Whitmoor Barrow

The CROOKSBURY LINE at around 232 degrees would seem to be aligned to the mid-winter sunset.  At just over 7 DM the line passes through St Bartholomew’s Church at Wanborough. At just over 8 DM, and on the extremity of visibility, lies the site of the Hogs Back Barrow on a high ridge which appears to be the aiming point for the midwinter sunset.  The line then passes close by Hillbury Hillfort, but it is another alignment which passes through the fort itself, and then carries on to Culverswell Barrow.  I discovered this previously unrecorded barrow by predicting its position on the alignment.  Although precisely on the line it is slightly beyond the 12 DM point at the crest of the hill. Carrying on down the hill the alignment terminates between two very close tumuli known as Crooksbury Barrows. Nothing has so far been found beyond this point.

Southern horizon from near Whitmoor Barrow

Southern horizon from just south of Whitmoor Barrow

Plan of Whitmoor Barrow

Site Plan Whitmoor Barrow

There are five major points on this line, which appears to align with the midwinter sunset. From the barrow it may have been possible to see the Hogs Back Barrow, now destroyed by the widening of the A 31 trunk road, from there the alignment ends at the Crooksbury Barrow after passing through the newly discovered Culverswell Barrow.

Although the barrow features on a number of alignments, the Crooksbury line is the only one that affords visibility to any distant view (the MOUNT PLEASANT LINE may have done but visibility is now greatly obscured).  Visibility from the barrow is generally poor. It stands on fairly open ground but woodland obscures the views to the West, North and East.  To the south the field edge is only some 50 m away.  Over the rough fence the pasture rises to the horizon about 220 metres away and about eight metres higher.  Sparse birch trees grow to the edge of mixed woodland and obscure the view to the North and East.  To the north-west the main road between Guildford and Woking passes the edge of the common land.  The distant view on the Crooksbury line is a glimpse of the chalk ridge of the Hogs Back, although this has recently become difficult with the rapid growth of scrub birch trees. Whitmoor Barrow stands towards the south-east corner of a desolate triangle of neglected common land, the mound itself being perpetually covered by rough grass, bracken and birch saplings. In the winter bare patches of the surface are visible revealing the large pockmarks of old rabbit burrows. The central mound has been spread unevenly onto the berm by Victorian excavation and the ravages of time. Only the ditch remains in reasonable condition although it is not possible to see where the possible causeway began and ended, and now looks as though the ditch is just weathered over.

In ‘The Ancient Burial Mounds of England’ by L V Grinsell.  Page 19. ‘Ditches around barrows are sometimes interrupted at one or two places, one being commoner’.  Page 79. ‘Sometimes the ditch is interrupted by one or more points by a kind of causeway. This interruption may date from when the Barrow was made, but it is frequently due to subsequent tampering with the mound, and particularly to digging into the mound and throwing the earth into a ditch, an early but clumsy method of excavating’.

Barrows were often constructed so that from the valley below they stood out on the skyline, but when one approaches it becomes apparent that the mound is not on the highest point, it is fairly unusual to find a barrow on the actual summit of a hill. Maybe the original occupation site of barrow builders can be deduced by a study of sightlines. It is probable that the Newlands Corner Barrow was visible from the Weston Wood settlement. There are very few other viewpoints where the mound would have stood out on the skyline. Other barrows such as Whitmoor cannot be ‘skylined’ from any position due to their low-lying location.  It would have made far more sense for the builders to have positioned the barrow some two hundred metres further south with views down over the Wey valley to Farley Hill and vistas to the East and West.  Why then was this seen as a favourable spot?

The barrow is ten and a half kilometres north of the latitude of Stonehenge (51’10’44”).  The latitude at the barrow is 51’16’26” leading to the idea that the solstice sightings would be similar.  Also the Stonehenge average moonrise and moonset on the 18.61 year cycle is about 133 degrees and 231 degrees – almost exactly the same as the CROOKSBURY and NEWLANDS lines.  This is an area where much more research awaits.

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Barrow is in middle distance viewed from the West and covered in scrub.

Surrey Archaeological Society (SAS) volume 42: ‘The two barrows on Whitmoor (the other presumed to be Mount Pleasant) yielded urns of the late Bronze Age but these were probably secondary burials’.

I have been lucky enough to hitch a ride in a neighbour’s De Havilland Chipmunk.  After a tour around the North Downs he asked if there was anywhere special that I would like to see so I took the opportunity to do a few circuits around Whitmoor Barrow as I was intrigued by the possibility of detecting crop marks.  This monotone photo shows the barrow as a red circle above and to the right of centre.  The large lone oak in the centre of the picture is to the south of the barrow.  The large field is scrubby grass grazed by ponies and shows nothing of any interest that I could make out although there are plenty of variations in tone.

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In the picture below the barrow can be seen about halfway to the base of the photo from the lone oak (seen in the top picture).  The view is looking south over the suburbs of Guildford.  The only marks visible are old hedge routes and paths.

DSCF0570 from north

Whilst carrying out a rudimentary survey of the barrow I made a strange find. Standing upright on the rim of a newly dug rabbit burrow was a small yellow (tallow?) candle in the shape of an inverted mushroom. Measuring two and a half inches across the base and burnt down to a height of about one and a half inches, it had evidently been thrown up by the creature making the burrow. How the candle got there one can only guess but pictures of black magic ceremonies spring to mind.

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