Local History Talk: Bronze Age Barrow

On Tuesday 3rd March, Marlborough was delighted to welcome Bruce Fox, Chairman of Ogbourne St. Andrew History Group and a former analytical chemist, together with his colleagues Roger Harris and John Samways.

Bruce started by outlining the details of the project to investigate the barrow. Roger then spoke about the relevant local history of the area and barrow classification, after which John explained the geophysics involved, the results so far and the methods used to obtain them.

While studying the parish of Ogbourne St. Andrew, a village in the valley of the River Og, an ancient barrow was discovered. This was located in the field near St. Andrews Church that was built around the same time that the Ogbourne estates were handed over to the Abbey of Bec in Normandy. Alongside this is a rare form of ancient burial site which consists of around 22 burials of unknown people. It is highly likely that the barrow is from the Bronze Age, around 2400-1500 BC, but the team is keen to narrow down the time frame. Having been rediscovered after a long time, the area surrounding the barrow was very overgrown and required clearance of trees which prevented the application of many geophysical techniques. The ground clearance tree felling required a large number of volunteers and was the first step in revealing the landscape and profile of the barrow.

Through geophysical investigation, they surveyed the surrounding area including the burial place which helped them establish from what era the barrow originated. It is not completely determined just yet that it is simply a Bronze Age barrow as there are slight traces of earlier Neolithic structure at a greater depth below the surface which will need further investigation. A ring ditch encompassing the barrow was also found, along with an eastern wall. They measured the barrow to be 23m in diameter and 1.6m high, with a depression on the top of the mound about 0.3m deep, believed to be the result of a previous excavation. They are currently investigating the internal structure of the barrow using a resistivity survey – a slice technique which can reach 4 meters below the surface of the barrow.

Further surveys at higher resolution will be needed to confirm the existence of various unexpected structures within the barrow, such as a mysterious ‘chimney’ that has appeared in their pioneering 3D analysis. Their findings about the barrow have already revealed a great about the rich local history around us and will hopefully unveil more about the era in the future.

Review by Saira Chowdhry (LI L6)

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