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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 451093

Hob Uid: 451093
Location :
Dorset
Litton Cheney
Grid Ref : SY5564091750
Summary : An earthwork enclosure, probably a henge, at Litton Cheney. By the time the site was excavated in 1974, it had suffered severely from plough damage. Some early sources mention large stones and possible stone holes, prompting speculation as to the possibility of a stone circle having stood at the site. However, any such evidence had been removed by ploughing prior to excavation. The excavation showed the main enclosure to comprise an irregular, penannular ditch of maximum diameter 35 metres, and featuring a single entrance to the south east. At the entrance, which was just 1.1 metres wide, the terminals were slightly inturned. The internal bank was estimated to have been 3-4 metres wide. Within the enclosed area, and just off-centre, was an irregular oval ditch, very shallow in depth and around 10 metres maximum diameter. Spaced deposits of flint nodules and smaller stones were interpreted as the packing of post holes, and the trench was estimated to have held 30-32 upright timbers. The excavator suggested a roofed building may have stood there, though the site has subsequently been compared to timber circles. At the centre of this small enclosure was a single post hole containing some potsherds. Some pits were also present. One contained an adult cremation, and may have held an upright timber post. This pit was subsequently cut by another which contained another adult cremation plus some collared urn sherds. Outside and southeast of the entrance was a low cairn or spread of flint nodues which both contained and covered deposits of cremated bone and of collared urn sherds. Up to 6 individuals were present. There are also hints of regularity in the arrangement of the flint nodules.
More information : [Centred at SY 55649175] Stones [TI] (1)

"This stone [exact stone meant not determined] 2ft high, 4 ft long and 2 ft wide, stands on E edge of flat barrow or rather an area enclosed by a circular ditch diameter 57 ft. Immediately to the north is the hole if a vanished stone but no other holes visible" (2)

"Two earthern circles described by Piggott [a]"...(3)

"Both under heading 'stone circles' in article. Not mentioned as "Henges" in Atkinson[b]...(4)

[SY 55629174] EARTHERN CIRCLE [OE] [A] (5)

Described under list of bowl barrows as 'Earthern Circle'. (6) A ringwork about 81 ft in diameter with a bank 24 ft wide and 1 1/2 ft high, and traces of an outer ditch on the N side.

About 45 yds. to the NE is a round platform 42 ft in diameter and a few inches high. [c]

There are five stones lying to the N and E of the ringwork of which one is about 6 ft long. (7)

Scheduled Ancient Monument (8) A disc barrow with a low bank, area disturbed (9)

A small earth circle, consisting of a shallow ditch with internal bank; the ditch dies out on the SE where there may have been an entrance but the bank is disturbed at this point. On the crest of the bank on the SW are 3 circular depressions, some 6 ft in diameter, and placed 20 ft apart along the circumference. Another is on the NE, and one may have existed on the SE at the disturbed point.

These depressions suggest that it is not a true earth circle, but that there may have been 12 stones on the circumference of the bank, forming a stone circle; analagous sites to such exist in Wales. (10)

In this grass covered field are two separate earthworks A and B.

A: A ringwork consisting of a circular bank, 28.0m in diam., the bank being 5.0m wide and 0.5m high. The bank has been disturbed except in the N and NE, by small diggings, perhaps the removal of stones as suggested in T4.

The bank has an outer ditch 2.5m wide and 0.2m deep, except on the S. half where only unsurveyable traces exist. There is no surveyable entrance, and only vague indications of this possibility may be seen on the SE.

Probing in the N and NE of the bank was inconclusive. Certainly some stones exist approximately 0.2m beneath the bank, but whether large sarsens or packed flints could not be determined.

B: A circular grass platform 13.0m in diameter and barely 0.1m high, surrounded by a ditch 3.0m wide and 0.1m deep. On the rim of the platform, at the SE is a sarsen, described in T2. The other stone hole mentioned is poorly defined.

Both earthworks are grass covered, and from recent classification are forms of stone circles with the stones removed. The few sarsens visible in the field are shown on the OS 1/2500. These are of various shapes and sizes, but may have been displaced from the circles. See also APs. CPE/UK/2431/3151-2. (11)

The site was excavated in 1974. A causewayed ditch enclosed an oval hut. Undistinguished flint and pottery suggest a temporary seasonal village. The site was succeeded by a cairn, still within the enclosure, which contained between 3 and 6 cremations. The presence of collared urns indicates an EBA date for the cairn. (12)

By the time of the excavation, ploughing had removed the original bank material, and with it the previously mentioned traces of possible stone holes. The main enclosure was shown to consist of an irregular, penannular V-shaped ditch with a single entrance to the SE. Max diameter was c35m. The excavation plan indicates that the ditch may have been dug in a series of short straight lengths. At the entrance, which is just 1.1m wide, the ditch terminals are slightly inturned. The internal bank, which also featured a gap at the same point, was estimated to have been originally 3-4m wide. The fill of the ditch represented a fairly uniform pattern wherever sampled - a shallow upper deposit of recent ploughsoil and a narrow band of primary silt at the bottom, and between these two, the bulk of the fill consisted of an unstratified mixture of flint nodules and soil, suggesting to the excavator that it had been deliberately backfilled. In fact, Catherall took the slight nature of the primary silt layer to indicate that this backfilling had occurred not long after the ditch had been dug, perhaps after less than a year. Finds were few - the soil was acidic - with just a few "crumbs" of pottery being retrieved, though some areas of charcoal occurred.

Within the enclosed area, just SW of centre, was an irregular oval ditch or trench, very shallow (max depth 10cm), less than 10m max diameter, with a single entrance, again in the SE quadrant but not aligned on that of the larger enclosure. As with the larger enclosure, the excavation plan suggests a series of short straight segments. Spaced deposits of flint nodules and smaller stones within the trench were interpreted as representing the packing of post holes. Catherall suggested that the trench had held c30-32 posts at c0.8-0.9m intervals. He suggested that this structure therefore represented a roofed building. At the centre of the enclosed area was a single post hole, the fill of which contained some small potsherds. Just E of this post hole was a shallow oval pit. SW of the post hole were two successive, overlapping pits. The first was circular, and contained the cremated remains of an adult. The positioning of these remains and the arrangement of the fill suggested that an upright post had originally stood within the pit. Subsequently, a shallower oval pit partially cutting the upper layers of the first was dug. This contained charcoal, collared urn sherds and the cremated remains of an adult male. The excavator suggested that the post in the first pit was still standing when the second was dug.

Outside and SE of the entrance of this smaller enclosure was a low cairn of flint nodules - in fact it seems to have consisted of a single layer - both containing and covering deposits of cremated bone and collared urn sherds. Up to 6 individuals were probably present. There were hints of some regularity in the arrangement of some of the flint nodules withion this "cairn" - certainly some circular arrangements can be picked out.

Lithic finds were few - 2 end scrapers, some serrated flakes, and part of a transverse arrowhead, though their context is unclear. A small quantity of Iron Age pottery was also recovered.

Catherall interpreted the site as a temporary summer camp, consisting of a roofed building within an enclosure, which had been used subsequently as a burial site. Subsequent interpretations have (not surprisingly) differed - Harding and Lee have described the site as a causewayed barrow, but included it within their catalogue of henges and henge related sites. Gibson meanwhile considers the large enclosure to be a henge, despite the internal bank, while the smaller enclosure is tentatively included within his catalogue of prehistoric timber circles.(13-14)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1903
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : Rec 6" (OGs CRAWFORD,1042)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 120
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 50, 1928
Source Number : 11
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 NVQ 28-APR-55
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Settlement and economy in the third and second millennia BC: papers delivered at a conference organized by the Department of Adult Education, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, January 1976
Source details :
Page(s) : 81-100
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 33
Source Number : 13
Source : Henge monuments and related sites of Great Britain : air photographic evidence and catalogue
Source details : Site 054
Page(s) : 130-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 175
Source Number : 14
Source : Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
Source details : Gibson, A. Excavations at the Sarn-y-bryn-caled Cursus Complex...
Page(s) : 143-224
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 60, 1994
Source Number : 3
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : Rec 6" (C.W.Phillips, 21-JUL-49)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3a
Source : Antiquity
Source details :
Page(s) : 143-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1939
Source Number : 4
Source : Annotated Record Map
Source details : Rec 6" (anon udtd)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4b
Source : Excavations at Dorchester, Oxon: first report. Sites I, II, IV, V and VI, with a chapter on henge monuments
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 6
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : List of Dorset Barrows 1934/55 Mss (L V Grinsell)
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6c
Source : Antiquity
Source details :
Page(s) : 143-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1939
Source Number : 7
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Dorset. Vol. I : west
Source details :
Page(s) : 137
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 81
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 74, 1952

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Late Neolithic
Display Date : Late Neolithic
Monument End Date : -2200
Monument Start Date : -2900
Monument Type : Hengiform Monument, Timber Circle, Stone Circle
Evidence : Levelled Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit, Conjectural Evidence
Monument Period Name : Early Bronze Age
Display Date : Early Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -1600
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Hengiform Monument, Timber Circle, Stone Circle, Cairn
Evidence : Levelled Earthwork, Conjectural Evidence, Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find

Components and Objects:
Period : Late Neolithic
Component Monument Type : Hengiform Monument, Timber Circle, Stone Circle
Object Type : CREMATION, TRANSVERSE ARROWHEAD
Object Material : Flint
Period : Early Bronze Age
Component Monument Type : Hengiform Monument, Timber Circle, Stone Circle, Cairn
Object Type : CREMATION, VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery
Period : Iron Age
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DO 38
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Dorset)
External Cross Reference Number : 018A
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Dorset)
External Cross Reference Number : 018B
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SY 59 SE 36
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SY 59 SE 36
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1955-02-15
End Date : 1955-02-15
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SY 59 SE 36
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1955-04-28
End Date : 1955-04-28
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SY 59 SE 36
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1955-05-03
End Date : 1955-05-03
Associated Activities : Primary, LITTON CHENEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1974-01-01
End Date : 1974-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 'CAIRN' AT LITTON CHENEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1974-01-01
End Date : 1974-12-31