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The Bramdean Circle of Stones

Nineteenth century (with more ancient leanings)

Circle of stones, Bramdean

Circle of stones, Bramdean

In the summer, due to the copious vegetation, it is easy to drive along the A272 through Bramdean in Hampshire towards East Meon without noticing the circle of stones just behind a bus shelter on the left-hand side of the road; in the winter however it is far more prominent – and rather unexpected.  Just before the bus shelter is a small crossroads and it is possible to park alongside the stones on the side of the lane.  The diminutive stone circle includes two remaining dolmen/trilithon-type formations from a possible original five. Additionally, on the opposite side of the road, is a large flint mound. Both monuments convey a sense of the ancient past but certainly to someone with archaeological leanings the circle in particular feels somewhat more recent in its construction. The first time I saw it I remember thinking what a wonderful thing for the local people to have constructed next to the bus shelter…but why?

 

The archaeology bit

Having absent-mindedly wondered about the circle since I had first noticed it on one of my various trips to Winchester, I happened to stop for a drink in a pub called The Fox (more of which later), situated a little way before the stones on the A272 on the edge of Bramdean village. On the wall behind the table where I sat – it must have been fate! – was a picture frame containing some black and white magazine cuttings about the stones. They appear to come from the Country Life magazine letters page and comprise some photographs of the stones and two letters, the first from a gentleman (not disgusted) from Tunbridge Wells who likens the stones to a ‘Stonehenge effect at Port Talbot’ that appeared in a previous issue.  Unfortunately there are no dates on the correspondence but I wonder if the Port Talbot reference in question is the ‘Foamhenge’ constructed in 2010 at Margam Country Park for the filming of the Dr Who episode The Pandorica Opens in which Matt Smith battled Cybermen in the series finale?

Mound of stones at Brockwood with headstone on the left. Circle of stones pictured on the other side of the road.

The other letter in the frame is from J.A.C. Greenwood of Rogate in Hampshire, the great-great nephew of Colonel George Greenwood of Brockwood (formerly Brookwood) House, a large property down the lane on the other side of the crossroads where the circle is, past the flint mound. Mr Greenwood writes that his great-great uncle erected both monuments and the mound is the burial place of his favourite horse.  He was a very distinguished horseman, recognised by Queen Victoria, and wrote a book called Hints on Horsemanship in 1839. However, there is a headstone on the mound that reads: ‘HERE LIES COL. R MEINERTZHAGEN’S HORSE MELKSHAM BURIED UNDER THESE STONES WHO DIED AT THIS PLACE IN 1910’. Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen was, by all accounts, a colourful character, apparently a passionate ornithologist, general science buff, some time spy and assassin. Curiously however he was born in 1878, three years after Colonel Greenwood’s death and Melksham the horse obviously could not have been connected to Colonel Greenwood if the inscription on the headstone is accurate.

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Circle of stones at Bramdean

As regards the circle of stones, J.A.C. Greenwood says there are two possible explanations of the Colonel’s motivation for building the it in 1845 or thereabouts:

“One…is that he wished to see how long it would be before they were regarded as relics of the ancient past – this is commonly said of them today. The alternative is that they were a demonstration of the power of his tree-lifter”.

The tree-lifter was the Colonel’s invention for transplanting trees up to 30 feet in height with their ball of earth intact, a feat the apparatus apparently made possible for a single individual to do at a rate of one tree per day. The somewhat aptly-named Colonel Greenwood was very enthusiastic about the importance of trees to the landscape and wrote a book in 1844 called The Tree-lifter, Or a new method of transplanting forest trees, which is available online via Internet Archive (link below). Colonel Greenwood is said to have excavated local archaeological sites and was a keen geologist referred to as ‘the father of subaerialism’, ascribing the greater inequalities in the earth’s surface to atmospheric influences. He published a further book in 1857 entitled Rain and Rivers. It was said in his obituary that “had he fallen amongst geologists in early life, instead of amongst ‘thoroughbreds’, he would doubtless have occupied a leading place among men of science”. This seems rather a pity but I’m glad the monument lives on. Incidentally, the colonel is buried nearby at All Saints church, Hinton Ampner, his grave stone a recumbent sarsen which stands out pleasingly amongst all the more traditional ones.

Refreshments

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The Fox at Bramdean

We partook of a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord in The Fox, a welcoming, dog-friendly country pub, recently under new management. I don’t see Landlord anywhere near as often as I would like but always choose it given the chance. It has won more awards than any other beer and deservedly so. The barman in The Fox remarked that he’d only put it on the night before and it was already overtaking Doom Bar as the punters’ beer of choice.

Further reading

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00369226008735792?journalCode=rsgj19#.VOnFMPmsUYE

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=5236076&jid=GEO&volumeId=3&issueId=04&aid=5236072

http://www.hampshire-history.com/colonel-meinertzhagen/

https://archive.org/stream/treelifterorane00greegoog#page/n11/mode/2up

http://www.thefoxbramdean.co.uk/

 

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The Long Man of Wilmington +

It’s been nearly a month since my last blog, I’m afraid, due to lack of time.  This will therefore be a bumper entry featuring two sites and one exhibition in East Sussex, and a slight detour in between.

Beachy Head Woman

Beachy Head Woman

So today I started by heading over to Eastbourne to take in the Eastbourne Ancestors exhibition.  It’s housed in the Pavilion on the Royal Parade on the sea front and is easy to find.  There is plenty of parking in the car park for the Redoubt Fortress, which is next door.  It’s only a small exhibition and is very much aimed at the layperson.  However, what got it on my list of places to visit is that it is an osteoarchaeological exhibition, showcasing the results of a £73,800 Heritage Lottery funded project to analyse the sizeable collection of human skeletal remains recovered from archaeological excavations in the town over the years and held in store by Eastbourne Heritage Service.  More than 300 skeletons were analysed using modern techniques to identify the demographics and pathology of the skeletal remains.  In addition, in 11 selected cases radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis was carried out to identify when they died, what their diet consisted of and where they originated from.

The exhibition features skeletal remains, grave goods and reconstructions including one of so-called Beachy Head Woman, who lived around Eastbourne in the middle Roman period but whose ethnic origins were in sub-Saharan Africa.  She lived to be around 22-25, was 4ft 9in – 5ft 1in tall, had an ossified haematoma on her right femur, and ate a lot of fish and vegetables. Apparently further investigation is under way to find out more about her, as indeed are studies of the remainder of the collection within the constraints of the remaining funding.

Don't do it!

Don’t do it!

Following a cappuccino and a scone in the Pavilion cafe I followed the coast road with the thought in my mind that you can’t visit Eastbourne without paying Beachy Head a visit, neither of which I had been to before today. Despite a brief appearance by the sun when I entered the Pavilion a haar had descended by the time I re-emerged and there was a bit of a chill in the air.  However, undeterred, I parked up near the Belle Tout lighthouse (now a B&B with a fantastic view) and wandered along the coastal path taking care not to get too close to the edge, unlike the lady pictured.  I’m pleased to report that she didn’t fall over the edge and neither did the various other people with smartphones, tablets and cameras doing similar crazy things.  The Beachy Head chaplaincy vehicle in the layby and Samaritans sticker on the parking meter were however reminders of the darker side of things at the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain at a maximum of 162 m above sea level.

My next port of call was the Litlington Horse, that is the new one, which I passed quite by chance and noticed out of the corner of my eye.  There was previously a chalk horse on Hindover (aka High and Over) Hill (OS grid reference TQ 510 009) which was cut around 1838, perhaps to mark Queen Victoria’s coronation it has been suggested.  The present day horse is thought to have been cut as a replacement for the original in 1924/5 and is only around 100m from the first one’s position on the hill.  Its present day raised foreleg was apparently a 1983 modification.

Old Man of Wilmington

The Long Man of Wilmington

I then continued down the road to take in the Long Man of Wilmington on Windover Hill (OS grid reference TQ542034).  He’s quite a striking presence in the landscape and I wasn’t surprised to find that he is Europe’s largest representation of the human form.  Pleasingly his origins continue to baffle archaeologists and historians alike.  Theories include him being the creation of a Mediaeval monk from a nearby priory or that he was the work of the Romans, there being a Roman coin featuring a similar figure, or similarly the Anglo Saxons due to a likeness on some ornaments from that era. The purpose of the Long Man is also debated: could he be a depiction of a warrior or perhaps a fertility symbol?  Talking of which, the original artist missed out an important part of the male anatomy and so, it seems, modern day people sometimes feel the need to correct this with paint with varying levels of skill.  The current effort is pretty poor, I think.

The archaeology bit

The Long Man of Wilmington inhabits a significant known Neolithic landscape on the South Downs which includes the flint mines at Coombe Hill and the Giant’s Grave and Hunter’s Burgh long barrows and is is certainly possible that he was a part of things back then. There are also Bronze Age barrows in the vicinity and a Bronze Age axe hoard was found nearby so there is more than one prehistoric possibility for his origins.

The Long Man was excavated in 1969 and it was found that the original cut was deeper than it is now thereby making a bolder previous outline.  A resistivity survey at that time also revealed that the staves depicted as being held by the Long Man were probably longer than they are currently.  Fragments of red tile, previously found scattered within the outline, were analysed by Barry Cunliffe and found to be Roman indicating that the chalk figure at least dates back to the Romano British era although, of course, the Romans may merely have maintained or appropriated the Long Man for their own purposes and his creation may well have been prior to this.

Folklore

Parallels have been drawn with the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset and the presence of a Mediaeval monastic house near to both chalk giants has been used over the years to support an ecclesiastical connection.  Although the Roman tile fragments mentioned above clearly contradict this, talk of heretical monk occultists must have been a favourite explanation in the past.  It was also said that the giant represented Beowulf taking on Grendel.  He has been given numerous other identities over the years, all of heroic figures or deities, ranging from Thor to the Prophet Mohammed, as I suppose is only natural given his manly stature and pose.  My personal preference however is for him to be a Neolithic fertility symbol and that would seem to be as good an interpretation as any for the time being until such time as new archaeological evidence comes to light to disprove this or otherwise.

Refreshments

Just down the road from the man himself is the Giant’s Rest pub in Wilmington, a nice enough country pub (albeit very close to the A27) which has a good menu and, more importantly, is a stockist of ales from the nearby Long Man Brewery.  What other beer to have than the Long Man?

References

http://www.eastbournemuseums.co.uk/ancestors.aspx

http://www.giantsrest.co.uk/index.php

http://www.longmanbrewery.com/our-beers/

http://www.sussexarch.org.uk/saaf/wilmington.html

http://sussexpast.co.uk/properties-to-discover/the-long-man

http://www.wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk/others.html

 

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Cissbury Ring

Early Neolithic 4000 BC -> 3300 BC

Iron Age 800 BC -> 43 AD

Bottoms up

Having covered earthen long barrows and causewayed enclosures I thought it was time to pay a visit to the third major monument type of the early Neolithic: a flint mine.  Cissbury Ring is actually an Iron Age hillfort – the largest in Sussex – and occupies a fantastic location on the beautiful South Downs with extensive views across Sussex and Hampshire.  Within and without the hillfort are more than 200 flint mine shafts dating back to 5000 years ago, visible now as distinctive circular depressions in the ground.

Cissbury Ring Hillfort

Cissbury Ring Hillfort

It’s a straightforward site to find by following the road through Findon village off the A24, past the two pubs (slightly more of which later) and all the way to the end at which point  there is a car park, and then it’s a short (but steep) walk up to the hillfort.

The archaeology bit

There are fifteen known Neolithic flint mines in Britain, ten of them in the south, two in East Anglia, two in Scotland and one in Ireland.  Their locations, not always where the best quality flint seams are found, suggest that other factors were considered important by the Neolithic people who dug them laboriously with antler picks and other primitive tools.  Furthermore the recovery of human remains and other items apparently deposited deliberately in the mine shafts as well as carvings on the walls of the galleries, suggest that there was more than simply mining for resources involved and that the mines, in common with other aspects of the Neolithic world, were part of a wider and considerably more complex environment.

Cissbury flint mines

Cissbury flint mines

Cissbury was first excavated in the 19th century and then further investigations took place in the 1950s under the direction of John Pull, a Post Office employee and archaeology enthusiast.  He tended to publicised his findings in the local press due to his falling out with the local archaeological society when they rejected his written account of the Cissbury excavations and published one of their own.  He spent many years excavating Sussex flint mines and other sites but met a tragic and premature end when he was shot in a bank raid, leaving much unwritten investigation.

The flint mines at Cissbury are mainly situated at the western end of the later hillfort, with more outside the ramparts.  They are easily identifiable craters in the ground, measuring up to six metres in diameter with a depth of up to three metres.  Although human remains are unusual finds in Neolithic flint mines three skeletons were recovered during the Cissbury excavations: two females in the base layers of the mines with no obvious care afforded to them and a male in the upper fill in a crouched burial position.  The apparently different treatment of the sexes in life and death in terms of location and perhaps burial rites can be contemplated in this case.  With our modern day perspective, flint mines have often been regarded as male domains but an alternative view is that women would have been more suited to working in confined spaces due to their smaller stature.

Folklore

There is said to be a tunnel below Cissbury leading to nearby Offington Hall in which there is supposed to be treasure, unfortunately well guarded by serpents.  Cissbury itself is said to have been created by none other than the Devil while he was digging his Dyke near Brighton (actually the longest, deepest and widest dry valley in Britain), throwing earth around the general area.  And at the time of the midsummer solstice fairies are said to dance around Cissbury Ring.  A return in June to check this out could be on the cards on the basis that it must be a lovely place to watch the sun go down even if it turns out there aren’t any fairies and maybe a UFO will fly past, as others have claimed.

Refreshments

The two pubs in Findon, The Gun Inn and The Village House Inn, look very promising from the outside but on this occasion the refreshments were sampled in a hostelry nearer to home.

The Halfway Bridge, Lodsworth

The Halfway Bridge, Lodsworth, at dusk

The Halfway Bridge at Lodsworth is a pub I’ve driven past numerous times over the years but never stopped at before.  It’s a nicely updated, comfortable pub with unfailingly friendly staff and good beers including Doombar from the West Country and Langham’s from just down the road in West Sussex.  The classic and highly recommended Hip Hop was on offer but my personal favourite was Halfway to Heaven, 3.5% and goes down very nicely.  The food is good too and both the Caesar salad and fish and chips can be highly recommended.

References

Barber, M., Field, D. & Topping, P. The Neolithic Flint Mines of England 1999, Swindon, English Heritage

Lewis-Williams, D.P. & Pearce, D. Inside the Neolithic Mind 2005, London: Thames & Hudson

Russell, M. Rough Quarries, Rocks and Hills: John Pull and the Neolithic Flint Mines of Sussex 2001, Oxford: Oxbow

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/south-downs/explore/chanctonbury-cissbury/, accessed 07.03.14

http://www.sussexarch.org.uk/saaf/cissbury.html, accessed 07.03.14

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Combe Gibbet

Early Neolithic 4000 BC -> 3300 BC

The clue’s in the name with this one.  Combe Gibbet is a Neolithic long barrow on Inkpen Hill (aka Inkpen Beacon, aka Gallows Down) around four miles south of Hungerford in Berkshire, not far from the borders of both Hampshire and Wiltshire. It is reached via a short, steep, somewhat bumpy track and you can park right by the access gate.

National Grid Reference: SU 36474 62235    Postcode: RG17 9EL

 

The archaeology bit

'Information board'

Once an information board

The barrow is around 65 m long and 20 m wide and its height ranges from 0.5 m and 1.5 m.  It is orientated east-west and has surviving full-length flanking ditches to the north and south with a depth of 0.5 m.  Of the 500 or so long barrows in England, Combe Gibbet is one of only three known in the county of Berkshire and geographically it is likely that these have connections to the more dense concentration of these monuments in Wiltshire and Dorset.  There is no record of the barrow having been excavated at any time and, unfortunately for my research, no record of any human remains having been found there, or any other finds for that matter with the exception of two probable Neolithic flint flakes from the surface handed in to Newbury Museum. The information board has seen better days and it would be nice to see this rectified.

The history bit

Long Barrow with added gibbet

Long Barrow with added gibbet

However what makes this long barrow fun is the presence of a gibbet on top of it. It is a double gibbet, that is one designed to hang two people simultaneously. I had never previously considered the possibility of a gibbet-for-two, not even when playing Hangman, but I can see now that this would have been useful in certain situations.  The Combe Gibbet gibbet stands 7.6 m tall, 25 m from the east end of the barrow.  The gibbet you see today is the seventh one to stand on the site, the original one having been placed there in 1676, more of which in a moment.  The subsequent gibbets were erected in the years 1850, 1949, 1950, 1970, 1979 and this one in 1992.  The original gibbet rotted and in turn the replacement met its demise at the hands of a lightening strike.  Two of the following gibbets were felled by vandals, reportedly in protest at the practice of hanging, one was blown down by high winds and another burned by vandals.  The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act of 1965 suspended capital punishment for murder in Britain and, of course, the punishment subsequently ceased permanently so the gibbet’s continued existence for the past 48 years has been symbolic, and rather strikingly so as it can be seen from quite some distance away.

Combe Gibbet

Combe Gibbet

The 17th century gibbet was erected to hang married George Bromham (possibly Broomham) from the village of Combe and widow Dorothy Newman from the nearby village of Inkpen who were found guilty of the murder of Bromham’s wife, Martha, and their son, Robert Bromham.  The trial at Winchester Assizes heard that George Bromham and Dorothy Newman beat Martha and Robert to death with staves very close to where the gibbet now stands, having been caught in the act of infidelity.  Apparently, the local ‘village idiot’, Mad Thomas, witnessed the event and reported the crime, leading to their conviction.  Based on these facts alone it can be wondered how safe the conviction was.  Anyway, the ‘hanging in [iron] chaynes’ took place on 3 March 1676 on the double gibbet erected on top of the barrow which was neutrally situated due to the parish boundaries of Combe and Inkpen stopping at the previously mentioned ditches, thereby enabling the cost of the gibbet and the ‘chaynes’ to be split equally, which seems only fair. The dead bodies were reportedly taken down the hill to Inkpen where they were kept in the barn at the Crown and Garter Inn before being returned to the gibbet for their ‘final hanging’ on 6 March.  I must say that the view from Combe Gibbet is wonderful and far reaching and today there were sheep grazing all around and several buzzards flying very low overhead.  I’m sure there are worse places to meet your maker.

Folklore

The method used by the convicted murderers to do away with poor Martha and Robert Bromham varies in different accounts. Some say they were killed by poisoning and/or drowning in a dew pond (incidentally, according to some accounts, Dorothy Newman’s own two children were murdered).  Alternatively, and rather horrifically, it has been said that Martha was killed by having her face thrust into a hornet’s nest by her husband.

Refreshments

Crown and Garter, Inkpen

Crown and Garter, Inkpen

Rather excitingly, the Crown and Garter Inn is still in Inkpen and still a pub and still has its barn in situ (now B&B accommodation called Gibbet Barn).  This would have been the perfect refreshment stop for today’s outing but, disappointingly, the pub is currently closed for refurbishment and not due to open again until August, according to a gentleman overheard talking about it in the The Swan Inn, a little further down the road.

The Swan Inn, Inkpen

The Swan Inn, Inkpen

Meanwhile The Swan is a nice, quiet pub and twice the West Berkshire CAMRA pub of the year.  It stocks Butt’s organic ales and the Jester was a pleasant, quaffable beer; the Traditional a little stronger. The barman was very friendly and helpful and the beef (from Inkpen itself) and onion pie is highly recommended.

 

References

http://www.hungerfordvirtualmuseum.co.uk/Places/Combe_Gibbet/combe_gibbet.html, accessed 27.02.14

http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle_print.aspx?uid=1013198&showMap=1&showText=1, accessed 27.02.14

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/berkshire/ancient-sites/combe-gibbet-and-walbury-hillfort.html, accessed 27.02.14

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=228788&sort=4&search=all&criteria=combe%20gibbet&rational=q&recordsperpage=10, accessed 27.02.14

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Petersfield Heath

Early Bronze Age 2200 BC –> 1500 BC

I took a brief foray into the Bronze Age today, going for a wander around Petersfield Heath just down the road from me in Hampshire.  Like the Trundle, this is a place I’ve been visiting most of my life and while during my formative years I thought the Trundle was just a big hill, similarly I thought Petersfield Heath was merely a boating lake.  I now realise there is far more to it than that and it transpires that the 90 acres of the healthland there has a long and fascinating multi-age history dating back at least as far as the Bronze Age.

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Bronze Age barrow at Petersfield Heath

There are are a very impressive twenty one barrows at Petersfield Heath, one of the most complex groups of these burial mounds in southern England. They are situated to the north of the Heath Pond  and once you realise they are there you bump into them at almost every turn.  They are effectively in two main clusters, one of which begins just beyond the pond and the other which is a little further back surrounding the cricket ground.  A number of the barrows have conifers growing on top of them which were planted there in Victorian times.  The heathland was used for grazing stock from the Middle Ages until the 1920s.  It has also been used for peat digging, turf cutting, and various leisure pursuits.  The pond was created in the 18th century and in the late 19th century a golf course was constructed and remained there until 1998; it is now being returned to heathland.  All in all, the Heath has seen a lot of activity and use over the centuries and it is fortuitous that so many of the barrows have survived to the present day.

The OS coordinates are  SU 757 230 and parking is plentiful in the car park on the B2146.

 

The archaeology bit

The twenty one barrows (or tumuli) in evidence at Petersfield Heath comprise fifteen bowl barrows, three saucer barrows, two disc barrows and one bell barrow, the latter three types being much less commonly found than bowl barrows and along with pond barrows they are sometimes collectively known as ‘fancy’ or ‘Wessex’ barrows (I favour the former).  It’s fairly obvious that the given names for the different types of barrow are based on their physical appearance.  As an etymological aside, the word ‘tumulus’ derives from the Latin for mound or small hill, while ‘barrow’ can be traced back to the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) word beorg, which is related to berg, which in turn means ‘mountain’.  Alternative names in use in different parts of Britain are howe, lowe, cairn, tump, toot, cop and knap.

In Hampshire it is estimated that around three quarters of the original Bronze Age barrows have been lost over time to ploughing and other changes to the landscape so a large concentration like the one at Petersfield is an important link to the lives of our ancestors.  There would certainly have been more barrows here originally and in fact a 19th century Ordnance Survey map indicates that some have been lost as a result of the modern housing development to the north and east of the Heath.  Similarly, it is probable that more barrows were destroyed when the pond was created.  Multiple barrows like this are usually classed as a cemetery which refers to the traditional interpretation of these as burial mounds.  Human remains are indeed usually found within them although this is not always the case and there could be several reasons for their absence including their having been removed, perhaps during antiquarian investigations during the 18th and 19th centuries, the natural breakdown of remains over time, or never having been present in the first place.  The human remains can be both inhumations (in the crouched position as is usual in Bronze Age contexts) and cremations, often in urns, and sometimes they are interred with grave goods such as pottery, weapons, tools and jewellery.  Overall it seems there is a variety of burial practices going on, between different mounds and within individual ones, indicating different approaches to the disposal of the dead, which can be speculated upon alongside the possible ceremonial practices that may have taken place before, during and after the construction of the barrows themselves in their particular locations.

Bronze Age barrow at Petersfield Heath

Bronze Age barrow at Petersfield Heath

Bronze Age barrows are often found near rivers, lakes and springs and regularly on middle and lower slopes rather than higher ground within the landscape.  It is interesting to consider the reasons for these choices of locations and both ritualistic and practical explanations have been suggested, such as people’s beliefs about the role of water within the Bronze Age world and drainage of the barrows themselves, perhaps allowing life to ‘seep away’ or literally to prevent damage to the mounds due to natural forces.  It is possible to see patterns in the distribution of surviving barrows in particular localities in relation to the landscape they inhabit and potentially with the route ways of Bronze Age people going about the business of their lives, indicating both pragmatic and belief-based concerns.  It has also been shown that some are aligned with celestial features and it seems that, although we separate prehistory into distinct eras for the sake of our modern day understanding, there are many themes and features that overlap throughout time.

IMG_2782-001

Bronze Age barrow at Petersfield Heath

The late eminent archaeologist, Stuart Piggott, who was born and educated in Petersfield, carried out the only survey to date of the barrows at the Heath back in 1930 when he was a student at Churcher’s College. However, Petersfield Museum has applied for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to conduct a four-year fieldwork and research project and hopefully this will be successful and enable a more detailed understanding of these prehistoric monuments.  I am planning to dust off my trowel and be involved in this myself along with another local project involving three Bronze Age barrows at Black Down in Haslemere, also planned for this year.

Folklore

I haven’t found any folklore pertaining to the Petersfield Heath barrows specifically but general folklore regarding barrows often involves people entering them, either invited or uninvited, and making off with valuable items from within them, subsequently suffering misfortune as a result.  In one version, a farmer drinks from a cup he is offered and disappears off with it, later returning to find that his wife is dead, his children elderly and nobody in the village remembers him, which has been interpreted to symbolise the passage of time and barrows separating the living from the dead. In general barrows are seen in folklore as magical places with links to faerie folk and providing an entrance to the realm of the goddess.  Whether you buy that or not there is, to me anyway, something very special about these ancient mounds and perhaps even more so in places like Petersfield Heath where they are surrounded by modernity and walked around (and on) every day by people going about their daily 21st century lives.

Refreshments

The Old Drum in Chapel Street, Petersfield, is a nicely modernised and dog-friendly establishment.  I would suggest a pint of 4.2% Triple FFF Moondance which I like not only for its pleasing colour and flavour but also because it has a wolf on its label and is the name of a rather good Van Morrison song.  It was also very popular back in my Haslemere Beer Festival days when I worked hard behind the bar in return for free beer throughout the evening (the only problem being there was no time to actually drink it).

References

http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba43/ba43feat.html

http://www.easthampshire.org/2013/02/the-petersfield-heath-barrow-cemetery-project/

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/south-downs/explore/petersfield-heath/

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/countryside/petersfield-heath.htm

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=243051#aRt

http://www.templeresearch.eclipse.co.uk/bronze/tomalin.htm

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The Trundle

Early Neolithic 4000 BC -> 3300 BC

Iron Age 800 BC -> 43 AD

Today I paid my local causewayed enclosure a visit, ably assisted by my father (whose fault it is that I became interested in archaeology in the first place).  The Trundle is situated on Goodwood Hill overlooking the racecourse with far reaching views towards Chichester and the Isle of Wight on a clear day.  It’s a lovely spot actually and I’ve been going there all my life: we used to go on family walks ‘up the Trundle’ when I was a child although in those days I thought it was just a big hill.

At the Trundle with my brother and grandpa c.1972

OS coordinates SU 81 SE 52.  The best place to park is in the car park at the end of the little track at the top of Goodwood Hill, just on the sharp bend to the left when approaching from Singleton.  I hadn’t noticed on previous visits but this part of the Goodwood Country Park, within the South Downs National Park, is called Seven Points. 

The archaeology bit

Prehistory-wise the Trundle is the site of both an Iron Age hillfort, also known as St Roche’s Hill, and the earlier Neolithic causewayed enclosure which it encircles and partly overlies. Although the Iron Age remains are quite obvious to anyone aware of their existence, due to the large surrounding bank and ditch, the Neolithic ones are far less discernible to the untrained eye and indeed probably best viewed from the air should you have access to a suitable form of transport (I don’t).  Also within the hillfort are the remains of a probable Medieval chapel, dedicated to St Roche.  I’ve tried to find out about said saint but can only find references to St Roch without an ‘e’.  If they are one and the same (and I’d be pleased if anyone could enlighten me as the Medieval era is not one I know much about) he was either the Patron Saint of the Plague or of the weather.  The chapel is unlikely to have been built before the last quarter of the 14th century and it was ruined by 1570, most likely as a result of the Dissolution.  A windmill was subsequently built on the site of the ruins but was razed in 1773.  There was also a masonic lodge on the hilltop in use from 1717 and 1757 and potentially a Bronze Age barrow beneath the site of these two buildings, so it is a site with an interesting, multi-period history.

Iron Age hillfort

Looking up to the Iron Age hillfort

Bank and ditch (and Dad)

Iron Age bank and ditch and Dad (slightly younger)

When I’d settled on the Neolithic as the era for my research I was looking forward to including the Trundle, so familiar and local to me, in my study.  My project centres around human remains in the early Neolithic era but, unfortunately, the Trundle will only get a small mention as the only human remains recovered during excavations there were fragmentary bone from some of the Iron Age pits, although they could have originated from the Neolithic phase of the site and been disturbed during later construction.

Causewayed enclosures are so-called because of their physical appearance of a series of concentric circles with internal ditches interrupted at intervals appearing to form causeways.  The Trundle is the largest example of a causewayed enclosure in southern England and comprises potentially five circuits.  There was been much debate over the years as to what the function of these monuments would have been with theories ranging from settlements or defensive structures to cattle enclosures or trade and exchange meeting places to ritual or burial places.  There seems enough variety of evidence to keep archaeologists debating the point of causewayed enclosures for the time being along with that of their early Neolithic contemporaries in southern England, the earthen long barrows and flint mines.  There are currently around 80 known causewayed enclosures in Britain, the vast majority of them in southern England with a few odd instances in Wales along with one in Cumbria and one in Northern Ireland.  Additionally there are a number of possible causewayed enclosure sites throughout southern England and a handful in Scotland.  These monuments are not confined to Britain though and are also found in France, Germany and Scandinavia; indeed it is thought that they probably originated in mainland Europe.

A recent, ground breaking radiocarbon dating study by Cardiff University and English Heritage has shown that causewayed enclosures began to appear in the landscape in the 38th century BC, increased significantly in number in the 37th century BC and that their construction began to cease by the end of the 36th century BC. Furthermore, a number of enclosures have been found to have very short lifespans.  All this evidence combines to characterise the early Neolithic as a time of rapid change and activity when these massive monuments were being constructed.  The fascination lies in why around 5800 years ago did people begin constructing them and what drove the early Neolithic people to put the undoubted effort necessary into doing so.

Folklore

Folklore regarding the Trundle involves the Devil and a golden calf.  It is said that a golden calf lies buried there but that any attempt to dig it up and benefit from its value is thwarted by the Devil himself (although he is not mentioned by name).

In the Down there’s a golden calf buried; people know very well where it is – I could show you any day.
Then why don’t you dig it up?
Oh, it’s not allowed; he wouldn’t let them.
Has anyone ever tried?
Oh yes, but it’s never there when you look; he moves it away.

There are accounts of the calf being known as Aaron’s Golden Calf, which may refer to the Catholic practice of burying valuable objects during the Reformation for safekeeping.  Alternatively, the legendary hoard may be a Viking one which a raiding party buried en route to a tussle at nearby Kingley Vale.  They are said to have left a ghost calf to guard the treasure and when the Vikings were defeated, not to return, the calf could be heard crying in the Goodwood woods.  It might be interesting to see if it is still crying…although I won’t be the one to conduct that particular bit of research.

Refreshments

IMG_2367-001The two nearby pubs are The Partridge in Singleton and our choice today: The Fox Goes Free at Charlton.  The Fox (as it used to be known, back in the days when the local hunt congregated there), is a cosy old pub with open fires, tiled floors, old school desks and chairs for seating, and heaps of character.  The beer’s good too: I would recommend the Fox Goes Free 3.8% from the Arundel Brewery.  Also available was the excellent Harvey’s Sussex Best and Otter Ale (from Devon).  The Fox is notable for being the venue of the first ever meeting of the Women’s Institute in December 1915.  Even more exciting than that, in 1975 an episode of Dr Who was filmed there: Terror of the Zygons, starring Tom Baker (the fourth and best Doctor) and Sarah Jane Smith.

References

Bayliss, A., Healy, F. & Whittle, A., 2011 Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland, Vol 1, Oxford, Oxbow

Parish, W.D. & Hall, H., 1957 A Dictionary of Sussex Dialect, Eastbourne, Gardners

Russell, M., 2001 The Early Neolithic Architecture of the South Downs, BAR British Series 321, Oxford, Archaeopress

Thomas, J. 1999 Understanding the Neolithic, London: Routledge

http://pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id+246354, accessed 22.01.14

http://cf.ac.uk/share/newsandevents/news/archaeology/neolithic-britain-revealed.html, accessed 22.01.14

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/south-downs/explore/trundle/, accessed 22.01.14

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/iha-causewayed-enclosures/causewayedenclosures.pdf, accessed 22.01.14

http://www.sussexarch.org.uk/saaf/trundle/html#folk, accessed 22.01.14

 

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