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Marden Henge National Mapping Programme

The Neolithic henge at Marden, Vale of Pewsey, sits in a rich archaeological landscape that has received relatively little attention compared to the surrounding chalk downland.

English Heritage (now Historic England) explored the henge and vicinity to help raise awareness of this intriguing monument and its place between the better known sites at Avebury and Stonehenge. There is more information about this area in our report on the surveys carried out on the henge and our report on the aerial survey of the henge and the wider landscape.

Colour aerial photograph showing a number of pasture fields divided by fences, as well as some woodland and houses
Marden Henge photographed on 06-DEC-2006. The henge bank and ditch are difficult to see as they have been reduced through ploughing. The best preserved earthworks are within the curving band of trees top centre of the photograph. The prehistoric Hatfield Barrow once stood near the centre of the henge but was levelled in the early 1800s (NMR 24502/09) © Historic England

Buried landscapes

The henge was built alongside the River Avon and is one of the earliest elements in the story of the vale. It still largely survives as an earthwork, but our survey has also revealed the location of now buried remains of other prehistoric and Roman sites.

These include Bronze Age burial mounds, some of which were built at different places alongside the river, and Iron Age and Roman settlements at the northern and south-eastern edges of the vale that show us where farming communities lived and worked over 2,000 years ago.

Colour aerial photograph showing arable field with some roughly circular marks visible as green lines against a paler background
The location of Bronze Age burial mounds are marked by the cropmarks of ring ditches at the bottom of the photo taken on 08-JUL-2006. Faint cropmarks towards the top are the remains of late prehistoric enclosures (NMR 24851/046) © Historic England

Farming the slopes and the valley

The need to grow more food because of the rising population during the Middle Ages meant that farmers extended their ploughing onto the steep slopes of the vale.

This created large earthwork terraces called strip lynchets on the slopes, and aerial photographs give good views of what is one of the most heavily lyncheted areas in England.

Along the streams in the vale there are the remains of post-medieval water meadows. These are a series of channels dug to allow the water to flow over the grassland and then drained off. This process encouraged the grass to grow early in the year when winter fodder stocks were low, as well as improving the hay harvest.

Black and white vertical aerial photograph showing an arable landscape with many fields and some scattered settlement
Strip lynchets on Cleeve Hill on the south side of the Vale of Pewsey photographed on 19-OCT-1945. Though nearby fields continue to be ploughed, the terraces on the slope are now grass covered (RAF 106G/UK/942 4126) Historic England RAF Photography

Second World War

The later layers of history in the vale relate to the Second World War. These include remnants of Britain's main east-west anti-tank defensive line that ran from London in the east to Bristol in the west. Through the vale the Kennet and Avon canal was used as this defensive line and pillboxes were built at intervals along its length.

The Victorian barracks at Devizes underwent many changes from 1939 when a militia camp was built there. Many women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) were trained in air defence there before the site largely served as an American barracks.

By D-Day part of the site had been converted into an American hospital and by the end of the war another part of the camp was used as a prisoner of war camp. Though many of the elements of this wartime landscape are now gone, historic aerial photographs record the impact of the war on this part of Wiltshire.

Black and white oblique aerial photograph showing lots of temporary huts, vehicles and soldiers
The camp at Devizes photographed on 30-APR-1944, when occupied by the American army a little over a month before D-Day. The parade grounds built for the militia were by then being used as parking areas for vehicles including tanks (US/31/GR/LOC50 5129) Historic England USAAF Photography

The key findings from the project are published in a pair of research reports available through the Research Reports database. The Hatfield Earthworks, Marden Wiltshire RDRS 96/2009 covers the core area whilst Marden Henge and Environs RDRS 76/2011 looks at the site in its wider landscape context. Some highlights from the project were also covered in Research News Issue 15.

Research News Issue 15: Autumn 2010

Research News Issue 15: Autumn 2010

Published 15 December 2010

Research News highlights topical and investigative work being done in the Research Department

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project, please contact the Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

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Group of people standing on a stony mound
Historic Places Investigation

Research Group

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