Wessex from the Air Plate 33a

Wessex from the Air Plate 33a is in Wessex from the Air.

Reference No. 200. Geological Formation. Upper Chalk. County. Wilts. 54 SW. (122: D. 6). Time and Date of Photograph. About 7.20 a.m., 12th July [1928]. Parish. Wilsford. Height of Aeroplane. 2,565 ft. (781 metres); calculated. Latitude, 51° 10' 12" N. Longitude. 1° 50' 0" W. Speed of Shutter, 1/90th of a second. Height above Sea Level 350 ft. (107 metres).

The three barrows seen on this plate lie 1,200 yds. south-west of Stonehenge. Bush Barrow is the one on the right, still covered, as in Colt Hoare's time, with bushes. The name goes back at least to, the beginning of the eighteenth century, for Stukeley (Stonehenge, 1740, Plate XXXIII) gives a picture of it, and describes it (p. 46) as 'a barrow planted by the shepherds'. His illustration shows nine young trees in a row on the top of the barrow, and a hurdle fence of peculiar plan in front. The plantation was evidently then of recent date, but its purpose remains unexplained. The barrow was opened in September 1808, and the following account is given by Sir Richard Colt Hoare (Ancient Wiltshire, 1812, i. 202-4):1

‘ The first attempts made by Mr. Cunrdngton on this barrow proved unsuccessful, as also those of some farmers, who tried their skill in digging into it. Our researches were renewed in September 1808.... On reaching the floor of the barrow, we discovered the skeleton of a tall and stout man, lying from south to north; the extreme length of his thigh bone was 20 in. About 18 in. south of the head, we found several brass, [sic, for 'bronze’] rivets intermixed with wood, and some thin bits of brass [sic, for 'bronze’] nearly decomposed. These articles covered a space of 12 in. or more; and it is probable, therefore, that they were the mouldered remains of a shield. Near the shoulders lay the fine celt [Fig. 45, a], the lower end of which owes its great preservation to having been originally furnished with a handle of wood. Near the right arm was a large dagger [Fig. 45, b] of brass [sic, for ‘bronze’], and a spearhead [Fig. 45, c] of the same metal, full 13 in. long, and the largest we ever found.... These were accompanied by a curious article of gold [Fig. 45, d] which I conceive had originally decorated the case of the dagger. The handle of wood belonging to this instrument [Fig. 45, b] exceeds anything we have yet seen, both in design and execution, and could not be surpassed (if indeed equalled) by the most able workman of modern times. By the annexed engraving you will immediately recognize the British zig-zag or the modern Vandyke pattern which was formed with a labour and exactness almost unaccountable, by thousands of gold rivets, smaller than the smallest pin. The head of the handle though exhibiting no variety of pattern, was also formed by the same kind of studding. So very minute indeed were these pins, that our labourers had thrown out thousands of them with their shovels, and scattered them in every direction, before, by the necessary aid of a magnifying glass, we could discover what they were, but fortunately enough remained attached to the wood to develop the pattern. Beneath the fingers of the right hand lay a lance head of brass [sic, for ‘bronze’], but so much corroded that it broke to pieces on moving. Immediately over the breast of the skeleton was a large plate of gold [Fig. 46, e] in the form of a lozenge, measuring 7 in. by 6 in. It was fixed to a thin piece of wood, over the edges of which the gold was lapped; it is perforated at the top and bottom, for the purpose probably of fastening it to the dress as a breastplate..., We next discovered, on the right side of the skeleton, a very curious perforated stone [Fig. 46, f], some wrought articles of bone, many small rings of the same material [Fig, 46, g], and another article of gold [Fig. 46, h]. The stone... had a wooden handle which was fixed into the perforation in the centre, and encircled by a neat ornament of brass [sic, for ‘bronze'], part of which still adheres to the stone... (Ancient Wilfshire, 1812, i. 203-4, Plates XXVI, XXVII)

Note 1. The objects found are here illustrated from fresh drawings specially made by Mr. Waterhouse, by kind permission of the Wiltshire Archaeological Society, in whose Museum at Devizes they are now exhibited.

The two disc-barrows are excellent examples of this very beautiful type of burial-place. They should be compared with those on Oakley Down (Plate XXXI). Much has been written about disc-barrows and their age; whatever that may be, there can be no doubt that they belong to one period, and that this was the Early Bronze Age. All the three barrows on this plate are therefore more or less contemporary.

The disc-barrow nearest to Bush Barrow [Normanton Barrow 159 G4 [Map]] was opened by Stukeley, probably about 1720. It is ‘Normanton, No. 159’ of Colt Hoare’s numbering, and ‘Wilsford, No. 4’ of Mr. Goddard’s. Stukeley says (Stonehenge, 1740, pp. 45 and 46):

‘We made a cross-section ten foot each way, three foot broad over its center, upon the cardinal points. At length we found a squarish hole cut into the solid chalk, in the center of the tumulus. It was three foot and a half, i.e. two cubits long, and near two foot broad, i.e. one cubit: pointing to Stonehenge directly. It was a cubit and a half deep from the surface.... In this little grave we found all the burnt bones of a man, but no signs of an urn. The bank of the circular ditch is on the outside, and is 12 cubits [21 ft] broad. The ditch is 6 cubits [10½ ft.] broad (the Druid’s staff), the area is 70 cubits [122½ ft.] in diameter. The whole 100 [cubits = 175 ft.].’

The other disc-barrow [Normanton Barrow 160 G3 [Map]] was opened in 1804 by Sir Richard Colt Hoare and his collaborator, Mr. William Cunnington. It ‘produced within a small circular cist, an interment of burned bones, and with it, a great variety of amber, jet and glass beads’ (Ancient Wiltshire, i, 1812, 205). These beads consist of two long notched beads of blue glass, five-eighths of an inch long, with six segments (Stourhead Catalogue, 1896, No. 154); eleven round amber beads (ibid,, No. 154 a) and six fusiform lignite beads (ibid., No. 154 b).

O.G.S.C. (age 41)