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Combe Gibbet

Long Barrow


Saturday 26th November 2022

It was a suitably overcast and windy afternoon that lent a sense of foreboding to this site. Visible far away on the approach road to the east, high on the hill overlooking the valley, the double gibbet stood out against the landscape like a Cross at Golgotha. Even from the nearby car park at the foot of hill, one can only pause for private thought before drawing closer.

Combe Gibbet. Gallows Hill. Macabre names that cast a shroud over the site’s true name and original purpose. Inkpen Long Barrow (c. 3,400-2,400 BC) was once a place where the venerated dead were buried, until 1676, when the locals drove a 25 foot stake through it’s heart, to suspend the damned for all to see.

Those who were originally buried there are long forgotten, as it seems is the Long Barrow to most visitors, except to those in the know. The story of the gibbet is more familiar in folklore, used to display the bodies of lovers George Broomham and Dorothy Newman, who murdered Broomham’s wife Martha and son Robert. The gibbet was only ever used to hang their chained corpses as a deterrent, and never used again. The original structure rotted centuries ago, and replaced seven times, most recently in 1992.

The Long Barrow is an impressive 60 metres in length and 22 metres wide. Three counties spread out across the horizon in front of it, which would tempt one to linger a while, even on a day when the long grass whips wildly in a bitingly cold wind. Looking over the horizon to the west, comes the comfort that Avebury lies within reach.

Given the predilection of God fearing Christians of the time to destroy and condemn ancient sites as bedrocks of the old religion, it’s all too easy to believe Inkpen Long Barrow was chosen deliberately for this purpose. The simple truth is that Broomham and Newman were respectively from the nearby villages of Combe and Inkpen, with both settlements agreeing to subscribe towards the cost of the gibbet and affix it midway between the two.

Inkpen Long Barrow is a different experience to visiting similar Neolithic barrows for the reasons explained above. The myths that are often attached to such sites are in this case, based on tragic fact than colourful legend. Walking back down the hill, you might feel the need to check behind you, just to be sure the gallows remain unoccupied…
Spiddly Posted by Spiddly
30th November 2022ce

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