Overton Hill



United Kingdom (OS Ref: Sheet 157: SU118679)


Overton Hill has been a focus for human activity for over 5000 years. Today the remains of numerous burial mounds, constructed during the Early Bronze Age about 4000 years ago, can be seen. Both burials and cremations have been found here and these were sometimes accompanied by grave goods including pottery, bone and flint implements.

Excavating the barrows: Many of the barrows were dug into during the 19th century by William Cunningham and Sir Richard Colt-Hoare. One barrow that no longer survives as an earthwork was excavated in the 1960s and revealed a central grave of an adult male accompanied by a beaker pot and tools possibly for leather working.


Eleven other burials were placed around the central grave, including many children and infants. Bones from three of the burials showed evidence of osteo-arthritis.


Round barrows: Other round barrows can be seen around here, some with beech trees growing on them. There are known locally as 'hedgehogs'. Many other round barrows have been ploughed flat or demolished and can only be identified as crop marks from aerial photography.


Romans and Saxons: Traces of the Roman road which ran from the Roman town of Cunetio (near Marlborough) to Verlucio (near Chippenham) can still be seen as a long low bank. Near here were three Roman burial mounds that were constructed during the second century AD.


A number of the prehistoric barrows were re-used for pagan Saxon burials at this time Overton Hill was an ancient cemetery known as Seofan Beorgas (Seven Barrows) in the 10th century AD. It marked the western boundary of a land holding.


Notes made at Overton Hill: A short walk up hill from the West Kennet Avenue, past 'hedgehogs' rusting farm machinery and a wave to a farmer driving a tractor 'laying' bales of hay. Watching Silbury, sunshine. Onto The Ridgeway, chalk surface, Barrows where children climb them and we climb them too. Travellers blow didgeridoo's - their sounds discordant, unnatural and alien to this landscape. We descend and run across the road to The Sanctuary.