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The Hellstone

Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech


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 fa├žade 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)

( 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

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