hill-fort.

Wheeler's excavations (Fig. opp. p. 498, Plate 213) showed that the ditches were parallel and on average 60 ft. apart except at the change in direction where the distance was rather less. They were mainly regular, steep-sided and flat-bottomed, 5 ft. to 6 ft. deep, 12 ft. to 15 ft. across at the top and 7 ft. to 11 ft. across the bottom. The stratification was fairly uniform. The rapid silt and a black hearth layer overlying it at many points contained sherds of Windmill Hill ware only, with ox bones occurring at the E. ends of both ditches. Above this the filling included Peterborough sherds, and the upper layers contained occupation material associated with Beaker, Rinyo-Clacton and Early Bronze Age wares. A band of clay represented the turf and humus which sealed the ditch between the Early Bronze Age and the Iron Age, and the filling above this was riddled with Iron Age pits. The mound below the hill-fort rampart was preserved to a height of 5 ft. and its 'turf-line' was continuous with that sealing the Early Bronze Age filling of the ditches. Occasional post-holes attributed to the Neolithic period occurred along the inner margin of the ditches, and four post-holes at the extreme E. end of the mound suggested a concave revetment. Immediately W. of this, on the axis of the mound, was an oval pit containing Windmill Hill pottery, limpet-shells and bone fragments. Also on the main axis, 74 ft. from the E. end, was a primary inhumation of a young adult male, the skeleton showing evidence of extensive mutilation, including trepanning, immediately after death; 30 ft. to the S.E. were two crouched inhumations of small children with a small Windmill Hill cup. E. of these, just below the surface, was an intrusive pagan Saxon burial (see also p. xlix, n. 2).

The cutting by R. J. C. Atkinson across the W. section suggested there had been some destruction during the Iron Age and substantial levelling by the mid 1st century A.D.

(R. E. M. Wheeler, Maiden Castle (1943), 18–24, 86–9; R. J. C. Atkinson, Dorset Procs. LXXIV (1952), 36–8.)

Winterbourne Steepleton

(13) Long Barrow (SY 68 NW; 60438836; Fig. opp. p. 624), lies on Sheep Down, about 580 ft. above O.D., on the side of a long arable slope falling N.E. from Black Down. On a bearing of 124°, it is 174 ft. long, 70 ft. wide at the N.W. end and 88 ft. at the S.E., where it rises to its maximum height of 6 ft. It was probably incorporated in a 'Celtic' field lay-out (see Ancient Field Group (3), p. 624); plough soil is piled against the S. side, and a lynchet meets the E. end at right angles from the S. The whole has been heavily ploughed in recent times.


The parish monument numbers of long barrows in this Inventory are shown in the column headed R.C.H.M.. The parish numbers of barrows in L. V. Grinsell, Dorset Barrows (1959), and the barrow numbers on the Ordnance Survey Map of Neolithic Wessex (1932) are listed respectively under the headings L.V.G. and Neo. Wx.

R.C.H.M. L.V.G. Neo. Wx.
Bere Regis 66 I 155
Bincombe 12
Broadmayne 19 I
Church Knowle 34 II
Corfe Castle 181 I 185
Portesham 33 II 145
Whitcombe 5 I 154
Winterbourne Abbas 13 I 147
Winterborne Monkton 3 I
" " 4
Winterborne St. Martin 23 I
Winterbourne Steepleton 13 I 146

Other monuments noted as long barrows by Grinsell or the Ordnance Survey will be found elsewhere in the Inventory as follows

Church Knowle: LVG I, see Mounds (51).

Portesham: LVG I and Neo. Wx. 144, see Round Barrows (44) and Stones (59).

Winterbourne Steepleton: LVG II and Neo. Wx. 148, see Stones (65); LVG III and Neo. Wx. 150, see Round Barrows (60).