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First UK long barrow for five millennia

A new columbarium (a place for cremated remains), just opened in Wiltshire, is in the style of a traditional Anglo-Saxon long barrow, but made relevant for today in its internal layout.

The Long Barrow at All Cannings, Devizes, the first long barrow to be built in the UK for 5,500 years, is a chalk mound built in natural material. It is aligned to the sunrise of the winter solstice when the sun will illuminate the internal stone passageway.

The first urn of human ashes has already been placed inside.

The brainchild of developer Tim Daw, who owns the farmland, the barrow cost £200,000 and took almost nine months to build using traditional materials and stone working techniques. Tim says the field will be kept as natural as possible.

A long barrow is a burial mound, an artificial hill of earth and stones built over the remains of the dead. They were usually reserved for members of the elite or Anglo-Saxon royalty, with ordinary people usually being cremated or buried in more humble graves.

Within the chalk mound there are five chambers arranged off the passageway. Depending on the urn size, six to eight can be placed in each niche and the niches can be sealed with a memorial stone if required. There are also smaller niches for single and paired urns.

The chambers, or columbaria, have niches built into the natural limestone walls. Each is about 60cm by 60cm and 40cm tall and is designed to be a family vault for the storage of cremated remains in urns. 

Clients will be charged about £1,200 for use of a niche and more than 40 have been reserved so far. There is a small charge made for each interment, currently £100, to cover the unlocking and preparing the columbarium and recording the details. An individual lease is £400. 

The project arose out of a ‘Wouldn't it be nice to get buried in a long barrow?-style' thought, says Tim: "Then I was walking round the farm one winter's morning and it was misty, very quiet and the sun was just rising,” he told the BBC. “And I thought, 'I wouldn't mind spending eternity here."

He said the idea all came together very quickly and every stone had been shaped and placed by hand.

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