Reasons for Designation
A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for
ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
periods. Two of the best known and earliest recognised, with references in the
17th century, are around Avebury and Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a
World Heritage Site. In the Avebury area, the henge monument itself, the West
Kennet Avenue, the Sanctuary, West Kennet long barrow, Windmill Hill
causewayed enclosure and the enigmatic Silbury Hill are well-known. Whilst the
other Neolithic long barrows, the many Bronze Age round barrows and other
associated sites are less well-known, together they define one of the richest
and most varied areas of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and ritual
monuments in the country.
Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of
standing or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by
earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Stone circles are
found throughout England although they are concentrated in western areas with
particular clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-
west and the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west.
Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the
Middle Bronze Age (c2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were carefully
designed and laid out, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the
heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully
understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but
it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies
that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided
a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead.
Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the
passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of
stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at
midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles
throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some
form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group.
Only 250 or so stone circles of all sizes have been identified in England and
as a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric
ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.
Although the bank and ditch have been levelled by cultivation and the stones
removed, important remains of the stone circle 700m south-west of West Kennet
long barrow will survive as buried remains, as partial excavation has
The area of field system included in the scheduling preserves the way in which
the stone circle, an obvious archaeological feature until the 1700s, was
incorporated into the later prehistoric land management system.
The monument includes the remains of an oval stone circle, contained by a
double ditched bank, and part of an adjacent field system 700m south-west of
West Kennet long barrow. Although bank and ditches have been reduced by
cultivation and the stones removed, the monument survives as buried features
with overall dimensions of c.80m from south-west to north-east and 66m from
north-west to south-east; the north-eastern part is visible only on aerial
The site was first recorded by William Stukeley in the 1700's. He noted that
it was 'a very large oblong work like a long barrow, made only of stones
pitched in the ground' and situated on 'the heath south of Silbury Hill'.
The site was partially excavated by Smith and Long in 1877 and this revealed
the remains of a roughly oval setting of stones. By 1950, when visited by
Grinsell, the stones had all been removed and piled in 'heaps' during the many
years that the site had been under arable cultivation.
The oval earthwork is cut by elements of an Iron Age and Romano-British field
system which comprises small rectangular fields and covers a total area of 230
acres and is visible as soil marks on aerial photographs. The boundaries of
these fields represent land division and management in the later prehistoric
Excluded from the scheduling is the south-west to north-east running field
boundary which runs close to the southern edge of the oval stone circle,
although the land beneath this feature is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.