West Kennet Long barrow
near West Kennet/Avebury,
"A part of the World
Heritage Site - Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites"
English Heritage say "One of the largest, most
impressive and most accessible Neolithic chambered tombs in Britain. Built in
around 3650 BC". This dates it about 400 years before Stonehenge was started.
It was in use for over a thousand years, up to around 2,200BC. After this it was
filled in, but was then used for unknown use after this.
The remains of at least 46 bodies ranging from
babies to old people have been found in it, but as many are not complete, they
may not have all been destined to stay there.
Located not far from
some say connected with The Sanctuary
and accessed from the road by
and across two fields following a footpath.
It is classified as a chambered long barrow and
a severn-cotswold tomb, and is similar to others found in Gloucestershire,
in Oxfordshire. I have visited many of these and West Kennet is far larger than
the others allowing you easy access, while some of the others you have to get
down and crawl in, and others are incomplete. As a teenager I visited and slept
the night in this one, on my own at around mid summer, in those days it smelt
fresher than it does today and was not visited as much. A local legend tells how
this tomb is visited on Midsummer Day by a ghostly priest and a large white
It's made up of a very long wedge shaped mound, around 100m long and only the
East Kennet Long Barrow, (SU116668) that is in sight of this one, is longer. A
small open forecourt area leading to a main passage with 5 chambers off, two
pairs and a larger one at the end. Only the end chamber is large enough for an
adult person to lay fully out, and this is large enough for several to have been
put in at a time. It is said that the end chamber was used for the burial, but
once the person had decomposed the bones were stored in the side chambers. At
the front, pointing east-ish is a number of very large Sarsen stones. There
are ditches each side, but these may not be easy to see, and the earth from these
was used to construct the mound. Some of the stones came from the nearby downs,
still some distance given the size of the stones, while some smaller ones came from around 30 miles away.
Like all long barrows we don't know if it's
original use was for burials or if it had another function and were later
reused for this. Some have a single family in, and it may be that some of these
were used for homes and protection from the weather, shutting off the entrance
eventually suffocating the inhabitants. West Kennet Long Barrow would make
a good cave home, but as archaeologists estimate that it took 15,700 man
hours to construct it seems excessive for this use.
Some of the mound has collapsed, but the main
part with the chambers is intact. The collapsed parts are probably a result of
earlier archaeological digging. There are some boundary stones but I think these
are modern just signifying the area that is the barrow so it does not get
West Kennet Long Barrow is in private ownership
and in English Heritage guardianship. It is managed by The National Trust on
behalf of English Heritage, and the two organisations share the cost of managing
and maintaining the property.
We have more images which can
be found in our gallery via this link
Location: West Kennet Long Barrow, nr West Kennet/Avebury,
Getting there: Parking on the side of A4, or
the car park for Silbury Hill nearby.
3⁄4 mile SW of West Kennet, along a footpath off the A4.
Access: Access across footpath, 2 fields from
Other Useful Websites:
Opening Times: Open all the time, but there
may be some restrictions around the summer solstice 20-22 June, so check
before if you propose to visit at this time.
Other Location Pages:
Other Relevant Pages:
World Heritage Sites in the UK
Heritage Sites - Further Information
Notes: Information on the East Kennet Long
is not open to the public can be found at
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