Bere Regis Village Website

The Bronze Age,1900 BC - 500 BC

settlers again began arriving in southern England from Europe, bringing with them a far more advanced culture than already existed here.
Among other things, they had discovered the use of bronze for making weapons, implements and ornaments, and this therefore marked the beginning of the Bronze Age in Britain.
The chief remains of this period are the well known round barrows, or tumuli, which are found particularly in Dorset and Wiltshire.
Like the Neolithic long barrows they were burial mounds, but during the Bronze Age they were always of a circular plan shape.
There are about seven different types of round barrow of which the bowl barrow is by far the most common.
They were originally surrounded by a ditch, but in most cases this ditch has become filled by erosion and is no longer visible as such. Round barrows vary enormously in size from prominent ones some 10 feet (3 metres) high, to low inconspicuous mounds located with difficulty even with the aid of a map.
This latter condition often results from previous excavation or of having been ploughed over for many years.
Many barrows have of course entirely disappeared during the 3,000 or so years since they were first constructed, but sometimes a name survives, or a Bronze Age object is turned up by the plough, and indicates the site of a former barrow.
Such a case is Muddox Barrow (or Skippets) Farm, where the name survives, and where in about 1900 a flat bronze axe head was found after ploughing.
Its surface is extensively pitted by erosion, and the finder damaged it further by filing it.
A much more elaborately shaped bronze axe head was found in about 1898 at Doddings when ground was being cleared in preparation for laying out watercress beds.
It was said to have been found near a site where a pair of new cottages were about to be built, and would seem to suggest a spot near Hollow Oak.
This parish is particularly rich in Bronze Age material, much of it recovered from barrow excavations on Roke and Bere Downs between 1840 and 1850, and now to be found in the British Museum.
There are, besides, over 50 recognisable round barrows still existing within the parish .

In the following list the numbers refer to those on the map, and the barrows are described as they appeared in 1969.
Roke Down:1.
Barely discernible (Code number in the book Dorset Barrows. LVG 48b).
2. Barely discernible (LVG 48a).
3. Diameter 55 feet (16m), height 1 foot (0.3m) (LVG 48).
A group of three barrows on the south side of the Milborne Road, west of Roke Barn.
They are marked on the 1811 ordnance map but not on current maps, and may therefore be the remains of a group of three excavated in 1844 and 1845.
4. Diameter 70 feet (21m), height 3 feet (lm). On the south side of the Milborne Road, east of Roke Barn. (LVG 41).
5. Diameter 60 feet (18m), height 3 feet (lm). Immediately behind Haywards Farm on the north side of the Milborne Road. (LVG 44).
6. Diameter 60 feet (18m), height 1 foot (0.3m). North of Haywards Farm (LVG 45).
7. Diameter 60 feet (18m), height 1 foot (0.3m). North of Haywards Farm (LVG 46).
8. Diameter 105 feet (31m), height 3 feet (lm).
It is marked as a long barrow on current ordnance maps and shown as such on map (Fig. 2c, No 2.) but its shape is new somewhat indistinct and may be a round barrow (LVG 38).
9. Diameter 66 feet (20m), height 1 foot (0.3m).
There are three sarsen stones in the hedge nearby, one of which is large, and this barrow may therefore be the remains of one excavated in 1840, which is said to have contained sarsen stones (LVG 39).
10. Diameter 66 feet (20m), height 3 feet (lm). Many flints can be seen on its surface (LVG 40).
11. Diameter 60 feet (18m), height 313 feet (lm). East of Haywards Cottage (LVG 36).
12. Diameter 66 feet (20m), height 3 feet (lm). East of Haywards Cottage (LVG 4).
13. Diameter 66 feet (20m), height 312 feet (lm).
On the parish boundary with Winterborne Whitchurch. Appears to be extensively used as a burrow by rabbits (LVG 35).
14. Diameter 72 feet (22m), height 12 feet (0.5m) (LVG 37).
15. Diameter 90 feet (27m), height 3 feet (lm) (LVG 42).
16. Diameter 54 feet (16m). Barely discernible (LVG 43).1
7. Diameter 60 feet (18m). Barely discernible (LVG 43a).No.'s 15, 16 and 17 are a group of three north west of Roke Pond, two of which are barely discernible and perhaps the remains of excavations.Bere Down:
18. Diameter 60 feet (18m), height 12 feet (0.5m). West of Bere Down Farm (LVG 1).
19. Diameter 36 feet (11m). Barely discernible, west of Bere Down Farm (LVG 2).
20. Diameter 36 feet (11m). Barely discernible, west of Bere Down Farm. (LVG 3)21. Diameter 50 feet (15m), height 1 1/2 feet (0.5m). (LVG 5).22. Diameter 50 feet (15m), height 3 feet (1m).
On the edge of the hill west of Elderton Chump (LVG 5).
23. Barely discernible (LVG 7).
24. Diameter 85 feet (25m), height 6 feet (1.8m). Near the Roman Road.
A very fine barrow - one of the largest and most prominent in the parish (LVG 8).Bolton's Barrow:
25. Diameter 80 feet (24m), height 1 foot (0.3m). In the triangular field between the Wimborne& Kingston roads. (LVG 9).
26. Diameter 70 feet (21m). South-south east of No. 25.
It is not really discernible on the ground, but has been observed from the air as crop marks by the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments, and said to be a low circular mound within two concentric ditches (LGV 9a).Bere Wood:
27. Diameter 72 feet (22m), height 8 feet (2.5m).
A very fine barrow, exceeding No. 24 in height, but only visible at close quarters due to the trees growing on and around it. (LVG 30).
28. Diameter 45 feet (14m), height 1 foot (0.3m), In the field west of Bere Wood, and north east of Woodbury Hill (LVG 18).
29. Diameter 40 feet (12m), height 32 feet (lm) (LVG 31).
30. Diameter 40 feet (12m), height 4 feet (1.2m) (LVG 32).
31. Diameter 45 feet (14m), height 6 feet (1.8m) (LVG 33).
No.'s 29, 30 and 31 are a prominent group of three along the north side of the path from Woodbury Hill.
Trees and bushes are growing on them.
32. Diameter 45 feet (14m), height 5 feet (1.5m). South of the above group (LVG 34).Muddox Barrow:
33. Near Muddox Barrow (or Skippets) Farm.
No longer existing, but a bronze axe-head was found on the site in about 1900 (LVG 10).
34. Diameter 66 feet (20m), height 3 feet (lm).
On the summit of a large natural bowl-shaped hill, and its size is therefore difficult to determine.
The surmounting barrow can, however, be clearly seen from the south. (LVG 26).Barrow Hill:
35. Not a round barrow, but included on the map and the list because of its name.
It is so large that it would appear to be basically a natural formation.
Formerly known as Bugbarrow, meaning the bent or bowed earthwork.
The Saxon word 'beorg' from which the word barrow is derived meant 'to protect', and was probably formerly used in a loose sense to describe any man-made earthwork.
Barrow Hill, in spite of its name, could therefore be some other form of defensive earthwork, possibly of the Iron Age (LVG 25).Black Hill:
36. Diameter 40 feet (12m), height 2 1/2 feet (0.75m).
On the eastern slope of Black Hill, known locally as Cow Down, west of Shitterton.
Until recently on heathland, but ploughed and sown with grass in 1968 (LVG 17).
37. Diameter 45 feet (14m), height 4 feet (1.2m).
On ridge of hill (LVG 22).
38. Diameter 45 feet (14m), height 3 1/2 feet (lm). On ridge of hill (LVG 19).
39. Diameter 45 feet (14m), height 3 feet (lm). Most northerly of a group of three, the other two being in Turnerspuddle parish (LVG 21).
40. Diameter 42 feet (13m), height 3 1/2 feet (lm). Overgrown with gorse (LVG 20).41.
At Black Hill Clump on the parish boundary with Turnerspuddle.
This is a bell barrow where the main mound is centrally situated on a circular raised platform called a berm.
The berm in this case has a diameter of 150 feet (45m) and is raised some 5 feet (1.5m) above natural ground level.
The central mound has a diameter of 66 feet (20m) and is a further 5 feet (1.5m) high (LVG 18a).
42. Diameter 66 feet (20m), height 6 feet (1.8m). Known as `Hundred Barrow', it is very fine and prominent, formerly on heathland, but now uniquely situated in the garden of a private dwelling.
When the county was divided into `Hundreds' rather than parishes, this was probably the traditional meeting place of Barrow Hundred which neighboured Bere Hundred on the south (LVG 27).Bere Heath :
43. Diameter 66 feet (20m), height 8 feet (2.5m). Known as `End Barrow' it is prominently situated on the strip of heathland on the east side of the main road north of Chamberlaynes.
The original ditch can be clearly seen on the west side.
Narrowly missed by a German bomb in 1940, the crater of which remains nearby (LVG 28).
44. Diameter 35 feet (10m), height 7 feet (2m).
East of Snatford Bridge on heathland with pine trees growing on and around it.
Traces of the original ditch are visible (LVG 24).
45. Diameter 45 feet (14m), height 10 feet (3m). A very imposing barrow east of the above, near Lockyers Hill, and known as `Yon Barrow', with pine trees on and surrounding it (LVG 29)
Nearby, on the summit of Lockyers Hill, there is a curious crater like depression with a diameter of some 72 feet (22m) surrounded by a circular bank 5-6 feet (1.5-2m) above natural ground level.
The crater-like depression could be a natural formation but the bank would appear to be man-made.
46, Diameter 50 feet (15m), height 7 feet (2m).
On heathland north east of T'anpits Bridge, with pine trees on and surrounding it.
There is a complete, well defined surrounding ditch, but this is apparently due to renovation work by the Forestry Commission.
A depression radiating from the centre would appear to indicate previous excavation.
Formerly known as 'Fox Barrow' according to Isaac Taylor's estate map of 1777 (LVG 12).
47. Diameter 57 feet (17m), height 5 feet (1.5m). On the top of Gallows Hill. Damaged by military vehicles (LVG 11).
48. Warren Heath. Marked as a barrow (Tumulus) on some ordnance maps, but omitted on more recent editions.
It is a long mound with a ditch on the south side, and is believed to be an old rifle butt (LVG 47).
49. Warren Heath. Formerly on heathland, but now ploughed over and considerably reduced in height.
In 1953 it had a visible ditch and was hollow in the centre (LVG 23).
50. Diameter 75-100 feet (23-30m), height 5 feet (1.5m).
On Lower Hyde Heath. It is not perfectly round, and could be a natural formation (LVG 13).
51. Diameter 84 feet (25m), height 5 feet (1.5m).
On Lower Hyde Heath. Another possibly natural formation (LVG 14).
52. Diameter 50 feet (15m), height 5,1 feet (1.6m) (LVG 15).
53. Diameter 48 feet (14m), height 6 feet (1.8m) (LVG 16).No.'s 52 and 53 are on heathland alongside the road from Gallows Hill to Wareham.
Both have visible ditches, and have been damaged by tanks. Very creditably, the present owners have fenced them and erected an explanatory notice board.
Towards the middle of the last century, when the old open fields were being enclosed and when farms were developing into the form in which we now know them, it became common practice for many farmers to bring what had formerly been open downland under cultivation, and to dig away barrows in order to use the chalk of which many of them were formed to lime their fields.
This brought about a spate of barrow digging by collectors and archaeologists as a kind of rescue operation to recover any urns or other objects from the barrows before they became scattered over the field as so much debris.
Unfortunately, these excavations were often hastily undertaken by gangs of labourers under the direction of archaeologists whose prime interest was in acquiring the urns which the barrows might contain.
Consequently the field notes and subsequent accounts are often vague not to say inaccurate or contradictory.About a dozen barrows on Roke Down and Bere Down were opened in this way between 1840 and 1850, and the three more or less contemporary published accounts are conflicting in many respects.
The three accounts may be found in Hutchins' History of Dorset, 3rd Edition (1861), Warne's Celtic Tumuli of Dorset (1866) and the Durden Catalogue (1891).
The two archaeologists chiefly concerned in the Bere Regis burrow excavations were both Blandford men-Henry Durden, primarily a collector, and William Shipp, author of the third edition of Hutchins' History of Dorset.
The basic field notes and various subsequent written up versions seem to have formed the basis for all three published accounts, and the conflictions in the manuscripts were further added to in one version by a printers error in the order of some of the illustrations. Even further confusion arose as a result of the lack of a firm line of demarcation between Roke and Bere Downs when the same barrow is referred to as no. 4 on Roke Down in one account and no. 1 on Bere Down in another.
However, what the nineteenth century archaeologists lacked in accuracy they made up for in verbosity; in referring to the perfectly preserved teeth in three skeletons, Warne says there were "clear indications that their possessors had terminated their earthly existence at no advanced period of life".
Whatever we may now think of the Victorian archaeologists and their lax and inaccurate recording of excavations, there is no doubt that but for their efforts many Bronze Age objects now safely housed in museums would have been lost for ever.Henry Durden amassed a considerable collection of Bronze Age material from various parts of Dorset during his lifetime, and after his death the whole collection was acquired in 1892 by the British Museum and the Roke and Bere Down urns which formed part of it are now to be found there.In the following simplified accounts of the excavations the `LVG' numbers quoted are the Bere Regis barrow numbers given in L. V. Grinsell's Dorset Barrows in which all known barrows, existing and previously excavated, are listed parish by parish:
A. Roke Down
A barrow was opened on Roke Down in about 1785, but no urns recovered from it are known to exist, and nothing is known about the excavation work, beyond the fact that large stones were found placed over the urns.
The following note appeared in the Dorset County Chronicle in 1825: "Several of these stones remain to this day on the original spot, where stood the mound; others were removed and placed around a cottage, by the River Piddle, by way of a defence.
I have seen most of them, and likewise an old man, who forty years ago assisted in their removal.- J. F. Pennie." At the present time several very large sarsen stones may be found a short distance south east of Barrow number 10 (see previous map) at the junction of two hedges on the east side of the lane, and may, therefore, denote the site of this barrow.
B. Roke Down
(LVG 46a). Diameter 56 feet (17m), height 10 feet (3m).
Opened on 9 October, 1844, by Shipp and Durden, its position was vaguely given as on the upper part of Roke Down. It contained a number of cremated remains, four skeletons, one urn broken beyond recovery and five complete urns. One urn contained two "stone amulets" and its upper rim was missing.
C. Roke Down
(LVG 46b). Diameter 76 feet (23m), height 10 feet (3m).
Opened on 7 July, 1845 by Durden and probably Shipp also, it was a short distance from the previous barrow (Shipp's account says east of it, Durden's west). It contained several cremated remains, six skeletons, two small beakers and three urns broken beyond recovery, one complete beaker and four complete urns.
One urn seems now to be missing, and contained a bone pin.
One urn contained a cylindrical bronze head. It is a very fine urn indeed, said to have a capacity of 13 gallons, and was at the time the largest Bronze Age urn so far found.
D. Roke Down
(not listed in LVG). Height 6 feet (1.8m). Opened on 22 August, 1845 by Henry Durden, it was said to have been the centre barrow of three situated near the middle of the down.
It had been previously opened, and contained only the fragments of an urn ornamented with a network pattern broken beyond recovery, and a small urn or beaker both found in association with cremated remains

E. Roke Down
(LVG 46c). Height 6 feet (1.8m). Shipp's account says it was 3 feet high. Opened in August, 1845 by Shipp and Durden, it was near the previous barrow-"Operations were at once commenced on the next barrow 70 yards distant".
Previous turf removal had left the fragments of four urns, but it contained besides, three cremated deposits, one skeleton and one urn.
F. Roke Down
(not listed in Lvc). Height 521 feet (1.6m). Opened on 17 October, 1846 by Henry Durden, its location is not mentioned. It contained only the skeleton of a child and one urn.

G. Roke Down
(LVG 46d). Diameter 45 feet (14m), height 6 feet (1.8m). Opened on 28 June, 1849 by Shipp and Durden.
Its position is given as near the Reformatory School and a game-keepers cottage (perhaps Haywards Cottage), and was therefore on Roke Down in accordance with Shipp's account and not Bere Down as stated by Durden.
It contained two cremated deposits and three urns. One urn contained a cylindrical bronze bead.
H. Roke Down
(LVG 46e). Height 4-5 feet (1.2-1.4 m).
This barrow had been partially excavated previously by T. W. W. Smart, when three urns and some beads, said to have been glass, were recovered.
In 1840 it was further excavated by Mr. and Mrs. Solly of Parkstone, and its position is given as on the north side of Roke Farm. Its top was crowned with six or seven large sandstones, one of which was said to have weighed about 1,1 tons.
The 1840 excavation produced a further urn containing a doubled up skeleton, two bronze spear-heads, each 22 inches (6-2cm) long, and a splendid bronze dagger complete with bone handle, 13 inches (33cm) long.
It was at that time the only bronze dagger ever found complete with handle.
Fortunately a drawing of it was made and published, as the dagger itself perished in a fire at Mr. Solly's house some time later.
The other urns, spear-heads and beads do not now appear to exist.

I. Roke Down
There is an urn in the Dorset County Museum (Fig. 6, DCM) recovered from a barrow on Roke Down. No further details are known, and it could possibly have come from one of the barrows previously mentioned.

J. Bere Down
(LVG 8a). Diameter 36 feet (11m), height 6 feet (1.8m). Opened on 6 August, 1850 by Shipp and Durden, its position was given as 200 yards south west of an earthwork (i.e. near barrow no. 24 on map).
It contained 5 cremated deposits, one skeleton, one small urn or beaker and a large urn both broken beyond recovery, and two complete urns.
K. Bere Down
(LVG 8b). Diameter 30 feet (9m), height 5 feet (1.5m).
Opened in 1850 by Shipp and probably Durden also, its position was given as a short distance south west of the preceding barrow.
It contained two cremated deposits, fragments of a large urn, and one complete urn which does not now appear to exist.
L. Bere Down
(LVG 8c). Diameter 23 feet (7m), height 3 feet (lm).
Opened in 1850 by Shipp and Durden its position was described as a little east of the preceding barrow.
It contained one cremated deposit and two urns, one of which does not now exist.
M. Bere Down
(LVG 8d). Height 1 foot (0.3m).
Opened in 1850 by Shipp and probably Durden also, its position was described as about 100 yards south-east of the encampment (i.e. near barrow no. 24 on map).
It contained seven skeletons lying side by side, with heads to the east
N. Bere Down
In 1964 the fragments of an urn were turned up by the plough a short distance north west of barrow no. 24, and are now in the Dorset County Museum awaiting assembly and repair.
Perhaps the Devil's Stone on Black Hill should be referred to here in connection with the Bronze Age.
This is a a large sarsen stone standing on a small mound at the side of the path leading to Turnerspuddle over Black Hill, and marks the parish boundary at this point.
It was not uncommon for large sarsen stones to be incorporated in barrows, and this may therefore be the remains of such a barrow where some of the original mound has been eroded away