La Varde Dolmen
The largest megalithic structure in Guernsey stands on L'Ancresse Common. The ancient tomb shows one of early man's great achievements.
The grey granite structure is a tomb consisting of a 33 foot long chamber and a passage decreasing in width from twelve to eight feet.
The entrance faces almost directly east and inside there is only a maximum of seven feet of head room.
The tomb is made of uprights supporting six capstones, which decrease in size from west to east.
Exploring the tomb
The monument was discovered by accident during military exercises in 1811 under a drift of sand.
Initial explorations found the remains of two or three antique earthen vessels and human and other bones, some showing marks of having been burnt, were dug up.
Guernsey Historian Berry wrote about La Varde in 1814. He described it as "composed of five cumbent stones, decreasing in size from about twenty-five to ten tons in weight, covering an area twenty-nine feet long, and nearly twelve feet wide at the western edge, which is semicircular, narrowing to an entrance at the east, of about eight feet."
An excavation in 1837 by F.C. Lukis found skeletal remains, vases, beakers, shards of more than 150 urns, fragments of a thin bronze plate and some stone objects.
These suggested the tomb was in use from 3500BC until 2000BC.
What it was like when it was built
There were originally seven capstones and in 1898 the biggest capstone was given a granite support to ensure it will stay up.
Another original feature was a circle of small standing stones about 30 feet away from the monument.
Our thanks go to J. Stevens Cox, F.S.A. author of Prehistoric Monuments in Guernsey and associated folklore, which was a great source for information.
last updated: 07/01/2009 at 13:04
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