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 Bronze Age periods.
Two of the best known and the earliest recognised areas are around Avebury and
Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a World Heritage Site.
The area of chalk downland which surrounds Stonehenge contains one of the
densest and most varied groups of Neolithic and Bronze Age field monuments in
Britain. Included within the area are Stonehenge itself, the Stonehenge
cursus, the Durrington Walls henge, and a variety of burial monuments, many
grouped into cemeteries.
The area has been the subject of archaeological research since the 18th
century when Stukeley recorded many of the monuments and partially excavated a
number of the burial mounds. More recently, the collection of artefacts from
the surfaces of ploughed fields has supplemented the evidence for ritual and
burial by revealing the intensity of contemporary settlement and land-use.
In view of the importance of the area, all ceremonial and sepulchral monuments
of this period which retain significant archaeological remains are identified
as nationally important.
Pond barrows are ceremonial or funerary monuments of the Early to Middle
Bronze Age, most examples dating to between 1500 BC and 1000 BC. The term
`barrow' is something of a misnomer as, rather than a mound, they were
constructed as regular circular depressions with an embanked rim and,
occasionally, an outer ditch or an entrance through the bank. Pond barrows
occur either in isolation or within round barrow cemeteries. Pond barrows are
the rarest form of round barrow, with about 60 examples recorded nationally
and a distribution largely confined to Wiltshire and Dorset, many of which are
in the Stonehenge area. As few examples have been excavated, they have a
particularly high value for future study. Due to their rarity, all identified
pond barrows will normally be considered to be of national importance.
Although the pond barrow south of the A303 which contained the Wilsford Shaft
has been the subject of excavation, the site is marked by a slight depression
and the form of the shaft does survive as a downcut feature. This is the only
pond barrow currently known to contain a shaft of this type, which is
interpreted as a `ritual shaft' containing votive offerings. A similar shaft
has been found at Swanwick in Hampshire, and ritual shafts of Iron Age date
are known from the European mainland.
The monument includes a pond barrow containing the Wilsford Shaft, situated
south of the A303 and west of Normanton Gorse near the northern margin of a
The barrow is visible as a slight depression 9m in diameter and 0.3m deep.
Excavation in 1960-2 revealed that it was surrounded by a bank 3.5m wide and
0.6m high, giving an overall diameter of 16m. The central area was found to
contain a shaft 6m in diameter on the surface, tapering to 1.8m at a depth of
6m, and descending vertically to a depth of 30m. At the bottom, in the
waterlogged filling which occupied the shaft for about half its depth, were
quantities of plant remains and wood, including worked objects such as
stave-built tubs, composite stitched vessels and a turned bowl. There were
also Middle Bronze Age pottery vessels, amber beads, bone pins and animal
bones. A radiocarbon date of c.1400 BC was obtained from this material. The
shaft, although well-like in appearance, is interpreted as a `ritual shaft'
containing a range of votive offerings.
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.