Silver Barrow - SU04554723 - December 2007
This barrow sits on the top of a hill just south of Westdown Camp, outside the village of Tilshead. For a view of the area Silver Barrow lies in, see the SMR site - http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/smr/getsmr.php?id=6734
Came here December 2007, via the back lane from Tilshead which cuts around Westdown Camp and onto the MOD training area. It was a Sunday and there were no red warning flags, indicating there was no military activity.
The barrow is easy to spot as it now has a flag pole beside it and a well made track running alongside it. Had been over the other side of the A360, looking at Old Ditch Longbarrow , Tilshead Lodge Longbarrow and White Barrow .
Silver Barrow's position just inside the MOD training area has led to problems with military tracked vehicles, such as tanks and all terrain vehicles driving over it. To prevent further damage, the site is protected by a ring of wooden posts and is clearly marked with "No Digging" signs.
Although these measures have prevented damage by the humans, badgers can't read, but are pretty good at digging, and decided the barrow, it's ditch and the surrounding area, would be pretty cool for their setts. Wessex Archaeology indicated that the setts had severely disturbed a large spread of flint knapping waste which lay on the old ground surface beneath the mound. As a consequence of this, Silver Barrow now lives up to it's name and the animal proof wire netting that surrounds the area, shimmers in the winter sun.
The only known "excavation" was made in 1801 by the school master of Tilshead, Mr. Tucker, assisted by his neighbour Mr. Bartlett. They report finding the bones of about 7 people, an iron knife, a bone handle, and a small urn which was broken in two.
The account of this incident is the only known record and it appears in Sir R.C. Hoare's' 1812 "The Ancient History of Wiltshire Vol. 1" under the Heytesbury section, Station III on page 93.
Sir R.C. makes comment upon the diversity of his study into the different types of barrow he is investigating. Of the round barrows he encounters, they.."display such a variety in their external design, and internal deposits, as to confound all system, provided we were inclined to form one ; but the long barrows are so uniform in their construction, and uninteresting in their contents, that we have at length given up all researches in them, having for many years in vain looked for that information, which might tend to throw some satisfactory light on the history of these singular mounds of earth."
It would appear Sir R.C. not only visited the barrow but viewed the finds from it. This must have been a puzzle for looking at the barrow he says.. "It is not circular, but resembles an egg cut lengthways, with the convex side upwards, the widest base being sixty-nine feet. The earth for raising this barrow had been excavated from the sides, each end being level with the down."
As for the account of their findings, Mr. Tucker and Mr. Bartlett are recorded by Sir R.C. as.."In making a large section through layers of chalk and vegetable earth to the depth of nearly seven feet, they discovered the bones of about seven persons who had been interred on a pavement of rude stones, and lying very irregularly" Sir R.C. goes on to comment, "as in Bowls Barrow and other long barrows".
There is no record of the age or sex of these bodies, or even if they were re-buried in the barrow, but it would appear Sir R.C. examined the finds and writes..."The only articles found with them was an iron knife, a bone handle, and a small urn broken in two, which was made of a clay intermixed with stony particles, was turned in a lathe, and was rounder, better burned, and different in fashion from the British urns : the knife resembled those found in Knock Castle, and in the Roman villa at Pitmead."
He then concludes by saying......"All these circumstances tend to prove that this tumulus was not of Celtic origin, but probably the sepulchral mound of some Romanized Briton."
I have yet to visit Bowls Barrow, I think it's only open when the village of Imber opens, but I have visited some of the barrows that are under this Roman-British label and this barrow does not resemble anything like their shape. For a clearer idea on this see my field notes on Mount Wood and Round Hill Tump or as listed by Camerton Round Barrow on the BANES bit of TMA.
It would be easy to dismiss this barrow as not Celtic like Sir Richard does but these people may have been migrate Celts from a Europe becoming increasingly influenced, and trading with, Rome. They could easily have been part of the Belgae, the Aduatuci maybe. I hope that one day the bones of these people could answer that question and a little bit more of this mystery is revealed.
Posted by Chance
24th May 2009ce
Edited 24th May 2009ce