A 'Special Place'

The Marlborough Mound is a ‘special place’ – a location that, for four thousand years, has been of continuing significance to successive generations. As a place where springs break out of the ground and flow into the River Kennet, it clearly had meaning to the Late Neolithic population who, for reasons which we will never know, decided to mark the spot with a great mound sixteen metres high and nearly eighty metres in diameter. It echoed the even larger mound of Silbury Hill, eight kilometres up river, both being elements in a complex ritual landscape which we are only now beginning to untangle. In this way the monumentalising of the landscape began, and this mound, built at the end of the third millennium BC, has dominated human actions ever since. Roman engineers used it as a siting point for laying out a road, Normans found it to be a convenient base for a castle, which flourished as a royal residence and regional stronghold throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and from the seventeenth century it became the visual focus of a formal garden belonging to the Seymour family. Thus it has an unusual and distinguished history and one well worthy of considered attention.

BARRY CUNLIFFE
Emeritus Professor, University of Oxford