The Tallington Barrow after excavation, showing original mound and stake-circles
On excavation it proved to have four periods.
1. The original barrow was the grave of a youth of about 15 who was carefully buried in a coffin consisting of a hollowed-out tree trunk, 5 feet long and 1 foot 9 inches wide, buried in a grave 5 feet deep. At his head was placed a food vessel and over the grave a mound was raised surrounded by a ditch 40 feet in diameter.
2. Later another burial was made in the mound. This time it was a man of about 40, and he was buried in a crouched position but without any grave goods, with the upper part of his body overlying the earlier coffin which collapsed under his weight. The superimposed bodies were quite a problem for the excavators, but they were able to estimate from the decay of the wooden coffin that a period of 10 to 15 years had passed between the two burials. Stake circles
About the same time—whether just before or just after the excavators were unable to say—four concentric stake circles were erected around the barrow, the inner one at the base of the mound, the outer one at a radius of 70 feet from the centre. They were probably not merely fences to keep out intruders but connected in some way with the religious practices of the time. Just inside the outer circle was a single large posthole which probably held a wooden memorial stele.
3. Soon the stakes began to rot, some even fell over. Rather than repair them the guardians of the monument enlarged the mound to the perimeter of the outer circle with earth scraped up from the surrounding area, making the diameter up to some 120 feet.
4. Finally yet another burial— the third—was made in the mound. This time it was a man in his early thirties, and instead of burying him in the centre, he was buried to one side, nearly 60 feet from the centre. The corpse was tightly trussed before being buried in a very large oval grave without any grave goods. The mound was then enlarged once more from 120 feet to 170 so as to include this third grave. A ditch was dug 25 feet wide and 5 feet deep, concentric with that around the original barrow, and the material excavated was piled up to form what must have been a most impressive monument.
Nearby another somewhat smaller but nevertheless richer barrow was excavated. This was a round barrow and appeared in fact to be a family vault. The primary burial was in a grave 13 feet by 8 feet, and 3 feet deep, but this had been left open for at least one winter, for the sides had suffered from weathering. In it were found the skeletons of one adult and two or three children, together with their grave goods—a long-necked beaker and two basket earrings. This type of earring is usually made of gold but these were of bronze, presumably a cheap imitation of the real thing! Some time later the grave was re-opened to take the burial of another adult, this time accompanied by a flint knife.
Although the most spectacular and important finds of the Neolithic and Bronze ages along the Welland Valley have been these ritual sites, yet traces of living quarters were also found. At Barholm an area of some 1,300 square feet was uncovered of what must have been a Neolithic domestic site — there were pits and gullies and postholes and a quantity of domestic rubbish. However, none of the features could be connected up to form a house although two areas must have been working hollows.
The important domestic sites in the project have been those of the Iron age onwards. Along the valley the Iron age and Roman periods all merge into one long continuum, the agriculture being based on isolated farmsteads with farms varying from 45 to 140 acres. The main change came when the Romans built their road, the King Street through the area, and the farms gradually regrouped themselves to gain easy access to it.
Nor does the archaeology end with the Roman period. The Saxons had a very different settlement pattern from the Romans, based on villages rather than farms. But the continual cultivation of the land ensured that, as each settlement decayed, so it quickly vanished and became fields again, so much so that the eighteenth century antiquary William Stukeley who for many years lived in the Welland Valley, never realised the wealth of archaeological remains that lay under the soil of his home ground. We must be grateful to the Welland Valley Research Committee of the C.B.A., from whose excellent booklets much of this account is taken, for rescuing this history for us.