Wiltshire

Wiltshire's 'Neolithic' long barrow burial chamber opens

The All Cannings long barrow

Would you fancy spending eternity inside a burial chamber in the corner of a field in Wiltshire?

The first "Neolithic" long barrow to be built in the UK for 5,500 years has been completed and already the first urn of human ashes has been placed inside.

The structure at All Cannings near Devizes, took almost nine months to build, using traditional materials and stone working techniques.

It was privately financed and cost about £200,000 to build, can hold about 1,000 urns and has now opened officially.

The first paying client, Adrian Gray, who interred his wife Carol's ashes in a pewter urn behind a sealing stone in one of the barrow's niches, said it was "amazing".

"I'm so pleased we were able to do this. It's an incredible honour for us to have the first niche, in the first long barrow, for five-and-a-half thousand years.

What is a long barrow?

  • Barrows are artificial hills of earth and stones built over the remains of the dead
  • They were usually reserved for members of the social elite or Anglo-Saxon royalty
  • Ordinary people were usually cremated or buried in more humble graves
  • They were first constructed in about 4,000 BC up to the late pre-Christian era
  • England's most famous barrow is at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk

Source:BBC Religion

"It's a magnificent chamber. I think my wife would have been very pleased with what we've done."

Mr Gray said the particular niche selected was chosen by a butterfly.

"After my wife passed away I kept seeing butterflies flying into the house and in the wardrobes and on the day we came [to choose the niche] there was a butterfly in this chamber flitting about.

"It flitted towards this niche rather than the other ones, so I chose it on that basis. It's all a bit mad."

Developer Tim Daw said he was "absolutely thrilled" with the way the structure had turned out.

"It's been a lot of work - all hand work. Every stone has been shaped and placed by hand.

"It's not a pastiche or a reconstruction of an ancient long barrow - it's been made more usable but keeping a traditional feel to it."

The long barrow contains four large chambers, each housing 55 niches, which are each able to hold four or five urns.

A smaller "secret" chamber is able to house single urns in smaller niches.

Clients are charged about £1,000 for use of a niche. More than 40 have been reserved so far.

Mr Daw said the burial chamber was planned to be much bigger but he "ran out of time and money" to complete it.

"We wanted to get it finished this summer and we've done a far fancier job than we were originally going to do," he said.

The barrow is aligned with the sunrise on the Winter Solstice on 21 December.

"The sun should shine right up the passageway and hit the end. If it doesn't we've got to move the barrow," Mr Daw joked.

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