Books, Prehistory, The Ancient History of Wiltshire by Richard Colt Hoare Volume 1, Station 5 ITER III

Station 5 ITER III is in The Ancient History of Wiltshire by Richard Colt Hoare Volume 1.

Iter. III. Having described Stonehenge, and the antiquities immediately connected it, I shall now conduct my readers to the more distant ground allotted to this Station. Following the turnpike road, that leads from Amesbury, through the vale of Shrewton to Heytesbury and Warminster, we find, at a farm-house in the little village of Ralston, a small square work with strong ramparts, and bearing marks of considerable antiquity. Ascending from thence to the high land, the greater part of which is under cultivation, we again encounter a numerous assemblage of barrows, formed into different groups, and assuming a variety of shapes. Of these I cannot give so detailed or satisfactory an account as I could wish. Some were opened by Mr. CUNNINGTON, during the early period of his researches, when no very regular account: was kept of his discoveries, and not the most distant thought entertaiaed of laying the result of them before the public.1

Note 1. His ingenious researches are now, alas! at an end. Death, has deprived me of a worthy and intelligent coadjutor. He was the Alpha of this publication Fate forbad that he should be the Omega.

In one of the Druid barrows, which is intersected by a boundary ditch between the parishes of Rolscon and Winterbourn Stoke, he discovered an interment of burned bones, and the fragments of a large coarse urn, which mention, because the circumstance of finding a large sepulchral urn, within a Druid barrow, very rarely occurs. In a small circular barrow, about three feet in elevation, attached to one of the groups nearer Durrington down, was found an interment of burned bones, accompanied with a beautiful little cup, which we had the good fortune to preserve entire, and which is engraved of the same size as the original in Tumuli Plate XVIII. It is of a pale lead colour, and has been bent and cracked, probably by the heat of the funereal pile.

In the eastern part of Ralston field, is a group of circular tumuli of different dimensions, two of which Mr. CUNNINGTON opened some years ago. The first is seventy feet in base diameter, and six in elevation. At the depth of two feet and a half, he found three skeletons lying in different directions, on which discovery, he doubted whether he should make any further trial, but conceiving there was an unusual quantity of marle stones in this barrow, he pursued his researches, and after digging to the vast depth of twelve feet from the top of the barrow, six of which were in the native soil, he came to the primary interment, consisting of a skeleton, lying with its head to the north, and the legs and thighs drawn up as close as possible to the body. On the right side of the head, lay a small black stone hatchet, [Tumuli Plate XX.] which, added to the extraordinary depth at which the body was deposited, proves this to have been a very ancient sepulchre. The other is a handsome barrow, one hundred feet in the base, and eleven feet and a half in elevation; but, notwithstanding a large section, we did not succeed in finding the interment.

As we pursue our ride northward, Shrewton windmill is a very conspicuous object to our left. On erecting this building, the interment of a skeleton was discovered; it lay on its back; the brass articles engraved in Tumuli Plate XX. were deposited by its left side, and the blade of an iron knife on its right; and between its legs was a drinking cup; but there was no appearance of barrow. Here we find an interment of a later æra, and of the same period as that before described on Rodmead down, p. 47, when the custom of gathering up the legs had ceased, and when the use of iron was more generally adopted for in the early tumuli, none of that metal has ever been found. After quitting the arable lands an this hill, we find an ancient ditch, running north-west and south-east over a fine piece or down; and in the first bottom, not far from a well-house, the signs of an irregular earthen work on the left the bank and ditch then ascend the hill, making a sharp turn round a barrow, as if to avoid it from respect, and pursue their course nearly in a direct line, till they join OLD DITCH, coming from Tilshead, which I have mentioned page 93. This ditch and bank, as in numerous other instances, seem to have formed a line of communication between the British villages already mentioned, on Winterbourn Stoke down, and another very extensive one on Elston down, near to which they pass, as my readers will perceive by the map of this station. This last British village occupies the summit of a beautiful down belonging to the parish of Elson, and owes its superior verdure to the ancient population which resided on it. A long avenue or street on the north side, leading to the village, the excavations its huts, fragments of pottery, and ail the usual concomitant indicia, evidently mark out the original occupation of this spot. This down leads us to the great road from Salisbury to Devizes, which once most probably was a British track-way. Crossing it near the twelfth mile-stone, and continuing upon it as far as the fourteenth, I then deviate to the right, and approach a large tumulus, called most appropriately ELL BARROW, and still reserving its ancient British title of Ell, which signifies conspicuously, a title which it most justly deserves, for I know of no single object in this wild district, which so generally attracts the eye at a distance. Near this long barrow, we encounter a large and ancient bank and ditch, running nearly east and west, over a high ridge of land, and near it we again find its usual attendant, the British village: but though this bank points westerly towards the course of the others before mentioned, I could not find out its junction with either of them. It is called OLD DITCH in the Wiltshire map, but improperly; as I have already stated where that ditch terminated. Close to the northern boundaries of it we begin to perceive traces of a British village, which continue in the most ostensible manner to the declivity of the hill facing Weddington wells, and occupy several acres of the richest down land ever beheld. Adjoining these works is a little square intrenchment vulgarly called CHURCH DITCHES, with a regular entrance towards the east. Appearances of ancient population are still visible, though in a slighter degree, over Charleton down: the hills and vales are steep, and much intersected by each other, and the whole scenery is highly interesting to the antiquary, and the admirer of simple unadorned nature. On the northern side of this village, and on the brow of the opposite hill, we find several banks and ditches, one of which bears away in a north-east direction, to the great British town at CASTERLEY, the description of which must be reserved for a future Iter.