The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

The Hellstone

Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech


(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 [accessed 28 March 2016].
Chance Posted by Chance
29th March 2016ce

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to add a comment