There are actually six barrows on this site. The two western most are large,one bell and one bowl type in good condition, the most easterly of the group is also in fairly good nick. The rest of the barrows are very knocked about, they look to have been very roughly excavated in the past.
They are in a row from west to east along the ridge of a hill overlooking the village of Chaldon Herring or East Chaldon. They are very prominent on the horizon from the valley to the south below. There are barrows all along the spine of this hill including the Lord's barow to the west.
(Centred SY 790842) Five Marys (Tumuli) (NR) (seven shown) (1)
A group of barrows known as the Five Marys and shown as 'Five Meers' (boundary marks) on Taylor's Map of Dorset 1765. (See Concordance card for individual barrows and details). Two of the barrows were excavated under the direction of the exiled Duchess of Berri who resided at Lulworth Castle after the dethronement of Charles X of France (in 1830). In one barrow, a deep chalk-cut grave contained two adult inhumations (male and female in a 'sitting' (contracted) position with stag antlers placed on each shoulder of both burials. In the other barrow were the remains of a similar inhumation (male) with stag antlers overlying each shoulder, also contained within a chalk-cut grave (2,3,6).
An Abercromby Type 4 Deverel Group 2 urn containing cremated bone was also found. Now in Dorchester Museum (4). RCHM suggest that 'A' and 'C' (see Concordance) were the two barrows excavated. (2-6) See Concordance card. (7)
The Five Marys (name not confirmed) - a group of barrows centred SY 79038420.
'A' SY 78958421. Bowl barrow, damaged by modern banks with traces of a ditch visible on the north-east. Diameter of mound 24.0m. height 3.2m., with ditch 5.0m. wide where visible.
'B' SY 79008421. Bell barrow with overall diameter of 30.0m., and height 3.3m. Ditch. 4.0m. wide, is visible on all except south side. Berm 1.0m. wide.
'C' SY 79038421. Bell barrow: diameter 18.0m. and height 3.0m., with a berm 1.0m. wide. There are faint and unsurveyable traces of a ditch.
'D' SY 79068420. Bowl barrow: diameter 17.0m. and height 1.6m., with a central excavation hollow 9.0m. in diameter. Faint and unsurveyable traces of a ditch.
'E' No visible remains.
'F' SY 79108420. Barrow with a possible berm visible on west side only which may be mutilation; on all other sides resembles a bowl. Diameter overall 26.0m., height 2.2m., with a ditch 4.5m. wide visible on all sides except the south.
'G' SY 79058420. A possible barrow. An irregular-shaped mound out of line with the other barrows in this group; very mutilated, with excavation hollow. Diameter 14.0m., height 1.3m. No visible ditch.
The probable pond barrow at SY 79008421 was not found.
Re-surveyed at 1:2500 on MSD. (8)
Five Marys, barrow cemetery (SY/790842) 2.75 miles ESE of A353/A352 junction, 1 mile W of Winfrith Newburgh.
There are 8 barrows in this group. arranged in a line E/W, following the ridge in the following order (E/W): bowl. pond, bell, bell, bowl, bowl, bowl, bell. The bowl-barrows have diams. of 20 to 70ft, and hts. 1-7 ft. The mounds of the bells are 50-70 ft. wide and 8-9 ft. high, their overall diams. being about 90 ft. The pond barrow is about 9 ft wide, with a slight outer bank giving it an overall diam. of about 20 ft. This cemetery, a good example of barrows accumulated in a straight line, must have been built in the period c. 1,700-1,400 BC.
Guide to prehistoric England - Nicholas Thomas 1976
This group of barrows were shown as 'Five Meers' (boundary marks) on Taylor's map of Dorset in 1765. Two of the barrows in the group were excavated before1866, under the direction of the exiled Duchess of Berry who lived at Lulworth Castle.
In one barrow there was a deep chalk-cut grave containing two skeletons in a sitting position, one male and one female. Interestingly, both had stag antlers on their shoulders. The second barrow excavated also contained a deep grave with a similarly stag-antlered skeleton. There was also a secondary cremation in the upper part of this mound. The barrows in question are probably the first and the third large ones from the west end of the cemetery.
The Five Marys are only some of the barrows that stretch along the ridge here - to Moigns Down in the west, and with one more barrow at their east. In total there are seven bowl barrows, two bell barrows and a pond barrow, which "were no doubt" (according to the SMR record) constructed over a long period of time.
(info from the scheduled monument record on MAGIC)
If the name has been the five 'Marys' for a long time, it would be interesting whether any local people have some folklore on the identity of these alleged ladies. Could it be put down as a biblical thing? 'Mary' is not the most obvious connection for five things. 'Meers' are hardly in the modern vocabulary.. would it have been obvious to call them 'the five meers' in the past?