A Roman barrow known as Morden Park Mound, 500m WNW of St Lawrence’s Church.
Reasons for Designation
Earthen barrows are the most visually spectacular survivals of a wide variety of funerary monuments in Britain dating to the Roman period. Constructed as steep-sided conical mounds, usually of considerable size and occasionally with an encircling bank or ditch, they covered one or more burials, generally believed to be those of high-ranking individuals. The burials were mainly cremations, although inhumations have been recorded, and were often deposited with accompanying grave goods in chambers or cists constructed of wood, tile or stone sealed beneath the barrow mound. Occasionally the mound appears to have been built directly over a funeral pyre. The barrows usually occur singly, although they can be grouped into "cemeteries" of up to ten examples. They are sited in a variety of locations but often occur near Roman roads. A small number of barrows were of particularly elaborate construction, with masonry revetment walls or radial internal walls. Roman barrows are rare nationally, with less than 150 recorded examples, and are generally restricted to lowland England with the majority in East Anglia. The earliest examples date to the first decades of the Roman occupation and occur mainly within this East Anglian concentration. It has been suggested that they are the graves of native British aristocrats who chose to perpetuate aspects of Iron Age burial practice. The majority of the barrows were constructed in the early second century AD but by the end of that century the fashion for barrow building appears to have ended. Occasionally the barrows were re-used when secondary Anglo-Saxon burials were dug into the mound. Many barrows were subjected to cursory investigation by antiquarians in the 19th century and, as little investigation to modern standards has taken place, they remain generally poorly understood. As a rare monument type which exhibits a wide diversity of burial tradition all Roman barrows, unless significantly damaged, are identified as nationally important.
Despite some disturbance and landscaping as a later mount, the Roman barrow known as Morden Park Mound survives well. It will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to its construction and use as a Roman barrow and to the landscape in which it was constructed. In this instance the barrow was put into later use as a mount within Morden Park. In post-medieval parks and gardens earthen mounds (or mounts) were created as vantage points to view the house and gardens, and/or as the sites of ornate structures and garden buildings such as a belvedere. A belvedere is a turret, tower or look out occupying a prominent position to provide a view out across the landscape.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 11 September 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a Roman barrow situated on the summit of a natural elevation in Morden Park, west of the River Wandle.
The barrow survives as a roughly circular-shaped mound approximately 36m in diameter and 3.4m high. It has a flat top about 10m in diameter. Around the barrow is a berm or platform, about 4.5m wide, and surrounding this is a ditch 4m wide and 0.4m deep. The barrow is ascended by a spiral terraceway of later date, starting from the berm on the north side and leading to the platform on the top.
The mound has not been excavated but its size and shape is characteristic of a Roman barrow. It is located about 350m north-west of the course of Stane Street, a south-west north-east aligned Roman road that linked the regional capital of Noviomagus Regnensium (Chichester) to Londinium (London). Morden Park was originally a deer park before it became the grounds of a late 18th century house owned by the London merchant and distiller John Ewart. After 1788 the estate passed through a number of owners, including the Hatfeild family, before it became a public open space in the mid 20th century. A tithe map of 1837 shows that at that time the mound was converted to use as a circular plantation, named Pagoda Plantation, with a centrally placed rectangular building. This was a summer house or belvedere that formed part of the 19th century landscaped park and garden. Abundant surfaces traces of slate and brick fragments have been identified on top of the mound. The spiral terraceway presumably formed a pathway up to the belvedere or summer house. The circular plantation is shown on OS maps (1:2500) of 1865, 1895, 1913 and 1935.