The buried remains of a prehistoric penannular ditched enclosure; interpreted as a stone circle or a henge.
Reasons for Designation
The prehistoric penannular ditched enclosure, interpreted as a stone circle or a henge, to the south of Turner’s Farm Barn, Litton Cheney is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: despite plough levelling and archaeological excavation, a high proportion of the ditch survives as a buried feature;
* Potential: the monument is considered to retain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the types of activity that occurred within it, and the nature of the environment in which it was constructed;
* Documentation (Archaeological): it has been well documented through survey and excavation, and these enhance our understanding of the form and character of the monument.
A penannular ditched enclosure at the western end of the Dorset Ridgeway in the parish of Litton Cheney is depicted on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1888 as ‘Earthen Circle’. Several stones are also mapped nearby. The site, which was designated a scheduled monument in 1924, was subsequently included in a survey of stone and earth circles in Dorset which was published in 1939 (S and CM Piggott, see Sources). At the time it was described as comprising a shallow ditch with an internal bank along the top of which were several circular depressions. These depressions were identified as marking the probable positions of orthostats (not extant), leading to an interpretation that the site was a stone circle. By the second half of the C20 the bank had been substantially eroded by ploughing and the interior and sections of the ditch were the subject of archaeological investigations. A penannular ditched feature was identified within the enclosure, but no stratigraphic relationship was established between this and the enclosure itself. It has been suggested that this is a timber circle (Gibson, 1994). Sherds of collared urns associated with a number of human cremation burials were recovered from the site and have been dated to the Early Bronze Age. The burials and collared urns are considered to be secondary. The site has been variously interpreted as a stone circle, a henge or a small settlement, but is most probably a stone circle or a henge.
A second circular feature, some 40m to the north-east, is depicted on the 1888 OS map as ‘Tumulus’. It was noted in 1936 as comprising a shallow ditch with a single standing stone on its inner lip. It was also visible in 1974. By the early C21 there was no visible evidence.
More recently in 2001, as part of proposals to construct an exploratory wellsite some 1.5km to the north and to improve the A35 road junction, a trench was excavated approximately 40m to the south-west of the ditched enclosure. No archaeological features or deposits were identified.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the monument includes the buried remains of a penannular ditched enclosure, probably dating of Neolithic or Early Bronze Age date, and interpreted as a stone circle or a henge. It was subsequently used for as a burial site in the Early Bronze Age. It is situated on a low rise at the western end of the Dorset Ridgeway, overlooking the dry steep valleys leading to the current settlement of Litton Cheney.
DETAILS: there is little surface evidence for the monument, largely due to it having been under cultivation for many years; however, an archaeological excavation in 1974 confirmed its character and form. Although earlier sources refer to stone holes within the interior, the excavation failed to locate any evidence for this. Although no longer discernible above ground, the encircling ditch was identified. It was approximately 35m in diameter and measured some 1.5m wide with an average depth of 0.8m deep. It appeared to have been at least partially backfilled deliberately, perhaps soon after completion. A single causewayed entrance with slightly inturned entrance terminals was located to the south-east. The ditch is considered to survive as a buried feature. The internal bank was estimated to be 3m wide and, due to plough levelling, was found to only exist as a rise in the level of the gravel subsoil. The interior contained a slightly off-centre penannular ditched feature with an entrance on its east side. This shallow ditch contained a large quantity of flint nodules that have been interpreted as packing for approximately 32 upright timber posts. Within this ditched feature was a central post hole and two pits, one pit containing pottery, while the other held an adult cremation and might once have supported an upright post. This pit was cut by a second, later pit which also contained an adult cremation with collared urn sherds. A low cairn to the south contained further deposits of cremated bone and urn fragments. Few finds were recovered, perhaps due to the acidity of the soil, but also included quantities of charcoal, some worked flints and a small amount of Iron Age pottery.