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The Hellstone

Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech

<b>The Hellstone</b>Posted by jimitImage © Jimit Aug 2012
Nearest Town:Chickerell (8km SE)
OS Ref (GB):   SY605867 / Sheet: 194
Latitude:50° 40' 40.82" N
Longitude:   2° 33' 32.82" W


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Fieldnotes

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The best place to park for this site is the layby by the Farm on Portisham Hill, next to the farm at SY601879. The path leading from the style at the layby across the field will lead you directly to the Hellstone. After the first field you need to walk on the other side of the hedge, and then change back again for the third field to be on the correct side for the style and to avoid the electric fence.
This is all going to change soon though as I met the farmer who told me they are soon to change the path leading to the Hellstone.

This lay by is also the perfect place to leave the car to walk to Hampton Down opposite, and just back along The Valley of the Stones and if you have time why not continue on past the valley of the Stones off Coombe Road and then take the right hand turn onto Bishop's Road. The track to The Grey Mare and her Colts and Kingston Russell is just off another right turn (the next one you come to on Bishops Road) onto a farm track.
texlahoma Posted by texlahoma
8th February 2012ce

I do love a dolmen. The Hellstone is one I'd wanted to see for some time as in the photos I'd seem it looked so tortured and in a very unusual position. When I actually saw it yesterday it all made sense at last. On a field boundary, near a gate and a pond, this dolmen has been horribly mucked about with during an ill-considered restoration. Stones huddle together like fingers in a clenched fist supporting a single lumpy capstone. It's all wrong! But it's all right, too, because at least it's up. It's up and someone actually gives a toss. The monument still has power.

Like all ancient monuments with chambers I have to get inside. This one is tall enough for me to stand up in with loads of headroom. Some tosser had scrawled graffiti on one of the stones inside the chamber- a reversed swastika. A pox on them.

As Moth whizzed around taking photos, I made a very quick sketch before my hands got too cold to continue. The more I drew the more it reminded me a lot of Crucuno dolmen in Brittany.
Jane Posted by Jane
5th November 2006ce

We visited the Hellstone last week, and very lovely it is too. Unlike the other posters here, we approached it from the Hardy Monument rather than from the layby, and it would seem to be a much easier route than descibed elsewhere, not least because the Hardy Monument is so easy to find!

With an ordanance survey map and a compass at the car park of the Hardy Monument, it is not too difficult to make out the dolmen in a distant field (especially with the aid of binoculars). Having spotted it, it is just a matter of following the path in the correct direction down from the monument into the woods. The Hellstone is signposted from there onwards.

Admittedly we almost missed it, as we didn't spot the engraved stone marked "Hellstone" at the entrance to the field it is in! Most people probably wouldn't be quite so useless though!

*Note on the Hardy Monument - am I the only person on the planet that thought that this was a memorial to Thomas Hardy the author? It is actually erected in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy of HMS Victory.
Squid Tempest Posted by Squid Tempest
5th September 2006ce

Access a bit of a walk, maybe half a mile, with a few stiles. We parked in a layby on Portisham Hill, next to the farm at SY601879. Phil's map and description would have been very helpful, as we only had a Landranger map and would've been helped greatly by knowing where the site is in relation to field boundaries.

Dunno how everybody else seemed to find it so easily!!!

Other than using Phil's map or an Explorer/Pathfider map, the easiest way to find the dolmen is simply to follow the path leading east from the layby.

Although strictly speaking, the Hellstone is in the third field on the right, after passing into the second field, start watching the (near) horizon on the right and you'll see the dolmen and it's companion tree.

There is a stile (though on our visit no signpost) and you can reach the Hellstone by crossing or skirting the field towards it. The way is up a fairly gentle hill at this point and obvious once you spot the stones. Annoyingly we didn't do this and missed it, reaching it by a far more haphazard route!

Thursday 18 September 2003
In a pretty good spot at the crest of the hill, this is a nice dolmen, if slightly unusual (due to the reconstruction perhaps?) and the extent of the original mound is much more evident than at many similar sites.

Interestingly, to me anyway, the actual stones of the dolmen themselves seemed to be on quite a raised platform. More so than most dolmens I've visited I think. Although I guess this could also be a legacy of the reconstruction.

'Duck pond'? That's a bit grand. I'd read 'big muddy puddle'. And the ducks were right back way down the hill as if giving it a wide berth.
Moth Posted by Moth
3rd December 2003ce
Edited 5th December 2003ce

August 21st 2003
Took my three kids here on a beautiful day on way back towards holiday camp in Weymouth! We had a celebration of Clarissa's GCSE results!
Tom, aged 8 yesterday, just fits under the capstone at the entrance, bet he won't next time! All three moaned across the fields but totally loved the site.
The pond was totally dried up and cracked.
Across the field is some digging, fenced off with wire, looked very sandy, with thousands of ducklings running around it......... excuse my ignorance but no idea what the idea of this was!
Took pics will submit once arrived.
Fantastic site. Two days earlier had walked around Maiden Castle. From both you can see the chess piece that is Hardy's Monument (Captain Kiss me Hardy, not Thomas, Tess dies at Stonehenge Hardy). What a horrible way to connect two such powerful sites! The big and the small.
Hellstone certainly has atmosphere and inspired the hell outta me!
Posted by cernical
2nd September 2003ce

Muddy is really just an understatement. It was also freezing cold. Mrs IronMan decided to stay snug in the car with the heating on while I tramped out across the fields to find the site. A few minutes of picking my way through the least muddy parts of the track were swiftly cast aside as I shouted out an almighty "F*CK THIS" and waded through the thick ankle-deep sludge.

The Hellstone is in quite a location, and from here it was easy to pick out the barrows in the surrounding landscape. There seems to be some concern over the accuracy of the reconstruction of this site, but my main problem was with the muddy duck pond in front of the tomb!

I hung around for a while, till the sun began to set, then made my way back through the sludge.
IronMan Posted by IronMan
7th February 2003ce
Edited 7th February 2003ce

The Hell Stone - 22.12.2002

Hell this was muddy, and the cows in the first field were very territorial. From SY601869 (almost opposite Hampton Barn Farm), there is a small lay-by and stile into the first field. The cows feeding centre is also situated around here so in December it was extra muddy! The footpath on the map seems to follow the fence across the field on its northern side, and as I couldn't see that far ahead I played it safe and followed the fence on this side despite the cows. Half way
along the field the fence then forced me to change sides, and at the end of the filed there was a handy notice, saying something to the effect of 'Please walk on whichever side of the fence the cows are not using'. I could have done with a similar sign at the road end of the field!

I am slightly surprised that other people have said that the hell stone is not so easy to spot as I seemed to be able to see it / the enigmatic gnarly tree that is next to it (see photos), from quite a way off. When I visited there was a duck pond barely a few metres to the South edge of the burial chamber (shown well in Phil's excellent picture on this site). I could be wrong but it did not look natural at all. Very pleasant to look at all the ducks but surely made too close to the burial chamber? Maybe it's a trade off because there seems to be no official footpath to the Hell Stone and access presumably relies on the farmer's goodwill.

The chamber is exactly as I had imagined it. Amazing views back towards the Hardy Monument, and all very peaceful. Big fat dark bulbous stones, looking like something out of a Beryl Bainbridge painting. And that tree is also amazing and very fitting to the surroundings.
pure joy Posted by pure joy
6th January 2003ce

This is slightly hard to find unless you remember Julian's comment that it has a signpost handily situated next to it. Even then the tree is a more useful guide.

Both ends of the barrow are still present, but the middle is completely gone. The non-chambered end has been utilized to make part of a wall, but is still 3-4 ft high.

A nice peaceful site with views of the barrow cemetary and hardy's monument on the ridge above, to the north and the sea to the south.

Kudos to the man with the mullet and his family, who I met there.
juamei Posted by juamei
11th February 2002ce

Folklore

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The Dorset historian, Rev. John Hutchins writes in his 'History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset', "The common people call it Hell stone, and have a tradition that the devil flung it from Portland Pike, a north point of that island full in view, as he was diverting himself at quoits." [1803]

www.darkdorset.co.uk
Posted by Mizmaze
30th September 2002ce
Edited 24th February 2007ce

Miscellaneous

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(33) The Hell Stone, Neolithic chambered long barrow (SY 68 NW; 60588670; Plate 208), is situated on Portesham Hill, over 600 ft. above O.D., on the summit of the S.-facing limestone escarpment which here forms a flat-topped ridge running N.W.-S.E.; the ground falls steeply on the S.W. to a re-entrant and less steeply on the N.E. to a dry valley. The long mound is aligned along the ridge (130°), with a reconstructed stone chamber exposed at the S.E. end.
The much-damaged mound is at least 88 ft. long and up to 40 ft. wide, tapering slightly to N.W.; it is of rounded crossprofile and rises to a maximum height of 5 ft. near the chamber, but further S.E. it is much disturbed and at most 2 ft. high. The chamber, incorrectly rebuilt in 1866, now consists of nine orthostats, up to 5¾ ft. high and from 1¼ ft. to 1¾ ft. thick, supporting a roughly oval capstone, 10 ft. by 8 ft. and averaging just over 2 ft. thick. Smaller stones embedded in the mound in front of the chamber may represent a former peristalith, probably not continuous. The stones are sarsen of Bagshot age, a hard Tertiary conglomerate containing flint gravel. A drawing of 1790 by S. H. Grimm (B.M. Add. MS. 15538; reproduced on Plate 208) shows the capstone supported by one or two orthostats and tilting to the S., with another orthostat to the N. and recumbent stones to S. and S.W.; Hutchins, who published a similar illustration (II, facing 759), states that the arrangement of the stones was partly due to shepherds who used the chamber as a shelter (1st edn. (1774), I, 554). Nevertheless the stones clearly represent an original chamber, and the Hell Stone is comparable to the 'Grey Mare and her Colts', less than 1½ miles to the W. on the same ridge (S. Piggott, Dorset Procs. LXVII (1945), 30–3; Dorset I, Long Bredy (15)).
The barrow is now crossed by a stone wall running N.-S., to E. of which it has been disturbed by digging. Ploughing has encroached on the mound, and air photographs (CPE/UK 1824, 3291) suggest that it was used as a 'Celtic' field boundary (see Ancient Field Group (5)).
(C. Warne, Ancient Dorset (1872), 135 and Pl. XXIII; Dorset Procs. XXIX (1908), lxxv-lxxviii.)

'Earthworks: Long Barrows', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 2, South east (London, 1970), pp. 431-433. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/dorset/vol2/pp431-433 [accessed 28 March 2016].
Chance Posted by Chance
29th March 2016ce

Details of Barrow on Pastscape

Heavily restored and damaged Neolithic chambered long barrow on Portesham Hill (SY 60588670) Hell Stone (NAT) Long Barrow (NR) (1)
The Hell Stone, Neolithic chambered long barrow (SY 60588670) is situated on Portesham Hill, over 600 ft above OD, on the
summit of the south facing limestone escarpment which here forms a flat-topped ridge running north west - south east, the
ground falls steeply on the south west to a re-entrant and less steeply on the north east to a dry valley. The long mound
is aligned along the ridge (130o), with a reconstructed stone chamber exposed at the south east end.
The much-damaged mound is at least 88 ft long and up to 40 ft wide, tapering slightly to north west, it is of rounded
cross-profile and rises to a maximum height of 5 ft near the chamber, but further south east it is much disturbed and at
most 2 ft high. The chamber, incorrectly rebuilt in 1866, now consists of nine orthostats, up to 5 3/4 ft high and from
1 1/4 ft to 1 3/4 ft thick, supporting a roughly oval capstone, 10 ft by 8 ft and averaging just over 2 ft thick. Smaller stones embedded in the mound in front of the chamber may represent a former peristalith, probably not continuous. The stones are sarsen of Bagshot age, a hard Tertiary conglomerate containing flint gravel. A drawing of 1790 by S H Grimm shows the capstone supported by one or two orthostats and tilting to the south with another orthostat to the north and recumbent stones to south and south west. Hutchins, who published a similar illustration states that the arrangement of the stones was
partly due to shepherds who used the chamber as a shelter. Nevertheless the stones clearly represent an original chamber,
and the Hell Stone is comparable to the `Grey Mare and her Colts`, less than 1 1/2 miles to the west on the same ridge (SY 58 NE 19).
The barrow is now crossed by a stone wall running north - south to east of which it has been disturbed by digging. Ploughing
has enroached on the mound, and air photographs (CPE/UK 1824, 3299) suggest that it was used as a `Celtic` field boundary
(SY 68 NW ). Resurveyed at 1:2500 (See illustration). (3)
Long barrow generally as described by RCHM (2). Length 38.0m., maximum width 17.0m., height 1.4m. Very mutilated. No visible
ditch. Re-surveyed at 1:2500 on M.S.D (4)
The Hell Stone lies at SY 6058 8670, in a similar location to the Grey Mare and Her Colts (SY 58 NE 19), at the head of a dry valley system which runs south and southwest via Hell Bottom to the southern edge of the Ridgeway at Corton Hill. The Hell Stone comprises a rectangular mound, orientated NW-SE and 24m long. The mound tapers in width from the southeast end (12m) to the northwest end (8m) and is 1m high. An arrangement of upright sarsens with a massive capstone sits on the southeast end of the mound. This was an attempt at restoration in 1866 when eight gentlemen fabricated something more akin to a portal dolmen than to the façade of a chambered long barrow (C Warne, Ancient Dorset 1872, ii). A drystone field wall runs across the mound and a pond for watering stock was dug close to the southeast end of the mound very recently (5).
The site was surveyed using EDM at a scale of 1: 200 as part of a survey of the long barrows on the South Dorset Ridgeway carried out by English Heritage and the Ridgeway Survey Group (6)

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SOURCE TEXT
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( 1) Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 6" 1963
( 2a) General reference Hutchins` History of Dorset 3rd Edn 2 1863 759 & Illust
( 2b) General reference Anc Dorset 1872 135 & Illust (C Warne)
( 2) General reference RCHM Dorset 2 pt 3 1970 432
( 3) Field Investigators Comments F1 NVQ 22-MAR-55
( 4) Field Investigators Comments F2 JGB 28-MAR-80
( 5) Field Investigators Comments Riley, H June 2006 EH Field Investigation
( 6) General reference Riley, H 2008 Long Barrows on the South Dorset Ridgeway. A Survey by English Heritage and the Ridgeway Survey Group. EH Research Department Report.
Chance Posted by Chance
10th July 2012ce

The earlier comment about the stones having been flung here by the devil from Portland may not be wholly accurate, but the capstone was replaced by quarrymen from the island using screw jacks. It weighed in at a hefty 16 tons, this work was completed on August 14th 1869.
At least the Hellstone was restored, as the fate of a similar sounding neolithic burial mound, whose stones stood immediately north west of Blackdown barn (SY607870) were apparently completely broken up by farm workers. Thank whoever you want that a similar fate didn't befall the Hellstone.
formicaant Posted by formicaant
13th May 2007ce
Edited 14th May 2007ce

Another visitor unimpressed with the refurbishment writes to Notes and Queries, June 11 1870.
During a recent visit to the south of Dorsetshire, I made arrangements for a trip to the Hellstone[...] Gathering my ideas of its appearance principally from the little vignette on Mr. C. Warne's Map of Ancient Dorsetshire, I naturally expected to see a somewhat dilapidated and venerable structure. Imagine my surprise then, on attaining the top of the hill, to find quite a different object from that engraved on the map. Instead of the slanting capstone, with the supporters lying here and there, all is now changed: its present appearance reminding me very strongly of a sepulchral chamber figured on p. 79 of Worsaae's Primeval Antiquities of Denmark.

The huge capstone is now placed over nine supporting stones, arranged on an oval plan, so as to leave an entrance on the south-east. Who placed all these supporters upright, I could not ascertain. In my humble opinion this kind of restoration should never be encouraged, if we wish our antiquities to be respected: for who will look on an ancient structure, which has been patched up in the nineteenth century, with the same degree of veneration as if it had remained in the hoary condition handed down to us through successive ages ?

The Hellstone, I imagine, has not been restored for any long period. I infer this from- information received from a little shepherd boy, who, although he told me he had been but a short time in the neighbourhood, said he remembered when the stones were askew and fallen, pointing out to me some of their positions. I could only positively identify one of the supporters with those in the view given by Mr. Warne on his map. This stone, the supporter on the south-west, has not been shifted from its former position. Some of the other stones may he guessed at, but they have all been moved more or less.[..]

E. H. W. Dunkin.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
5th September 2006ce
Edited 5th September 2006ce

It may not be out of place to observe that this interesting megalithic monument has been lately 'restored' by Mr Manfield, assisted by Mr M Tupper of 'Proverbial' celebrity, who have rearranged the stones (for there are seven in all, the largest being about eight feet square, of very hard conglomerate) according to their own sweet will!
ooh - catty.

From: Dorset Folk-Lore
J. J. Foster
The Folk-Lore Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2. (1888), pp. 115-119.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
6th September 2005ce
Edited 30th September 2006ce