I spent my lunch break strolling round the Bronze Age parts of the British Museum today and came home determined to look up the Badbury stone in Grinsell. It's a bit confusing as he doesn't use the name the Three Kings at any point, but the barrows in question are probably what he calls Shapwick 5, 6a and 6b (6a having yielded the stone). But although the Museum information says the barrow was destroyed, Grinsell puts it down at 9 feet high and I suspect it has not been destroyed since. Anyway here's his marvellous description:
"...nearly levelled 1845, but removal of the centre was watched by JHA [J H Austen]. About three inhumations, probably primary, two with food-vessels and one with an ornamented handled pot resembling those of Cornish type; up to 15 cremations (perhaps more), a few possibly contemporary with the inhumations, the majority clearly secondary and a few with E/MBA [early to middle Bronze Age] collared urns of a latish type; as far as can now be ascertained, none was LBA [late Bronze Age]. The barrow consisted of a central cairn of local sandstone blocks enclosed in a ring of flints, which was bordered by a massive wall of sandstone 30 feet diameter, outside of which was a ring of chalk about 15 feet wide, which must have originally covered the mound. The interments were probably all in the central cairn. In the centre according to Durden (not in the surrounding wall as often stated) was the well-known large slab of sandstone which was decorated with carvings of daggers and axes, the former of type similar to those from Stonehenge, conjectured to be of Mycenean type.
Three well preserved barrows, in a line, just to the west of the hill fort (next to the track to the main car park). Like three big jelly mounds of earth! Compared to all sorts of degraded and scrubby barrows I had just visited in Cornwall, these are almost like picture perfect barrows.
Very easy to find as you need to drive past them to get to the main car park, or you will walk past them if you walk into the National Trust land from the main entrance.
(Centred ST 961030) Tumuli (NR) (three shown). (1) A group of round barrows W of Badbury Rings:
'A' ST 96040300. Bowl barrow, 60ft diameter and 3ft high immediately adjacent to the Romano-British settlement (ST 90 SE 39) (RCHM No 50, Grinsell's Shapwick No 11, Crawford's mound 'S').
'B' ST 96060304. Possible barrow consisting of an oval-shaped mound 30ft by 40ft and 1 foot high damaged by modern tracks and cut by the side ditch of Roman Road (RR 4c) (RCHM no 51, Grinsell's Shapwick No 10, Crawford's mound 'T').
'C' ST 96100311. Bowl barrow, 30ft diameter and 1 1/2ft high. (RCHM No 52, Grinsell's Shapwick No 9, Crawford's mound 'K').
'D' ST 96200310. Bowl barrow, 40ft diameter and 3ft high immediately within the outer rampart of Badbury Rings. (RCHM No 55; Grinsells Shapwick No 15; Crawford's mound V)
'E' ST 96200294. Crawford's probable barrow 'W' partly covered by the ramparts of Badbury Rings. (Not mentioned by RCHM or Grinsell). (2-4)
Barrows 'A' to 'E' were field investigated in 1954.
A faint unsurveyable ditch surrounding Barrow 'D' was visible in all quadrants except the W when it was overlain by the outer rampart of Badbury Rings. Barrow 'E' consisted of a semi-circular mound, 15.0m N-S and 9.0m E-W with a maximum height of 1.0m. The unusual shape was thought to be due to quarrying for material during construction of Badbury Rings. The evidence suggested that the mound was the remains of a Bronze Age bowl barrow. (5)
Barrow `E' surveyed by RCHME in April 1993. As described by authority 5. Located on W side of middle rampart, some 30m S of southern entrance to barbican. E side has been cut by the outer lip of the rampart ditch. Some quarrying has taken place on the W side. (6)
(ST 94660312) Straw Barrow (NR). (1)
Straw Barrow, a bowl barrow formerly 65 ft in diameter and 3 ft high, but heavily ploughed. (2)
( 1) Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
1:10 000 1978
( 2) Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England) 1975 An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume five : east Dorset
(3) Scheduled Monument Notification
A little confusion as to the barrow which contained the carved stone of daggers and axes.
Badbury Barrow, round barrows (ST/948035) 4 miles nw of Wimborne Minster (A31, A341), 1 mile ese of Tarrant Keynston (B3082), on s side of B3082. Finds in British Museum.
There are 2 bowl-barrows close together, on either side of the track to Shapwick, and there is a third. Straw Barrow, 300 yds. to the s. One of these is the barrow from which, in 1845, a large block of sandstone was removed, bearing carvings of daggers and axes like those at Stonehenge. This same barrow had at its centre a heap of sandstone blocks surrounded first by a ring of flints and then a stout wall of sandstone blocks. Chalk covered the mound. In or under the central stone heap were at least 3 skeletons, 2 furnished with food vessels. There were also more than 15 cremations, but not all these were contemporary with the inhumations. There were several collared urns with them. The carvings of daggers and axes would date this barrow to the period 1,700-1,400 BC. Since Straw Barrow has many sandstone blocks scattered over it today, it is possible that the details described refer to it rather than to one of the others. One of the latter is also known to have contained a Middle Bronze Age urn with cremation, indicating a date of c. 1,250- 1,000 BC. All are about 60 ft. across and 2 3 ft. high.
Guide to prehistoric England - Nicholas Thomas 1976