Pond barrow south of the A303 and 400m west of Normanton Gorse containing the 'Wilsford Shaft'


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.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Wilsford cum Lake
National Grid Reference:
SU 10864 41475

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 shallow combe. 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.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Ashbee, P et al, Wilsford Shaft: Excavations 1960-2, (1989)
Grinsell, LV, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume V, (1957), 225
Hoare, R C, Ancient History of Wiltshire, (1812), 206


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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