Chambered tomb called Orchardleigh Stones.
Reasons for Designation
Chambered tombs are funerary monuments constructed and used during the Early and Middle Neolithic periods (3400-2400 BC). They comprise linear mounds of stone covering one or more stone-lined burial chambers. With other types of long barrow they form the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving visibly within the present landscape. Where investigated, chambered tombs appear to have been used for communal burial, often with only parts of the human remains having been selected for interment. The number of burials placed within the tombs suggests they were used over a considerable period of time and that they were important ritual sites for local communities. Some 300 chambered tombs are recorded in England. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as upstanding monuments, and due to their rarity, their considerable age and longevity as a monument type, all chambered tombs are considered to be nationally important. Despite several partial excavations, the chambered tomb called Orchardleigh Stones will retain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, longevity, territorial significance, re-use, funerary and ritual practices and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 10 August 2015. This 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.
This monument includes a chambered tomb situated on the summit of a prominent hill called Murtry Hill overlooking the Buckland Brook. The chambered tomb survives as an elongated and uneven mound measuring approximately 38m long by 19m wide and up to 1.2m high with two upright earthfast standing stones at the eastern end and two further stones to the west. The upright stones are closely situated, the larger stone measures approximately 1.5m wide, 0.7m thick and tapers upwards to a height of 3.3m the smaller stone leans towards and touches the larger and measures 1m wide, 0.7m thick and up to 2m high. Partial excavations began in 1724, when workmen removing stone for road building found the bones of a large man and several skulls in a ‘chest’ of large stones, the upright stones were said by Strachey writing in 1730 to be all that remained of the chest. Further excavations in 1803-4 recovered large numbers of bones and secondary cremations in urns and a large stone at the centre of the mound had been reputedly broken up before the tomb was recorded by Skinner in 1825. Further partial excavations by Gray in 1920 produced human remains, west of the entrance although it was suspected by Gray that the standing stones were actually a c.1800 ‘restoration’. There are many traditions associated with the chambered tomb. One suggests the name ‘Murtry Hill’ is derived from ‘mortuary’. A workman reputedly dug down over 10 feet to find the base of the ‘great stone’ which duly collapsed on top of him and then stood up again. A coffin is reputedly buried within the mound and many have reported seeing the ghost of a lady in white.