Wayland's Smithy

Chambered long barrow
Nearest town: Swindon
Nearest village: Compton Beauchamp
Map reference: SU 281854

Four of the original six sarsen slabs mark the south end of the barrow

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Wayland's Smithy, beautifully situated in a clump of beech trees, is one of the finest chambered long barrows in Britain and lies a short hike away -along the Ridgeway- from Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle. Excavations in 1962-63 proved that it had been built in two different periods, around 3700 and 3400 BC. In the first period, a wooden mortuary chamber was constructed, where fourteen articulated and disarticulated bodies have been found. Then the burial chamber was surrounded by some sarsen boulders and covered with a mound of chalk taken from two flanking ditches. This first mound and its ditches are not visible now, covered by the following long barrow.
     In the second period a trapezoidal chalk mound was built, measuring 60m (196ft) in length and from 6 to 15m (19 to 50ft) in width. The chalk was held in place by a kerb of stones. At the south end of this barrow, there were once six large slabs. Now only four survive: they are 3m (10ft) high and they flank the entrance of a cruciform tomb formed by a passage 6.6m (21ft) long with one chamber at either side. The passage is 1.8m (6ft) and the chambers 1.3m (4ft) high. In excavations in 1919, eight skeletons, one of a child, were found in the long barrow.
     Wayland's Smithy got its name some four thousand years later its construction, when Saxon settlers came across the tomb. Not knowing who had built it, they imagined it was the work of one of their gods, Wayland the Smith. Later, a legend grew that Wayland would re-shoe any passing traveller's horse left along with a silver penny beside the tomb.

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