Back in 1985 I undertook a watching brief to see what turned up at Mount Pleasant when Wessex Water stripped a 10m wide area to put in an 18 inch pipe. The area they stripped ran from the bottom left hand corner to the top right and passed over part of the bank. Oddly enough very little turned up apart from a clearer picture of the bank and ditch.
A large henge enclosure, partially extant as an earthwork, located on the southeast side of Dorchester. The site comprises a ditch and outer bank defining an irregular sub-oval area, the enclosure circuit being interrupted by four entrances. The maximum external diameter of the site is around 370 metres. Some excavation was undertaken in 1970-71 by G Wainwright. The principal features noted in the interior were a substantial circular post-hole structure comprising five concentric circles of post holes within a ditch circa 43 metres in diameter. The ditch was open to the north. In a second phase, the timber structures appear to have been replaced by central cove-like setting of standing stones. The main enclosure earthworks were themselves supplemented by construction of a palisade trench within and concentric to the inner side of the ditch. This palisade featured just two very narrow entrance gaps, each defined by massive post holes. The palisade enclosed an area of circa 245 metres by 270 metres. Analysis of aerial photographs has revealed more detail, including at least one additional entrance, a possible earlier phase of enclosure marked out by pits, evidence that part of the henge bank was heightened, traces of external ditches, and a possible approach from the River Frome to the northeast. Finds from Wainwright's excavations included Grooved Ware sherds from primary levels in the henge ditch. Slightly later were Beaker sherds and a decorated flat bronze axe from the north terminal of the ditch. Sporadic post-Bronze Age activity included a circular Iron Age structure and two Saxon burials. Both burials were extended inhumations. One was accompanied by an iron knife and may be 7th century in date.The Conquer Barrow (SY 78 NW 3) overlies the henge earthworks on the western side.
As palisaded enclosures go, it might not have been as big as the one at Hindwell - but it used the most ridiculously large timbers. The posts were much closer together than at Hindwell and were 9 metres tall (9 metres!). Not only that, but at the Eastern side, there was an entrance with two post holes 2m! in diameter and 2 metres deep. This suggests they contained HUGE oak posts, rising 6m above the ground, and weighing 17 tonnes each. I'm only quoting the archaeologists, so don't blame me if this sounds mad - we know our ancestors transported and raised the huge trilithons in Stonehenge, so I suppose we mustn't underestimate their ability to use wood in constructions.
Also interestingly, the gap formed as the entrance between these two enormous posts was only 70cm wide - begging the interpretation that the enclosure would have had to have been entered slowly, one at a time. The inner henge would then have acted as another 'restriction' on the entry of the people at the site.
Mount Pleasant henge is one of the large Wessex henges and lies about a mile east of Dorchester. The bank was originally about four metres high surrounding an egg-shaped enclosure about 370 metres along its longer axis and about 320 metres along the shorter one. Originally the 4.8 hectare area could be accessed by four entrances. The bank is outside the ditch which had a diameter of about 43 metres with a single entrance.
A large round barrow abutting the enclosure bank of the Mount Pleasant henge (SY 78 NW 3) on its western side. The barrow has been damaged to a certain extent by the encroachment of gardens, and it is covered by a coppice of trees. The only known excavation occurred in 1970-71, when parts of the ditch and mound were examined in the course of work focused primarily on the henge. This suggested that the barrow mound had been 30 metres in diameter and 4 metres high, on top of a henge enclosure bank itself circa 4 metres high. On the north and east sides at least the barrow was surrounded by a penannular ditch which featured at least one causeway and stopped short of the main henge enclosure ditch. An antler pick from the primary fill of the ditch produced a radiocarbon date in the early 3rd millennium BC (calibrated), and was presumed by the excavator to represent a residual item associated with the henge rather than the barrow's construction. However, Sparey-Green (1994) has argued that on the basis of the stratigraphical evidence presented in Wainwright's (1979) excavation report, the barrow's ditch may well pre-date the henge ditch, and thus be of later Neolithic origin. Flints plus a Beaker sherd and a Bronze Age sherd were also found. Re-evaluation of the Conquer Barrow's relationship with Mount Pleasant, following detailed study of aerial photographs of the latter, supports the idea that the ditch at least may have pre-dated the henge enclosure.
This is a large round barrow on the north west edge of Mount Pleasant henge, said to have been added to the henge complex around 1800 bce. It is an impressive size, being not much smaller than the nearby Lanceborough barrow at Maiden castle. Like many local barrows it is now covered in trees , at least this protects it from the plough , sadly Mount Pleasant itself was not spared this fate.
I have included a nearby bowl barrow east of Conquer barrow and Mount Pleasant. This is on a hill overlooking both sites.