Culliford Tree Barrow, Whitcombe, Dorset

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – SY 6691 8548

Also Known as:

  1. Music Barrow
  2. Warne’s Barrow 22
  3. Whitcombe 1 (Grinsell)

Archaeology & History

Crowned by a clump of trees on its top (planted in 1740), this hilltop site is one of the more impressive of a number of tombs hereby, with its nearest other neighbour being 70 yards southeast of here.  One of Dorset’s early tribal meeting places (Anderson 1934), the tomb was illustrated on Isaac Taylor’s 1765 map of the region and was dug into in 1858 “on the orders of a local magnate” (Marsden 1999), damaging some substantial portion of the tomb.  Of this, craniologist and antiquarian John Thurnam was most displeased; for in his description of the opening of Culliford Tree he wrote:

“A wide trench had been dug through it one side, from the summit and the rubble which had been thrown out had not been replaced… Another subject of regret was the fact that though, as we were told by the neighbouring rustics, human remains, with pottery and certain other relics, were found in the barrow, no authentic account of the exploration had, so far as we could learn, been put to print.”

Leslie Grinsell (1959) found the same trouble in his assessment of this site; and the Royal Commission (1970) lads could only describe the site thus:

“Large trench on south and top almost certainly dug in 1858 when four secondary extended inhumations, one with necklace of amber and two gold-plated beads, and cremation with incense cup in collared urn, were found.”

However, it seems that the necklace and gold-plated beads have been “lost” — i.e., someone has them in their own private collection somewhere!

Folklore

This is one of very few tombs in this part of the country where we find the tradition of fairy music.  Grinsell (1959) told that:

“The Culliford Tree barrow, formerly the meeting place of the Hundred of Culllingford Tree, is also known as the Music Barrow from the belief that music could be heard beneath the mound by those who listened at the apex at midday.”

References:

  1. Anderson, O.S., The English Hundred-Names, Lunds Universitets Arsskrift 1934.
  2. Grinsell, Leslie V., Dorset Barrows, Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Society: Dorchester 1959.
  3. Marsden, Barry M., The Early Barrow Diggers, Tempus: Stroud 1999.
  4. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, An Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset – Volume 2: South-East, Part 3, HMSO: London 1970.
  5. Warne, Charles, Celtic Tumuli of Dorset: An Account of Personal and other Researches in the Sepulchral Mounds of the Durotriges, Smith: London 1866.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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About megalithix

Prehistorian and independent archaeological researcher, specializing in prehistoric rock art, Neolithic, Bronze Age & Iron Age sites, and the animistic cosmologies of pre-Christian & traditional cultures.
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