Silbury HillSilbury Hill
English Heritage
West Kennett
Wiltshire SN8 1QH
Mysterious Silbury Hill is close to the Avebury Stone Circle and the West Kennet Long Barrow in south-west England. It is an English Heritage site and part of the UNESCO World Heritage ‘Stonehenge, Avebury & Associated Sites’ listing.
Rising incongruously beside the busy A4 road, Silbury Hill is the largest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe. The flat-topped cone-shaped hill is over 98 feet (30 metres) high and about 525 feet (160 metres) in diameter across the base. The hill covers an area of approximately 5 acres (2 hectares).
Opening Hours
Note - Strictly no public access to the hill itself.
Silbury Hill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is dangerous to climb. Please observe the signs.
The viewing area is open during reasonable daylight hours.
Admission Price
There is free parking for around 15 cars. There are no designated disabled spaces and unfortunately the car park cannot accommodate coaches or minibuses. On-site interpretation panels; No toilets or other facilities.
Disabled Access
Viewing area is wheelchair accessible with tarmac and bonded gravel paths. Set down area available but no designated disabled parking spaces. Assistance dogs welcome.
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Conservation of Silbury Hill
The hill has fascinated people for centuries and since the 18th century several tunnels and a shaft have been dug into the hill to search for a hidden burial chamber with no success.
The tunnels and shaft were not fully back-filled and they started to collapse. In 2000, a 46 foot (14 metre) deep crater unexpectedly opened on the summit. Temporary restorative action was taken. In 2007, after much public discussion, it was decided to completely conserve the ancient hill.
Before starting the work, the opportunity was taken to have one last look at the interior of the mound. The 1968 Richardson tunnel was reopened, giving archaeologists a final opportunity to record the inside of Silbury Hill. The sides of the tunnel were cleaned and recorded using high-resolution photographs. Environmental samples were taken from archaeological deposits and a remote-controlled filming vehicle was used to record inaccessible areas. Excavations also took place on the summit.
All the known voids inside the hill, and the crater on the summit, were then refilled with chalk, using an enormous 1,465 tonnes of material. The mound has now been restored to as near its original condition as possible.
New Information
As a result of the latest conservation work, a lot more is known about Silbury Hill.
Specialists from English Heritage and seven universities have now completed their analysis of the excavated material from the project. This included the study of artefacts such as flint and antler tools, and further analysis of the biological remains such as insects, pollen and snails. Radiocarbon dating of the archaeological material has also made it possible to put specific dates to the various episodes of construction.
The results of the project were published in 2014 in a new English Heritage monograph entitled Silbury Hill: The Largest Pre-historic Mound in Europe; co-authored by Dr Jim Leary, archaeologist at the University of Reading, David Field and Gill Campbell; ISBN: 9781848020450.
The author of this web page has relied heavily on the information contained in the above publication.
History of the Hill
In the form that we see it today, the Silbury monument is the product of four millennia of weathering, erosion and modification. Exposure to the elements and intense human and animal activity has left its mark across the surface.
The deposits within the centre of the Hill offered a rare insight into Britain’s prehistoric landscape. The soil making up the core of the mound preserved a whole range of delicate biological remains that are rarely preserved on archaeological sites of this date - grass and moss, beetles and buttercup seeds.
Previously believed to have been constructed as a statement on the landscape by a powerful individual, it has now been revealed that the Hill’s construction was piecemeal and organic. It was developed gradually, the mound growing incrementally over four or so generations.
From radiocarbon dating evidence it is estimated that it took between 55 and 155 years to build. Its construction began in the second half of the 25th century BC, with the final stages finished in the late 24th or early 23rd centuries BC.
The story of Silbury Hill does not end in prehistory. A recent geophysical survey has shown that the Romans chose to build a road and an extensive settlement around the foot of the mound.
In the early medieval period, the top of the hill was probably flattened and some sort of defensive structure may have been placed on the summit.
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Why Construct the Hill?
No one knows why Silbury Hill was built, but it was started during a time of great change, when new forms of pottery, new burial rites and the first metal-working arrived in Britain. It must have been a special place, where people gathered for events and episodes of building.
The construction did coincide with a period of intense building activity in the Avebury area, when hundreds of people came together to construct a variety of monuments. As well as Silbury Hill, Avebury henge, together with its stone circles and avenues, was built at this time.
Coincidentally, the first pile of stones occurred at the same time as when the second stage of Stonehenge was being undertaken.
There is a theory that the site was a meeting place for different Neolithic tribes. Perhaps different people brought soil and chalk from their own neighbouring lands, bringing communities together. Over time, the project became more ambitious, with huge quantities of chalk dug from the surrounding ditch to build the mound.
First, people stripped the topsoil and stones from the ground. Then a small mound of gravel a little less than 3 feet 3 inches (1 metre) high was built, with material perhaps brought from the nearby river Kennet.
At some later stage, a ring of stakes was set out to define a larger area, 53 feet (16 metres) in diameter, into which basket loads of mud and dark soils were tipped. Smaller heaps were constructed nearby and some pits, probably relating to ceremonial activity, were dug into the central mound.
People continued to add soil and turf and even boulders, creating a mound 115 feet (35 metres) in diameter and about 16 feet (5 metres) high. A massive enclosing ditch with an internal bank was then dug, 328 feet (100 metres) in diameter. It was backfilled and re-cut a number of times.
A series of chalk banks were added to the mound, increasing its size and back-filling the ditch. A second enormous water-filled ditch and rectangular extension were dug beyond it, leaving space for the chalk mound to be further enlarged.
Then rituals and ceremonies must have changed and construction at Silbury stopped.
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Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0)3703 331 181
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website   English Heritage/ Silbury Hill    External Link
Getting There
- By Car from London (Recommended Method):
Silbury Hill is 1 mile (1.6 kms) west of West Kennett Village on the A4.
Leave the M4 at Exit 15 and take the A346 south to Marlborough, a distance of about 8 miles (12.8 km). Take the A4 and follow it west for six miles (9.7 km) to West Kennett and Avebury.
There is free parking for around 15 cars. There are no designated disabled spaces and unfortunately minibuses and coaches cannot be accommodated.
- By Bus
From Swindon:   Stagecoach service 49 passes within 3⁄4 of a mile (1.2 kms) of the site. Also Connect2 Wiltshire services 4 & 5 and Taxibus TL3. Tel: 0845 652 5255 for more details.
- By Train
Pewsey 9 miles (14.5 km), Swindon 13 miles 21 km)
By Rail from London Paddington station:
From London Paddington Mainline Station travel on the First Great Western service to Paignton. Get off the train at Swindon Rail Station. Catch the Stagecoach bus Route No. 49. Services run Weekdays and Saturdays. The bus leaves from Swindon Rail station. Ask the driver to let you off at Avebury Red Lion Pub. Also check with the driver the time of the last bus back to Swindon.
Buses back to Swindon Rail station run on Week days & Saturdays, leaving from the Avebury Red Lion Pub.
Sunday buses are infrequent.
To check times and frequency of public transport go to  Web: English Heritage/ Silbury Hill    External Link
Google Maps - Silbury Hill


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