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Wayland's Smithy

Near Uffington, Oxfordshire

Location Guide

Wayland Smithy, is a smaller multi chambered long barrow just to the north and accessible off the Ridgeway, located within walking distance for anyone from Uffington White Horse   and Uffington Castle.

There are a number of these long barrows, often collectively called the Severn-Cotswold tombs, passage graves or multi chambered long barrows. Some can be found on the Marlborough Downs some on the Cotswolds, others near Stroud and quite a few in Somerset. They vary is size from the West Kennet Long Barrow which is the largest and best preserved, to small ones with multiple entrances that are difficult to enter.  It is likely that some remains at other places around the UK were of a similar design before the earth was eroded away, and some stone circles are the remains of these as well.  The basic design is a number of upright stones, creating a passage  with side chambers off, and larger flat rocks balanced on top of these, with smaller stones used to infill the holes. The whole lot is then covered with earth. A stone front is often then found around the main entrance and this may have a blocking stone at the front. Some have a major entrance that turns out to be a dummy, the main entrance being elsewhere. Some are edged in stones.

There is an assumption that they were graves, as some have had skeletons found in them. In some case a large number of skeletons, in others just the remains of a single person or a couple. There is the possibility that some at least were originally the insulated and safe part of a house with rooms for keeping either items safe, food at a cooler temperature or just a place that you could go so as not to freeze in winter. In Cornwall and some other places ancient stone villages had underground cave like structures connected to some houses or as a feature within the community. They may have been reused as graves later or perhaps the entrance was sealed to keep out the cold and the occupants suffocated, making it their grave.

Wayland's Smithy, is thought to have first been built as a multi cambered oval barrow structure, around 25 by 45ft, around 3,700BC (over 5,700 years ago) in this phase it had a stone floor, wooden walls and stone edging. It was modified and the stone chambered long barrow built in front and over the older one, so the first one is evident now only by slight bowing and some stones on the edges. This second development was around 300 years later in around 3,400 BC. It was restored to look like it does today in 1963.  The mound is 185ft long and 43ft wide at the widest southern end, where the entrance is. The edge has a stone curb around it. The earth comes from two flanking ditches that are about 60 foot long.  Post holes at the entrance end suggest a building or larger front existed. There are two side chambers and one main chamber. The front has 4 large Sarsens, there were originally six but two have disappeared over time.

In the centre of these Sarsens is a stone-lined passage that leads to the entrance, which itself, is formed by two opposing pillars, standing about 5ft tall, with two shorter pillars beyond these. The far wall is sealed by horizontally-stacked stones, and overhead a large slab forms the roof. The two burial chambers oppose each other on either side of this passageway, and the entrances to each are formed by the gaps in between the two sets of pillars. These chambers, similarly stone-clad with separate slabs forming their roof, are very confined and can only be entered in a squatting position.

Remains found in the inner first barrow include eleven men, two women, and a child, and its likely that they were later brought here, not being where either they died or where brought immediately, because most had a violent death, 3 were killed by arrows, and 2 had been part eaten by animals before being buried here.

Remains of around 7 adults and a child were found in the second stone lined version.

There is a legend that if you leave a horse tied up at it over night, and a silver coin left, when you come back in the morning it will have new shoes. Wayland's Smithy is one of many prehistoric sites associated with Wayland or 'Wolund', the Norse and Saxon God of blacksmithing, perhaps suggesting this legend goes back a long way.

Today we think of the Smithy as a farrier, shoeing horses, a tradesman, but historically the blacksmith was the scientist, developer, and a very important person in the community.

Even toady you can get married in Scotland, at Gretna in a blacksmiths shop, and the original ring was not one that went on your finger but the ring of the blacksmith striking the anvil marking the completion of a marriage agreement. Its also probably the origin of an auctioneer bringing down the hammer on a deal, and many other traditions.

Wayland's Smithy can be reached from the Ridgeway Path, located a short walk south, towards Barbury and Avebury. If visiting the white horse and castle at Uffington then this is a short walk south, and on the way back there is a short cut back to the car park.


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Location: Wayland Smithy, nr Uffington, Oxfordshire

Grid Reference: SU280853 Ceremonial County: Oxfordshire

Map Link: Multimap

Aerial photo: Multimap       Google

Getting there: Signposted off the A420 Swindon to Oxford road, (may say white horse or Uffington Castle etc), next to the B4507 between Ashbury and Wantage. 9 miles from J15 and 15 miles from J14 on the M4,  Car park at  OS: SU293865, pay & display (NT members free)

Access: Along Ridgeway Path, or from car park
Website:  National Trusst
Other Useful Websites: Wikipedia   Pegasusarchive     Berkshirehistory
Postcode: Telephone:
Opening Times: always open

Charges: None

Nearby Locations: Ufington Castle            Uffington White Horse
Other Location Pages: Ridgeway Path    
Other Relevant Pages:




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By: Keith Park   Section: Heritage Key:
Page Ref: Wayland_smithy Topic: Burial Chambers and Mounds  Last Updated: 04/2009


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