Gwernvale Long Barrow, Crickhowell, Powys

Text by Tim Darvill

In the valley of the River Usk in the southern part of the Black Mountains, the Gwernvale long barrow enjoys a picturesque but relatively low-lying position with excellent views westwards. In May 1804, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, accompanied by Theophilus Jones, Richard Fenton, Admiral Gell, Sir William Ouseley and a Mr Everest excavated the south-eastern chamber, one of the earliest such investigations at a long barrow in Wales.

They found rather little, but the chamber remained extant and featured in many guidebooks until 1977 when the realignment of the A40 required a full excavation of the site. That work, directed by Bill Britnell for the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, revealed the full extent of the mound and the fact that there were originally at least three and possibly four lateral chambers, two or three on the south side and one on the north side. It also showed that the long barrow had been built on top of an extensive and long-lived settlement.

Today, the edges of the long barrow are marked out in the grass. The mound is about 50m long and about 17m wide at the east end. Trapezoidal in outline, the eastern end is marked by two pronounced horns and a fairly deeply recessed forecourt. The southern horn is under the modern road, but most of the rest of the mound can be seen.

At the back of the forecourt was a stone slab forming a false-portal. The side-chambers are visible, reconstructed in situ using the original orthostats. Rather notable is the south-eastern chamber, which seems to be bigger than the others and has a bend in the passage. The other two extant chambers are more rectangular in plan.


SO 2103 1912. 1km west of Crickhowell, N of the A40 between Crickhowell and Brecon, adjacent to the driveway leading to the Manor Hotel. Lay-by parking. Cadw. Finds in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

Further reading: Crawford 1925, 59-60 (C6); Britnell 1979; 1984.

Long Barrows of the Cotswolds and surrounding areas – Tim Darvill

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