The Hatfield Earthwork: a henge enclosure, henge and remains of monumental mound at Marden


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 09080 58216

Reasons for Designation

A small number of areas in England appear to have acted as foci for ceremonial and ritual activity during the Late Neolithic period (2800 - 2000 BC). Within this period great effort was invested in the construction of substantial earthworks of varying form. The river valleys of Wessex contain several of these ritual foci, one example of which lies close to the village of Marden in the valley of the River Avon. Here, adjacent to the river, lies a henge enclosure known as the Hatfield Earthwork, within which are a henge and the remains of the Hatfield Barrow, a monumental mound. Henge enclosures are settlements and ceremonial centres dating to between 2400 and 2000 BC. They were constructed as large, roughly circular or oval enclosures, usually over 300m across, comprising an area of ground more or less completely enclosed by a ditch and external bank. Either two or four fairly wide entranceways through the earthwork provided access to the interior of the monument which may have contained a variety of features including round houses, timber circles, fences and burials. Only four henge enclosures have been firmly identified, three in Wiltshire and one in Dorset. They are distinguished from the more common, but still rare, henges by their size and by the evidence of higher levels of activity within their interiors. All the known examples are in low-lying situations, on gentle hillslopes or overlooking watercourses. They occur as isolated examples yet typically contain or lie adjacent to or on henges. The spacing between the four henge enclosures is so regular as to suggest that each may have formed the focus of a particular tract of land or territory. The Hatfield Earthwork is a well preserved example of this class of monument, with the majority of the circuit of the enclosure defined by recognisable earthworks. The definition of the fourth side of the enclosure by a watercourse is a feature unique to this site. Limited investigations of the ditch and part of the interior of the enclosure have provided a firm indication of the date of construction and use and have shown that the site contains well preserved buried deposits. The henge and the remains of the monumental mound which lie within the Hatfield Earthwork are examples of ritual or ceremonial sites of broadly similar date to the henge enclosure. Henges were constructed as roughly circular or oval-shaped enclosures comprising a flat area over 20m in diameter enclosed by a ditch and external bank. One, two or four entrances provided access to the interior, which may have contained a variety of features including timber or stone circles, post or stone alignments, pits, burials or central mounds. Henges, rare sites of which nationally about 80 examples are known, were constructed throughout England with the exception of south eastern counties and the Welsh Marches. They are generally situated on low ground, often close to springs and water courses. The henge within the Hatfield Earthwork is a well preserved example with an unusual domed interior. Excavations carried out in the early 19th century were limited in scale. Monumental mounds, of which Silbury Hill close to Avebury in Wiltshire is the largest and best known example, are large conical mounds of earth, usually surrounded by a ditch from which material was quarried during its construction. They are of exceptional rarity and, of the four examples currently known, only Silbury Hill has been examined in detail. Here a Late Neolithic date was confirmed and the lack of burial evidence led to the suggestion of a broadly ceremonial function for this class of site. This interpretation would appear to be supported by the common association of monumental mounds with henges and henge enclosures. The Hatfield Barrow, despite episodes of destruction which have levelled the mound, may still be expected to contain well preserved archaeological deposits. The three sites included within the monument are all examples of the few types of site which characterise the later Neolithic period. Due to their rarity these sites are individually considered to be of national importance. Together they form a complex, of high amenity value, all elements of which will contain archaeological remains providing information about Neolithic ceremony, social organisation, economy and environment.


The monument, which lies adjacent to the River Avon near the village of Marden, includes a later Neolithic henge enclosure within which lie a small henge and the site of a monumental mound, both of similar date to the enclosure. The henge enclosure has a substantial earthwork ditch with an external bank, which together define three sides of an irregular area of approximately 15ha. The fourth side of the enclosure is formed by the edge of the floodplain of the River Avon and the total area enclosed measures a maximum of 530m (north- south) by 360m (east-west). The earthwork appears to have been constructed in short, straight sections and has two entrances, on its north and east sides. The profile of the ditch and bank varies considerably, having been altered by both natural erosion and, in places, by the effects of cultivation. Where best preserved within woodland the bank is up to 40m wide and 2.75m high. Within pasture, where it is more clearly visible, the ditch appears to be up to 14m wide and up to 1m deep. Excavations carried out by Wainwright in 1966-7 demonstrated that the northern entrance of the henge enclosure was defined by a gap in the bank and ditch 15m and 10m wide respectively. The gaps in the bank and ditch at the eastern entrance, revealed by geophysical survey and by boring, were 19m and 14m respectively. At the point at which it was excavated close to the northern entrance the ditch was 18m wide and 2m deep with gently sloping sides above a flat bottom 9.5m wide. The lower levels of the ditch filling contained quantities of later Neolithic pottery, flints and animal bones, together with the crouched burial of a young adult female. The bank was also examined by excavation close to the northern entrance and at this point was shown to be 13.5m wide with a maximum height of approximately 1m. The excavations confirmed that the henge enclosure was constructed in the later Neolithic period (c. 2400 BC) and also revealed post holes and other settlement remains lying immediately within the northern entrance. The post holes have been interpreted as the remains of a circular timber building 10.5m in diameter. Within the henge enclosure, on the southern side and close to the river, lies a small earthwork henge. The henge has a gently domed circular area, 40m in diameter, surrounded by a circular ditch approximately 8m wide. The base of the ditch lies approximately 0.8m below the top of the central domed area. Beyond the ditch lies a low bank, between 10m and 12m wide and 0.7m high. A small scale excavation carried out by William Cunnington in the early 19th century produced only small quantities of prehistoric pottery. Immediately within the eastern entrance to the enclosure lie the remains of the Hatfield Barrow, a monumental mound which formerly resembled a huge round barrow. In 1768 the Reverend Mayo recorded that the mound was 70yds to 80yds (64m-73m) in diameter and 30ft (9.1m) high. The mound was investigated by William Cunnington in 1807, but the excavations failed to produce any evidence of use for burial. The disturbance caused by the excavation resulted in the collapse of the centre of the mound which by 1818 had been completely levelled. Geophysical survey has shown that the ditch, from which material was quarried during construction of the mound, survives as a circular buried feature 28m wide and 105m in external diameter. Part of the monument is in the care of the Secretary of State. Excluded from the scheduling are all roads, fences, buildings, paths, ponds, areas of hard standing, water troughs and poles for overhead cables, although the ground beneath all 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.

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Books and journals
Camden, W (trans Gough R), Britannia, (1806), 159
Camden, W, Gough, R, Britannia: Volume I, (1806), 159
Colt Hoare, R, History of Ancient Wiltshire: Volume II, (1821), 4-7
Wainwright, G J, Longworth, I H, Durrington Walls. Excavations 1966-68, (1971)
Cunnington, R H, 'Wiltshire Natural History and Archaeological Magazine' in Marden and the Cunnington Manuscripts, (1955), 4-11
Cunnington, R H, 'Wiltshire Natural History and Archaeological Magazine' in Marden and the Cunnington Manuscripts, (1955), 4-11
Wainwright, G J, 'Antiquaries Journal' in The Excavation Of A Late Neolithic Enclosure At Marden, Wilts, (1971), 177-239
Wainwright, G J, 'Antiquaries Journal' in The Excavation Of A Late Neolithic Enclosure At Marden, Wilts, (1971), 177-239


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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