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Modern day burial chamber near Wem to host Winter Solstice events

An incredible underground chamber will be the setting for an atmospheric winter solstice concert next month.

Tim Ashton in the Long Barrow
Tim Ashton in the Long Barrow

The Soulton Long Barrow near Wem is a modern version of an ancient burial chamber, in which families can remember their loved ones and hold services in a space used as a final resting place for cremated remains.

As tall as two double decker buses and comfortably seating 80 people, it is believed to be one of the biggest 'stone corbelling' structures build in modern times.

And now the owners of Soulton Hall, on whose land the Long Barrow has been created, are looking at sympathetic ways of bringing the arts into the underground building.

The chamber
The stained glass window
Tim Ashton at the Long Barrow

To mark the winter solstice, the Shropshire-based Jarualda String Quartet, will play the first part of a concert in the Long Barrow on Wednesday, December 1 before they and the audience move into the hall itself.

Tim Ashton from Soulton Hall said that, weather permitting, the concert would begin with the sun setting through the stained glass window on the Long Barrow.

"Tickets will initially be offered to families with loved ones' remains here before they are released to the general community," he said.

"We are very aware of the barrow's importance to those families and we are working out how we can also use that space to support the arts.

"It will be very thoughtfully done."

The chamber
Tim Ashton at the Long Barrow

The structure was completed last year in time for the 2020 winter solstice and celebrated in a small way.

Earlier, as lockdown hit the arts the Ashton family looked at ways they could help support the industry.

Over the summer successful open air productions have been held in the grounds of Soulton Hall, in a specially constructed amphitheatre.

Then in October the living history and archaeology group Thegns of Mercia Shropshire, Beowulf at the Barrow was a performance of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem by the fabulous living history/reconstructive archaeology group Thegns of Mercia.

"It was an incredibly atmospheric performance," Tim said.

"We decided to bring the arts to Soulton as a way of helping those who were really struggling during lockdown. It was really successful and we want to continue. It also means that we have a venue in Shropshire so that people can see and hear and enjoy productions and performances locally instead of having to travel and spend a lot of money."

"Such is the interest that Beowulf sold out in five hours."

More details of the string quartet concert will be released shortly on Soulton Hall's website and Facebook page.

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