I found an alternative version of the story in Whitlock's 'The Folklore of Wiltshire' (1976).
Nearby is 'Barrow Farm', and the barrow lies in the field called 'Barrow Piece'. So one imagines it must have been fairly sizeable and noticeable before excavation and ploughing?
The story in Whitlock's book goes thus:
When Manton barrow was excavated in 1906 it was found to contain a skeleton adorned with gold, amber, bronze and lignite articles.. After excavation and reinterment of the skeleton the barrow was made up and planted with trees [?]. A widow who lived locally told a Dr JB Maurice of Marlborough (her late husband's employer) that 'every night since that man from Devizes came and disturbed the old creature she did come out of the mound and walk around the house and squinny into the window. I do hear her most nights and want you to give me sammat to keep her away.' The doctor gave her some medicine telling her to go to bed in the dark immediately after taking it. Later the widow said 'the old creature came round the cottage as usual for a few nights, but not seeing me, gave up, thinking no doubt that she had scared me away'.
How's this for a weird bit of (modern) folklore? (found in Grinsell's 'Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain')
The Manton round barrow was excavated in 1906, and they found an old woman's skeleton amongst a number of grave goods. For some reason (unspecified) the skeleton was kept in a shed for a number of years. The owner of the shed apparently decided to send one of the skeleton's fingers away to a friend overseas. He himself had circulatory problems and soon it turned out that he had to have a finger amputated. For some reason he then took it upon himself to replace the skeleton's finger with his own, and he reburied the whole skeleton back in the barrow*. A ghost was then repeatedly seen looking in at his cottage window for the next few weeks.
(v odd and even sounds quite muddled, as you'd have expected the replacement of the finger to have happened after the ghost appeared. And you'd have thought being stored in a shed would annoy you more than having your finger removed. Dunno. For those interested, Grinsell notes the original sources and you could always look these over.)
*As MJB mentions below - the reburial in the barrow is at least actually true.
A Bronze Age bowl barrow, listed by Grinsell as Preshute 1a, excavated in 1906 by B and M Cunnington. Approximately central beneath the mound was a crouched inhumation, said to be an adult female, lying on the former ground surface, accompanied by numerous objects including a bronze knife-dagger with amber pommel, a small dagger blade, 150 shale beads, some amber beads, a gold-bound amber disc, a gold-bound shale bead, a small gold "halberd pendant" with bronze blade, some bronze awls, and a small pottery "grape cup". An incense cup was found a short distance away. Elsewhere in the mound was an upright Collared Urn, though no accompanying cremation was found. All the finds are in Devizes Museum. The skeleton was reinterred after excavation and the barrow reconstructed.
With ref to Rhiannon's entry - first of all, you haven't got the wrong barrow. The MAGIC entry is wrong, and the appropriate persons have already been made aware.
Maud Cunnington published her excavation report twice - in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History magazine vol 35, 1907-8, pp1-20 and in The Reliquary new series vol 13, 1907, 28-46. As far as I can tell, both are identical.
She states quite clearly that the body was lying on the old ground surface, under the mound and in a roughly central position. There was no grave pit. This isn't unusual. The report includes a sketch showing the skeleton laid out on the ground and the positions of the various grave goods.
With reference to the sex of the deceased, the bone report by Dr John Beddoe (author of 'The Races of Britain') isn't exactly a classic of its kind, but as the bones were re-interred in the restored mound we have no way of checking if he was correct.
When the Manton Round Barrow was excavated by Maud Cunnington it turned out to be the richest and most elaborate of only a few 'Wessex-style' burials in the Avebury area.
An elderly woman's body had been wrapped in cloth and laid in a crouching position on the ground surface*, with grave goods at her head and feet. Amongst the items found were: a gold-bound amber disc; a biconical shale bead with gold bands; a halberd pendant with a shaft covered in sheet gold; a bronze knife dagger with an amber pommel; a second knife dagger; a shale bead necklace; amber beads; three bronze awls; other beads of shale, chalk, and fossil; and two small 'accessory vessels' (list in Pollard & Reynolds' 'Avebury - the biography of a landscape').
(*whether this means a hole was left in the centre of the barrow, or the barrow was built complete over her, I don't know - I'm sure it would be evident from the excavation)
Perhaps with all this (and the publicity which no doubt surrounded the finds) it's no wonder the folklore above became associated with the barrow. (One thing confuses me, that the info on MAGIC clearly says 'no details are known' about the barrow at this grid reference. Have I got the wrong location?)
- Thank you very much MJB for your clarifications (see above).