Prehistoric Mound

‘One remarkable earthen-work however, must not be passed over in silence. I allude to the mount within the gardens of the Castle Inn, a huge pile of earth, and inferior in proportion only to Silbury Hill near Abury. Each are situated on the river Kennet; the one near its source, the other near its margin; and I have no doubt but that in ancient times each had some corresponding connection with the other.’

These words were written in 1821 by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, and are the first record of the idea that the Mound might have a connection with Silbury Hill, long thought prehistoric. Nearly two centuries later, after much conjecture and argument, modern science gave us a clear answer. In 2010, core samples were taken which produced radiocarbon dates of around 2300 BC for the completion of the Mound, placing it firmly in the same time frame as Stonehenge, Avebury and other Neolithic monuments so distinctive of the Wiltshire landscape. After Silbury, it is the second largest Neolithic mound in Britain, and possibly in Europe. A third contemporary mound ten miles to the south, in the Vale of Pewsey at Marden, was smaller, and was demolished in the nineteenth century.

We know little about the purpose of these mounds. They were not fortified, and were built over a period of time. The mounds at Silbury and Marden are close to other monuments, which together are likely to have been centres of ceremony and power, though whether such authority was communal or led by chiefs is unknown. While no association with burial has been found, the mounds’ siting has led archaeologists to wonder if they were places where ashes were scattered into sacred rivers.

The prehistoric mound was subsequently used as the motte of a great castle, and as a dramatic feature in a great eighteenth-century garden. The later history is outlined in the pages below.