It was a recent phone call from Bournemouth University which restarted this.
‘Where was the Badbury Barrow?’
Nobody knows exactly… though I had put together a file on the potential locations of the site back in the 90s. There were some loose ends to tie up. An unresolved archaeological mystery involving the Kingston Lacy Estate in south-east Dorset.
Back in the early 19th century, farmers wanted every inch of land it seems and they employed labourers as winter work to level out earthworks that got in the way of the plough.
The details are recorded by Rev John Austen, a local antiquarian.
“On Nov. 1, 1845, I accidentally ascertained that a barrow situated about five miles from Wimborne, Dorset, upon the road leading to Blandford, and in the immediate neighbourhood of Badbury camp, was in progress of being levelled. The circumstance which chiefly attracted my notice was the vast quantities of large sandstones and flints which had been taken from it. Unfortunately nearly two-thirds of the tumulus were already removed. From the remainder, however, I have obtained a tolerably accurate idea of its interior arrangement, which, with perhaps the exception of the ‘Deverill barrow’, opened by W. Miles, Esq., in 1825, is more highly interesting than any yet examined. The labourer employed could give me but little information respecting the part already destroyed, further than that he had thrown up many pieces of pottery, and found one urn in a perfect state, but in removal he had broken it” (for the full description read the blog by Northern Antiquarian Badbury Barrow, Shapwick)
Although much of the barrow was damaged, Rev Austen recorded a cemetery within a wall of sandstone and flint. Some of the remains were crouched skeletons but most of the burials consisted of cremated human bones and ashes placed in pots typical of the period 1800-1400 BC. He thought that the burial area had been opened from time to time so that new burials could be made. These were marked or covered by large blocks of local sandstone known as Heathstone.
The number of burials and the form of the central stone structure makes this Bronze Age round barrow very rare. However, the most interesting part was the evidence for carving on one of the blocks. Daggers and cup marks.
The dagger carvings at Stonehenge more have been found in recent years by laser scanning the surfaces of the stones.
This brings to mind Stonehenge where several of the megaliths have been found to have had daggers carved into them. The daggers on the block of Badbury Barrow Heathstone look very similar.
The Badbury Barrow stone with the carvings found its way into Henry Durden’s collection and now lies within the British Museum.
Stonehenge and the Badbury Barrow. Are there other Bronze Age dagger carvings in Britain?
This had been a large barrow so it would be good to see if any barrows are shown on maps that pre-date its destruction.
Since the 1990s, NT and the Dorset History Centre have had the old maps scanned in high definition. Now we can zoom into any small map detail easily.
There are over 100 round barrows on the Kingston Lacy Estate but very few on the Blandford Road and most are just ring ditches visible on aerial photographs, the soil filled quarry ditch which once surrounded a burial mound has been levelled by many 100s of years of agriculture
So the pre-1840s maps to look at are the 1774 Kingston Lacy Estate Map and the 1813 Shapwick parish enclosure map. They both show the same distinctive barrows. The three untouched grass-covered mounds on the entrance track to Badbury Rings and the four to the west, close to a track known as the Swan Way. All of these last four have been ploughed down in the past and are now low humps in the fields. The National Trust have put them under grass since the 1980s and they will remain in pasture.
The Barrow mounds shown on the 1774 map of Kingston Lacy Estate surveyed by William Wooodward. Best candidates for the Badbury Barrow one of the two along the road to the right of the Roman Amphitheatre (see blog post on this)
Two of these, on the south side of the Beech Avenue are shown as large mounds on the old maps. They lie right beside the Blandford Road and 5 miles west of Wimborne. I think that one of these is most likely to be the Badbury Barrow.
Bournemouth wondered whether another ploughed down barrow, south of Badbury Rings and the Blandford Road might be the one. It was 4 miles west of Wimborne and visible as a clear ring ditch on aerial photographs and had clearly lost its mound at some time though it was not prominent enough to be shown on the old maps.
I agreed to arrange a geophysical survey and phoned the farmer.
He was happy for the survey to go ahead once the crop was off the field and I asked him about the stones he had ploughed up in the 70s. He said that he would show me the ones in his garden in August when I came over for the survey.
I phoned Dave and he was agreed to carry out the magnetometry survey and fixed a day.
The last phone call was to the retired Kingston Lacy head ranger. Yes it would be OK for me to see the cup and ring marks on the stone in his garden again, one of the ones ploughed up by the farmer 40 years ago.
One day at Kingston Lacy.