What a little cracker of a site this was!
Directions given by Monoman are spot on although it would be very easy to miss the field entrance / public footpath sign on the busy A420. Luckily as it was a Sunday the road wasn't too busy and I was able to drive slow enough to give me time to spot the entrance and pull over onto the grass. If I was going at any speed I would have missed it.
Over the wooden stile and the Long Barrow is immediately in view to your right – and a big one it is too! I would guess about 40m x 10m x 3 m high.
The best bit of course is the chamber itself – on the far side of the Barrow as you step over the stile. Next to the chamber is an old metal post which looked like it may have held an information board at some time in the past?
The chamber has been restored with 5 metal bars holding the capstone up and a bit of dry stone walling can be seen (assuming this is not original of course!) The chamber is plenty big to stoop into, being about 1.5m x 1.5m x 3m long. There is a (blocking?) stone at the front of the entrance.
Against the far wall was what appeared to be some sort of 'shrine' someone had built using flat stones to form a base and a 'phallic' looking stone placed on top – very odd!
Sat in the cool chamber, looking out to the bright sunshine and the field beyond was a very peaceful experience.
I would highly recommend a visit to this site – top notch!
Today I went with some friends to visit Stoney Littleton for the first time. The visit left me with a lot of mental impressions and images to digest - not ready to write about them just yet. On the way back however, the friend who was driving us suggested calling off at Lanhill Barrow, near Chippenham.
What a lovely and unexpected surprise - this long barrow is tucked away in a field quite close to a busy road. In spite of the background traffic noise it was incredibly peaceful ... hay baled up in the field, the route of a now dried up river leaving an indentation in the centre of the field. There was a stream on the far boundary of the meadow along with a small 'water works'. The barrow is sealed but with one of its side chambers open - our guide today, the ever knowledgeable PeteG took us to the end of the barrow by two old oaks and pointed to a short stone wall which had been build with the stones from the exterior of the barrow.
Compared to Stoney Littleton, Lanhill is unspectacular in its setting but I found visiting it curiously satisfying ... very much the cherry on the cake.
Bit more detail on how to get to Lanhill Longbarrow. Heading west out of Chippenham along the A420, there are two entrances to the site. The first is almost directly opposite the right-hand turning for Yatton Keynell and Castle Combe. The entrance leads across a cattle grid to a metalled road beyond. To get to the barrow, turn immediately right into the nearby field and carry on into the second field, where you'll see the barrow's distinctive hump. The second entrance is further along the A420. It's less conspicuous but leads over a stile and directly into the barrow field. Anyone who wants to 'enjoy the atmosphere' should be more discrete than we were. Apologies to the couple who had walked four miles to get there, only to promply flee after stumbling upon us...
Approaching from the East, Lanhill Farm is on the left. Shortly after this, there is a pull in to a gate for a field, with a footpath sign present. I managed to pull off the road, out of harm's way here.
Instead of doing the intelligent thing and taking the footpath, I walked along the road until I saw the barrow through the trees, then navigated the knee high nettles and jumped over the fence.
The barrow was an absolute delight, covered in buttercups. No livestock in sight. It certainly pays to circumnavigate such things as I wouldn't have known about the chamber on the southern side if I hadn't. Taking some photos, I had the fright of my life when I nearly stepped on a pheasant resting in the long grass. It took off like a rocket as I stepped backwards, framing a shot.
Looking in the chamber, some remedial work has obviously been carried out, as iron girders are holding parts of the roof in place.
A nice barrow, in a pleasant setting, on a glorious day.
Raining as usual when I visited this - and just couldn't find a satisfactory place to park, ended up perched on the edge of the main road hazards flashing.. The field was FULL of enormous horses, who looked happy enough to see a visitor (until it transpired I had no food at which point they turned their bottoms to me to face out of the rain). But I felt rather small in comparison and didn't dare go in with them. One was even stood on the barrow.
If you are more prepared than I was and can find a safe place to park, there is a legitimate footpath through the field and you will be able to see the chamber on the far side from the road.
From 'Wiltshire: the topographical collections of John Aubrey. Corrected and enlarged by J. E. Jackson (1862)'.
John Aubrey wrote:
Hubba's Lowe: In the reign of King Ethelred, Hinguor and Hubba, two brothers, Danes, Leaders who had gott footing among the East Angles. These Pagans, Asserius saith, came from Danubius. Bruern, a nobleman, whose wife King Osbert had ravished, called in Hinguor and Hubba to revenge him.
Jackson, out to correct him, leaves the footnote:
There seems to be no authority for this tumulus having been ever called 'Hubba's Low' (ie the burial tumulus of Hubba, the Dane). It is merely the name that Aubrey gave it, because his neighbour at Kington St Michael, Sir Charles Snell 'told him so'. Hubba was most likely buried where the Chronicles say he was slain, in Devonshire. See Hoare's Anc Wilts ii 99, and a minute account of this barrow by Dr Thurnam, in Wilts Arch Mag III 67. The common name is Lan Hill (Long Hill) barrow. It is three miles NW of Chippenham in a meadow on the left of the high road leading to Marshfield. It is a heap of stones about 60 paces in length, covered in turf. For the convenience of obtaining road materials it has been much injured.
One feels he was rather missing the point, shirtily pointing out that Hubba would have been buried in Devon. But you can see his disregard for barrows in his description of it as 'a heap of stones'. Oh well.
As ocifant says, this place has traditionally been considered the burial place of a Danish leader, Hubba - hence the name 'Hubba's Low' - though of course it is a much older Neolithic barrow. It was excavated by John Thurnam in 1856, and in 1910 it was seen fit to use some of the limestone rubble used in its construction as foundation for the nearby Chippenham to Bristol road. Kathleen Wiltshire, in her 'Ghosts and Legends of the Wiltshire Countryside' reports that "We are told that even today there is a feeling of unease around this pagan burial ground" - she collected this local information in 1971.
Neolithic chambered long barrow excavated in 1855, 1909, 1936 and 1963. Multiple inhumation burials, Neolithic pottery and flakes were found
[ST 8773 7472] Lanhill Barrow [TI] (Long Barrow) [GT]. (1)
Lanhill Barrow is a long barrow, 185 feet long, 90 feet wide and 6 feet high, oriented E/W. It was partially excavated by J. Thurnam in 1855 who found two chambers previously opened and ruined and excavated a new chamber on the north side.
In 1909, Capt. and Mrs Cunnington excavated a chamber on the south side and in 1936, A.D. Passmore, with A.Keiller and S. Piggott excavated a chamber on the N.W. A dummy portal existed 35 feet from the east end. Finds from the successive excavations include multiple inhumation-burials, flint flakes and Ne 'A' sherds. The barrow is sometimes called Hubbas Low but this name was an invention of 17th c. antiquaries (3) and Jackson states that there was no authority for any earlier use of the name.
In 1963 five parallel cuttings were made in Lanhill Long Barrow exposing the revetment wall and the greater part of the forecourt, the N.W. and the S. chamber. Sherds of Ebbsfleet and Hembury ware were recovered. (2-7)
A long barrow 2.1 metres high. It has been overlaid in the N.E. and E. by earth from nearby road widening operations making
positive identification of the outline difficult. The chamber at ST 8772 7471 is still open and measures 2.8m. long x 1.5 m wide x 1.2m high. The revetment walls leading to this chamber have been rebuilt. See G.P. Surveyed at 1:2500. (8)
Lanhill Long Barrow (name confirmed) is situated on low-lying ground; the mound and partially reconstructed chamber are well preserved. There are no traces of side ditches and the mound is approximately 53.0m long, 28.0m wide, and up to 2.5m high at the east end. (9)
( 1) General reference O.S.6", 1955
( 2) General reference V.C.H. Wilts., 1, 1957, 139 (L.V. Grinsell)
( 3) General reference Topo.Collns. for Wilts by Aubrey, 1659-70, (Ed: J.E. Jackson, 1862) 74 for
( 4) General reference Prehist. Chbr. Tombs. of Eng. & W. 1950, 227, illustr. (G.E.Daniel)
( 5) General reference P.P.S. 2, 1936, 213
( 6) General reference W.A.M., 36, 1909-10, 300 H, plan. (M.E.Cunnington)
( 7) General reference P.P.S. 32, 1966, 73-85 (D. Grant King) (Plans & reconstruction diagrams)
( 8) Field Investigators Comments F1 ANK 16-OCT-67
( 9) Field Investigators Comments F2 MJF 27-APR-76
E/W orientated was originally about 190 feet long and 90 feet wide, there are two small burial chambers, one on the north side, the other one visible on the south, maybe a false entrance on the east end. East and west end have only been recently destroyed (this statement made back in the 1960s.) Apparently 20 burials were found in the chambers and evidence from the bones suggest that it was used by one family.
Taken from A Guide to Prehistoric England - Nicholas Thomas.
The Hubba Low story may have got a bit mangled with the history of Chippenham and Alfred.. The Dane leader Guthrun had camped at Chippenham, 878AD, after he had defeated the saxons. Alfred eventually trounced him at Edington, and Guthrun was baptised into the faith and stopped harassing Wessex; Guthrum finally settled in East Anglia. Hubba, another Danish leader at this time, was defeated and killed in Devon at Kenwith castle by Odun.
According to Aubrey Burl's 1981 'Rites of the Gods' Stuart Piggott and Alexander Keiller constructed a full size model of one of the Lanhill chambers and then attempted to get the body of an adult into it. Burl doesn't mention whose body or whether that was a model too. The mind boggles. If you can find the Proc Prehist Soc for 1938 (v4) then you will be able to read all about it.
Burl describes the burial they were trying to emulate:
The original entrance was constricted by a slab in the floor and two upright fractured stones, leaving a gap about 2 ft wide and only just over a foot high. Inside the chamber an earth-covered skeleton had been discovered lying on its back with its knees pressed up to its chest. It was a man of about 50 whose left elbow, wounded in this youth, had remained rigidly flexed for the rest of his life. Other bones and skulls lay tidily around the sides of the chamber. Such an arrangement in a space hardly 4ftx3ft could only have been achieved by someone wriggling into the chamber, lying on his stomach to stack up the bones and clear a space at the centre, and pushing himself out backwards. In turn the corpse, 2 or 3 days after death whn rigor mortis had gone, was laid in the short passage in front of the entrance, on its back, head over the portal slab, and shoved forward until its shoulders were inside the chamber. Only then could it be swivelled round, its legs tied up to its chest, until it slumped partly onto its side in the chamber. A thin skim of earth was spread over the body, almost like a blanket, leaving the head uncovered.