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Tar Barrows

Round Barrow(s)

<b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheatImage © A. Brookes (1.2.2020)
Also known as:
  • Tarbury
  • Monument No. 327361
  • Thoreberewe
  • Starbury Mount
  • Castrum Torre
  • Torbarrow

Nearest Town:Cirencester (1km WSW)
OS Ref (GB):   SP031024 / Sheet: 163
Latitude:51° 43' 11.29" N
Longitude:   1° 57' 18.43" W

Added by Rhiannon

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<b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Tar Barrows</b>Posted by thesweetcheat


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'Visited' 17.7.10.
The only place I could find to park along the busy A429 which runs to the east of the barrow was in the BP petrol station. Opposite the petrol station is a 'path' through the trees. There is a sign in the woods which states walkers are welcome but no camping / fires. At the other side of the trees is a barbed wire fence which I didn't bother to try to cross as the field in which the barrow stands was full of head high crop – no chance of seeing anything. Definitely one to visit after the harvest or in the Winter / Spring.
Posted by CARL
19th July 2010ce

Visited 25.7.09. There is only one barrow shown on the OS map, although Tim Darvill and Leslie Grinsell ("Gloucestershire Barrows: Supplement 1961-1988" - Trans. Bristol and Glos Arc. Soc. 1989) indicate that there are two, both very large.

The barrow is within easy reach of Cirencester town centre, lying in a field half a mile to the north-east. Unfortunately at this time of year the field was planted within ripening wheat, making access to the barrow itself impossible unless you're prepared to trample the crop. However, even from across the field it is obvious that this is a massive barrow, rather like the ones that line the Ridgway north of Overton Hill, covered with mature trees.

Definitely one to re-visit in the winter, as the mound will be much more visible once the leaves have dropped and the crop has been harvested.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
19th August 2009ce
Edited 19th July 2010ce


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The Torbarrow Legend at Cirencester.

Barrows in particular have been the objects of superstition. They have been looked upon as haunted by supernatural beings. They have been regarded as dwellings of ogres, or magicians, or the spirits of the dead. In the Bodleian library at Oxford is preserved an account printed in 1685 of the opening of a barrow near Cirencester. It is to the following effect:

"Two men digging a gravel pit at the foot of the hill or barrow, having sunk four yards deep, discovered an entrance into the hill, where they found several rooms with their furniture, which, being touched, crumbled to dust. In one of them were several images and urns, some with ashes, others full of coins, with Latin inscriptions on them. Entering another, they were surprised at seeing the figure of a man in armour, having a truncheon in its hand, and a light in a glass-like lamp burning before it. At their first approach the image made an effort to strike; so at the second step, with greater force; but at the third it struck a violent blow, which broke the glass to pieces and extinguished the light.

Having a lantern, they had just time to observe that on the left hand lay two heads emblamed, with long beards, and the skin looking like parchment, when hearing a hollow noise like a groan they hastily quitted those dark apartments, and immediately the earth fell in and buried all the curiosities."

We may perhaps regard this as a highly-sensational account of a real incident, but as we could not for a moment admit the existence of the magical statue and the lamp, we must suppose that the idea of such things had been floating about in people's minds ready to root itself upon any convenient spot.
This supremely imaginative tale is retold in the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, 19th March 1892.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
20th January 2020ce

I was just watching a programme presented by Julian Richards, about Roman roads near Cirencester. He claimed that one of the roads heading in / out of the town (White Way) deliberately makes a dog-leg to avoid the Tar Barrow, showing the amount of respect between the invading Romans and the resident Dobunni.

Looking at the map it's 'kind of' convincing. I'd have thought it was a bit hard to say really. I shouldn't argue with Mr Richards but then again there is such a thing as Making Good Television.

There are actually two 'Tar Barrows' and they have a bit of folklore. They show how facts are a nuisance when you're Making Good Folklore, also:
GLOS. Cirencester: (S)Tarbury barrow. 'East of the town, about a quarter of a mile, is a mount or barrow called Starbury, where several gold coins have been dug up, of about the time of Julian, which we saw.' This must be the same as Tar Barrows, from which an account written about 1685 refers to urns full of coins among the finds, the rest of which show the story to have been greatly 'improved' in the telling.
W. Stukeley, Itin. Curios., 2nd edn. (1776), 67; Trans. B. and G.A.S. 79 (1961), 51-2.
Barrow Treasure, in Fact, Tradition, and Legislation
L. V. Grinsell
Folklore, Vol. 78, No. 1. (Spring, 1967), pp. 1-38.

More from Grinsell:
In a recent essay, Piggot [Piggott, Stuart, 1976. Ruins in a Landscape. p77-99] argues persuasively that this story, placed at 'Colton's Field' within two miles of Cirencester, conforms to an International Popular Tale in vogue in the late 17th century, and that its location near Cirencester may have been provided to add plausibility to the story which was probably without factual basis.
Notes on the Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain
L. V. Grinsell
Folklore, Vol. 90, No. 1. (1979), pp. 66-70.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
27th March 2008ce
Edited 20th January 2020ce


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Details of barrows on Pastscape

(SP 0296 0266) Tar Barrow (Tumulus) (O.E. Marked "A")
(SP 0311 0252) Tar Barrow (Tumulus) (O.E. Marked "B")
"East of the town (of Cirencester) about a quarter of a mile, is Starbury Mount, a Barrow, where Roman coins have been dug up."
"On the further, or eastern side, (of Cirencester) on the rising ground above the town and between the Foss-road and the White-way are situated the two Tar-Barrows....standing.....about two hundred yards apart. In A.D. 1200 their name is given as Thoreberewe. William of Worcester refers (C.1460) to one of these as Castrum Torre (Itin 279)..."(Ref to Baddeley's map: The name "Thorebarewe" is applied to Tar-Barrow "A" at SP 0296 0266.) (3)
Tar Barrow ('A'): Probably a round mound like the one to the south-east ('B') but its shape has been altered by digging at the side. Remains of digging between the two barrows has been ploughed smooth.
Tar Barrow('B): This barrow is a high round mound of earth and stones, apparently undisturbed except that a clump of elms and beeches, one ash, and a sycamore have been planted upon it. There is no sign of a ditch. Probably Roman.
At 'C' (SP 0295 0260) is a large raised knoll, with the appearance of a third barrow for this group, covered by cultivation.
Tar Barrow ('B') : Dug out by a former owner, who found some sort of cist. Unpublished. (5)
Cirencester, Tar-Barrows - Scheduled Ancient Monument (Listed under Round Barrows). (6)
(A) Cirencester 2; 24 paces N-S, 30 paces E-W, 7ft high. Tree planted bowl barrow; Scheduled. (B) Cirencester 3; 32 paces diam; 12 ft high. Conical profile; the mound was opened from thetop to a depth of 8-10 ft in 1935 with no result except the exposure of a large slab. Site visited immediately afterwards by H. O'Neill. Bowl barrow: Scheduled.
(C) Cirencester 3a. SP 0295 0255. Large and irregular; it might be a partly levelled barrow but may be natural Considered doubtful. (7)
A. A tree covered mound 1.7m high, & elongated N-S (Grinsell's points are transposed). It seems completely encircled by quarrying and its summit is barely higher than the general level of the ground to the S.E. and W. and cannot be seen until the quarried area is approached. A doubtful barrow for this reason and because it is only recorded by the O.S. (authority unknown) and subsequently accepted by Baddeley who almost certainly gives it the name "Thoreberewe" erroneously. In Rudder's 'History' only one barrow is mentioned - "a large and lofty tumulus near the town called Tor-barrow....." Rudder was a Cirencester man and would certainly have known of and mentioned a second barrow. Mound surveyed at 1/2500.
B. Tree covered, 2.2m high on W. and 3.2m high on the E. side. Steep sided with no trace of a ditch, & visible from the distance. Almost certainly 1200 A.D. "Thoreberewe", the 15th c. "Castrum Torre" and Defoes "Starbury Mount". Rudder says "Torbarrow" was opened c. 1800 and nothing found in it but a small coin and a large square slab, which may be that re-found in 1935. At the foot of the mound is a slab 1.5m x 0.7m and 0.2m thick. If it was part of a chamber it has been altered since. The underside is well tooled and the upper face has been roughly incised as if for cutting out a curved lintel. Surveyed at 1/2500.
C. This appears to be a natural rise at SP 0295 0259. (8)
An assessment of aerial photographs in the vicinity of Tar Barrow and Hare Bushes suggests that the view of authority 8 is correct and that supposed barrow "A" is probably the result of upcast from quarrying and that barrow "C" is a natural feature or possibly the junction of medieval plough headlands. Tar barrow (barrow "B" at SP 0311 0252) appears to have been used as a marker for the laying out of part of the medieval open field system which once extended across the fields on the north and east of Cirencester. Medieval boundary banks extend east and west from the barrow. These boundaries and the associated ridge and furrow have now been ploughed level. (9)
Chance Posted by Chance
9th June 2014ce
Edited 9th June 2014ce

Details of site on Pastscape

A possible Roman temple or mausoleum and enclosures are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs, and through geophysical survey, around the scheduled site of Tar Barrow (SP 00 SW 15, UID 327361, Gloucestershire SAM 268), overlooking Cirencester, Gloucestershire. An English Heritage air photo assessment, and geophysical survey by GeoArch on behalf of Dr Peter Guest at Cardiff University, provide evidence of a significant site, probably associated with the Roman settlement of Corinium. Research by Neil Holbrook and Richard Reece suggests that the area around Tar Barrow possibly functioned as a religious focus in the Roman period, and possibly later Iron Age, and may have influenced the routes of the Roman road system in the vicinity, and possibly even the location of the Roman town. A series of ditched enclosures and possible building foundations, all aligned NE-SW, extend across an area measuring at least 285m by 185m. The most substantial of the enclosures, to the south-west of Tar Barrow, is thought to be a temple or mausoleum. This ditched enclosure measures approximately 37m by 28.5m, and encloses an area of 31m by 21m. Within the enclosure is a rectangular structure measuring circa 10.8m by 6m defined by what appear to be stone foundations surrounding a pit or cut feature measuring 8m by 5m. To the north and east of the barrow there are a number of enclosures and possible trackways defined by ditches interspersed with a series of square and sub-square structures, possibly building foundations. Until relatively recently the area was covered in medieval and post medieval earthworks (SP 00 SW 157, UID 1479180) in pasture which extended across the slopes above Cirencester.
Chance Posted by Chance
9th June 2014ce