Books, Prehistory, Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, Section 2 Long Barrows, Berkshire

 1 Churn Barrow 2 Waylands Smithy

Berkshire is in Section 2 Long Barrows.

Books, Prehistory, Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, Section 2 Long Barrows, Berkshire, 1 Churn Barrow

Churn Barrow [Map]


Berkshire, 21 N.E. Parish of Blewbury.

Latitude 51° 32' 51". Longitude 1° 14' 59". Height above O.D. about 380 feet.


This mound is certainly a Long Barrow. It is 130 feet long and orientated due E. and W. It appears to have been under plough at some time, which will account for its present low elevation. There are no apparent signs of disturbance and no signs of ditches, but ploughing will account for the obliteration of both.

Visited September 18th, 1931.

Books, Prehistory, Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, Section 2 Long Barrows, Berkshire, 2 Waylands Smithy

Wayland's Smithy Long Barrow [Map]


Berkshire, 19 N.W. Parish of Ashbury.

Latitude 51° 33' 58". Longitude 1° 35' 41" Height above O.D. about 700 feet.


Q7YB6SXVThe following account is mainly compiled from an article in the Antiquaries' Journal (July, 1921) by Mr. C. R. Peers and Mr R. A Smith. This article is the best and most up-to-date account of the most famous of all Long Barrows.

Wayland's Smithy is first mentioned by name in a charter of a.d. 955 giving the bounds of land "in loco qui dicitur aet Cumtune (Compton Beauchamp) juxta montem qui vocatur Æscesdune [Ashdown]. The original Charter is in the British Museum (MS. Cott. Claudius, B.vi. fol. 40b), but it is printed in full in Kemble's Codex Diplomaticus (1847), vol. 5, No. 1172, p. 332. The phrase in question is the last in the bounds and runs as follows:- "Andlang fyrh oth hit cymth on thaet wide geat be eastan Welandes Smithan, along furrow till it comes to the wide gate [or gap] on the east of Weland's Smithy." From this it is probable that the burial chambers were exposed then, and probably had already been rifled. "The earliest illustration known or likely to be found is a rough sketch by John Aubrey about 1670, reproduced in Wilts Arch. Mag. vii. (1862), 323 [and also in the Antiquaries' Journal for July, 1921], from his [unpublished MS] Monumenta Britannica in the Bodleian Library .... The four prostrate slabs at the south end of the barrow proved, when completely laid bare, of imposing dimensions; and an east and west trench was dug to discover their original purpose. Not only were the sockets made for them in the chalk discovered, with small lumps of sarsen to act as wedges at their feet, but on the northern entrance, two flat rods of iron were taken out together. They were lying parallel to the foot of the jamb, one foot from the present edge of the trench opposite the foot of the slab immediately west of the surface .... Though a novel variety of the type they are evidently currency bars of Early British origin, such as Julius Caesar described (Bell. Gall. v. 12), and no doubt saw during his invasions in B.C. 55-54 . Apart from the expanded end the section is oblong and quite normal, the longer weighing when found 11¾ ounces and the shorter just over 12½ ounces. After cleaning and treatment to prevent further rust by Dr. Alexander Scott, F.R.S., at the British Museum, the weights are respectively n oz. 30 grs. and 12 oz. 20 grs. The standard based on independent evidence is 11 oz. (4770 grains = 309 grammes). Several papers have been published on this subject (Proc. Soc. Ant. xx. 179; XXII, 338; XXVII, 69; Arch. Journal LXIX, 424; Classical Review, 1905, 206).

"The discovery of currency on such a site inevitably leads to speculation. According to the legend, a traveller whose horse had cast a shoe on the adjacent Ridgeway had only to leave a groat on the capstone, and return to find his horse shod and the money no longer there. But the invisible smith may have been in possession centuries before the Saxon recognised him as Wayland, and the ancient Britons of Caesar's time may have been in the habit of offering money here either in return for farrier's work or merely as a votive offering to the local god or hero. In Sicily a similar tradition can perhaps be traced back to the classical period. (Archæologia. xxxii., 324).1

Note 1. It has been recorded, on the authority of Pytheas, with reference to Lipari and Stromboli: see Elton, Origins of English History, 1890, pp. 400, 401, quoting Scholiast on Apollonius Bhoditis, vf . 761. A somewhat similar legend is recorded of an unknown British site in Heame's Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle, 1724, vol. ii. p. 575. O.G.S.C.

"Whatever the motive, we have to explain how the currency bars came to be buried at that particular spot, which was on the inner side of the enormous jamb and not accessible, even from the passage, when the mound was in existence. As matters now are there is no reason why treasure should have been buried there rather than inside the chamber; but a votive offering deposited at the base of the largest standing stone would have been most appropriate, and the suggestion is that one of the jambs at least was standing about 2,000 years ago. On that theory we must also presume that the surface was then much as it is now, else the position would have been unapproachable without a deep excavation. In other words, the find of currency bars not only points to a British predecessor of Wayland, but indicates that although this particular jamb was still standing, the Long Barrow had been already denuded to its present level in the first century before Christ."

Speaking of the original interments in the chamber Mr. Smith, in the paper quoted at length above, says:- "Nearly all the interior of the chamber had been previously dug over, but the lower levels of the western transept still contained some human bones in groups, though not in anatomical order. Here, as elsewhere, skeletons had been disturbed to make room for other burials, and it is probable that the dead were first buried outside and after a time disinterred, for the bones to be laid in the tomb, reserved no doubt for the greatest of their time. Here we found remains of perhaps eight skeletons, including one of a child, but their incompleteness points to a previous disturbance, perhaps in neolithic times. The absence of thigh bones in this case is remarkable, and only a few conclusions can be drawn. The best preserved skull belonged to an adult of middle age, probably male, with a cephalic index of 78.19. The mean indices of long and round barrow subjects being 74.93 and 76.70 respectively. It is therefore broader in proportion than the average brachycephalic Bronze Age skull, and may belong to an intrusive burial after the introduction of metal. . Near the middle of the western skirt of the barrow, three feet outside the line of standing stones and on the line of our trench BB, was found a skeleton buried in a crouched position, and lying on its right side, with the head to the north." It appeared to be that of a man of 5 ft. 2| ins. in height, with slight muscular development and a cephalic index of 77.72. No grave furniture was found to give a clue to the date.

Proceeding to describe the construction of the mound Mr. Peers says "The mound is chiefly composed of the chalky surface soil, but in the southern or head end of the barrow there is a considerable portion of loose sarsen rubble, and this may have formed the principal material of the first sixty feet from the south, the chalky soil being only used as a substitute when the supply of stone failed .... The revetment is formed of sarsen rubble laid flat in irregular courses. A section midway in the barrow shows it to consist of an inner and an outer face, the former about two feet thick and the latter somewhat less, enclosing a core of hard chalk and soil, the whole being about six feet thick at the bottom with a batter of about 45° on the outer face; just enough is left of the inner face to show at what angle it rose .... The greatest height of the revetment cannot have exceeded six feet at any time, and there are no evidences that it was ever carried right over the top of the mound.

"The facing was composed of slabs of stone of an average thickness of 14 ins. to 16 ins., set upright along both sides and presumably the north end of the barrow. It will be seen that they were not set parallel to the revetment, but starting against its east and west faces at the south end, diverge from it northward. Eleven stones remain on the east side, of which all but four have been disclosed by our excavations. One is undisturbed in its original position; four are more or less upright, the rest have fallen outwards. On the west side only four stones, all fallen, have been discovered so far. It is notable that the filling between these stones and the revetment is of pure chalk unmixed with earth, in contrast to the material of the mound. The average height of the facing stones above ground-level was 3 feet." From the fact that the revetment on the western side of the barrow stands on the inner slope of a ditch, and that this ditch had apparently become partially filled in when the revetment was built, the writer (Mr. C. R. Peers,) suggests the possibility of the revetment being an afterthought, constructed after the mound, which latter was made (in part) from the materials excavated from the ditch. The absence of any space between the facing stones and the revetment at the south end where they converge, also suggests that they are of different dates; but which is the earlier,or whether both belong to a later period than the original mound and chamber, was not determined. Nor was the presence of a ditch on the east side ascertained, though it seems very improbable that there should not be one to correspond with that on the west.

Speaking of the chamber Mr. Peers says; - "The upright stones are set in holes in the original ground surface, which, as far as we ascertained the depth, are comparatively shallow, but the strength to sustain the pressure of the mound against their sides was probably adequate when the monument was complete. The spaces between the stones were evidently filled with small dry-set rubble as usual. The northern stones of the two chambers and of the passage, now lean inwards, but this has probably occurred since the grave has been exposed. The construction of the southern part of the passage is interesting, there being on each side a stone set at an acute angle with the direction of the passage, and, on the west side at any rate, so much taller than the stones next it, that it could not have served to carry a cover-stone. I think that their object was to stiffen the side of the passage against lateral pressure, to which they obviously offer a greater resistance than the stones set with their long sides in the direction of the passage .... In a few instances, par ticularly on the inner faces of the east chamber, the stones have been carefully worked to a true face, with results which are precisely those obtained at Stonehenge." The author concludes by comparing the rectangular plan of the barrow with that of barrows at St. Nicholas, near Cardiff, S. Wales (Arch. Camb. 1915, 6S. XV., 253-320), and at Coldrum, Kent (Jour. R. Anthr. Inst. 1913); to which may be added that at Stoney Littleton [Map] in Somerset, and several described in this monograph.

In Man, 1920, Mr. A. D. Passmore maintains that some of the stones have had their surfaces smoothed. "Some years ago an examination of the large area covered by Sarsen stones at Ashdown Park (which are in a natural position, and not placed in lines as stated by Waring and other authors) was undertaken by the writer [Mr. Passmore] with the idea of finding fiat and comparatively smooth-faced stones similar to several now forming part of Wayland Smith Cave. ... A careful inspection of scores of large stones proved that a flat or smooth surface does not exist here naturally - ^the surfaces are humpy and irregular. At the Cave, the S. stones of the E. and W. chambers, and the E. stone of the E. chamber, together with several in the passage leading from the edge of the mound into the chambers, are flat and smooth on their inner face. After the study mentioned above, the writer is convinced that they have been pounded into shape by the same process as those at Stonehenge. On the stone forming the southern upright of the entrance to the W. chamber are two cup-shaped hollows (facing the passage and low down) almost touching each other and roughly 3 inches in diameter; whether these are part of the old surface of the stone deliberately left by the ancient builders or are artificial is not apparent."

If these flat surfaces are due to pounding, as at Stonehenge - and it would not be difficult to determine this - a most important additional link is provided between Stonehenge and Long Barrows.1 The tooling at Stonehenge forms a ripple-marked surface, comparable with that of the unfinished granite obelisk at Aswan in Egypt2, though less regular; and the discovery of large sarsen mauls at Stonehenge proves that similar causes were responsible.

I admit however that I am by no means convinced that the stones of this burial chamber have been artificially made smooth.

Note 1. For another see W.A.M. June, 1924. [This reference is somewhat vague. It possibly refers to this article?]

Note 2. See Engelbach, The Problem of The Obelisks, 1924.

The following is a list of some of the works where Wayland's Smithy [Map] is referred to, other than those quoted above; it is mainly taken from Messrs. Peers and Smith's article:-

Chambers's Book of Days, July 18, published 1888 (Vol. ii. 83), (wrong drawing).

Scott (Sir Walter) Kenilworth.

Wise (Francis). A letter to Dr. Mead concerning some antiquities in Berkshire (Oxford, 1738, 35-9).

Lysons (Samuel). Magna Britannia, Berkshire, 1806, 215.

Archæologica, XXXII (1847), 315.

Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc. XVI. (1860), 50.

Colt Hoare (Sir Richard). Ancient Wilts (1819), II, 47.

The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction, VIII (1826), 33; XXI (1833), 88.

Intern. Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology, Norwich (1868), 38-44.

Gough's Camden, i., 221.

Hughes (Thomas). The Scouring of the White Horse, London, 1859, 222-225. Note N.

Wilts Arch. Mag. VII (1862) 321-333. ("On Wayland's Smithy and on the Traditions connected with it" by John Thurnam).

C.P. Kains-Jackson, Our Ancient Monuments and the land around them (1880) pp. 6 & 7.

Archaological Review, II, 1889, 314. (Comparisons with other similar megalithic monuments by Sir Arthur Evans).

Singer, S. W. Wayland Smith; a dissertation on a tradition of the Middle Ages; from the French of G. B. Depping and Francisque Michel, with additions by S. W. Singer, and the amplified legend by Oehlenschlager, London, 1847: XCI+ 64 PP- [A full account of the legend in all parts of Europe].

Man, XX. Jan., 1920. Article No. 4; "Wayland Smith's Cave, Sarsen Stones at Ashdown Park, Berks., and Avebury, Wilts by A. D. Passmore.