The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Barclodiad y Gawres: mysterious burial mound


Barclodiad y Gawres is a Neolithic burial chamber which can be discovered on the island of Anglesey, off the coast of North Wales. My Dad was born on Anglesey and as a child I remember being fascinated by the strange mound reached by meandering path from Cable Bay (Bae Trecastell, so named because the Atlantic telegraph cable was located here). On a recent trip to Anglesey it was one of the places I really wanted to visit again. It was proof that childhood memories are distorted, in my mind the beach was much larger and the path that takes you to the burial mound was much longer in my head that it was in real life.

From the attractive beach you follow the track along the headland towards the sea...


The burial mound is rather inconspicuous as you approach it, the only indication that something so interesting lies beneath is a concrete dome that sits on top of a small hill facing the sea. My aunt remembers that this dome was once made of glass, evidently to allow light inside the mound. The entrance to the burial chamber is reached by walking over the hill and round to the 'front' so that the sea is behind you. In English Barclodiad y Gawres means 'apronful of the giantess' a very picturesque name that bears no real relation to the mound today, which was excavated and restored in the 1950s. I only imagine at one point the stones inside were open to the elements and looked like a jumble of stones as dropped from the apron of the careless giantess as she strolled around the North Welsh countryside.


The entrance is in the form of a passage carved out of the hill, which rises either side of the path as you walk towards the gated entrance shown in the photograph below. The tomb was built as a central round chamber, filled with massive stone slabs, and reached by a stone lined passage. The tomb was then covered with a mound of soil. When it was excavated in the 1950s the remains of the tomb were covered with a concrete dome, then covered with turf. Barclodiad y Gawres is known for its decorated stones and at some time in the past you were allowed to enter the main chamber to see the stones, which is reached by another gate inside. Unfortunately due to vandalism it is not possible to go inside the main chamber today to see them but apparently they are equal to the decorated stones in Irish tombs such as Newgrange.


Going into the entrance passage it immediately becomes very dark and gloomy and there is a jumble of rocks that now remain from the original tomb. I wonder if these were some of the slabs that would have lined the passage originally.


Looking through the entrance gates to the inner chamber reveals more slabs arranged in a circular fashion - concentric is the proper term I think. I hoped that by putting my camera through the gate I would be able to get some images of the decorations on the stones, however it proved impossible to do so. It is quite an eerie place however, the sounds of the sea muffled inside the dome, the walls of which can be glimpsed towards the back of the photograph below.


Barclodiad y Gawres keeps most of its secrets hidden and it is refreshing somehow that there is no modern visitor centre here or much interpretation except for a couple of information boards. It is left open for the visitor to imagine how the tomb would have looked in its heyday (one of the boards has a reconstructed diagram to help) or why the tomb was built upon this relatively lonely and wind-battered spot all those thousands of years ago.




5 comments:

Ceri said...

I should have explained a little better in the post that the idea was to think about a heritage site I loved for Valentine's Day! Thus making it a more positive experience...

Jenny said...

This looks a fabulous place. I'm compelled to go seeking out some of these places now...prehistoric monument trip round Leicester anyone?

Michael Bott said...

I think you'll enjoy this clip from the film 'Standing with Stones, then: http://standingstones.tv/clips/a-witches-brew/

Michael Bott said...

Would you like to repost this article as a guest post at http://standingstones.tv?

Best

Michael

Peter Lewis said...

Having been born in Wales and living in Llandudno for the last fifteen, I've visited Barclodiad Y Gawres quite a few times over the years but have never seen inside, until today that is (12/4/14).

Seeing the Irish inspired stone decoration for the first time was something I will never forget.

Newgrange and Knowth in County Meath in Ireland is justly famous for this particular style of spiral and chevron rock art, and only Bryn Celli Ddu also on Anglesea can share their Irish connections with those famous tombs of the Boyne valley.

Well worth a visit but take a torch with you because the interior of the tomb is very dark.