Geophysical survey over the northern ‘Henge’ and ‘old churchyard’

The northern ‘Henge’ represents a considerable challenge to archaeological interpretation, since its horseshoe shape visible on aerial photographs is not typical of henges. The ‘old churchyard’ is similarly confusing, since documentary sources suggest that Knowlton never had its own churchyard; however, no alternative evidence is available as to the date or function of this site.

Neither monument has survived well, and they are not visible on the ground from any distance. Nonetheless, some surface traces of the banks of both sites still show up as chalk spreads. Given the clear suitability of the sites at Knowlton to gradiometer survey it was decided to carry out a further project to map the form of these sites in more detail than was possible from aerial photographs.

Once again the survey was remarkable successful in locating clear ditches, however, the banks of these sites have failed to show up. They were therefore plotted from the 1902 OS maps for the area in order to allow some comment on the morphology of the sites as a whole.

The ‘old churchyard’ remains anomalous despite the clear response of its ditch to gradiometry, and the identification of a single entranceway. It would seem likely that the site was a henge, were it not for the presence of a rectangular internal bank which contrasts with the sub-circular ditch.

In contrast, the results of the Northern ‘henge’ survey do allow us to carry the interpretation of the site forward somewhat, although at present only to the extent of identifying more focused questions.

The precise lozenge shape of the ditch is extremely unusual for a henge, however, the site has a clear external bank, visible on the ground but not susceptible to gradiometry survey. The problem of this anomaly becomes more acute when the form of the ditch is compared with that of long barrows in the Dorset area. Certainly in the case of Wor Barrow there appears to be a near perfect match in terms of form, size and orientation. The possibility therefore seems to be that morphologically the northern ‘Henge’ represents a hybrid monument between two building traditions normally seen as disparate in terms of both chronology, and their associated cultural purposes.

All enquiries regarding this work should be addressed to:

Steve Burrow. (Email:

This page has been compiled and is maintained by Steve Burrow
All data and graphics within this web page are copyright to School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University, 1996, unless otherwise stated.
Last updated 18 January 1996.