Long barrows SE of Thickthorn Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
Gussage St. Michael
National Grid Reference:
ST 97031 12380, ST 97188 12257


Two long barrows 945m south east of Thickthorn Farm.

Reasons for Designation

Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day.

Long barrows were constructed as earthen or drystone mounds with flanking ditches and acted as funerary monuments during the Early and Middle Neolithic periods (3400-2400 BC). They represent the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, long barrows appear to have been used for collective burial, often with only parts of the body selected for internment. Certain sites provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow and, consequently, it is probable that long barrows acted as important ritual sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. On Cranborne Chase, some long barrows occur in groups and some are also associated with other broadly contemporary monument types, such as the Dorset Cursus. Some long barrows within this area also appear to have acted as foci for later Bronze Age round barrow groups which are concentrated within the surrounding areas. Some 500 examples of long barrows and long cairns, their counterparts in the uplands, are recorded nationally. Long barrows are known to occur across Wessex, and the concentration on Cranborne Chase is particularly significant on account of the range of examples present and their archaeological associations. Long barrows, therefore, form an important feature of the Cranborne Chase landscape. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as earthworks, and due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all long barrows on the Chase are considered to be nationally important.

Although much is known for one long barrow from previous excavation, further archaeological and environmental evidence will be retained relating to their construction, longevity, relative chronologies, territorial significance, social organisation, ritual and funerary practices, relationships with surrounding monuments and overall landscape context.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 15 December 2015. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes two long barrows situated on the summit of a prominent ridge on Thickthorn Down overlooking the valley of a tributary to the River Allen. The north western long barrow survives as a rectangular mound measuring 44m long, 18m wide and up to 2.4m high surrounded by a U-shaped ditch around the south eastern end of up to 7.5m wide and 0.9m deep. The barrow is aligned from north west to south east and seems to share the alignment of the terminal end of the Dorset Cursus (scheduled separately) which seems to have been deliberately altered to include both the existing long barrows into it, although all three are not exactly aligned. A stray find of a Neolithic flint axe was made on the surface close to the western flank of the barrow. The south eastern long barrow survives as a rectangular mound measuring 30m long, 18m wide and up to 2.4m high and is surrounded by a U-shaped ditch to the north western end of 7m wide and 0.9m deep. The long barrow was excavated in 1933 by Drew and Piggott who suggested it had been preceded by a turf built mortuary structure. However, later re-assessment suggests the mound was in fact constructed as a series of bays divided by hurdles. No human remains were located from the primary burial position, although primary ditch fills did include Early Neolithic pottery, carved chalk phalli and animal bones with particular concentrations at the ditch terminals on the south east end. This pattern continued into the Late Neolithic when Peterborough Ware and animals bone predominated in the same areas. Four secondary crouched female inhumations associated with Beaker Pottery were centrally inserted into the mound along the axis of the barrow, one also accompanied by the remains of a child and another with an awl. Three post holes were discovered at the open end of the long mound but their date and purpose were not clear and three pits beneath the mound contained chalk rubble, burnt flints and charcoal. An antler pick from the old land surface had an un-calibrated radiocarbon date of 3210 +/- 45 bc. Following excavation the mound was restored to exactly its original form.

Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity, some are scheduled separately but others are not included because they have not been formally assessed.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DO 79
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument Nos:-210031and 210037


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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