Knowlton Prehistoric Landscape Project


Knowlton Henge
John Gale & Bournemouth University.

Knowlton Central or Church Henge. The best preserved of a rare cluster of three later
Neolithic henge monuments that form the focal centre for the research project in the Allen valley of
East Dorset


The Knowlton Prehistoric Landscape Project is an archaeological investigation into the prehistoric relict landscape located within the Allen valley in the county of Dorset, England, UK.  The Allen valley is a modest river valley situated on chalk down land at the eastern side of Cranborne Chase, an area which encompasses one of the densest concentrations of prehistoric monuments in north-west Europe. The area has attracted the attention of archaeologists from as early as the late 19th century and has become one of the most intensely studied landscapes in the UK. However, parts of Cranborne Chase remain little understood and the Allen valley is potentially one of the most interesting of them.

The origins of the project lie with some initial research undertaken between 1993 - 7 and directed by John Gale (Bournemouth University) and Stephen Burrow (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff) at the important late Neolithic Henge complex known as Knowlton Circles (also Knowlton Rings). A programme of field survey and geophysical investigation supported by limited excavation shed new light on the nature and extent of monuments within the complex, which in turn has led to a wider investigation into the river valley in which the complex resides, and from which the project derives its name.


The current focus of activity is located to the south of the henge complex at High Lea farm which lies between the villages of Witchampton and Hinton Martell. The site represents the southernmost extent of  barrow cemeteries within the valley, all of which have suffered greatly from past ploughing regimes that have resulted in an impoverished palaeo-landscape that has lost much of its readily observable prehistoric monuments.  At High Lea farm the presence of two badly eroded round barrows are bolstered by aerial photographic evidence that indicate the partial remains of a least a further eleven barrows, probably more.

In the summer of 2002 archaeological evaluation began on the barrows at High Lea farm to better define the condition of the surviving elements of the barrows and also to assess the sites potential for further research into the cultural and environmental landscape. Since 2002 further investigation at the site has been maintained through the projects establishment as a Bournemouth University  Archaeological Field School in which students and volunteers participate in an integrated project which successfully combines research and training. 

  Francesca Radcliffe

High Lea farm (bottom right) in the Allen Valley of East Dorset, location of ongoing excavation and field survey
part of the Knowlton Prehistoric Landscape Project. 



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This page was written and compiled by John Gale, School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth

Last revised: Date 20th January 2006