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King's Barrow

Round Barrow(s)


This round barrow contained a rarely found tree-trunk coffin. The following account is long but contains some fascinating and intimate details about the burial.
"At the south end of Stowborough, in the road to Grange, stood a barrow, called King Barrow, one hundred feet in diameter[?circumference?], and twelve feet in perpendicular height. On digging it down, January the twenty-first, 1767, to form the turnpike road, the following discovery was made. The barrow was composed of strata or layers of turf, in some of which the heath was not perished. In the centre, at the bottom, even with the surface of the ground, in the natural soil of sand, was found a very large hollow trunk of an oak, rudely excavated, ten feet long, the outer diameter four feet, that of the cavity three feet: it lay horizontally south-east, and north-west; and the upper part and ends were much rotted.

In the cavity were found as many human bones, unburnt, black, and soft, as might be contained in a quarter of a peck; viz. a bone of an arm, two thigh bones, two blade bones, the head of the humerus, part of the pelves, and several ribs: the last would lap round the finger. There were no remains of the scull, and many bones were scattered and lost; others entirely consumed; and all had been wrapped up in a large covering, composed of many skins, some as thin as parchment, others much thicker, especially where the hair remained, which showed they were deer skins.

They were in general black, but not rotten; neatly sewed together; and there were many small slips whose seams or stitches were scarcely two inches asunder. As the laborers expected to find money, these were pulled out with so much eagerness, and so torn, that the shape of the whole could not be discovered. This wrapper seemed to have been passed several times round the body, and in some parts adhered to the trunk.

In the middle of it the bones were compressed flat in a lump, and cemented together by a glutinous matter, perhaps the moisture of the body. On unfolding the wrapper, a disagreeable smell was perceived, such as is usual at the first opening of a vault. A piece of what was imagined to be gold lace, four inches long, two and a half broad, stuck on the inside of the wrapper, very black, and much decayed: bits of wire plainly apeared in it.

Near the south-east end was found a small vessel of oak, of a black colour: it was much broken, but enough was preserved to show it was in the shape of an urn. On the south side were hatched, as with a graving tool, many lines; some horizontal, others oblique. Its long diameter at the mouth, is three inches; the short one two; its depth, two; its thickness, two tenths of an inch: it was probably placed at the head of the corpse."
It's one thing to be disturbed after thousands of years - but then to have everything trashed. What a shame. Has anything survived of this discovery I wonder? And I wonder which came first, the name or the excavation? The grave was surely worthy of its kingly title. The barrow is still about a metre and a half high, according to the Magic SM record.

From p 385 of The Beauties of England and Wales, Or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical, and Descriptive of each County. Vol 4. John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley, 1803. Online at Google Books.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th March 2007ce
Edited 26th May 2007ce

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