Wayland's Smithy chambered long barrow, including an earlier barrow and Iron Age and Roman boundary ditches


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Vale of White Horse (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 28093 85394

Reasons for Designation

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 communal burial, often with only parts of the human remains having been selected for interment. 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. Some 500 examples of long barrows and long cairns, their counterparts in the uplands, are recorded nationally. 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 are considered to be nationally important.

Wayland's Smithy chambered long barrow is a well known, much visited and outstanding example of the Cotswold Severn style of Neolithic funerary monuments. Partial excavation of the site in 1963-4 has enhanced our understanding of it as well as demonstrating that archaeological and environmental evidence will survive relating to its construction, the landscape in which it was built, and the extent to which the area was reused in the Iron Age and Roman periods.

The Wayland's Smithy long barrow is particularly unusual in providing evidence for an early burial mound being later incorporated into a larger example. The precise relationship of the two mounds has been well documented by their partial excavation.


The monument includes a Neolithic chambered long barrow known as Wayland's Smithy which was built over an earlier wooden and earthen funerary chamber, as well as two field boundary ditches dating from the Iron Age and the Romano-British periods. The monument is situated 50m north of the Ridgeway ancient track, c.1km west of Whitehorse Hill.

The main focus of the monument is a partially reconstructed stone-faced chalk mound 56.4m long and up to 13.1m wide with a facade at its south end. This faces south and consists of a dry stone wall against which are set four large sarsen stone orthostats which stand up to 3m above present ground level. In the centre of this face is located the entrance to a narrow stone-lined passage 1.8m high which runs 6m into the mound. This passage has two small side chambers which have a cruciform plan. The remains of at least eight partial skeletons were found when the mound was first excavated although disturbance of the chamber in the Roman period probably removed the evidence of other primary burials. The mound itself is edged by sarsen kerb stones c.0.3m high and a low bank of rubble set against their inside faces. The mound itself is formed of chalk rubble and turf. Flanking the mound, but no longer visible at ground level, are two quarry ditches from which material was obtained during its construction. These were deliberately infilled in antiquity and survive as buried features 56m long and up to 4.5m wide. They are separated from the mound by a berm c.8m wide. Partial excavation of the site in 1963-4 identified a second, smaller, earlier mound beneath the visible barrow. This mound measured 16.5m long and 8.2m wide and excavation showed it to survive to a height of 0.9m incorporated into the make-up of the later mound. Originally, however, it would have stood up to 1.8m high. This mound was revetted by a kerb of sarsens c.0.9m high which were leant against the side of the mound, rather than being set into the ground. The mound itself consisted of a basal cairn of sarsen boulders c.0.3m in diameter on which chalk taken from the two flanking ditches was placed. These survive adjacent to the earlier mound but are buried beneath the larger later mound. These measure c.17m in length and up to 3m wide.

This cairn covered a complex mortuary structure set on a sarsen pavement 4.9m long by 1.5m wide. Large posts were placed at the northern and southern ends in 0.9m deep postholes and stone banks were built on the east and west sides. A ridge pole was socketed to the two posts, and sarsen slabs and timber (laid horizontally) formed an enclosed tent-like chamber 1.4m high. This contained the skeletal remains of at least 14 individuals, mainly youths but including a child of about nine years old.

Excavations at the site have also identified an Iron Age ditch running from north to south, situated to the west of the barrow. This ditch cut across the southern terminal of the western flanking ditch of the larger mound. It measures c.6m in width and is known to run beyond the site to the north and south. A bank was formed on its eastern side and incised pottery has been recovered from its base. This ditch silted up and was recut in the Roman period to a width of c.4m. At this date a further ditch, c.4m wide, was cut around the south eastern side of the forecourt to the barrow and this ran across the end of the terminal of the eastern flanking ditch. At this date the Ridgeway path ran immediately south of the barrow mound and, later in the Roman period, the ditch section in front of the facade was infilled with sarsen boulders to widen the track. Later still the Roman farmers infilled the ditches and the whole area, including the northern end of the barrow, was cultivated.

Excluded from the scheduling are the Ministry of Works sign and the surrounding boundary fence, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Clayton, P, Archaeological Sites of Britain, (1976), 77-78
Atkinson, R J C, 'Antiquity' in Wayland's Smithy, , Vol. XXXIX, (1965), 126-133
Atkinson, R J C, 'Antiquity' in Wayland's Smithy, , Vol. XXXIX, (1965), 126-133
Atkinson, R J C, 'Antiquity' in Wayland's Smithy, , Vol. XXXIX, (1965), 129
Smith, , Peers, , 'Antiquities Journal' in Wayland's Smithy, Berkshire, (1921), 183-195
Whittle, A, 'Proceedings Of The Prehistoric Society' in Wayland's Smithy 1963-4, , Vol. 1991, (1991)
Whittle, A, 'Proceedings Of The Prehistoric Society' in Wayland's Smithy 1963-4, , Vol. 1991, (1991)
Whittle, A, 'Proceedings Of The Prehistoric Society' in Wayland's Smithy 1963-4, , Vol. 1991, (1991)
PRN 7306, C.A.O., Chambered Long Barrow, (1976)
Sketch sent to Mr Steane at O.C.C., PIGGOTT, S., Sketch and Letter, (1983)


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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