On Friday 29th April 2010, a small number of the Twilight Shadows Paranormal team made a trip to the Stoney Littleton Neolithic chambered long barrow in Somerset.
The location was beautiful and we made our way up the hill and along the length of Barmer’s wheat field. We arrived at the entrance of the long barrow and looked at the left door jamb for the ammonite cast set into the stone. I had studied this long barrow when I was undertaking an archaeology course so I was very happy to be going there.
The Stoney Littleton long barrow was built by the people who lived during the Neolithic period between 4000 – 2500 BC. It is thought that it was built approximately 3500 BC. The surrounding area has been farmed since Neolithic times and is still farmed today which is evident from the crop growing right in front of the long barrow.
The mound of the barrow is over thirty metres long and the widest point measures fifteen metres. The barrow rises three metres above its forecourt.
Until recently it was considered unsafe to enter the tomb even though the Victorians restored the long barrow. But further safety measures have enabled the modern visitor to enter the interior of the barrow via the stony entrance although unlike the long barrow at West Kennet, you cannot stand upright within the chambers as parts of the passage are only just over a metre in height.
As you enter the barrow and stand (stoop) inside the passage, there are three chambers each side with a chamber at the end of the passage. The amount of bodies buried within the barrow is unknown. The barrow was first opened and pillaged by the owner of the site (a local farmer,) in 1760. It is said that he broke into the chambers looking for building stones. The barrow was broken into again many times and most of the contents were stolen until in 1816, the barrow was excavated by the Reverend John Skinner and a significant number of bones were recovered, some of which had evidence of burning. These remains have since been lost.
Fixed into the forecourt wall is a plaque which reads: “This Tumulus – Declared by competent judges to be the most perfect specimen of Celtic antiquity still existing in Great Britain - having been much injured by the lapse of time – or the carelessness of former proprietors, was restored in 1858 by Mr. T. R. Joliffe, the Lord of the hundred; the design of the original structure being preserved, as far as possible, with scrupulous exactness.” However, the inscription on this plaque is said to be inaccurate.
Chambered long barrows may signify a vital phase in the development of prehistoric society in Britain. Long barrows appear to correspond to the emergence of elitism among the early farming communities. The emergence of elite people, whose social status may have directed them to build up ideas about ancestry and posterity, required striking and hard-wearing structures to differentiate themselves from the lesser mortals.
It is considered that the long barrows were used as tombs for the dead but others think that the barrows may have been shrines and the ancestral dead were a link to the Gods. Archaeological evidence shows that some barrows were still used even after human remains were no longer interred inside the barrow.
Twilight Shadows Paranormal is fascinated by Britain’s ancient sites and we couldn’t wait to explore the interior of Stoney Littleton long barrow.
Dave was the first person to enter the barrow, followed by Jacky and Pete. Jacky immediately felt claustrophobic and she later explained that she felt as if the roof of the chamber was going to come crashing down on top of her. She tried to rationalise this feeling by saying that she knew that this had never happened to the many visitors that the ancient barrow attracts. I wondered if someone had died by falling stones when either the stone chambers of the barrow were being constructed or perhaps when it was being pillaged during the 1700’s. Jacky said that she does not feel claustrophobic at the West Kennet long barrow although this barrow does have a higher ceiling.
Pete soon came out of the barrow and said that he also felt claustrophobic. Nettie felt the same. Dave, Loretta and I felt fine, in fact, I felt quite comfortable and cosy inside the chambers.
Dave took some photographs and the camera (which had new batteries) drained immediately which was strange. The camera had also made a strange noise which Jacky said that it had never made before.
We left Dave inside the barrow and sat outside discussing information that Pete was being given. Strangely, Pete felt that there was another chamber which had never been discovered which contained a ‘Royal’ burial. Pete also felt that there was another burial which was laid in the crouched position. During my Archaeology course, I learned that Neolithic long barrows contained collective burials of bones, the bodies having been laid out previously in a mortuary enclosure to rot prior to the collection of the bones for a collective burial. So if there is a crouched burial inside this long barrow, I wonder if it had been buried at a much later date as crouched burials were more common among the Bronze Age period.
During our time at the Stoney Littleton long barrow, nothing of a paranormal nature occurred and we decided to leave this location and move on to the next place.
Although paranormally quiet, we really enjoyed our visit to the Stoney Littleton long barrow. Thank you Jacky, for arranging this visit.
Written by: Maria Williams
Stoney Littleton is a fine example of a chambered long barrow built during the Neolithic period (roughly 4000– 2500 BC). Probably dating from about 3500 BC, it is about 30 metres (100 feet) long, and features multiple side chambers in which human remains were once buried. The approach to the barrow – down a long narrow lane, across a stream and through fields – takes the visitor across a landscape that has probably been farmed continuously since Neolithic times.
The Barrow survived intact right up until 1760. The farmer at this time is said to have broken into the Barrow looking for building material. Since then the contents of the Barrow have long since disappeared, possibly stolen. The Barrow was excavated in 1816 and records suggest that burnt bones and 2 possibly 3 skeletons were found inside. These again have long been lost.
We discovered the Long Barrow relatively easily. The site was clearly signposted from Wellow and after a short walk over a very beautiful brook and into a field and up a very steep hill we discovered the Long Barrow in the next field. Normally I am absolutely fine with places like this but on entry to the long barrow I was overcome with the feeling of claustrophobia and I had to get out. Pete and Nettie also came out of the Barrow leaving Dave, Maria and Loretta inside. They sat in the main chamber for a while and Dave said that he could just see past the main chamber through a crack in the wall and he got the impression that there was another chamber behind the wall.
Pete said that he felt that this barrow was used for a Royal burial and that there was still one burial not yet discovered. He said this was a crouch burial. Dave went back into the barrow to take a picture for me and my camera completely drained. My camera also made a strange noise that it has not made before. It wasn't until we decided to move onto the next investigation that I managed to get my camera to function normally again.
Written by: Jacky Wicheard