Ancient Monuments

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The Sanctuary, Overton Hill

A Scheduled Monument in East Kennett, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.4112 / 51°24'40"N

Longitude: -1.8313 / 1°49'52"W

OS Eastings: 411828.692981

OS Northings: 168028.209648

OS Grid: SU118680

Mapcode National: GBR 3VS.KSL

Mapcode Global: VHB45.6SQL

Entry Name: The Sanctuary, Overton Hill

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 19 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014563

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21761

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: East Kennett

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire


The monument includes the Late Neolithic site known as the Sanctuary, situated
at the southern end of the West Kennet Avenue and south east of the Avebury
henge monument. It occupies a plateau on Overton Hill known as Seven Barrow
Hill and overlooks the River Kennet which flows from west to east some 400m
south of the monument. The Sanctuary is in the care of the Secretary of State.
The monument is known from partial excavation in the 1930s and 1960s to have
had two concentric circles of stones and four concentric circles of timber
posts. Although these features are no longer visible in their original form,
their locations are marked by concrete blocks. The outer stone circle had a
diameter of 40m and originally included 42 sarsen stones. The inner stone
circle was 15m across and contained 15 or 16 stones. The four timber circles
varied in size from between 5m and 21m across and contained between seven and
33 posts.
Excavation demonstrated that construction of the site was in four phases, the
details of which are as follows: Phase 1: a 5m diameter circle with seven
posts forming a circle around a single central post; Phase 2: a 6m diameter
circle of eight posts surrounded by a second circle of 11m in diameter
consisting of 12 posts. Phase 3: an additional circle of 21m in diameter
consisting of 33 posts. It was during the third phase that the smaller stone
circle was constructed and an entrance to the structure built on
the south eastern side of the monument. Phase 4: the outer stone circle and
the Avenue from Avebury were built, replacing the timber structures. This and
the fact that the entrance to the Avenue was to the north west, indicate that
the Sanctuary was an important monument before the henge at Avebury was built
and that it continued to play an important role even after the henge's
In addition to the archaeological remains, plans and sketches of the site are
known from the 17th and 18th centuries. These show the site with its stones in
place prior to their removal in the 19th century.
Although the precise function of the site is unclear, a combination of
evidence from excavation, the early mapped depictions of the monument and its
relationship to other monuments in the Avebury area, suggest that it may have
served a ritual purpose, quite possibly as a large circular roofed building.
Excluded from the scheduling is the boundary fence which separates the area
in which the monument is located from the field to the south, and the concrete
blocks, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for
ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
periods. Two of the best known and earliest recognised, with references in the
17th century, are around Avebury and Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a
World Heritage Site. In the Avebury area, the henge monument itself, the West
Kennet Avenue, the Sanctuary, West Kennet long barrow, Windmill Hill
causewayed enclosure and the enigmatic Silbury Hill are well-known. Whilst the
other Neolithic long barrows, the many Bronze Age round barrows and other
associated sites are less well-known, together they define one of the richest
and most varied areas of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and ritual
monuments in the country.

The Sanctuary forms an integral part of the group of prehistoric ritual
monuments concentrated in the Avebury area. Although partially excavated,
it survives as a visible and accessible monument which will contain
archaeological evidence for the sequence of development from a timber circle
to the stone circle structure, and the close association of the latter with
the Avenue and Avebury itself.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Atkinson, R J C, Stonehenge and Avebury, (1971), 50-1
Stukeley, W, Abury: A Temple of the British Druids, with Some Others, Described, (1743)
Ucko, PJ, Avebury Reconsidered From the 1660's to the 1990's, (1991)
SU16NW107, CAO, The Sanctuary, (1989)
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Series
Source Date: 1961

Source: Historic England

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