The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Hetty Pegler's Tump

Long Barrow


Visited today (2nd August 2003CE), 2 days after Moth's wet visit. I was luckier - beautiful day, almost too hot. Hundreds of butterflies flitting around the top of the Tump. Inside - brilliantly illuminated by sunlight. I'd wasted 45 minutes scouring the area for a shop that sold torches on a Sunday, remembering the darkness from my previous visit 2 years ago; but this time the natural daylight showed up every detail except in the 2 southern chambers.

I live 180 miles from the Tump, but have friends nearby whom I stay with occasionally. On my first visit I had come alone, and spent some time sitting in the womb-like darkness, absorbing the past and the silent mystery of the place. Today I had 2 companions - my God-daughters, aged 6 & 9. I had recently sent the eldest the 'Caveman' issue of 'Horrible Histories' magazine - a comic designed to interest children in History - and there was a feature in it on West Kennet Longbarrow. In my covering letter I had mentioned that she lived very near a similar Longbarrow, Hetty Peglers Tump, so when I visited this time she begged me to take her there.

I had expected that the Tump would lose some of its mystery in the company of 2 easily-bored kids - but I was wrong. Although my in-loco-parentis duties prevented me from sitting in silent contemplation, the same old sense of awe and the vague awareness of the closeness of ancient presenses came over me the moment I crawled beneath the portal. Even the kids were touched by the strangeness and peace of the place. They became quiet, almost reverent, as the explored every inch of the interior, pointing out features - like blocked up cavities that were only visible when a torch was shone through a crack - that I had previously missed.

There was much evidence of modern magical practices: the portal was guarded by two small bundles of grass, tied in knots; there were clover flowers stuck into interior holes and cracks; a letter- illegible through damp and time- rested in a small cranny, held in place by a stone with a feather beneath it. Does anyone know what these symbols mean?

A visit to Hetty Pegler's Tump is an intense and compelling experience, even in ther company of distracting children. Strange: spooky, yet comforting; almost impossible to leave. Once inside you wish you could block off the portal and rest there forever. I shall be back.

PS : Incidently - I agree with a previous correspondent. "Hi Julian" graffitied into the - agreeably unobtrusive - information board is simply crass and gives all antiquarians a bad name. We should leave no trace of our visits.
Posted by South Saxon
4th August 2003ce

Comments (1)

As a retired gallery director, I would formerly have echoed South Saxon's cri de coeur about graffiti--and "the name of fools being written everywhere." But in this instance, I was intrigued about the salutation: before Julian Cope even got involved, I knew the greeting was to my brother, Julian Pegler, who died in 2007.

I hope the Tump wasn't closed because of the desecration. The friend, who undoubtedly knew (s)he was breaking the taboo by scrawling his name, will hear that at least one ex-pat SouthSaxon/Celt was touched by the call across many lives and years to an old childhood, school, or Oxford pal. The dead are supposed to live on until the last time their name is mentioned; so, crassness apart, this gives a little boost to my brother.
Posted by Dilys
23rd August 2009ce
You must be logged in to add a comment