I had previously only seen Aldbourne barrows from a distance while walking uphill on a footpath towards Upper Upham. Today I visited for the first time, walking the ancient Albourne Trackway (see post by Chance) uphill out of the village of Aldbourne. It was a bright, windy afternoon; the track did indeed 'feel' ancient becoming a green path after about 300 metres out of Aldbourne. The landscape was Wiltshire through and through, though being further north and relatively close to the M4 motorway it is less familiar that the Marlborough Downs.
The four Bronze Age round barrows are large and undamaged with the exception of the third one which seems to have its top missing. What is remarkable about this site is its alignments. A disc barrow is immediately below in the next field, not visible from the barrows but just a short walk downhill. Looking directly south, at approximately the same height at the four barrows, the Giant's Grave long barrow can be seen on the horizon.
Previous postings on the site by some eminent contributors to TMA, including the late Wysefool, contain lots of information to supplement this brief field note. Seen today by pure chance while walking back to Upper Upham, they suddenly appeared in the landscape - four round barrows with a bowl or disc barrow in the foreground. (One of my walking companions said the foreground barrow was a saucer barrow which had been ploughed out, the landowner who was later required to 'reinstate' it). If anyone knows more about the detail and accuracy of this, I'd love to hear it.
From the by-way leading back up to Upper Upham the view of the barrows against the Wiltshire land-sky-scape is rather wonderful. Unsung I'd say.
The Society's Museum possesses a varied and interesting series of the small vessels of burnt clay, which have, in the absence of exact information, been spoken of as " Incense Cups." I venture to suggest that they were used by the Ancient Britons for the very homely but impoertant purpose of containing the material—whether dried moss, dried fungus, or other kind of tinder—used in obtaining fire. They have, without exception, a pair of holes bored on one side, about half-an-inch apart. It has been suggested that these were intended for suspension ; may they not, more probably, have been the orifices through which a cord was passed to tie on the cover. An example from Lambourne, Berks, now in the British Museum, has a lid of the same ware as the cup it self, and ornamented with a corresponding pattern, and in both cup and cover there are two holes, the same distance apart, through which the string was prob»biy passed to fasten on the cover. None of these cups in the Society's Museum have covers. It is probable that the Lambourne cup is the only one known with this appendage preserved; but lids of wood may h»ve been used, which have decayced in the progress of the centuries. It is evident that the cups could not be used for holding incense, or any other similar substance, if suspended from hoies on one side.
[A circumstance which seems to militate against Mr. Cunnington's theory is the fact that in most cases the perforations in these little cups are not near the upper edge of the vessel, as one would fancy that they would be if the string passing through them was to serve as a hinge for the lid, but an inch or more, that is to say, one-third of the way down the side of the vessel.— WAM Ed.]
Four Barrows briefly shot to fame with an audience of 9 million in 1971 when Prof. Horner broke through the burial chamber on Beltane eve, live on BBC3.
It's all true. - 39 years ago, the village of Aldbourne was transformed into 'Devils End' and became the setting for a classic instalment of cult BBC TV show Doctor Who, staring Jon Pertwee as the Time Lord in the five-part story, "The Daemons".
The Doctor travels to Devil's End to investigate the ancient secret of the Devil's Hump, (the first barrow in the four barrow group), a mysterious burial mound. The Doctor's nemesis, The Master, is also there, masquerading as the local Vicar.
Using the powers of black magic, he hopes to invoke the powers of the satyr-like alien Azal the Daemon and take over the world.
Various references on this story are quoted on Wikipedia such as;
Jon Pertwee stated numerous times over the years that this was his favourite Doctor Who serial.
The incantation that the Master uses in summoning Azal is actually the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb" said backwards.
The Doctor uses the words of a Venusian lullaby to ward off Bok, Azal's helper, singing the words to a tune which is actually the Christmas carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen".
The clip of the Brigadier's helicopter blowing up as it crashes into the heat shield is borrowed from the James Bond movie From Russia with Love.
Read more about all this on the links listed below
As a footnote, The TV production team did actually dig a small way into the barrow without permission or any supervision.
Roy Canon, the Wiltshire county archaeologist was furious and almost sued the BBC for damage to a scheduled monument. Since then the rules regarding filming at such sites have been strictly followed and no such know incident has occurred again.
Aldbourne Four Barrows. - Sugar hill, Aldbourne near Hungerford.
Bronze age barrow cemetary 2500 - 1500 BC.
The contents of these Barrows are now in the British Museum. Three of the four barrows are of the Wessex bell type of barrow these are eight to ten feet high. The fourth is an ordinary bowl shaped mound, also ten feet high. They were excavated by W. Greenwell near the end of the 19th century. Two of the bell barrows contained cremations and the third a skeleton. Other finds included amber, beads, flint arrowheads, fragments of greenstone axe and a grooved dagger. The bowl barrow had a cremation in a burial cist covered with four sarsen stones. The famous Aldbourne barrow is at the foot of this hill in the field by the A419 just north of the wood. It is a bowl about 100 feet across by six feet high. The mound provided the British Museum with its Aldbourne cup, an incense cup with lid, and two bronze awls, a bronze dagger and beads of faience, amber, fossils and shale.