From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Maumbury Ring

50° 42′ 28.44″ N 2° 26′ 25.4″ W

  • History
  • Gallery
Maumbury Ring is a Neolithic Henge in the south of Dorchester, Dorset.

The rings were excavated by Harold St George Gray, between 1908–1913. The excavations showed that the site was built in the late Neolithic period. The internal ditch comprised approximately 45 deep shafts cut into the chalk and were up to 11 metres deep. Eight shafts were fully excavated and contained various deposits including antler, animal and human bone, flints and carved chalk. A single Grooved ware pottery sherd was recovered from one pit, and a later Beaker sherd was recovered from the fill of another pit. The henge had a single entrance on the northeast side.

During the Roman period, the rings were adapted as an amphitheatre for the use of the citizens of the nearby Roman town of Durnovaria. The banks were lowered by around 3 metres, with the material produced piled onto the banks. The interior was modified by the excavation of an oval, level arena floor, and the cutting of seating into the scarp and bank which was revetted with either chalk or timber.

Between 1642 and 1643 the henge was modified in response to the English Civil War. The site was used as an artillery fort by Parliament supporters to guard the southern approach to Dorchester. An unfinished well was found on the northwest edge of the arena, finds of 160 lead pistol bullets on the east bank all date to this time, along with a ditch beyond the northern enclosure bank.

Its amphitheatre role was briefly revived in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, as a place of public execution. In 1685, at the close of the Monmouth Rebellion, Judge Jeffreys ordered eighty of the rebels to be executed here. In 1705 Mary Channing, a nineteen-year-old woman found guilty of poisoning her husband, was executed by strangulation and burning at the Rings.

By the later 18th century, the enclosure was being used as farmland.

The monument is now a public open space, and used for open-air concerts, festivals and re-enactments.