British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain
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Torbarrow Hill

Torbarrow Hill

The story is relating to a "Colton's Field" within two miles of Cirencester and it is from a broadsheet published in London in 1685 entitled: "A Strange and Wonderful Discovery Newly made of Houses Under Ground at Colton's Field in Gloucester-Shire."

The place name cannot be traced to local records and so the site has been placed logically at Torbarrow Hill, where there are two prehistoric burial mounds.

The story goes that two workmen were digging gravel at the foot of one of these hills and found 'an Entrance into the Belly of the Hill'; exploring this, they discovered a series of rooms and tunnels with furniture and carpets - which crumbled to ash when touches and also many Urns, some of them containing only ashes but others had coins of gold, silver and brass in them with Latin inscriptions and Roman Emperor heads on them.  In the deepest room, 'to their great Astonishment they saw the Image of a Man in full proportion with a Truncheon in his hand, and a light in a glass like a Lamp burning before him.'  One of the two men walked into the room and the figure immediately tried to strike at him.  They beat a hasty retreat out of the Hill, believing it to be the Devil or the treasure's Guardian, but were sure to grab some of the coins as they went.

According to the story in the broadsheet, they returned the next day with an Antiquarian of great note, who they told of their discovery.  This time when they reached the deepest chamber the automaton lashed out with his large Truncheon which smashed the Lamp, dispelling the light.  They did notice before it went dark a couple of embalmed and shrunken heads with long beards and flesh like parchment.  Directly after the light was extinguished, there was a 'hollow Noise like a deep Sigh or Groan' at which they fled. The hill then caved in and buried the entrance to the Hill and all the contents inside.