Bones found at a prehistoric burial site indicate they belonged to victims of an ancient massacre, say scientists.
Remains of 14 people were discovered at Wayland's Smithy, near Uffington White Horse, Oxfordshire, in the 1960s... continues...
For all my frequent trips to Uffington, Wayland's Smithy is an oft-missed destination. I've always viewed the area like a theme park of the ancient world. No matter how determined, you never really get to go on all the rides.
This time round, the delights of the Ridgeway and Wayland's Smithy were top on the list and the first thing I made for. The journey along Britain's oldest road was contemplative and inspiring enough, with the arrival at the Smithy a just reward for such pilgrimage.
My decision to go in the early afternoon on a weekday was well placed. With most folk at work I had the chance to soak in the Smithy's charm undisturbed. Free from the click of cameras and excitable children jumping up and down on the capstone.
The Smithy is a monument that commands respect. Four stone guardians stand watch over the entrance to the inner sanctum, flanked by a horseshoe of trees. To clamber at will over the monument doesn't seem right; one has to be invited to cross the threshold and experience the Smithy's secrets.
Once I'd perceived permission was given, I discovered a new secret as I passed the gateway into the cruciform chamber. An arrangement of wild flowers lay in the middle of the terminal chamber, no doubt an offering from another pilgrim who arrived before me.
It wasn't the only gift. On closer inspection, I noticed a number of coins inserted in the crevices of the pock-marked sarsen standing left to the entrance. The legend of Wayland sprang to mind, with visitors perhaps asking the smith to shod their wishes in place of the traditional horse. I left a similar offering of my own in a free space, before standing back to regard the Smithy one last time before heading back up the Ridgeway.
In the tranquility of the moment, it was almost as if I heard the Smithy speak. "Don't leave it so long next time," it said. And on such a similar well-placed day in the future, I won't.
I have been to Wayland's Smithy about half a dozen times since I have lived in the north Wilts area, not really that often considering it is one of my favourite places.
One of the aspects I love about visiting this site is the walk of about half a mile or so along the Ridgeway from the nearest parking area; this gets you in the right frame of mind. Yesterday afternoon, I had spent some time with a friend who is a garden enthusiast – I mention this as an aside because earlier we had visited the Woolstone Mill garden which has one of the best views of Uffington White Horse (seeing the White Horse from their little tree house there was a true delight).
The friend later obliged by driving up to the Ridgeway from village of Ashbury; this is also the best place to head for if you are visiting by public transport: take the 47* (Newbury) bus from Swindon to Ashbury, picking up a downland path by the church which leads up to the Ridgeway (this just in itself is a lovely walk) then about a mile along the Ridgeway towards Uffington.
Yesterday, late afternoon it was still quite hot and we had neither hat nor drink with us (not clever when walking the Ridgeway). We walked briskly along this particularly beautiful section of the Ridgeway, ancient hedgerows on both sides. Walking into the Wayland's enclosure, with its massive beeches, on a hot summer's day is like walking into an oasis of shade and cool; thirst disappeared and for once the site was completely deserted. I was able to go inside the two small side chambers which are like West Kennet Long Barrow in miniature - the shafting afternoon sunlight playing on the stones as I examined their surfaces. Like most of the long barrows in the Wiltshire/Cotswold area some reconstruction has obviously taken place to the entrance.
As we walked around the barrow a couple turned up, headed for the end of the long barrow and lay down in the long grass looking up at the sky. Their presence only added to the peaceful ambience, probably my best visit yet.
Note: The small EH information board near the entrance of the enclosure is discreet and helpful.
I parked at the main car park near the Uffington White Horse and walked the Ridgeway to Wayland's Smithy. (There is a lane where you can park closer to the site if you wish). It was a lovely sunny day and the path was dry and dusty. It is nice to be a ble to say I have walked (a little bit) of the Ridgeway although I wish I had taken the pushchair as Dafydd was starting to get heavy in the heat! This is a fantastic site and I loved it. On a sunny day, sheltered by the trees, this was a very relaxing place to be. Lots of people came and went and I had a nice photo taken sat on one of the entrance stones with Dafydd on my knee. Somthing to show him when he is older! This is a great place to visit and very highly recommended - you won't be dissapointed.
I usually go here in the autumn, the dappled light through the beech trees on a sunny day in autumn makes it very atmospheric. The stones are old and gnarled and it looks like West Kennet on a smaller scale, though it has a lot of its own charm. Have been there since the neo nazi activity and not seen any noticeable damage. I am going to read Walter Scott's legend of Kenilworth as he is responsible in large part for the folklore about the phantom blacksmith which has made the site so popular.
I read Clive Spinnage's myths and mysteries of Wayland's Smith which is an excellent resource although I still have not been able to find the "snivelling stone" he speaks of which is supposed to be there.
talking about spoiling the ambience, a large group of neo-nazi's camping there, lighting fires, pissing all over the monument and making us feel very unwelcome. Wotansvolk flags all over the entrance to the tomb....I tried to find the number to contact the ranger but to no avail. A very upsetting experience.
A beautiful Autumn day was spent yesterday at Waylands Smithy. The orange leaves falling all around on a gentle breeze, in this most tranquil spot. People came and went as we sat there and moved around taking our photographs, a popular place for those on foot or bikes and passed every now and then by huge off road vehicals powering down the ridgeway. Sstill this didn't bother me as I sat inside each of the chambers totally switching myself off from the world outside. This place is an absolute treasure.
Directions - I think what Chris means (see first fieldnotes) is that if you really want to have the shortest possible walk to Wayland's you could unofficially park where the dead-end road to Knighton Barn (the road is called Knighton Hill) crosses the Ridgeway (circa SU285856). I wouldn't encourage having the shortest possible walk though, although I guess there might be some good reasons in certain situations (e.g. lack of mobility, terrible weather). Most people walk from the Uffington Castle area, or from the signposted National Trust car park (free). For the latter, walk out of the car park as if you were continuing on the road that just took you to the car park and continue to walk up the road until you get to the Ridgeway, turn right and follow the Ridgeway until you pass a line of beech trees. 400m further you'll see the entrance on your right into the Wayland's Smithy enclosure. It's 2 km in total. Alternatively you can approach from the West by parking just off the road between Ashbury and Ashdown House, where it crosses the Ridgeway (circa SU274843). It's only just over 1 km from there.
We walked from Uffington Castle, which was pretty pleasant, despite patches of the Ridgeway looking like a mangled forest track (and other bits being bone dry!). The only spoiler of the walk was three annoying 4x4's playing silly muddy buggers, with an attitude. I don't have a problem with real off roading (challenging stuff on private land in forests and farm land), but this is like off-roading for the blandly afflicted. Pointless and tedious. Later we heard and saw three motorbikes churning through the mud right outside Wayland's.
It was about 12 years ago when I first visited this famous Long barrow, and it's a good sign that it hasn't changed much. Lots of visitors came and went (quickly), and then suddenly 5 minutes of calm and didn't see another human being all the way back to the NT car park.
The exquisite Cheryl and I came here today with some serious photography in mind. The light was priceless, and even better, we had the place to ourselves pretty much all the time. As we did the shoot, something was making a strange whirring call in the field at the back of the monument. Sounded like a grouse, but I'm sure there are no grouse up there. Partridge, perhaps?
Anyway, the shoot went brilliantly, and we felt entirely as one with the place. And we saw three hares chasing each other wildly round the adjoining field, which was just brilliant. No boxing, though. . . .
Ah!.... the great long barrow of Waylands Smithy. Is it the great beech trees which give the barrow so much intimacy? Why does it feel so much like home? I have lost count of the times I have been here for painting, picnics, loving, birdwatching, healing, photography, chillin', and now grieving and celebrating all at once. Sitting above the chamber on the capstone I look down into the mouth of the barrow and think of the beautiful, newly dead, feline body of Finbarr gracefully lying in her grave in my garden, 18 miles away. God, I loved that cat. But Waylands has eradicated the grief and now I remember with joy all the love we shared.
I was curious to see the phenomenon of the way that although the long barrow is tapered, that if you stand at the very end, the edges of it appear parallel. 'Accident or design?' I mused. Gotta be design. Surely? Very clever in any case.
My first visit on a beautiful March day. Found through curiosity a good approach to the site - when coming down the Ridgeway from Uffington castle there are woods either side of the path, once you have crossed the final road before the Wayland's site - jump over the ditch and go into the woods on your left - there is a great straight avenue of trees to follow and the site can be seen appearing to your right - go back over the ditch through the gate and to the tomb
I checked out the parallell sides "trick" mentioned below - subtle, interesting
I particularly liked the sympathetic arrangement of trees around the tomb especially the four corner trees - if you go to the front and walk backwards the two back-end trees are framed nicely between the two front megaliths.
At the foot of one of the back-corner trees daffodils (I think) were coming up;
the dead are dead, but spring's begun
the old make way for blooded young
I was here on Sunday the first of September. Whilst I stood on the mound with my wife a man who had obviously been mixing his drinks, or worse, reeled up to us and explained the amazing trick of perspective the barrow forms. Seen from the thin end the sides appear to be parallel. I have not seen this phenomenon noted anywhere else.
I always feel very emotional when I come here. I don't feel sad nor do I feel happy, but I do feel deeply. It is very peaceful here. Whenever I am in the area I pop along here and just spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation. Then I tend to leave a few pennies as a libation and then move on.
This is indeed a lovely spot. It was one of the stopping points on a brief tour of the area at the Ancient Sacred Landscapes Network conference in summer 2000. Nice to see that even though there were clearly solstice campers coming through the area, the Smithy site was relatively free of trash (not so Avebury or the orchards at Glastonbury, sadly...)
I hope to hike all or part ofthe Rideway track this summer when I visit, and will certainly be spending time in this location; White Horse Hill and environs is my favorite place on earth.
Visited Wayland's Smithy on my 30th birthday, and must say I didn't feel quite so old! And what a birthday party with such esteemed company. Mrs Ironman & I enjoyed a bit of birthday cake there and managed to get a whole hour of undisturbed peace. The highlight of an otherwise hectic day spent travelling from Bristol to London and back again!
Wandered up the Ridgeway having been and sat on White Horse Hill in the afternoon sun, end of September '97. Nobody else about 'cept for a lone mountain biker and us two. Wayland's Smithy was a very welcome goal after such an enjoyable trudge. Trix did his usual archaeological assessment and took lots of photos...I oohed and aahed at the tranquility, the low golden light of early Autumn and was pleased to be here at last. They say that if you pay the Smith with silver he'll re-shoe your horse. Well, I don't know about that, but I hid a 5p piece amongst the stones and the next week I got bought a new set of tyres!
I visited the Smithy for the first time this week, running the gauntlet of an angry stoat on the way!
What a stunning site. Warming sunlight filtering through the almost protective wall of trees and the lack of other visitors created a perfect atmosphere.
The long, low tapering mound is beautifully shaped and the row of stones guarding the entrance way are just perfect.
I will be back soon.
I spend a lot of time visiting sites, seeking out the unvisited and unheard of but there is something about Wayland's Smithy that keeps calling me back. Apart form this year, I have spent every beltain of my adult life at this barrow. It is so homely, beautiful and comforting. It as also worth a visit for the Summer Solstice as there are always other people there and a real sense of festival is in the air all night. One year a horse and cart turned up for the night and it was difficult to find somewhere to put your sleeping bag - that was a great night.
After the unexpected death of a close friend I just had to visit my favourite site. The deep calm that pervades the site is the single balm I know to ease pain. The fact that I saw Julian in Avebury on the same day was the greatest bonus I could have asked for!
Unfortunately the first view of the sacred path to the Smithy almost completely ruined my mood. The rusting burnt-out car that blocks the path felt like a needle being stabbed into my third eye. I'm just grateful it wasn't any nearer to the site...
Cold it may have been but I managed to get nekkid and run around before saying my proper goodbye's to a great mate. Naked, facing South over the entrance, I had the rising, almost full, moon balanced on one hand and the setting sun on the other. I don't think I could have stood any more symbolism at that point.
I love this place. Has anyone else noticed how the trees all seem to bend inwards over the barrow?
I was here with two friends a few years back, and one of them, Marcus, had brought two L-shaped bits of coathanger with him and was trying his hand at divining.
He noticed that when he walked parellel to the front of the barrow, the rods would swing towards each stone and he passed them, and back to the centre during the spaces between. The same thing happened when I tried it, but when Matt had a go, they swung AWAY from the stones instead of towards them.
Have a go next time you're there - see whether you're an 'inny' or an 'outy'!
Whatever you do, do not follow the signs to the official car park, unless you fancy a 2.5 mile trek down the Ridgeway. Check out your OS map and you'll see there's a small lane midway between the site and the car park- Once at the site, you'll find a great longbarrow , although not on the scale of West Kennet, it's somehow more inspiring. Set in a copse of tall trees, the only sound is that of the wind sighing through the trees, and a feeling of total tranquility pervades the whole area-forget what I said earlier-the long walk makes it all the more worthwhile-go early and forget for a few moments the teeming mass of human life thats all too close.
Wayland or Volund is the divine smith in Norse, Anglo-Saxon and Germanic. It is said that is you leave your horse tethered there overnight with a silver coin as payment, the horse will have been re-shoed in the morning!
In folklore, Volund and his two brothers steal the "swan-shifts" of three swan maidens then go on to convince the swan maidens to stay in their human forms and become their wives. After a period of 9 years the Swan-Maidens manage to find their swan-shifts and turn back into swans! Interesting as it has been observed that Waylands Smithy aligns to Deneb in the consellation Cygnus (The Swan)
In his book 'Villages of the White Horse' Alfred Williams writes about the legend of Wayland or Weland, the invisible smith who dwelt in the cave known as Wayland's Smithy. His forge was hidden far under ground and legend has it if a traveller wanted his horse shod and left some money by the entrance when he returned later he would find the horse newly shod. A well known legend; Alfred Williams adds to it this passage:
"One day old Wayland lost his temper and gave a thrilling proof of his mighty strength, striking fear into the folks of the countryside round about. Running short of nails, he sent his favourite imp, Flibbertigibbert, down the valley to obtain some from the other blacksmiths, and bade him to make haste about it, as a horse was waiting outside to be shod. After waiting several hours he looked out from the cave and saw the imp had yielded to the temptations of a mortal and gone bird-nesting in the fields, forgetful of the nails. Thereupon Wayland, fell into a passion, snatched a big round stone, used as an anvil, and threw it at the loiterer, two miles off; the stone shot through the air with a loud whizzing noise and, falling short of the mark, nevertheless slid along the ground and struck the imp on the foot retaining the mark of his heel on one side. Thereupon the imp appeared to the astonished rustics, limping and snivelling and rubbing his eyes with his fist, so they called the spot Snivelling Corner, and the name remains to this day."
Alfred Williams goes on to say "Others think the 'heel' on the stone at Snivelling Corner may be a clue to its true significance as a 'heol stone' or sun stone from 'heelios'. Greek for sun."
Source: "Villages of the White Horse" by Alfred Williams (first published 1913)
Be careful about the amount of cash you leave: "The popular belief still retains memory of this wild legend.. It was believed that Wayland Smith's fee was sixpence, and that, unlike other workmen, he was offended if more was offered."
From p219 of 'Introductions and notes and illustrations to the novels..' by Walter Scott. Vol 2, 1833.
This sounds reminiscent of hobs and fairies, who are also unimpressed by the wrong type of payment, and will stop being helpful after such mannerless behaviour.
"It is believed that the almost total absence of coins from the recent excavations (1962-3) was largely due to the long-standing custom for the local children to search there for any coins which Wayland might have overlooked. (Disbury, D. 1968. History of Ashbury, II)."
Notes on the Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain
L. V. Grinsell
Folklore, Vol. 90, No. 1. (1979), pp. 66-70.
Would excavators really have been expecting to find many coins anyway?!
This was recorded by Francis Wise in 1738: "All the account which the country people are able to give of it is 'At this place lived formerly an invisible Smith, and if a traveller's Horse had lost a Shoe upon the road, he had no more to do than to bring the Horse to this place with a piece of money, and leaving both there for some little time, he might come again and find the money gone, but the Horse new shod."
(Letter to Dr Mead concerning Antiquities in Berkshire, Oxford, 1738, p37).
The stone tomb is usually called 'Wayland's Smithy', but Wise and other early writers call it simply 'Wayland Smith'.
From: Weland the Smith, by H. R. Ellis Davidson, in Folklore, Vol. 69, No. 3. (Sep., 1958), pp. 145-159.
Sir Charles Peers, the joint excavator of the site, described the folk lore and its curious confirmation by the post-War work. It was said that Wayland, the Farrier God, lived here and shod the horses of the wayfarer who left a silver groat upon the stones. Now in excavating the site two iron currency bars of the first century B.C. were revealed, as if in fulfilment of the story.
But the stones themselves are the remains of a 200ft. long barrow erected 2,000 years before the currency bars came into being, while the name of the Teutonic god could not have been attached to the site until four or five centuries within the Christian era.
From The Times, August 9th, 1932, p13.
However, dully, I have read elsewhere the suggestion that the 'currency bars' aren't as old as they might be. But what's the truth?
According to the Davidson article in the Folklore post above, the bars are mentioned in C R Peers and R A Smith's article in Archaeological Journal, I, 1921, p188.
What Wayland (Volund) got up to in his smithy isn't actually very nice, if you read the 'Völundarkviða' Norse poem. It's a bit gruesome. I'll leave it up to you whether you tell the kids as they're poking about amongst the stones. Actually they'll probably relish it. A little excerpt:
He struck off the heads of those stalwart boys,
Under soot-blackened bellows their bodies hid,
From both their skulls he scraped the hair
And set them in silver as a sight for Nidud,
Of their eyes he fashioned excellent gems
For his dear neighbor, Nidud's wife,
And out of the teeth which were in their mouths
He forged a brooch to bring Bodvild joy.
I'm posting this as folklore as much as to see if anyone can confirm the tale, else it's in danger of becoming newly minted 'folklore for the future', at least in Tyneside.
During the great storm of 1987, when trees all over England were toppled by sudden great winds (the storm the Met Office didn't predict), many of the trees surrounding Wayland's Smithy were uprooted. However, none of them fell inwards, thus protecting the barrow from damage.
Is this true? and if so, is there a nice tidy rational explanation, possibly to do with air pressure or soil density, that doesn't require the invocation of protective tree spirits?
My Grandfather has been a regular visitor to the vale for most of his life and he recently recounted this tale to me:
Wayland had a young apprentice called Flibberdy Gibbard whom he sent to Uffington to by some nails, sometime later Flibberdy returned with the wrong size nails and Wayland was so angered that he started throwing rocks at the poor apprentice, as each rock came they doubled in size 'til he threw one giant rock which landed just next to the now whimpering Flibberdy who was forced to stay there sobbing 'til the ends of his days.
This final rock, and the spot where Flibberdy Gibbard was banished to, can still be found down towards the farm and is now reffered to as Snivelling Corner.
It's also where the term "Flibberdy Gibbard" cames from meaning one whom could not organise a p**s up in a brewery, Which Ironically was a favourite insult of my Great Grandmother!
Wayland (alt: Weland, Volund, Vulcan et al) appears in various guises in various mythologies (even Ancient Greece!). In the Northern Mythology he and his brothers come into contact with the Valkyrs, beautiful ladies with swan plummage who can fly, only to lose them later. Wayland pursues his love with zeal and this causes him to be captured and enslaved. He is put to work creating weapons of magical power and during his capture suffers the loss of an eye and a cut achilles hill resulting in a lame leg.
I thoroughly recommend anyone interested in wayland smithy to read up on the Norse Mythology for the full story, it is truly a wonderful tale.
The Saxons have many mythological associations with the Norse tradition and you can see how the story of Wayland has been carried from Remote Scandinavia, through mainland Europe and with the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, into England and then to leafy Oxfordshire.
Although the folklore relates to the Anglo-Saxon mythology of a Neolithic Long barrow (many thousands of years difference!), it is still an interesting aside.
Tied up with Wayland Smithy are a number of stones and barrows relating to the tale. Wittich's Hill, a barrow (Wittich was the son of Wayland) and Beaghild's burial place (a princess whom Wayland ravished), another barrow are but two in the local area.
There is some folklore concerning Waylands that a secret passage lies underneath it and opens up in Ashbury coombes (a mile or so away). Shepherds in the late 19th century used to strike a crowbar into the ground near to the 'cave' (as it was then before reconstruction in the 1960s) and hear a hollow sound.
I guess they were half right! Later archaeology helped us understand that Waylands had a number of stages of construct. The hollow sound was likely to have been an earlier grave lying underneath the present sarsen faced long barrow.
I have also read of the secret passage connecting to White Horse Hill. The two sites seem always to be closey linked in folklore.
The huge sarsens that guard the front of the tomb are four in number. Two other original large stones are missing. Are they in any particular shape? I have always looked at the lozenge (or diamond) shaped stones as female (think hips!) and the thinner more upright stones as male (think phallus!). This appears to be the case at Waylands Smithy (look at some of the piccies). I think the missing one on the left hand side was male and the missing one on the right hand side middle was female.
The avenue at Avebury sometimes leads me to a similar conclusion with male and female stones.
Kathleen Wiltshire published this story in her 'More Ghosts and Legends of the Wiltshire Countryside', hearing it from a Mrs J Morrison of Urchfont Manor in 1970.
A man was once camping near Wayland's Smithy on a hiking trip. In the night 'he heard much movement nearby as would be heard if men and horses were moving camp.' In the morning he went to investigate where the sounds had been coming from - but there wasn't so much as a mark in the damp grass. Locals were said to remark 'It would be them Romans' whom he'd heard.
It was one of those long barrows, which we meet with occasionally, having a kistvaen of stones within it, to protect the place of interment. Four large stones of a superior size and height to the rest, were placed before the entrance to the adit, two on each side ; these now lie prostrate on the ground : one of these measures ten and another eleven feet in height ; they are rude and unhewn, like those at Abury. A line of stones, though of much smaller proportions, encircled the head of the barrow, of which I noticed four standing in their original position ; the corresponding four on the opposite side have been displaced. The stones which formed the adit or avenue still remain, as well as the large incumbent stone which covered the kistvaen, and which measures ten feet by nine.
Sir Richard Colt Hoare - Ancient Wilts., ii, 47, 1821
Waylands Smithy is a chambered Neolithic long barrow. Still extant as a (partly restored) earth and stone structure, the tomb was excavated in 1919-20, and then in 1962-3. The excavations indicated the first phase comprised a small oval earthen barrow (measuring circa 14 metres by 7 metres, aligned north-south) with flanking ditches, an earthen and sarsen mound and a kerb. It contained a mortuary structure consisting of large pits (which held split-trunk posts), paving, and linear cairns of sarsens. The remains of at least 14 human skeletons were present within this structure. Phase two was a long, low trapezoidal barrow mound (circa 55 metres by 14 metres) with sarsen kerb, following the north-south alignment of phase 1 and completely concealing the original barrow. At the southern end was a facade of large sarsens, from which ran a short passage to a roofed sarsen chamber. Human remains were recovered from this area. There is some evidence for deliberate blocking of the chamber, perhaps during the later Neolithic or Early Bronze Age. A single inhumation in a grave to the west of the mound could belong with any phase of activity. Radiocarbon dates suggest the construction, as dated from the primary mortuary deposits, occurred in 3670-3635 cal BC, probably in the middle decades of the thirty-seventh century cal BC. The last interments of this initial use of the chambers probably occurred in 3640-3610 cal BC. The primary mortuary activity probably continued for only 10-30 years. After a hiatus probably lasting for rather more than a century, the infilling of the chambers began in 3620-3240 cal BC and continued into the second half of the third millennium cal BC. Later activity in and around the tomb is attested by Late Bronze Age metalwork, Iron Age and Roman pottery. Field ditches and lynchets, probably of Iron Age or Roman date, are part of a more extensive field system which may have used the tomb as a marker. The site is in the care of English Heritage.
[SU 28088539] Wayland Smith's Cave [T.I.] BURIAL CHAMBER [G.T.] (1)
Wayland's Smithy or Wayland Smith's Cave, Ashbury, is a chambered long barrow 185 feet in length and 43 feet wide, orientated NW/SE, the south end containing the burial chambers (2) (4) [see plan fig. 3]
Excavations were carried out by C.R. Peers and R.A. Smith in 1919/20, and remains of eight skeletons were found in the burial chambers. They seem to have been disturbed, perhaps in Neolithic times, some burials possibly being secondary. One such is a skull which "may belong to an intrusive burial after the introduction of metal", and a crouched skeleton, partly destroyed, was found at a depth of only 18", near the middle of the western skirt of the barrow, outside the line of standing stones. No grave furniture was found to date this burial (2).
Further excavations by Piggott and Atkinson in 1963 for the Ministry of Works, records that the large barrow was built over a smaller "unchambered" (5) barrow containing ten skeletons. The second mound is probably not more than a generation later than the first. The remains were probably buried within 100 years either way of 2500 B.C. Pottery confirms the date. Scheduled (9).
THE NAME The O.S. [authorities 1 and 8] call it Wayland Smith's Cave and authority 5 gives this as an alternative name to Wayland's Smithy. All other authorities listed give the latter name. Further report on excavations 1962-3 (11). (2-11)
The excavation of "Wayland's Smithy" has been completed. The site is at present being restored by the Ministry of Public Building and Works. Surveyed at 1/2500 See G.Ps. AO/64/79/4&5. and AO/64/111/2 (c). (12-13)
Landscape feature since at least the 10th century AD. The 1962-3 excavations revealed a two-phase monument. The first phase was a small oval barrow of chalk and sarsen, defined by flanking ditches and an oval kerb. It contains a mortuary structure defined by large pits which held posts of split trunks, a pavement, and opposed linear cairns of sarsen. The second phase consists of a low sarsen-kerbed trapezoidal barrow, with flanking ditches, which follows the N-S alignment of phase I. Extensive field systems were developed in the area in Iron Age and Romano-British period. Wayland's Smithy provides important evidence for the sequence and development of Neolithic mortuary structure and burials (14)
The first phase consisted of an ovoid, entranced enclosure, delimited by sassen stones, with a pitched mortuary house built largely of wood. This is dated to c.3100-2500 and it appears that the site was cleared by burning just before the building of the second phase. (15)
There is a possibility that some of the somes of the phase 2 chambers have been artificially smoothed. (16)
Three leaf flint arrowheads here formed associated with the primary inhumation group. (17)
Wood, from between the two barrow phases, has been dated to 2820 + 130 BC. (18-22)
The long barrow described by the previous authorities was seen as an earthwork and mapped from aerial photographs. (23)
Thirty-one radiocarbon results from the West Kennet long barrow are presented within an interpretive Bayesian statistical framework. In the preferred interpretation, the barrow is seen as a unitary construction (given the lack of dating samples from the old ground surface, ditches or constructional features themselves), with a series of deposits of human remains made in the chambers following construction. Primary deposition in the chambers is followed by further secondary deposition of some human remains, including children, and layers of earth and chalk, the latest identifiable finds in which are Beaker sherds. In the Bayesian model for this sequence, the construction of the monument at West Kennet, as dated from the primary mortuary deposits, occurred in 3670-3635 cal BC, probably in the middle decades of the thirty-seventh century cal BC. The last interments of this initial use of the chambers probably occurred in 3640-3610 cal BC. The difference between these two distributions suggests that this primary mortuary activity probably continued for only 10-30 years. After a hiatus probably lasting for rather more than a century, the infilling of the chambers began in 3620-3240 cal BC and continued into the second half of the third millennium cal BC. Results are discussed in relation to the setting and sequence of the local region. (24)
A brief history and description. (25)
( 1) Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 6" 1960
( 2) The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London Peers, CR and RA Smith. Wayland's Smithy, Berkshire 1, 1921 Page(s)183-198
( 3) by Harold Peake 1931 The archaeology of Berkshire The county archaeologies Page(s)41-3
( 4) Nicholas Thomas 1960 A guide to prehistoric England Page(s)39
( 5) Bulletin of the British Archaeological Association 136, 1962 Page(s)1
( 6) by Stuart Piggott 1954 The Neolithic cultures of the British Isles : a study of the stone-using agricultural ommunities of Britain in the second millennium B.C.
( 7) by Glyn E Daniel 1950 The prehistoric chamber tombs of England and Wales
( 8) General reference Ordnance Survey Map of Ancient Britain (South Sheet) 1951
( 9) General reference Ancient Monuments in England Wales, 1961, (Ministry Of Works) Page(s)19
(10) The Daily Telegraph 30-AUG-1963
(11) Bedfordshire Archaeological Society Bedfordshire archaeological journal 61, 1964 Page(s)98
(12) General reference M.O.W. notice board
(13) Field Investigators Comments F1 GHP 14-FEB-64
(14) Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society Whittle, A. Wayland's Smithy, Oxfordshire: Excavations at the Neolithic Tomb in 1962-3 by RJC Atkinson and S Piggott 57(2), 1991 Page(s)61-101
(15) General reference Ashbee P., 1970, The Eastern Long Barrow in Britain, London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. 7, 34, 37, 50-1, 64-5, 82, 86-7, 129, 168.
(16) by O G S Crawford 1925 The long barrows of the Cotswolds Page(s)47-52
(17) H Stephen Green 1980 The flint arrowheads of the British Isles : a detailed study of material from England and Wales with comparanda from Scotland and Ireland BAR British series1 (1974) - 75 Page(s)354
(18) by A W R Whittle 1977 The earlier Neolithic of southern England and its continental background BAR supplementary series 35 Page(s)248
(19) Antiquity Publications Limited Antiquity Atkinson, RJC. Wayland's Smithy 39, 1965 Page(s)126-133
(20) Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society Oxoniensia 43, 1978 Page(s)244
(21) edited by J A Taylor 1980 Culture and environment in prehistoric Wales : selected essays BAR British series1 (1974) - 76 Page(s)219
(22) Antiquity Publications Limited Antiquity 59, 1985 Page(s)48
(23) Oblique aerial photograph reference number CUCAP AMP 93-95 06-DEC-1965
(24) Cambridge Archaeological Journal 'Histories of the dead: building chronologies for five southern British long barrows [Ascott-under Wychwood, Hazleton, Fussell's Lodge, West Kennet and Wayland's Smithy]', by Bayliss, Alex & Whittle, Alasdair (2007) (SUPPLEMENT), VOL. 17/1, FEBRUARY 2007
(25) English Heritage 2005 Heritage Unlocked: London and the South East Page(s)112-113
'About 1810 the ground covering and surrounding the stones was planted with fir trees and beeches, forming a circular plantation called here a folly, hence Wayland's Folly, a name that did not stick. The planting was after the site had been cleared at the direction of Lord Craven who owned the site, the monument being made considerably more conspicuous . . . In 1859 the firs having died were cut down, leaving the exterior ring of beeches. In 1861 it was referred to as in a very neglected state, covered with elder bushes, briars and nettles and when A L Lewis visited it in 1868 he referred to it as within a plantation the denseness of which made it difficult to trace the surrounding layout of stones.'
Clive Alfred Spinage
Myths and Mysteries of Wayland Smith
extract from 'Berkshire' by Harold Peake, concerning the first dig at Waylands:
'... it was not until 1919 that any scientific exploration of it was undertaken. This exploration was conducted by Mr Reginald Smith and Mr C R Peers, with a number of Berkshire Colleagues, in July 1919 and June 1920. Among the interesting things that they found were two iron currency bars, dating from the Early Iron Age, dug up from the foot of the stone upon which it had been customary to place the groat.
The chamber has always been known to consist of a central passage, with a square chamber on either side and one at the end. The end slab has every appearance of having been a roofing slab that has slipped down behind two side stones at the end of this chamber, but no steps have been taken to ascertain whether the passage continued beyond it. The most interesting discovery made was that the sides of the barrow had been supported by dry walling of large sarsen stones set with a decided ramp. Remains of eight skeletons were found in the chambers, but in a bad state of preservation, while a burial in a crouched position was found just outside on the west. In spite of a careful search no grave furniture was found.'
Wayland Smithy is a place that has a haunting atmosphere, and as I am reading a Peter Please book at the moment, he is a 'wayfaring soul' of Bath much given to walking the Wiltshire countryside,I thought it would be nice to recommend his book; "The Chronicles of the White Horse", written for children and adults it is a good book and the story culminates at Wayland's Smithy...
In the following quote he invokes the bloodied hooves of the horse pounding between the standing stones, calling the dead and all things that have ended back into the barrow....
"I was at the door of the manger, the horseshoe chamber of Waylands. Not a grave, but a door,
a passage between two worlds; a spirit cavern for the dead and all that is dying....
and on a happier note;
"I heard the bells ringing in Wayland's Smithy. I heard the larks above White Horse Hill.I saw the flowers opening. I saw the barley growing. I saw the lambs in the meadows. I heard the earth singing. And even when the last of the light had faded to a pinprick in the sky, and the last of the stars had disappeared.....
Myself when I wrote about it found it an utterly peaceful place but I expect it was because there were no people around - dead or alive ;)
Those huge sarsens at Waylands (and indeed many other sites). Ever noticed that huge one at Waylands full of little holes? Well how? I was dicussing this recently with a visitor to the site who suggested that the geological formation of the sarsen was to blame. Apparently, the holes were formed when the sedimentary sandstone in more liquid form, moulded around tree roots. The later cooling and formation of the stones caused these holes to appear. The wood, rots away, or at best creates a weakness, and hey presto, the holes appear and erode. Holy or Hole-y?
Those interested in Waylands Smithy Neolithic origins should consider getting hold of a copy of John North's wonderful book 'Stonehenge, Neolithic Man and the Cosmos' in which a section is devoted to the Archaeo-Astronomy of Waylands Smithy and how it is sited according to the rising and setting of certain star constellations that had either ritual, or functional importance to neolithic man. Apparently, Waylands Smithy has a relationship to Deneb, a star in Cygnus (the swan) in the Milky Way. This was a star that set on the northern point of the horizon and was revered in Northern Mythology.
A new book by a local author about waylands smithy has been released this year.
It is called 'Myths and Mysteries of Wayland Smith' by 'Clive Alfred Spinage' and is priced at £10 (GBP). It contains much folklore about the local legend of Wayland as well as more mythological folklore. There is also a good description of the archaeology relating to the site.
There are some excellent prints in it (although the print quality is a bit lacking) including a lovely ariel shot of the site showing that the ridgeway once flowed right past the front of the tomb rather than on its present course.
It is up for sale at www.amazon.co.uk, but I purchased mine local from a bookshop called 'wessex press' in Wantage. Good reading for those interested in both the archaeology and folklore of the site.
Weylands Smithy, not far from the White Horse at Uffington......my sacred place. A place I like to go when the hectic world becomes too much. At the entrance I always ask Wayland for permission to enter this sacred site, he always invites me in with a gentle breeze and a whisper of acknowledgement through the trees. Many people come to this place, tourists, Witches and those wishing to be at one with nature. It is welcoming and safe and there in that sacred place, you can be yourself and nothing but. It is charged with such electricity at different times of the year but it has a wonderful peaceful atmosphere all the same. Come to this place, kindly ask for permission to enter as to be respectful to Wayland and bask in all it's Glory. Leave nothing behind except gentle tokens such as corn, flowers or your love when you go......but take with you the sense of peace and love that it gives willingly to those who wish to recieve it. Blessed Be that sacred place.
Wayland was a Scandinavian god. According to the local Christian tradition, after the people became Christians he was forced to shoe horses for a living. One of his greatest achievements was the shoeing of the White Horse—a geoglyph on a nearby Uffington, England hillside. Archaeologically, however, Wayland's Smithy is an ancient mortuary site.
A magic lantern slide from the H.M.J. Underhill Archive showing two views of Wayland's Smithy 'cave' as seen in the late 19th Century. There's another slide showing a plan of Wayland's Smithy on the same web site.
This site has some background information on the Wayland's Smithy, a selection of photos (including an infra-red shot), and a Virtual Reality tour of the interior.
The VR tour is good, but you'll need either a Java enabled browser or (better still) the RealVR plug-in for it to work. I suspect that it's best viewed on a fast Internet connection, but if you're a patient modem user it might still be worth trying.