(or even more precisely: Prehistoric Horsell!)
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I wrote a blog article a few weeks ago introducing the three prehistoric burial mounds or Barrows in Horsell common. If you are interested in that article please use the link at the bottom of this page. It also described the exact location of the barrows using satellite photography. In that blog I mentioned that I was sure there was a fourth significant prehistoric structure but at that time I did not have suitable photographs to describe it in more detail. Today as well as providing more photographs of the larger mounds I will present a better description of the fourth structure. In addition there are a number of other objects in the common which, because of their close proximity to the larger prehistoric barrows, could also be the remains of other ancient burials.
Let me start with the sign at the entrance to the archaeological site. This describes the position of the three large mounds together with a summary of their history. If you click on the picture you should be able to increase the size to make it easier to read. Then just click over the left arrow on your search engine to return to this page.
The sign describes two bell barrows (the word bell refers to the typical shape of such prehistoric burial mounds) with a disc barrow between them. The disc barrow is quite hard to distinguish on the ground due to the vegetation which has grown over it. The satellite photo in my earlier blog article more clearly indicated the site of the disc barrow as a circular clearing in the trees adjacent to the larger more obvious bell barrow.
The photograph below is of the large bell barrow.
At the very top of this article is a picture of this barrow taken when it was covered in snow which helps to emphasize its profile. The photograph without snow was taken from the opposite side at the end of April 2012 and also shows the old path which went over the top of the barrow. This path crosses over the burial mound close to a point where it has clearly been excavated, many years ago, possibly by treasure hunters. I have found no record of any formal archaeological excavation or finds here. There was however a written description of the location of the two bell barrows as early as 1718 by the antiquarian John Aubrey in his ‘History of Surrey’.
The other bell barrow on Horsell Common is more overgrown making it harder to distinguish the exact size and shape. It also appears to have been disturbed in the past. This mound is adjacent to the Monument Road car park, directly behind the sign in the photograph above. The following photographs were taken from three different positions.
Moving now to the other structure which I came across a couple of years ago. If you follow the path over the road past the two other barrows and keep going in roughly a straight line you will come across a circular raised ridge where the vegetation is clearly different to that which is growing nearby. This is not as large as the other structures and there is no obvious large mound in the centre. Therefore I would presume it is more likely to be the remains of a disk barrow.
The following three photographs are taken from different positions to illustrate its shape and size. Similar burial grounds in Wiltshire can include ten or even more barrows and therefore it would not be unusual to find more than three large barrows here. Since the people who built these structures lived from agriculture it seems unlikely that they would used more fertile land for their burial grounds and the satellite photographs from my earlier blog article highlight that even today there is very little vegetation able to grow in this clearing. Much of the rest of the common nearby has been repopulated by trees: it is presumed the stone age farmers cleared the original forests for agriculture but that with time the poor quality of the soil caused it to revert to heathland. In fact it is probably the very unsuitability of this location for farming that has helped to ensure that we can still identify these structures today, despite being around 4000 years old. In other locations, where the soil is more fertile, agriculture has destroyed the remains of many ancient burial sites.
Finally I would like to include some other photographs taken in this area to illustrate other examples of what I believe could be ancient burial sites. These three structures appear to be typical of barrow type mounds and all show signs of disturbance, again possibly by treasure hunters or amateur archaeologists.
The last photograph is of another smaller circular structure which may well be disc barrow which has been overgrown by trees. The circular markings in the ground vegetation are still quite distinct.
The Horsell Common Preservation Society has recently laid down a 1.2 km circular easy access trail which starts and finishes at a new car park opened on the side of monument road where all except for one of these structures can be found. This means that it is quite easy to stroll through this part of the common (called Woodham Common) and see for yourself the prehistoric burial sites – perhaps you may even find some other archeological treasures that have not yet been documented.
Here is the link to my earlier blog which has satellite photographs and also links to sites with more information about Ancient British burial structures. If you require more help finding any of these structures or have some interesting prehistoric information of your own please contact me via the comments box below.
6th May 2012