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History of Coldrum Long Barrow

An image of a cluster of large ancient standing stones lit by a sunrise at Coldrum Long Barrow in Kent
Sunrise at Coldrum Long Barrow in Kent | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Dating to 3985-3855 BC, Coldrum Long Barrow is over 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. The site was altered during the medieval period, making it difficult for archaeologists to agree exactly what the purpose of this ancient place had been. Eventually found to be a communal family tomb, Coldrum Long Barrow has a history of magic and enchantment.

Medieval alterations

During the medieval period, places like Coldrum were considered unholy and people tried to remove traces of them. Here it meant removing some of the stones and levelling the ground so the mound was no longer visible.

In later years when chalk was needed, the eastern side of the area was quarried away. With the stones no longer in their original place, and the shape unclear, archaeologists couldn’t agree what the site had been used for.

Different opinions

In the late 19th century, local archaeologist Benjamin Harrison believed it was a stone circle like Stonehenge, although on a much smaller scale. Others thought it was part of a processional route to Kits Coty House, another of the Medway Megaliths, or a rectangular enclosure around a chamber.

This argument continued well into the 20th century, when it was finally decided that it was in fact the communal tomb of a rectangular long barrow. As was custom in many areas, the bodies were probably originally laid to rest elsewhere, and the bones then moved and placed here years later.

A family tomb

A number of bones were discovered within the burial chamber, probably from more than 22 men, women and children ranging in age from a newborn baby to elderly people. Studies by the Royal College of Surgeons show they were likely to have been close family members.

What’s in a name?

Until the 14th century, nearly all places were named as a result of their environment. What could Coldrum have meant? In his 'Antiquities of Cornwall' book published in 1754, William Borlas stated that the name 'Coldrum' came from the Cornish word 'Galdrum'.

If correct, it would mean that Coldrum translates as 'a place of enchantment'. Whether or not this is true, it certainly feels appropriate as many people believe that Coldum Long Barrow is an enchanted site.

A nationally important site

Coldrum Long Barrow has been cared for by the National Trust since 1926, when it was acquired in memory of archaeologist Benjamin Harrison. As a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the site is now of national importance.

A panoramic view over the Weald of Kent at Coldrum Long Barrow in Kent with the ancient standing stones to the right

Discover more at Coldrum Long Barrow

Find out how to get to Coldrum Long Barrow, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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