If you have a spare £70,000 in your back pocket, then here's your opportunity to buy a genuine Bronze Age round barrow (or what's left of it). Swanborough Tump is on the market along with Frith Copse, the 17 acre plot of semi-mature woodland that it stands on.
I quite liked this site! Easily found and accessed on the side of the lane running east from Woodborough. There is an interesting information sign on the 'modern' stone next to the 'old' stone. Signs states that this was the spot where King Alfred met up with his brother and his troops before heading off to fight the Danes in 871AD. Worth a look when in the area.
Swanborough Tump lies at the t-junction of two long straight roads, in the edge of a wood. To be quite honest it didn't look like much, and I couldn't make out what was supposed to be the 'Tump' itself. I think you're on it as soon as you climb up from the road. This could be significant, if you look at the 'miscellaneous' entry.
An inscribed stone marks the site:
"Swanborough Tump - Swinbeorg c850
Here in the year 871 the future King Alfred the Great met his elder brother King Aethelred I on their way to fight the invading Danes and each one swore if the other died in battle the dead man's children would inherit the lands of their father King Aethelwulf."
Hardly recommended by the Plain English Campaign, I think.
(also - on my way here I was entranced by the nearby 'Picked Hill' (also given as 'Pecked Hill' on the OS maps) - if this (like its neighbour Woodborough Hill) aren't natural inspiration for round barrows - or for Silbury hill, for that matter - then I'm surely a monkey's uncle.)
These are the actual words from King Alfred's will, so I understand (well, translated into modernish English):
But it came to pass that we [Alfred and Aethelred] by all the heathen folk [the Danes] despoiled were. Then discoursed we concerning our children that they would need some support to be given by us out of these estates, as to us was given. Then were we in council at Swinbeorg; when we two declared, in the West-Saxon nobles' presence, that which soever of us two were longest liver, that he should give to the other's children those lands that we two ourselves had acquired, and those lands that Athuf the king gave to us two while Aethelbolde was living; except those that he to us three brothers bequeathed. And of this, each of us two to the other his security did give, that whether of us two should live longest, he should take both to the land and to the treasures; and to all his possessions, except that part, which either of us to his children should bequeath.
What a strange thought, that these discussions should have taken place here at this spot, which is now just a tangled wooded lump, so easy to hare past in your car to somewhere else.
Translation in vol 1 of 'The whole works of King Alfred the Great', in a section entitled 'King Alfred's Will' by Dr Giles. 1858 edition, online at Google books.
The Tump was also known as 'Swanborough Ash' because three ash trees grew on it (the name is in a document from 1764). Katy Jordan records in her 'Haunted Landscape' book that during the 1970s when she lived in the Pewsey Vale, the Swanborough 'Team of Parishes' used a picture of the tump as their emblem - it was the mound and the legendary three ash trees (there were a few more than three trees there when I visited:). It's interesting that the site is now being used as a Christian symbol: the three trees on the mound are likened to the three crosses on the mound of Golgotha. Just part of the continued evolution of the site's meaning to local people, I suppose.
Despite the unpromising (unprehistoric) start I still felt intrigued, and later found an article about it in the Wilts.ANHM volume 94 (2001).
The authors Semple and Langlands describe the Tump as a long low earthwork running NE-SW, on a low natural rise next to the Pewsey-Manningford Bruce road, and close to the boundary of the hundred of Swanborough.
The earliest mention of the wood it which it stands is 1840, so perhaps it was previously on open ground. It's mutilated condition apparently has nothing to do with the work of antiquarians (for once) - perhaps it's partly the work of the trees and the road - they certainly don't make it any easier to decipher. The authors even suggest it could have been two mounds once.
It's obviously connected with stories about the Anglo Saxons, and the name itself comes from Swan + Beorh = barrow/mound of the common people. It was a meeting place for a Hundred. The road that runs by it has been shown to have existed since at least AD987 (Pewsey was an important settlement in the 9th century too).
However, could it be older? The prehistoric mounds at Mutlow and Knightlow were reused as later meeting places, so could this be the case here?
The authors weren't making any firm conclusions, but hinted that the way the mound butts up against the road rather suggests the road cuts through the mound. Which suggests the mound is older than the road (but by how much?).