|I was just watching a programme presented by Julian Richards, about Roman roads near Cirencester. He claimed that one of the roads heading in / out of the town (White Way) deliberately makes a dog-leg to avoid the Tar Barrow, showing the amount of respect between the invading Romans and the resident Dobunni.
Looking at the map it's 'kind of' convincing. I'd have thought it was a bit hard to say really. I shouldn't argue with Mr Richards but then again there is such a thing as Making Good Television.
There are actually two 'Tar Barrows' and they have a bit of folklore. They show how facts are a nuisance when you're Making Good Folklore, also:
GLOS. Cirencester: (S)Tarbury barrow. 'East of the town, about a quarter of a mile, is a mount or barrow called Starbury, where several gold coins have been dug up, of about the time of Julian, which we saw.' This must be the same as Tar Barrows, from which an account written about 1685 refers to urns full of coins among the finds, the rest of which show the story to have been greatly 'improved' in the telling.from
W. Stukeley, Itin. Curios., 2nd edn. (1776), 67; Trans. B. and G.A.S. 79 (1961), 51-2.
Barrow Treasure, in Fact, Tradition, and Legislation
L. V. Grinsell
Folklore, Vol. 78, No. 1. (Spring, 1967), pp. 1-38.
This 'great improvement' is a weird tale indeed. I know I've got the words of the original.. somewhere.. but until I find them, here's a summary from Jeremy Harte's 'Hollow Hills' article on At The Edge.
To see any English legend as having derived from imaginative response to a chambered tomb is premature until alternative explanations have been ruled out. At Torbarrow Hill near Cirencester, for instance, two men are reported in 1685 to have 'discovered an entrance into the hill, where they found several rooms with their furniture'. That is exciting - one immediately thinks of them stumbling across something out of the Cotswold-Severn group. But the story goes on, getting wilder, with Roman urns, coins, groaning heads, and a figure in armour that strikes out the light. The details are taken from mediaeval legends of the magician Gerbert, probably via the Gesta Romanorum, and there is no long barrow at the site. Instead, the two men challenge credulity by claiming to have entered the hill itself, sinking a gravel pit twelve feet down and then working sideways. The fact that pamphlets of this kind were frequently made up by some London publisher a hundred miles away does not help our unbelief much either. And more from Grinsell:
In a recent essay, Piggot [Piggott, Stuart, 1976. Ruins in a Landscape. p77-99] argues persuasively that this story, placed at 'Colton's Field' within two miles of Cirencester, conforms to an International Popular Tale in vogue in the late 17th century, and that its location near Cirencester may have been provided to add plausibility to the story which was probably without factual basis. Notes on the Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain
L. V. Grinsell
Folklore, Vol. 90, No. 1. (1979), pp. 66-70.
Posted by Rhiannon
27th March 2008ce
Edited 27th March 2008ce