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Five Marys

Barrow / Cairn Cemetery


This group of barrows were shown as 'Five Meers' (boundary marks) on Taylor's map of Dorset in 1765. Two of the barrows in the group were excavated before1866, under the direction of the exiled Duchess of Berry who lived at Lulworth Castle.

In one barrow there was a deep chalk-cut grave containing two skeletons in a sitting position, one male and one female. Interestingly, both had stag antlers on their shoulders. The second barrow excavated also contained a deep grave with a similarly stag-antlered skeleton. There was also a secondary cremation in the upper part of this mound. The barrows in question are probably the first and the third large ones from the west end of the cemetery.

The Five Marys are only some of the barrows that stretch along the ridge here - to Moigns Down in the west, and with one more barrow at their east. In total there are seven bowl barrows, two bell barrows and a pond barrow, which "were no doubt" (according to the SMR record) constructed over a long period of time.

(info from the scheduled monument record on MAGIC)

If the name has been the five 'Marys' for a long time, it would be interesting whether any local people have some folklore on the identity of these alleged ladies. Could it be put down as a biblical thing? 'Mary' is not the most obvious connection for five things. 'Meers' are hardly in the modern vocabulary.. would it have been obvious to call them 'the five meers' in the past?
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
11th September 2002ce
Edited 10th April 2008ce

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