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A guest feature by Littlestone
The Silbury spoil showing (left) one of the more recent tunnel timbers
Above and following, some of the detritus removed from Silbury during English Heritage’s ‘conservation project’ of the monument between 2007-2008. Detritus, more of which sadly still lies within the monument along with other 20th and 21st century ‘additions’. Will it ever be possible to look upon this ancient site with impartial eyes, knowing what modern rubbish now lies within – rubbish in the form of thousands of plastic sacks, metal tunnel struts and sensors? Well, perhaps not, but thanks to Heritage Action and concerned individuals elsewhere, the monument does not, at least, now harbour a time capsule (an idea promoted by English Heritage and supported by others who should have known better) and an idea which, by extension would have lead to the monument being re-opened at some time in the future thereby contradicting English Heritage’s assertion that the monument would never again be opened!
An older timber, perhaps from one of the earlier tunnels into Silbury

The poem in the Urn

Suggested by the opening
made in Silbury Hill,
Aug 3rd 1849

Bones of our wild forefathers, O forgive,

If now we pierce the chambers of your rest,
And open your dark pillows to the eye
Of the irreverent Day! Hark, as we move,
Runs no stern whisper through the narrow vault?
Flickers no shape across our torch-light pale,
With backward beckoning arm? No, all is still.
O that it were not! O that sound or sign,
Vision, or legend, or the eagle glance
Of science, could call back thy history lost,
Green Pyramid of the plains, from far-ebbed Time!
O that the winds which kiss thy flowery turf
Could utter how they first beheld thee rise;
When in his toil the jealous Savage paused,
Drew deep his chest, pushed back his yellow hair,
And scanned the growing hill with reverent gaze, –
Or haply, how they gave their fitful pipe
To join the chant prolonged o’er warriors cold. –
Or how the Druid’s mystic robe they swelled;
Or from thy blackened brow on wailing wing
The solemn sacrificial ashes bore,
To strew them where now smiles the yellow corn,
Or where the peasant treads the Churchward path.

Emmeline Fisher (1825-1864)

Emmeline Fisher published a book of verse in 1856 but she is perhaps best remembered today for the poem she wrote on the opening of Dean Merewether’s 1849 tunnel into Silbury. The poem, along with other items, was placed in a ceramic urn and left at the end of the Merewether tunnel where it lay undisturbed for some 160 years. The urn was finally unearthed by Richard Atkinson during his and the BBC’s ‘activities’ at Silbury at the end of the 1960s. Emmie’s poem (above) was placed in an envelope with the following inscription, on the obverse, in the same hand (hers?) as the poem itself –

Lines on the Opening of
Silbury Hill, written by
Miss Emmeline Fisher,
Daughter of The Reverend William
Fisher, Canon of Salisbury and
Rector of Poulshot in Wiltshire
August 1849.

After some 160 years Emmeline Fisher’s poem, with its apology to our forefathers who built Silbury, stands as the only half-decent thing ever to have been placed within the structure by modern hands. Thankfully, even Emmie’s poem is no longer there, though sadly many of the Atkinson/BBC’s corroding iron tunnel work struts of the late 1960s (not to mention English Heritage’s thousands of plastic sacks of the early 21st century) still are.

Metal struts from the Atkinson/BBC 1960s tunnel


July 2010

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