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Combe Gibbet and Walbury Hillfort


To the West of Newbury lie the villages of Kintbury and Inkpen. From here, you can follow a pleasant country road climbing the chalk downs to the south. There are a couple of viewing places near the summit of Combe down, and the scenery is fantastic for miles around.

Here you will find Combe gibbet, and the remains of the Iron Age (600 BC to 50 AD) Walbury hill fort (SU3761). This stands at 974 feet (279m) above sea level, and was obviously a considerable feat of construction in its day having massive encircling banks and ditches. When in use it would have been defended by a timber palisade, of which nothing remains.

Combe Gibbet: by Simon TophamCombe Gibbet: by Simon TophamCombe Gibbet
Combe gibbet stands on the top of Combe down, and was erected on top of a Neolithic burial mound. It was only ever put to its grisly use once in 1676: George Broomham of Combe, and Dorothy Newman of Inkpen were lovers. They brutally killed Martha and Robert Broomham, George's wife and son, who had come across them together on the Downs. Unfortunately for them they were seen committing the crime by the barefoot village idiot 'Mad Thomas' who managed to convey what he had seen to the authorities.

They were both tried and then hanged at the Winchester Assizes. Their dead bodies were hung on either side of the Combe Gibbet to act as a grim deterrent to other would be wrong doers.

Obviously, it is not the original gibbet that stands there now, for there have been several replacements over the years, due to vandalism and lightening, but tradition upholds that the gibbet must stay since it's now part of the scenery. (Most Gibbets have just a single side for the body to be hung on, but this Gibbet is a double one!). It's worth noting that the gibbet, though in Berkshire is situated near to the county borders of Hampshire and Wiltshire.

Directions: To the Southwest of Newbury, reached by minor roads past the village of Combe. Nearest A roads: A336, A334, A4.

Authorship
Author: 
Simon Topham

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