Barrows near Dorset Cursus


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dorset (Unitary Authority)
Wimborne St. Giles
National Grid Reference:
SU 01373 15583, SU 01759 16042, SU 01901 16416, SU 01901 16452, SU 01910 15919, SU 01923 15934, SU 01940 16482


Round barrow cemetery including one bell barrow and six bowl barrows 870m south east of Handley Cross.

Reasons for Designation

Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day. Round barrow cemeteries date to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They comprise closely spaced groups of up to 30 round barrows - rubble or earthen mounds covering single or multiple burials - or ring ditches, visible only from the air due to levelling of the mounds by cultivation in the historic and modern periods. Most cemeteries developed over a considerable period of time, often many centuries, and in some cases acted as a focus for burials as late as the early medieval period. They exhibit considerable diversity of burial rite, plan and form, frequently including several different types of round barrow. On Cranborne Chase, round barrow cemeteries are associated with earlier features such as long barrows, the Dorset Cursus, and henge monuments. Where excavation has taken place around the barrows, contemporary or later flat burials between the barrow mounds have often been revealed. Round barrow cemeteries occur across most of lowland Britain, with a marked concentration in Wessex, of which that on Cranborne Chase is significant. They are particularly representative of their period, whilst their diversity and their longevity as a monument class provide important information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and constitute a significant component of the archaeology of Cranborne Chase. Despite early partial excavation the round barrow cemetery including one bell barrow and six bowl barrows 870m south east of Handley Cross survives well and will contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the construction, relative chronologies, territorial significance, social organisation, ritual and funerary practices of the individual barrows together with their interrelationships and overall landscape context.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 6 January 2016. This 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.

This monument, which falls into seven areas, includes a round barrow cemetery situated across the upper slopes of Wyke and Bottlebush Downs and is closely associated with the Dorset Cursus. The barrows are widely dispersed with an outlier to the south west, a central cluster of three barrows and a closely spaced group of three barrows to the north which includes the bell barrow. The bell barrow survives as a circular mound of up to 21m in diameter and 2.5m high surrounded by a 3m wide berm with an outer ditch of 5.5m wide and 0.3m deep. The barrow was partially excavated by William Cunnington in the 19th century and produced a primary cremation in a large urn accompanied by several beads of amber, jet, horn, shale, faience and bronze and fragments of a bronze pin along with a small intensely decorated ‘incense’ cup which contained burnt wood. The bowl barrows survive as circular mounds surrounded by buried quarry ditches from which the construction material was derived, although in one case the ditch is visible as a slight earthwork. The mounds vary in size from 17m up to 20m in diameter and from 1m up to 1.5m high. The two bowl barrows forming the group with the bell barrow were also investigated by William Cunnington and both produced primary cremations. The southern of these has a visible ditch of up to 2.5m wide and 0.3m deep. Several of the other barrow mounds appear to have early excavation hollows.

Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity, most are scheduled separately but others are not included because they have not been formally assessed.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DO 302
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:-1314494, 213522, 1312954, 213521, 1312951, 213563 and 1314502


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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