Coldrum Long Barrow, Kent. Photo: pam fray (Creative Commons).
NGR:-TQ 65438 60726. About a ¼ of a mile to the east of St Peter’s & St Paul’s Church, Trottis-cliffe, Kent, stands the megalithic monument known as ‘Coldrum Stones’ or ‘Coldrum Long Barrow’, which dates from the late Neolithic. In the ownership of the National Trust this ancient burial chamber lies at the side of a field, ½ a mile to the south of The Pilgrim’s Way, and over-looking the Medway Gap. The little village of Trottiscliffe which one must go through is known ‘very fondly’ to local people as “Trosley”. The four very large and impressive stones are all that remains of the burial chamber, which would have had a mound over it. In 1910 the structure was excavated and more than 20 individuals were found along with the bones of many animals from around 2,000 BC. At the east side of Trottiscliffe village: drive or walk along Church Lane for ¼ of a mile past the church, then soon turn north on narrow lane to the carpark. Or from the church continue east along Coldrum Lane, then north to the monument. From carpark take footpath east, then south, for a short while to reach Coldrum Stones Ancient Monument, which lies in front of you – more or less.
Christopher John Wright (1981) tells in great detail about: “The Coldrum Stones, or more properly the Coldrum Long Barrow, are the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber. They are today the property of the National Trust, given in 1926 as a memo-rial to the Kentish archaeologist and antiquary Benjamin Harrison (1837-1921), and a bronze plaque mounted on one of the stones near the path records this presentation.
“Once the circle with the dolmen stood complete upon its raised knoll overlooking the Medway Gap—a circle of towering columns 160ft/80m in circumference. Now the eastern half of the knoll is gone, probably when chalk was being excavated or cut away when the road, now no more than a bridlepath, was made. Half the circle has fallen down as a result, but four massive sarsens about 12ft x 10ft/3.6m x 3m stand poised on the brink. The remainder of the circle lie prone in a more or less regular arrangement on top of the knoll—fallen giants of almost equal size strewn across the slope. Even now in its ruined state the monument is impressive and its site, facing the wide river valley, striking.”
Wright goes on to say that: “The remains of 22 Neolithic people, together with some bones of the ox, deer, rabbit, and fox ascribed to the period about 2000 BC were discovered here in 1910, and they were displayed in Trottiscliffe church.
“The Coldrum Stones is a complex megalithic tomb and one of a remarkable group of dolmens found in this part of the Medway valley, between Wrotham and Boxley, described as the ‘Kentish Stonehenge’. These structures were all of Neolithic origin and were, without exception, burial places. The great stones are all sarsens, and are comprised of sand hardened into masses by silica infiltration, the presence of iron often resulting in a yellow-brown staining. The stones are not of any composition quarried locally, and it is possible that they were strewn about during the ice age and collected together to be erected for this purpose.”
Timothy Darvill (1988) says of the site, that: “Starting west of the River Medway the first site to see is the Coldrum Long Barrow……, probably the best preserved of all the Medway sites. It sits on a low ridge in the shadow of the North Downs and faces east towards the Medway. The mound is slightly wedge shaped, about 20m long, and edged with a ring of rounded sarsen boulders known as peristalith. The chamber at the east end, partly restored, survives as four upright stones forming three sides of a simple box-like structure. Excavations revealed that at least 20 individuals had been buried in it. As visible today, however, the east end of the site has been truncated; originally the ground would have sloped away from the tomb more gently than it does now.”
Darvill (1988) tells of some more nearby megaliths, saying that: “Just over a mile south of Coldrum are a pair of long barrows at Addington. The larger of the two, the Addington Long Barrow [NGR: TQ 654592], lies west of the village and is crossed by the minor road leading to Wrotham Heath. The mound is 60.3m long by 14m wide. Traces of a peristalith and the re-mains of a collapsed chamber at the eastern end can still be seen. About 100m north-west of the Addington Long Barrow is the Chestnuts Long Barrow [NGR: TQ 652592], accessible by asking permission at the house in whose grounds it stands.”
Two examples of Neolithic Long Barrows.
Jacquetta Hawkes (1973) says of the site: “This is a good monument to visit first, for it at once makes clear the general character of all the rest. Coldrum plainly consists of a closed burial-chamber towards the eastern end of a rectangular setting of stones which once enclosed a long mound, now much reduced in size. Unfortunately the huge capstone which should roof the chamber has been lost—but at Kit’s Coty we shall be able to see another example still in position. This chamber was re-excavated in 1910, and the bones found in it were for a time almost the only surviving relics from any of these Kentish graves; in 1940 the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in which most of them lay was completely destroyed by a bomb. The remains of many individuals, including babies, were identified; one skull, belonging either to the most important or the most recently buried corpse, was found resting on a stone shelf supported by two blocks of ironstone. The skeletons were recognized as belonging to a small, long-haired people of the kind which in the past it was permissible to call Mediterranean. Nowadays one has to be more cautious.”
Janet & Colin Bord (1994) say: “A ley 4½ miles length was surveyed in Kent by Paul Devereux, editor of The Ley Hunter magazine, and he found that there was a legend of a tunnel connecting Coldrum barrow with Trottiscliffe church, following the line of the ley. The legend also said that there was hidden treasure in the tunnel, a feature also found in other similar tales, which could refer to the power or energy flowing along the ley.”
Sources / References & Related Websites:-
Airne, C. W, M.A. (Cantab.), The Story Of Prehistoric & Roman Britain — Told In Pictures, Sankey, Hudson & Co. Ltd., Manchester,
Bord, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books, Birkenhead, 1994.
Darvill, Timothy, GloveBox Guide — Ancient Britain, The Automobile Association (Publishing Division), Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.
Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd.,) London, 1975.
Wright, Christopher John, A guide to The Pilgrims’ Way and North Downs Way, Constable & Company Ltd., London, 1981.
Photo (top) by pam fray: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4956966
© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.