Latch Farm Barrow, Christchurch
A Bronze Age barrow later used as an urn cemetery – 1500 to 1000 BC
In 1937 Mrs C M Piggott examined a large barrow at Latch Farm ‘in the fork of the rivers’, in advance of gravel digging. The contractor was ‘extremely considerate’ and helped in many ways, but speed was of the essence and so ‘in just over three weeks, with two paid men and three voluntary helpers the barrow was excavated as fully as circumstances demanded and time allowed.’
A newspaper article ( The Christchurch Times, 2/10/1937) describing the dig – and a Beaker from one of the early burials
The barrow survived to only 0.60m in height, but definition of the ditch allowed its full 30m (100ft) diameter to be appreciated. The primary burials, in what was probably originally a bell-barrow, were identified as a cremation in a tripartite urn and another in a small oak coffin.
The number of small pits shows the density of burials in the south-east quadrant of the barrow.
A large Late Bronze Age (Deverel-Rimbury) cemetery occupied much of the southern half of the monument, totalling about 90 cremations in all, 70 of them in pottery urns. By this time the barrow ditch was silted up and burials took place there also. Some of the burials were covered by slabs of local ironstone, possibly to mark their position. The catalogue in the published report states that the first four urns ‘are in the possession of Mr Herbert Druitt of Christchurch, who is regrettably unwilling for them to be published with the rest of the pottery’.
Deverel-Rimbury pottery is named after two sites in Dorset and its main characteristic is of large, rather unlovely, urns with simple finger-impressed, applied decoration. J B Calkin, Honorary Curator at the Red House Museum in the 1960s, spent a good deal of time classifying the vessels and describes barrel, bucket and globular forms. If the pottery does suggest anything, it is of a more egalitarian society, with a much greater percentage of people than previously being buried in a monument. The main burial rite has changed also, from inhumation – the burial of a body – to cremation.
Some of the Latch Farm pottery is on display at the Red House Museum.
Christchurch Old Collections
Series by Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, with help from Stacie Elliot.