The only place I could find to park along the busy A429 which runs to the east of the barrow was in the BP petrol station. Opposite the petrol station is a 'path' through the trees. There is a sign in the woods which states walkers are welcome but no camping / fires. At the other side of the trees is a barbed wire fence which I didn't bother to try to cross as the field in which the barrow stands was full of head high crop – no chance of seeing anything. Definitely one to visit after the harvest or in the Winter / Spring.
Visited 25.7.09. There is only one barrow shown on the OS map, although Tim Darvill and Leslie Grinsell ("Gloucestershire Barrows: Supplement 1961-1988" - Trans. Bristol and Glos Arc. Soc. 1989) indicate that there are two, both very large.
The barrow is within easy reach of Cirencester town centre, lying in a field half a mile to the north-east. Unfortunately at this time of year the field was planted within ripening wheat, making access to the barrow itself impossible unless you're prepared to trample the crop. However, even from across the field it is obvious that this is a massive barrow, rather like the ones that line the Ridgway north of Overton Hill, covered with mature trees.
Definitely one to re-visit in the winter, as the mound will be much more visible once the leaves have dropped and the crop has been harvested.
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.
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. http://www.indigogroup.co.uk/edge/hollow.htm
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.
(SP 0296 0266) Tar Barrow (Tumulus) (O.E. Marked "A")
(SP 0311 0252) Tar Barrow (Tumulus) (O.E. Marked "B")
"East of the town (of Cirencester) about a quarter of a mile, is Starbury Mount, a Barrow, where Roman coins have been dug up."
"On the further, or eastern side, (of Cirencester) on the rising ground above the town and between the Foss-road and the White-way are situated the two Tar-Barrows....standing.....about two hundred yards apart. In A.D. 1200 their name is given as Thoreberewe. William of Worcester refers (C.1460) to one of these as Castrum Torre (Itin 279)..."(Ref to Baddeley's map: The name "Thorebarewe" is applied to Tar-Barrow "A" at SP 0296 0266.) (3)
Tar Barrow ('A'): Probably a round mound like the one to the south-east ('B') but its shape has been altered by digging at the side. Remains of digging between the two barrows has been ploughed smooth.
Tar Barrow('B): This barrow is a high round mound of earth and stones, apparently undisturbed except that a clump of elms and beeches, one ash, and a sycamore have been planted upon it. There is no sign of a ditch. Probably Roman.
At 'C' (SP 0295 0260) is a large raised knoll, with the appearance of a third barrow for this group, covered by cultivation.
Tar Barrow ('B') : Dug out by a former owner, who found some sort of cist. Unpublished. (5)
Cirencester, Tar-Barrows - Scheduled Ancient Monument (Listed under Round Barrows). (6)
(A) Cirencester 2; 24 paces N-S, 30 paces E-W, 7ft high. Tree planted bowl barrow; Scheduled. (B) Cirencester 3; 32 paces diam; 12 ft high. Conical profile; the mound was opened from thetop to a depth of 8-10 ft in 1935 with no result except the exposure of a large slab. Site visited immediately afterwards by H. O'Neill. Bowl barrow: Scheduled.
(C) Cirencester 3a. SP 0295 0255. Large and irregular; it might be a partly levelled barrow but may be natural Considered doubtful. (7)
A. A tree covered mound 1.7m high, & elongated N-S (Grinsell's points are transposed). It seems completely encircled by quarrying and its summit is barely higher than the general level of the ground to the S.E. and W. and cannot be seen until the quarried area is approached. A doubtful barrow for this reason and because it is only recorded by the O.S. (authority unknown) and subsequently accepted by Baddeley who almost certainly gives it the name "Thoreberewe" erroneously. In Rudder's 'History' only one barrow is mentioned - "a large and lofty tumulus near the town called Tor-barrow....." Rudder was a Cirencester man and would certainly have known of and mentioned a second barrow. Mound surveyed at 1/2500.
B. Tree covered, 2.2m high on W. and 3.2m high on the E. side. Steep sided with no trace of a ditch, & visible from the distance. Almost certainly 1200 A.D. "Thoreberewe", the 15th c. "Castrum Torre" and Defoes "Starbury Mount". Rudder says "Torbarrow" was opened c. 1800 and nothing found in it but a small coin and a large square slab, which may be that re-found in 1935. At the foot of the mound is a slab 1.5m x 0.7m and 0.2m thick. If it was part of a chamber it has been altered since. The underside is well tooled and the upper face has been roughly incised as if for cutting out a curved lintel. Surveyed at 1/2500.
C. This appears to be a natural rise at SP 0295 0259. (8)
An assessment of aerial photographs in the vicinity of Tar Barrow and Hare Bushes suggests that the view of authority 8 is correct and that supposed barrow "A" is probably the result of upcast from quarrying and that barrow "C" is a natural feature or possibly the junction of medieval plough headlands. Tar barrow (barrow "B" at SP 0311 0252) appears to have been used as a marker for the laying out of part of the medieval open field system which once extended across the fields on the north and east of Cirencester. Medieval boundary banks extend east and west from the barrow. These boundaries and the associated ridge and furrow have now been ploughed level. (9)
A possible Roman temple or mausoleum and enclosures are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs, and through geophysical survey, around the scheduled site of Tar Barrow (SP 00 SW 15, UID 327361, Gloucestershire SAM 268), overlooking Cirencester, Gloucestershire. An English Heritage air photo assessment, and geophysical survey by GeoArch on behalf of Dr Peter Guest at Cardiff University, provide evidence of a significant site, probably associated with the Roman settlement of Corinium. Research by Neil Holbrook and Richard Reece suggests that the area around Tar Barrow possibly functioned as a religious focus in the Roman period, and possibly later Iron Age, and may have influenced the routes of the Roman road system in the vicinity, and possibly even the location of the Roman town. A series of ditched enclosures and possible building foundations, all aligned NE-SW, extend across an area measuring at least 285m by 185m. The most substantial of the enclosures, to the south-west of Tar Barrow, is thought to be a temple or mausoleum. This ditched enclosure measures approximately 37m by 28.5m, and encloses an area of 31m by 21m. Within the enclosure is a rectangular structure measuring circa 10.8m by 6m defined by what appear to be stone foundations surrounding a pit or cut feature measuring 8m by 5m. To the north and east of the barrow there are a number of enclosures and possible trackways defined by ditches interspersed with a series of square and sub-square structures, possibly building foundations. Until relatively recently the area was covered in medieval and post medieval earthworks (SP 00 SW 157, UID 1479180) in pasture which extended across the slopes above Cirencester.