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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Archaeological Handbook
of the County of Gloucester

by George Witts

published by G. Norman, Clarence Street
Cheltenham, n.d. (1883)

The text is in the public domain.

This text has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Archaeological Handbook of Gloucestershire


No. 1. — Ablington Barrow

This is situated in the parish of Ablington, about three and a half miles south of Northleach. It was opened in the year 1854. Direction, north and south; its length is about 270 feet, and greatest width 100 feet; its height at the northern end being twelve feet. It is composed of the common oolitic stone of the country. Unlike other barrows in the county, it is surrounded by a double wall of masonry, each having a face outwards and filled with rubble. Towards the north, these walls make a double curve inwards, and in the centre of this curve, between the two walls, stands a large stone, six feet high and five feet wide. An interment was found near the north end of the tumulus in a grave made of rough stones; a few worked flints were also found, but the barrow has never been thoroughly examined. Adjoining the barrow are the remains of a round hut built underground, formed of dry walling similar in character to that found in the tumulus.

See "Our British Ancestors," 1865, p318.

Also "Flint Chips," p494.

See "Anthropological Review," vol. III, p71.

No. 2. — Avening Barrow

This lies half a mile to the east of the village of Avening, and two and a half miles from Nailsworth. It is 160 feet long, its greatest width being 60 feet, and greatest height 6 feet. Its direction is east and west, the highest portion of the barrow being at the east end. It was opened in the year 1809 by the p74Rev. N. Thornbury, Rector of Avening. Three stone chambers were taken out and removed to a grove in the rectory garden, where they are carefully preserved.

See "Archaeologia," vol. XVI, p362.

Also "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," vol. V, p280.

No. 3. — Belas Knapp [SP 022 254]

This celebrated barrow is situated in the parish of Charlton Abbots, seven miles east of Cheltenham and four from Winchcombe, just above a wood known as "Humble Bee How," or "Humble Bey How." It is 197 feet long, and 75 feet wide near the centre, its greatest height being twelve feet six inches. Its direction is north and south, the highest part of the barrow being at the north end. A wall of dry stone surrounded the barrow about two feet high except at the north end, where it rose to seven feet and curved inwards, so as to form a passage towards the centre. This ended about twenty feet from the outer slopes in a massive slab set vertically between two pillars, and supporting a still larger slab set horizontally. At the sides of the barrow are two smaller openings leading to cells, and another cell or cistern is towards the south end. In 1863 a large flat stone, lying exposed on the surface of the barrow at its southern end, was removed, and proved to be the cover of a cell six feet long and two feet six inches wide. In this were found four human bodies, some bones and tusks of boars, a bone scoop, four pieces of pottery, and a few flints. In the autumn of 1863 five more bodies of children and one young man were found at the north end, under a stone eight feet square and two feet thick. Another chamber was found in 1864 on the east side; it was formed of four large rough stones, enclosing an area about five feet square. In this, twelve skeletons were found, but no pottery or flints. Another cistern was found at the south end covered with three large horizontal stones, and walled all round. Another chamber was found on the west side containing the remains of no less than fourteen p75bodies. The number of skeletons found altogether numbered thirty-eight, of all ages, from the infant to extreme old age. All the skulls were of the dolicho-cephalic type except one, and this was doubtless a secondary interment.

See "Proceedings Soc. Ant.," 2nd ser., vol. III, p275.

Also "Mem. Anthrop. Soc." vol. I, p474.

Also "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," vol. VI, p337.


Earth Mysteries
The Modern Antiquarian

No. 4. — Bisley Barrow

A long barrow was opened in 1863 a little to the south of Bisley. A short account of it appeared in the local papers at the time, but I have been unable to find it. The barrow has since been entirely destroyed.

See "Archaeologia," vol. XLII, p201.

No. 5. — Bown Hill Barrow

This lies on Bown Hill, above Woodchester, three miles south-west of Stroud, and two miles north-west of Nailsworth. It is 180 feet long, its greatest width being 50 feet. Its direction is east-north‑east and west-south‑west, the highest end being towards the east-north‑east. It was opened by the Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club in May, 1863. The interior of the barrow was constructed of angular masses of stone, heaped together without any order, amongst which were scattered blocks of considerable size. Only one chamber was found; this was formed of five large stones, two on each side and one placed transversely, measuring eight feet six inches by four feet. The remains of six skeletons were found, and several bones of cattle, teeth of the horse and ox, several boars' tusks, a small flint flake, and some pieces of rude pottery. The barrow had evidently been previously disturbed, and this fact will probably account for the presence of a brass coin of the Roman Emperor Germanicus.º

See "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," vol. III, p199.

Also "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," vol. V, p279.

p76 Nos. 6 and 7. — Camp Barrows

There are two interesting long barrows a little to the south of the village of Camp, two miles north of Bisley; they have been previously described as round barrows, but such is not the case. They are situated close together, the "horned" ends being only 15 feet apart; they extend in contrary directions, one towards the north, the other towards the south. The dimensions of the southern barrow are as follow:— Length, 130 feet; greatest width, 90 feet; the "horned" end being towards the north. The circumscribing walls, formed of Stonefield slate, are exposed to view in a quarry at the southern end. The northern barrow measures 150 feet by 74 feet, the "horned" end being towards the south. There are four large stones visible in this barrow, forming a chamber. A great number of human skeletons have at various times been dug up near the village of Camp. No fortifications are now to be seen here to account for the name, but there is a local tradition that there was a Danish camp in the neighbourhood.

No. 8. — Cirencester Barrow

There is a long barrow in the "Querns" field, close to the Cirencester Railway Station, on the south-west of the town; its length is about 180 feet. It was opened thirty years ago by Messrs. Newmarch and Buckman, and is mentioned by them in their "Remains of Roman Art in Cirencester." It is there suggested that the word "querns" is derived from "cairn," or burial place. The Roman amphitheatre lies a little to the south-east of the barrow. Several skeletons were found arranged east and west, but it seems they were in a very fragmentary state, none of them being in a condition to be capable of measurement. The explorations consisted simply of two transverse cuts through the mound, so that it is impossible to say what may yet be found.

See Buckman's "Corinium" p12.

p77 Nos. 9 and 10. — Crickley Barrows (Nos. 1 and 2)

There are two long barrows at Crickley Barrow, two miles south of Northleach, adjoining the ancient Salt Way, but as far as I know they have never been examined or described, and, without a thorough exploration with pick-axe and shovel, it would be impossible to say anything definite about them.

No. 11. — Crippetts Barrow

This fine tumulus is a conspicuous object on Shurdington Hill, three miles south of Cheltenham, and three quarters of a mile north-east of the Crickley Hill Camp. The position affords extensive views over the vale of Gloucester. The barrow is 189 feet long, its greatest width being 100 feet, and greatest height 20 feet. Its direction is nearly east and west, the highest position lying towards the east. Many years ago the tenant of the land began to move away part of the earth at the southern extremity, and in doing so uncovered a cromlech, in which was found a skeleton and several articles of which no satisfactory account can now be obtained. The ground in which the tumulus stands is still called the "Barrow Piece." It has never been thoroughly examined, though it has been carefully protected by placing a fence round it — a good example which might be followed in many other cases. There are two round barrows in the same field.

See "Journal of Archaeological Association," vol. III, p64.

Also "Celt, Roman, and Saxon," 1875, p74.

See "Anthropological Review," vol. III, pp66 and 71.

Also "Archaeologia," vol. XLII, p201.

No. 12. — Duntisbourne Barrow

There are two high circular mounds in Cherry Wood, near Duntisbourne Heath, five miles north-west of Cirencester, which have always been considered round barrows. Through the kindness of Lord Bathurst I superintended some excavations there this year (1882), and discovered that the two mounds p78formed the ends of a huge long barrow, having a total length of 210 feet. The central portion of the tumulus must have been removed ages back. The circumscribing wall is in a good state of preservation on the south side. The direction of the barrow is nearly east and west. Further examination will, I hope, enable me to give a fuller description of this very interesting pre-historic monument at a future time. During the late excavation one very perfectly formed flint scraper was found, and several small bones. Part of the outside wall at the west end was removed a few years back, but no interments have yet been found. There are several round barrows in the immediate neighbourhood, and Pinbury Camp is only one mile distant on the south.

No. 13. — Edgworth Barrow

This barrow lies three-quarters of a mile north-west of the village of Edgworth, and two miles east of Bisley. I have not heard of any excavation or exploration having been made, but I mention it here as one of the Gloucestershire long barrows.

No. 14. — Eyford Barrow

This lies in the parish of Eyford, three miles from Stow-on‑the‑Wold. Its length is 108 feet, its greatest width being 41 feet, and greatest height three feet six inches, though it was probably much higher. Its direction is east-north‑east and west-south‑west. The interior of the barrow consisted of oolitic rubble and slabs, and it was surrounded by a wall of thin Stonefield slates. At the east end it assumed the "horned" form, the north-eastern horn being narrower and longer than the other. Four chambers were discovered, one of which contained six human skeletons and one dog's skeleton lying in situ, also scattered bones of the ox and sheep. This chamber was situated eighty feet from the east end, and measured five feet six inches by four feet. In another chamber, seven feet p79eight inches in length, were found the remains of ten bodies, and close in front of the neck of one of the bodies — that of a woman — was a bead or amulet, composed of kimmeridge shale or similar substance. The bead is slightly oval in outline and much flattened; the perforation has been made from both ends and is very wide, having, no doubt, been made with a flint borer. I call especial attention to this bead, as it was the first ornament ever discovered in connection with a primary interment in a long barrow; and it is a remarkable fact that the only ornament I have discovered in a long barrow is of precisely the same character (see Notgrove Barrow). Other skeletons were found and various portions of pottery.

See "British Barrows," p514.

Also "Jour. Anthrop. Inst.," vol. V, p120.

No. 15. — Giant's Stone Barrow

This is in the parish of Bisley, one mile east of the village. The barrow has been removed, or nearly so, leaving some of the stones which formed the chambers, especially a large one locally known as the Giant's Stone. There are many hundred suspicious-looking depressions adjoining the barrow, which are supposed by many to be ancient pit-dwellings.

No. 16. — Hasleton Barrow (No. 1) [SP 072 188]

This lies on top of the Cotteswold hills, in the parish of Hasleton, four miles north-west of Northleach, in a field known as the Barrow Ground, and close to the ancient Salt Way. Its length is 150 feet, greatest width 70 feet, and present height about five feet; but originally it must have been more than double this height. Its direction is north-west and south-east, the highest part being towards the south-east. The top of two upright stones, evidently forming sides of a chamber, are visible on the surface of the ground near the south-east end; they lie parallel to each other and ten feet apart. One stone measures on the top one foot six inches by five inches; the p80other, two feet by five inches; but it is impossible to say what height they are without excavation. I found several worked flakes on the surface of the barrow, and I have heard of others being found since. The barrow has evidently been much damaged by the plough, but has not, I think, ever been examined. The interior is composed of oolitic slabs and Stonesfield slate.


The Modern Antiquarian

No. 17. — Hasleton Barrow (No. 2)

In the same field as the last, and only eighty yards from it, is another long barrow, the original length of which must have been about 174 feet; greatest width, 78 feet; its present height being 9 feet. Its direction is east and west, the highest part being towards the east. The interior is composed of stone similar to the last. I found a well-worked flint flake on the surface. This barrow has never been thoroughly examined, though many stones have been removed for road making and wall building.

No. 18. — Hoar Stone Tumulus

This lies in the parish of Duntisbourn Abbots, above four and a half miles from Cirencester. It was 120 feet long and 90 feet wide, composed of loose quarry stones. The largest stone at the east end has been long known by the name of the "Hoar Stone;" it is of the calcareous kind, twelve feet high, thirteen feet in circumference, and weighs between five and six tons; it was half above and half under ground. Another stone, about nine feet square and one foot thick, lay flat on the ground; this covered a chamber in which the remains of eight or nine human bodies were discovered. The chamber was divided into two cells about four feet square and six feet deep.

See "Archaeologia," vol. XVI, p362.

Also "Gentleman's Magazine," vol. LXXVI, p971.

No. 19. — Idol's Barrow

I have lately been informed that there is a long barrow in Pope's Wood, near Prinknash Park, about four and a half miles p81south-east of Gloucester, known as "Idol's Barrow." It lies close to the ancient Portway, but I have not had an opportunity of examining the mound with the care necessary to say any thing definite on the subject.

No. 20. — Lechmore Barrow

This lies one and a half miles south of Nailsworth. It is 120 feet long, 65 feet wide, and six feet high; its direction is east and west, the highest part being towards the east. It has been much disturbed at various times. In 1812 one chamber still remained, but the stones of which it was constructed have since been removed for building material, and the mound itself is now reduced in size year by year by operation of the plough.

See "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," v, p280.

No. 21. — Leighterton Barrow [ST 819 913]

This is situated in the parish of Boxwell, six and a half miles west of Tetbury; it is locally known as "West Barrow," and was opened about the year 1700 by Matthew Huntley. It contained three vaults arched over like ovens, and at the entrance of each was found an earthen jar containing burnt human bones, but the skulls and thigh-bones were found unburnt.

See Atkyn's "History of Gloucestershire," p155.

Also Rudder's "History of Gloucestershire," p306.


The Modern Antiquarian

No. 22. — Littleton Drew Barrow

This was first noticed by John Aubrey in his MS., "Monumenta Britannica," in the seventeenth century; it was called "Lugbury." It lies in the parish of Nettleton, but close to Littleton Drew, in Wiltshire, just outside the boundary of our county. It measures 180 feet in length, and 90 feet in breadth, its greatest elevation being six feet. Its direction is nearly due east and west. There are three stones at the east p82end, on the slope of the barrow, thirty feet from its base; the two uprights are six feet six inches apart, two feet thick, and four feet wide; one is six feet six inches high, the other five feet six inches. Resting on the mound and leaning againstº the uprights is a large stone, twelve feet long, six feet wide, and two feet thick. A cistern was discovered about sixty feet from the east end, containing one skeleton. Another cistern was found on the south side. Three other cisterns were also found, about ten feet long, four feet wide, and two feet deep, formed of rough stone. The total number of skeletons found numbered twenty-six. Several flint flakes were also discovered.

See "Crania Britannica," vol. II.

Also "Ancient Wilts," vol. II, p99 (Hoar).

Also "History of Castle Combe," p7 (Scrope).

No. 23. — Lodge Park Barrow [SP 143 125]

There is a fine long barrow in Sherborne Lodge Park, two miles south-east of Northleach; its length is about 150 feet, greatest width 70 feet. Some of the stones forming the chambers are visible on the surface. Its direction is south-east and north-west, the highest portion lying towards the south-east. No examination has ever been made of the mound.


The Modern Antiquarian

No. 24. — Notgrove Barrow [SP 096 212]

This interesting barrow is situated in the "Poor's Lots," one mile north-west of the village of Notgrove, and close to the new Railway Station on the Banbury and Cheltenham line. I examined it in April, 1881, previous to a visit of the Cotteswold Field Club. I found the barrow was 140 feet long, and that its greatest width was 78 feet. The entire crown of the tumulus had at some time been removed, exposing to view twenty large stones; these formed a series of chambers of the double-cruciform type, similar to those at Uley and Nympsfield. On reference to the ground plan on the margin of the p83map, it will be seen that there is a central passage with two chambers on each side. The passage is five feet wide towards the south-east end, and four feet three inches wide towards the north-west, its entire length being twenty-seven feet. The first chamber on the west measures eight feet four inches by six feet; the second measures six feet four inches by six feet; chamber No. 3, somewhat different in shape, measured six feet across in each direction; and chamber No. 4, nine feet six inches by seven feet. The largest stone stands five feet above the original surface of the ground, being three feet long and sixteen inches wide. Chamber No. 4 had never been disturbed, though the other three had been cleared of their contents in past ages. Under a large flat stone I discovered portions of two human skeletons, lying in a contracted position; the skulls, which were lying towards the west, were broken into very small pieces. With these human remains were found two teeth and the pelvis of some kind of ox (probably Bos longifrons), a dog's tooth, a very perfect leaf-shaped arrow-head of flint, a black oval bead or amulet one and a half inches long, composed of kimmeridge shale, having a hole pierced through the centre by a flint borer (this bead, though larger, resembles the one found in the Eyford Long Barrow, described in "British Barrows," page 519); lastly, thirty pieces of rough British pottery, half baked and belonging to the same vessel, one piece only showing the form of the rim. The spaces between the upright stones in chamber No. 4 were filled up with well-built dry walls of Stonesfield slate; the bottom of the chamber was paved with small flat stones well fitted together and forming a level surface.


The Modern Antiquarian

No. 25. — Nympsfield Barrow [SO 795 014]

This is situated on the escarpment of the Cotteswold Hills, in the parish of Nympsfield, on an eminence known as Crawley Hill, half a mile north of the barrow at Uley, and two miles north-east of Dursley. It was examined by the p84Cotteswold Field Club in 1862. Its length was 120 feet, and greatest breadth 85 feet; its direction was east and west, the highest part being towards the east. Twenty-four upright stones were discovered forming a central passage, with a double set of cruciform chambers on either side almost identical in dimensions to those at Uley and Notgrove; in one of these was partitioned off a smaller chamber or cistern, probably for the remains of an infant found therein. In some parts the spaces between the upright stones were filled up with dry walling. The remains of sixteen human skeletons were found, also some bones of the ox, hog, dog, and birds, a few fragments of pottery, and some flint flakes. All the skulls were of pronounced dolicho-cephalic type.

See "Journal Anthrop. Soc.," vol. III, p66.

Also "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," vol. III, p184.

Also "Transactions Bristol and Glou. Archae. Soc.," vol. V, p95.


The Modern Antiquarian

No. 26. — Randwick Barrow

This lies on the top of Randwick Hill, a quarter of a mile from the village of Randwick, and two miles north-west of Stroud; it is 150 feet long, its greatest width being 86 feet, and greatest height 13 feet; its direction is east and west, the highest part being towards the east. It is composed of oolitic rubble and slabs, and is enclosed by a well-built wall formed of thin stones; this wall is exposed in two places on the west side, where a portion of the barrow has been destroyed by quarrying operations. The stones of the interior are for the most part laid at an angle of 45 degrees, overlapping one another. At the east end it appears to have two well-developed "horns." On visiting the barrow in March, 1881, I found a portion of a human tibia, much stained with manganic oxide and black fungus. There are two round barrows within a few hundred yards, and some earthworks cutting off the neck of the hill, thus forming a camping ground. The three barrows are within the defended area.

p85 No. 27. — Rodmarton Barrow [ST 933 973]

This was opened by Mr. Lysons in 1863; it liesº within half a mile of the village of Rodmarton, and was known by the popular name of "Windmill Tump." It is 176 feet long, 71 feet wide, and ten feet high; its direction was east and west, the widest end being towards the east. A few feet below the surface of the east end two very large stones were found standing upright, each of them eight feet six inches in height; against these was leaning a third stone of vast size, in a slanting position. A chamber was found on the north side formed of seven large upright stones, with a paved floor, covered at the top by a single stone measuring nine feet by eight feet, and eighteen inches thick. The chamber was approached by a narrow passage, with walls on either side. Within the chamber were fortified no less than thirteen skeletons, also five flint arrow-heads, a large piece of natural flint, and some coarse black pottery. Another chamber was discovered on the southern side, much of the same character, but composed of nine stones instead of seven.

See "Archaeologia," vol. IX, p367.

Also "Our British Ancestors" (Lysons), p137.

Also "Relig. Brit. Rom.," vol. II, p8.

Also "Relig. Brit. Rom.," vol. III, p7.

Also "Proc. Soc. Ant.," 2nd ser., vol. II, p275.

Also "Crania Brit.," vol. II.


The Modern Antiquarian

No. 28. — Selsley Hill Barrow [SO 826 031]

This barrow is generally known as "The Toots," and is situated high up on Selsley Hill, two miles south-west of Stroud. Its length is 210 feet, its greatest width 90 feet, and height 11 feet; its direction is east-north‑east and west-south‑west, the highest part lying towards the east-north‑east. From these dimensions it will be seen that this is one of the largest long barrows in Gloucestershire. It has been opened in three places, but, unfortunately, no record has been preserved of the results of these excavations.

See "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," vol. V, p279.


The Modern Antiquarian

p86 No. 29. — Swell Barrow (No. 1) [SP 171 259]

This barrow is situated in a field called "Cow Common," in the parish of lower Swell, two and a half miles from the village, and three miles from Stow-on‑the‑Wold. Its length was about 150 feet, greatest width 77 feet, and greatest height five feet; its direction is east-south‑east and west-north‑west. It is entirely composed of slabs and rubble, and is surrounded by a carefully constructed wall of Stonesfield slate; this wall was two feet three inches high on the south side. The chief chamber was on the north side, fifty-five feet from the east end, and was discovered by the Rev. David Royce in 1867. The sides of the chamber were constructed of large upright stones, one being three feet six inches by two feet four inches, the chamber itself being three feet square. It contained three skeletons, and to the south-west of it five other skeletons were found. The chamber had a passage leading to it from the surrounding wall. Another chamber was found thirty feet from the east end, measuring six feet by four feet eight inches, of an oval form; it contained bones of two adults and one infant, two flint flakes, several fragments of pottery, &c. This barrow assumed the "horned" shape at the east end. There are eight round barrows in the same field.

See "Jour. Anat. and Phys.," vol. III, p252.

Also "Jour. Anthrop. Inst.," vol. V, p120.

Also "British Barrows," p513.


The Modern Antiquarian

No. 30. — Swell Barrow (No. 2)

This is in the parish of Upper Swell, half a mile from the village, and one and a half miles from Stow-on‑the‑Wold. Its length was 173 feet, its greatest width 57 feet, and greatest height eight feet six inches; its direction was east by north and west by south, the highest portion lying towards the east. Like the others in this neighbourhood it is composed of oolitic rubble and slabs, and is surrounded by a wall, which at the east end reached to a height of five feet, and here it assumed the "horned" shape. Only one chamber was found in the whole p87of this mound; this was twenty-four feet from the west end, and on the north side of the barrow; it had a passage leading to it similar to the last. The chamber was seven feet long, four feet wide, and three feet eight inches high. At least nine skeletons were found here, together with bones of the goat or sheep, ox, pig, and two pieces of pottery. In the passage were found three other skeletons. Near the surface of the barrow three bodies were discovered, evidently Saxons, as proved by the articles found with them, viz., two bronze buckles, an iron knife, and an amber bead.

See "Jour. Anthrop. Inst.," vol. V, p120.

Also "British Barrows," p521.

No. 31. — Swell Barrow (No. 3)

This is in the parish of Upper Swell, half a mile west-south‑west of the village, and the same distance north of Lower Swell. The extreme length was 120 feet, and extreme width 40 feet; its direction was north-north‑east and south-south‑west, its horned end being at the north-north‑east end; its greatest height was five feet. It was surrounded by a wall which measured four feet in height at the north end. The principal interment was in a trench about twenty-eight feet long, six feet four inches wide, and two feet deep, and this was sunk below the original surface of the ground, similar to the trench described under the "West Tump." In this trench-chamber were found nineteen skeletons, also bones of the roe deer, red deer, ox, wild board, goat, pig, &c., bone implements, one vessel of coarse pottery, and a considerable number of worked flints. Three Saxon skeletons were found near the surface of the barrow.

See "Jour. Anthrop. Inst.," vol. V, p120.

Also "British Barrows," p524.

No. 32. — Througham Barrow

This barrow lies in Througham Field, one mile north of the village of Bisley. It is 100 feet long, its greatest width being 50 feet, and height five feet; its direction is east and p88west, the highest portion being towards the east. The mound was cut in two about fifty years ago to make room for a cottage and some pigstyes; the latter now occupy the centre of the barrow! During the excavation one human skeleton was found. Probably this is the only instance in the county of a prehistoric burial place being turned into a pigstye!

No. 33. — Tinglestone Barrow

This lies near Gatcombe Park, half a mile north of the village of Avening, and one and a half miles from Minchinhampton. It is 130 feet long, 70 feet wide, and six feet high; its direction is north and south, the highest part being towards the north. It does not occupy, as the others do, the highest ground in the locality, for although it stands on a slight knoll it is overlooked from rising ground on its eastern side. It is also peculiar as being a crowned barrow. On the broadest portion of the mound stands a large stone six feet in height, which bears the name of the "Tingle Stone."

See "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," vol. V, p280.

Also Bigland's "Gloucestershire," p92.

Also "Flint Chips," p494.

No. 34. — Uley Barrow [SO 795 014]

This is one of the most remarkable of the chambered tumuli in England; it is situated on the bold escarpment of the Cotteswold Hills, two miles north-west of Dursley, and only half a mile north of the celebrated camp known as "Uley Bury." This barrow is locally called "Hetty Pegler's Tump," from the Welsh "twmp" or "twmpath," a mound. It was discovered in the year 1820, when the beech trees which grew on it were cut down, and it was examined in February, 1821. The barrow is 120 feet in length, and 85 feet at its greatest width, its height being ten feet at the east end, where it is both higher and broader than at the west. It was at the east end, where it assumed the horned shape, that the entrance to a chamber was found. The outside walls of the barrow here p89turn in, forming a kind of passage leading to the entrance, which is formed by a trilithon composed of a large flat stone upwards of eight feet in length and four feet six inches deep, supported by two upright stones, leaving a space of only thirty inches below the lower edge of the large stone and the natural ground. On passing this entrance a gallery appears, twenty-two feet long, four feet six inches wide, and five feet high. Four chambers lead out of this gallery — two on each side; their form is somewhat irregular, and their dimensions about four feet six inches by four feet. The dry walling ran completely round the barrow. At the east end there were two walls running parallel to one another, and at the west end are several dry walls intersecting each other at right angles. The remains of nearly thirty skeletons were found during the excavations, but only two of the skulls (dolicho-cephalic in type) have been preserved. There was a secondary interment in the highest part of the barrow, within six inches of the surface; this, doubtless, belonged to the Roman Age, as three Roman coins were found.

See "Archaeological Journal," vol. XI, p315.

Also "Archaeologia," vol. XLII, p201.

Also "Crania Britannica," vol. II.

Also "Transactions Bristol and Glou. Archae. Soc.," vol. V, p86.


The Modern Antiquarian

No. 35. — West Tump

This barrow is to be found in the middle of Buckholt Wood, in the parish of Brimpsfield, about one and a half miles south-west of Birdlip. I discovered it accidentally in July, 1880, and in the following autumn thoroughly examined it. The direction of the barrow is south-east and north-west, the well-developed "horns" being at the south end. Its length is 149 feet, greatest width 76 feet, and greatest height ten feet three inches. A well-built dry wall surrounds the whole mound, faced only on the outer side. At the south-east end, between the "horns," the walls attain a height of three feet six inches. The "horns" are of equal size, and in the p90centre of the concavity between them are two upright stones, forming, as it were, a doorway, but this proved to be a deception, as there was no passage or chamber at this end. Four skeletons were found lying outside the circumscribing wall and close to it. The principal chamber was discovered at a distance of eighty-two feet from the southern "horn." Here there was a passage through the wall two feet wide. In breaking through the rubble of the opening we found two pieces of British pottery and a very perfect leaf-shaped arrow-head. A passage, three feet wide and seven feet long, led to the main chamber or trench; this passage was filled with rubble and bones in a very disorderly and confused state. The chamber was excavated below the original surface of the ground, beginning gradually to decline until it reached a depth of fifteen inches. We discovered the remains of upwards of twenty skeletons; the last one we found was at the end of the chamber, 24 feet from the outside wall; here were five flat stones, arranged in the shape of a semicircle, and on these was deposited in a contracted form the skeleton of, probably, a young female, with the remains of a baby in close proximity. Professor Rolleston (whose valuable assistance I was privileged to have during the excavation) was of opinion that the barrow was erected in honour of this Cotteswold Chieftainess. All the skulls found were of the dolicho-cephalic type.

The following letter from Professor Rolleston was, I believe, the last he wrote on any archaeological subject, and as it is of much interest to all antiquaries, I reproduce it in full, though it appeared with my Paper on this subject in the Proceedings of the Gloucestershire Archaeological Society:—

"Hotel de Londres, Genoa, January 17th, 1881.

"My dear Mr. Witts, — As I shall not be able to be present at the meeting at Cheltenham, before which the discoveries you have made at the Cranham Long Barrow will be brought, I should like to put on paper some of the larger points which my opportunities for seeing the barrow p91have impressed upon me. I am very sorry not to be present at your meeting, but, per contra, I am very glad to have seen so much of the explorations as by your kindness I did see; I regret also not to have been able to give a detailed account of the objects of interest, or at least of the bones found in the barrow; but, per contra again, the bones have been preserved and properly cared for, and having lasted to tell their own tale for some thousands (I do not say how many as yet) of years, they will well last a few more months now that they have been thus looked to. The first great point which your "West Tump" Barrow presents to my view, at least in the distant perspective into which my temporary exile puts me, is its freedom from any ambiguity or question as to its age. There is no room whatever for supposing that the tumulus itself is of any but a very early prehistoric age, or that the human bones which it contained could have belonged to men of the times of Cromwell, of Henry VI, of Henry IV, or to any metal-weaponed warriors, whether Plantagenet, Saxon, Roman, or British. How is this to be proved? The absence of any scrap of metal is, it may be said, only a negative argument towards the positive conclusion that the "West Tump" is a prehistoric tump. I should answer to this, that there is no cubical mass belonging to a metallic period and of equal bulk to this one, in which many scraps of metal could not be found. Notably in burial-grounds cast-off pans, as well as shards of pottery, are always to be found. I was struck, indeed, with the emphasis laid in a letter published recently in the "Times," as to the neglected state of a London cemetery, upon the shabby appearance presented by the flotsam and jetsam, into which metallic articles entered largely. But there is a much stronger argument for its prehistoric character than this, and it lies in the peculiar shape and conformation of the tump. The "West Tump" is a "horned cairn," and horned cairns are found all over Great Britain, from Caithness in the extreme north of Scotland, to the Peninsular of Gower in the extreme west of Wales. Now the peculiarities of a "horned cairn" are such, that it is impossible to imagine that they do not indicate to us that one race of men, and one only, must have combined them as they are combined. But we have no record of Great Britain having ever been so occupied by one single race in historic times; hence this tumulus is prehistoric.— Q.E.D. Think further of the distance and difficulty of intercommunication which even now separates Caithness from Cheltenham, and think what is implied in the view, that the same race of men must have spread from one spot to the other. There is yet another consideration which tells in favour of the prehistoric character of these tumps, and of their being prehistoric in a sense in which no other raised burial-place can claim to be. Their conformation appears to me to be modelled upon that p92of a limestone promontory burrowed into by water, and so hollowed into the caves which were the first dwelling-places of Troglodytic men. The houses of the dead have in many places and in all ages been modelled after the dwelling-places of the living, and I think the "idea" of the "horned cairns" is taken from that of a cave-dwelling in a sinuously eaten-out limestone promontory, such as you may see many of in South Wales. It was, indeed, whilst working out the rubble filling up one of those caves, just as you worked out the rubble in the "West Tump," that I came at once see the likeness. This likeness, I should add, anybody else may see who will compare your plans of the "West Tump with a ground plan of one of these caverns. By saying, as I did for the first time in public, at the meeting of the Britain Association at Swansea, last autumn, that the "idea" of the horned cairn was to be found in a cave-containing headland, I mean that the one structure has been made after the pattern of the other; just as the "idea" of a Gothic cathedral is to be found in an avenue of trees; or the "idea" of a Saxon urn, with its equatorial angularity and Vandyked pattern, is to be found in the appearance which holly-leaf presents when held by its stalk with the under surface towards the spectator. The bones from the "West Tump" are like all bones from similar barrows which have been through my hands, and in the following points:— They belonged to a short-statured but long-headed race of men, who were, if we may judge at all from what we see of living men of the same osteological character, darkish in complexion and hair. I have seen many such in this part of the world, being, as it is, a part of the world where pristine races are likely to survive, "the two voices, one of the sea, one of the mountains," favouring the chances which feebler folk have of escaping extirpation at the hands of stronger. But such men and such women may be found in many parts of even the most Saxonized and Danicized counties of England, and notably in Gloucestershire, which is such a county. I am perfectly certain that a sufficiently extensive set of bones from any real "horned cairn" would be distinguishable from any equally numerous and fairly selected, or similarly selected set of bones, from any other variety of interment in Great Britain, from those of the bronze period down to those of yesterday inclusive. Irrespective of any manganese or black fungus markings or discolorations, you will find peculiarities specified by me else (e.g. in "British Barrows," in my Paper on "The People of the Long Barrow Period," and on the tickets sent to Cheltenham with the "West Tump" skulls) in a collection of cranial and other bones from a Long Barrow, which you will either not find at all or find in very much smaller proportion per cent. in a collection from any other source. This statement, if true, is of great importance, both as regards the age of these interments and as regards p93the variability of our own species. I shall be glad to have the opportunity of showing its truth by a statistical examination of this particular set of Long Barrow bones when I return to England. Lastly, the broken state of many of the skeletons has been explained by some writers as being indicative of human sacrifices, &c. I think those persons who exposed themselves to constantly recurring avalanches of stones in the "West Tump" excavations, or exsaxations, will allow that these avalanches are a vera ac sufficiens causa for that broken state of the bones, and that theory of successive interments which is absolutely necessary for explaining the number of the bodies, will also account for the comminution which so many of them have suffered.

"With very kind regards, I am yours very truly,


"P.S.— Please have this printed with your Paper."

See "Proceedings Bristol and Glou. Archae. Soc.," vol. V, p201.

No. 36. — Whitfield Tump

The remains of this long barrow are to be found on Minchinhampton Common, a little to the north of the Amberley Camp, and about two miles south of Stroud. It has been so much disturbed that it is difficult to ascertain its original form and dimensions. Its direction was east-south‑east and west-north‑west, the highest part being towards the east-south. Mr. Playne states the probable dimensions at seventy-five feet by thirty-six feet, but I think it must have been much longer than here stated in its original form.

See "Proceedings Cott. Nat. Field Club," vol. V, p279.

No. 37. — Willersey Barrow

There is a mound in Willersey Camp, on the top of the Cotteswold Hills, one and a half miles from Broadway, very much like a long barrow, though without excavation it would be impossible to be certain as to its nature. Its length is 160 feet, greatest width 66 feet, and greatest height four feet six inches. Its direction is east and west, the highest portion being at the east end. The interior seems to be composed of oolitic rubble and slabs, similar to that found in other Gloucestershire barrows.

p94 No. 37. — Withington Barrow

In the middle of Withington Wood, one mile south of the village and seven miles from Cheltenham, is a long barrow about 150 feet in length. Its direction is north-east and south-west, the highest portion lying towards the north-east. Several stones — forming chambers — are exposed, and it is evident that excavations have been made at some time and some of the chambers examined; but no record has been kept, and nothing is known as to what was found.

No. 39. — Cold Aston Long Barrow

This is situated in the parish of Cold Aston or Aston Blank, one mile north-west of the village, and one and a half miles from Bourton-on‑the‑Water. Its length is 120 feet; greatest width 48 feet, and height about seven feet. Its direction is south-south‑east and north-north‑west, the highest portion being at the south-south‑east end. A great number of flint arrow-heads have been found at various times in the immediate vicinity.

No. 40. — Farmington Long Barrow

This lies inside the intrenchments of Norbury Camp, in the parish of Farmington, one mile north-east of Northleach. It is 200 feet in length, 100 feet wide, and five feet high, its direction being south-east and north-west. There is a large stone lying flat on the surface which may probably belong to one of the chambers. The barrow has never been examined.

end of long barrows

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