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The Medway Neolithic megaliths

By Mark Power

The Coldrum Stones
The Coldrum Stones are just a few of the Medway Megaliths

The Medway Megaliths

In the lower Medway valley, on both sides of the river, are a number of large sarsen stones which are collectively known as The Medway Megaliths. They were moved there between 2500-1700 BC and were part of Neolithic, chambered long barrows, which were ancient burial tombs.

The Medway Megaliths are the only groups of megaliths in eastern England. They consist of, on the east side of the River Medway: Kit's Coty House, Little Kit's Coty House, the Upper White Horse Stone, and the Coffin Stone. On the west side of the river are: the Coldrum Stones, Addington Long Barrow, and the Chestnuts Long Barrow.

Kit's Coty House

Kit's Coty House
Kit's Coty House features in the diaries of Samuel Pepys.

Kit's Coty House stands near the edge of a field, on Blue Bell Hill near Aylesford. The four stones standing there are in fact the entrance to a now destroyed 70 metre, long barrow. The stones are sarsen stones, the same type of stone used to build Stonehenge.

The three upright stones and horizontal capstone rise to a height of almost three metres. Another stone, known as the General's Stone, once lay at the west end of the barrow, but this was destroyed in 1867.

Samuel Pepys, the famous naval administrator and diarist, once visited the stones and wrote: "Three great stones standing upright and a great round one lying on them, of great bigness, although not so big as those on Salisbury Plain. But certainly it is a thing of great antiquity, and I am mightily glad to see it."

The site was investigated in 1854 by Thomas Wright, who found "Rude Pottery" beneath the stones. In 1885 the site became one of the first sites in Britain to become a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and a few years later metal railings were placed around the stones, unfortunately the rest of the barrow was outside the railings, and was ploughed away.

Recent excavations took place in advance of the nearby High Speed Rail Link, and remains of a Neolithic longhouse were uncovered. The site is also traditionally known as the burial site of Catigern, brother of Vortimer and son off Vortigern, following a battle with the Saxon Horsa, listed in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles as taking place in 455 AD.

The Countless Stones

The Countess Stone
The Countess Stones are the remains of a Neolithic long barrow.

Little Kit's Coty House, or "The Countless Stones" as they are also called, lie about 450 metres south of Kit's Coty House. They are the collapsed remains of another Neolithic long barrow, and the sarsen stones are believed to have been pushed over in the 17th Century.

They are known as "The Countless Stones", as it is said that whenever you count the stones, you come up with a different number of stones each time. Stories are also told of the fate of people who have tried.

William Stukeley attempted to reconstruct the damaged tomb in plan in the 18th century. Archaeological evaluation trenching in 1989 found no clear evidence of any surrounding quarry ditch which would normally have been excavated to provide material for a covering barrow. Iron Age activity was found close by.

The Coffin Stone

Coffin Stone
A sack of bones was found under the Coffin Stone

The Coffin Stone is 400 metres west of the Countless Stones in the middle of a vineyard. It is a rectangular stone lying flat and measuring 4.4 metres long and 2.8 metres wide. Two smaller stones lie nearby.

In 1836 local farmers found "a sack of bones" underneath the stone, the only record of this is written, and it is uncertain what happened to the bones. It is possibly the remains of a chambered long barrow, further archaeological excavation was carried out in the summer of 2008 and the evidence did not suggest this, but it was inconclusive.

The Coldrum Stones

The Coldrum Stones
The Coldrum Stones are the best preserved of the Medway Megaliths

The Coldrum Stones are another set of the Medway Megaliths, these ones are west of the River Medway near Trottiscliffe. Despite suffering badly from explorers and treasure hunters, it is the best preserved site of the Medway Megaliths group.

The Coldrum Long Barrow, or "Coldrum Stones" as they are sometimes called, are often mistaken for a stone circle, but they are the remains of a Neolithic long barrow. When the barrow was excavated in 1910, the remains of 22 people were found in the central chamber, including the skull of one who had been placed on a raised shelf. Many of the long bones appeared deliberately broken and some have been diagnosed with rheumatism.

Further investigations took place in 1922, 1923 and 1926 which found a flint 'saw' and several pieces of pottery including a Saxon sherd.

The Chestnuts

The Chestnuts
The Chestnuts can be found near Addlington

The Chestnuts is an excavated long barrow on private land at Addington. The burial mound has gone, but the large sarsen stones remain, some of them recently re-erected. Four large upright stones at the front mark the facade, and four more in the centre were part of the central chamber.

An even larger stone at the side is probably a fallen capstone. There may have originally been another stone in the central chamber dividing it in two, and probably another stone for blocking the entrance.

In 1957 John Alexander excavated the site and found the remains of the cremated bones of at least nine people, and objects from the late Neolithic, or Early Bronze Age were found. The chamber was found to be about 4 metres long, 2 metres wide, and about 3 metres high. The mound was estimated at 20 metres long and perhaps 15 metres wide, facing roughly east.

The Chestnuts can be viewed by appointment by contacting the owner of the site. She gives an excellent tour of the barrow, and the nearby Addington Long barrow, for only a small fee.

Addington Long Barrow

Addlington Long Barrow
Addlington Long Barrow has been badly damaged

Near the Chestnuts, is the Addington long barrow. This badly damaged long barrow has a road running through the middle. The barrow is 60 metres in length and varies from 14 metres to 11 metres in width.

The remains of the chamber may be indicated by a number of fallen stones on the eastern side of the road. In 1845. L.B. Larking, a local vicar, dug into the barrow, and was said to have found human bones. Then in 1981, archaeologists surveyed the site identifying 25 original stones on all four sides surrounding the barrow.


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