NGR: ST 73494 57213. On a steep hillside just to the east of Littleton Lane and ¾ of a mile southwest of Wellow, in Somerset, is the ‘Stoney Littleton Long Barrow’, a gallery-grave monument dating from the Neolithic period (3700 to 3500 BC), which was built in the Cotswold-Severn tradition; this barrow being the northern-most of the series. It is also known as Bath Tumulus and Wellow Tumulus. In 1858 it had to be restored following damage caused by the robbery of stones almost one hundred years previously from inside the mound, but, it had been properly excavated before that in 1816-17 when a number of finds were found including bones, some of them burnt; these artefact were later deposited in the Bristol City Museum. There are seven burial chambers inside the barrow including the one at the far end of the 13 metre long passageway or gallery which is reached through the entrance and vestibule! The monument is in the care of English Heritage. You can reach the site from the south. From Stoney Littleton walk NE on the footpath for a mile, then head NW along the Limestone ridge for a short while to the monument, which is in front of you, or park in the small carpark opposite Stoney Littleton farm, and join the foot-path.
Timothy Darvill (1988) tells us that it is: “Approached across fields from the south along a signposted path, this Neolithic long barrow was constructed in the Cotswold-Severn tradition about 3700 BC. The cairn, edged by a neat drystone wall, measures about 30.5m long by 15.2m wide at the south-eastern end. At the front are two projecting horns flanking a forecourt, in the back of which is the entrance to the chambers. As you enter the chamber look for the cast of an ammonite fossil on the left-hand door jamb. The burial chambers, which occupy only a small proportion of the mound, open from a central passage — three on each side and an end-chamber. When excavated, these chambers contained confused heaps of bones representing many individuals. Details of the burial rites at other Cotswold-Severn barrows suggest that corpses were first placed in the entrance to the passage and that later, as each body decomposed, it was moved further into the passage until ultimately, as dry bones, it was left to rest in one of the side chambers. The construction of the chamber and passage is of interest, not only because of the techniques used — upright wall stones carrying a partly corbelled roof — but also because the stones themselves were brought to the site from outcrops over 5 miles away.”
Jacquetta Hawkes (1975) says that: “By far the most important of the northernmost of the group, the chambered long barrow of Stoney Littleton which lies on a hill slope three-quarters of a mile south-west of Wellow church. Like Fairy Toot, this is an outlier of the finest and supposedly earliest type of the Cotswold megalithic barrow; like them the imposing entrance portal is approach-ed through a forecourt, or recess, in the large end of the mound, and itself leads into a passage with cells opening off it on either side. Here at Stoney Littleton there were six side cells in all, skilfully built of megalithic uprights packed with drystone walling and with a roughly but effectively corbelled roof. Although it was plundered of its skeletons and grave-goods in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the architecture is itself unusually complete, and other than the Cotswold Hetty Pegler’s Tump there is nowhere in England or Wales where one can better experience the ancient character of these earth-fast sepulchres, where the bodies of the Stone Age dead were returned to the Great Goddess.”
Janet & Colin Board (1991) add to the above, saying: “A low passageway penetrates almost halfway into the 100-foot mound, and this is therefore a particularly exciting burial chamber to visit, not recommended to the claustrophobic! (Take a torch, there is no light inside.) Three pairs of chambers lead off the passage, and burnt bones have been found, with fragments of an earthen vessel. A stone with a fine fossil ammonite cast was used to decorate the entrance, its beauty obviously being appreciated by Neolithic man; but did they realise its age and the means whereby it was formed?”
The HE (Historic England) list entry no is:- 1007910. See Link, below.
Sources / References & Related Websites:-
Airne, C. W., The Story of Prehistoric and Roman Britain — Told in Pictures, Sankey, Hudson & Co. Ltd., Manchester, 1935.
Board, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books (Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., 1991.
Darvill, Timothy, AA Glovebox Guide — Ancient Britain, Publishing Division of The Automobile Association, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1988.
Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd.,), London, 1975.
Photo by Rick Crowley: Entrance to Stoney Littleton Long Barrow © Rick Crowley :: Geograph Britain and Ireland
Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.