Tumulus: OS Grid Reference – ST 95552 18233
Archaeology & History
In what today seems a barely visible tumulus, amidst the large cluster that could once be found upon the large estate grounds of Rushmore House, were once the overgrown ruins of an old tumulus. It seems to have been rediscovered in the 19th century, when the legendary antiquarian, General Pitt-Rivers, moved onto the huge estate. It was all but hidden even in his day, he told, but being “of such slight elevation that, like many others, it had never been noticed.” It was the first of all the barrows they excavated on his Estate, and is to be found “near the house on the south side of the lower south coach road.”
So, in 1880, he got some of the estate lads to help him and Rolleston start a dig into the old tomb – and they weren’t to be disappointed. It wasn’t anything special, but it was the first amongst many hereby. In Pitt-River’s (1888) massive tome on the prehistory of the region, he told us:
“This was the first barrow opened at Rushmore, on the 10th August, 1880. Professor Rolleston and the Rev. H. Winwood were present at the opening. The elevation was so slight that it had hitherto escaped notice. In the centre, 1 foot 6 inches beneath the crest, a layer of charcoal and ashes, 9 feet by 6 feet, was found containing a burnt body. The body appears to have been burnt on the spot, and not gathered up after cremation, but a mound raised over the funereal pile. A few fragments of bronze, probably the remains of some implement which had corroded or been burnt, were found in the ashes, and in the body of the barrow two flint scrapers, a well-formed flint borer, and a boat-shaped flint…were found (see illustration above, PB). A few scattered fragments of pottery found in the barrow were of a superior and harder baked quality than is usual in barrows. No trace of a ditch was found around the barrow, but towards the north of the centre, a depression—EE on plan—which might, or might not, have been a grave, but filled with mould and without remains, was discovered. The barrow is undoubtedly of the Bronze Age, and is interesting on account of it being the last at the opening of which Professor Rolleston assisted shortly before his death.”
As a result of this, he decided to name to barrow after his old friend and also planted a beech tree on top of the barrow in remembrance of him.
- Pitt-Rivers, A.H.L.F., Excavations in Cranborne Chase, near Rushmore – volume 2, Harrison & Sons: London 1888.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian