The Barrows Of Salisbury Plain

It is impossible to approach Stonehenge without passing numbers of

burial mounds or Barrows. North, south, east, or west they meet the

eye, some singly, some in groups. In the immediate neighbourhood of

Stonehenge there are two Long Barrows and three hundred Round ones,

or, in other words, one-fourth of the Barrows in Wiltshire are to be

found within a short distance of the Altar Stone of Stonehenge. This

cannot altoge
her be accidental. The suggestion at once rises to the

mind that these burial places clustering about the circle of

Stonehenge are strongly reminiscent of the graveyard about the village

church of to-day. The Rev. William Gilpin, writing in 1798, when as

yet the Plain was unbroken by the plough and cultivation, recognised

this fact at once. All the Plain, at least that part of it near

Stonehenge, is one vast cemetery.... From many places we counted above

a hundred of them at once; sometimes as if huddled together, without

any design, in other places rising in a kind of order. Most of them

are placed on the more elevated parts of the Plain, and generally in

sight of the great Temple. At one time it was considered that these

Barrows were the monuments erected to the memory of warriors who had

fallen in battle. Though this popular conception is still current, it

seems hardly likely that a victorious army would tarry after the day

was won to erect these laborious monuments, all of which are designed

and laid out with no little skill. A far more reasonable hypothesis,

and one more in accordance with fact, is that they represent the

graves of exalted personages, and that their erection extended over a

considerable period.

The Barrows may be roughly divided into two classes: (i) the Long

Barrow; (ii) the Round Barrow, with its three variants, the Bowl, the

Bell, and Disc Barrow.

The Long Barrow is the older form, and may usually be referred to the

Neolithic Age. Wiltshire is specially rich in Long Barrows. There are

no fewer than seventy-two within its limits, and fourteen others have

been destroyed within the past century. They are usually found

standing alone, and very seldom is it possible to find two of them

within sight. They are also, as a rule, found upon rising ground.

Their construction is somewhat curious. They vary from two to four

hundred feet in length, thirty to fifty feet in breadth, and from

three to twelve feet in height. The earth of which they are composed

was dug out from a trench on either side of the mound. This trench

did not, however, continue round the two ends of the barrow. They lie

usually, but not always, east and west, and the eastern end is higher

than that at the west. Within the higher end is the sepulchral


Two such Long Barrows are within a short distance of Stonehenge. No

metal objects have been found in these Long Barrows, though

leaf-shaped flint arrow-heads, most delicately chipped, are almost

invariably met with, and occasionally rough, hand-made, undecorated

pottery. Most Long Barrows have been used for secondary interments,

i.e. other bodies at a later date have been buried in them. These

secondary interments are sometimes associated with bronze or even

iron. Interesting as the Long Barrows are, however, they are only

mentioned as being, so far as present information goes, the earliest

form of regular sepulture in this country. It is highly improbable

that they have any connection with Stonehenge, which must have been

erected at an age when the Long Barrow with its inhumed body was

passing away, and the plain was being peopled with a new race, the

round-headed people, whose method of burial was considerably