Tar Barrows: the earthwork and buried remains of two prehistoric or Roman round barrows and the buried remains of a Romano-British or earlier funerary and ritual site


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
The site is located to the north-east of Cirencester, on a south-west facing slope, bounded by Grove Lane to the south-west, Hare Bushes to the north-east and north-west and Burford Road to the south-east.


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

Location Description:
The site is located to the north-east of Cirencester, on a south-west facing slope, bounded by Grove Lane to the south-west, Hare Bushes to the north-east and north-west and Burford Road to the south-east.
Cotswold (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


The earthwork remains of two prehistoric or Roman round barrows and, adjacent to the easternmost barrow, the buried remains of a Romano-British or earlier funerary and ritual site.

Reasons for Designation

The Tar Barrows site, comprising the earthwork remains of two prehistoric or Roman round barrows and the buried remains of a Romano-British funerary and ritual site, possibly with earlier origins, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

Rarity/Period: all funerary and ritual monument types from the prehistoric to the Roman period are regarded as being rare nationally; Documentation: the significance of the site and our understanding of it has been enhanced by aerial and geophysical survey;

Survival/Condition: the round barrows survive well as earthwork and buried features whilst the clear anomalies in the geophysical survey confirm that the archaeology from the Romano-British period is well preserved beneath the ground surface;

Potential: given the initial findings from the aerial and geophysical research, it is likely that the site has the potential to yield significant archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, use and occupation;

Diversity: it forms part of a particularly important group of Romano-British sites in the Cirencester area and the study of these sites will contribute valuable information regarding the continuity of land use, the evolution of funerary practices and the distribution of settlement in the area;

Group value: there is a strong functional relationship with other Romano-British monuments in the area, including the close-by Roman town of Cirencester, or Corinium (National Heritage List entry 1003426) to the south-west. Tar Barrows will therefore contribute significantly to the study of Romanisation.


Round barrows are funerary or ceremonial monuments dating from the Neolithic to Saxon times. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds and are commonly surrounded by a ring-ditch. Important evidence of earlier activity is often preserved beneath barrow mounds, which may be preceded by a lengthy sequence of construction and use. Many, but not all, barrows covered single or multiple burials or had burials inserted into them. Round barrows occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. The existence of one barrow on the high ground to the north-east of Cirencester has been recognised from at least 1200 when documentary sources identify a barrow known as ‘Thoreberewe’. By the C15 it is known as ‘Castrum Torre’ whilst, in the mid-C18, Daniel Defoe refers to it as ‘Starbury Mount’. By 1884, when the first edition Ordnance Survey map for Gloucestershire was published, the barrow had come to be known as ‘Tar Barrow’. At that time, a second barrow, also known as ‘Tar Barrow’ was identified, standing some 210m to the north-west.

Enclosures are a diverse group within which examples may variously provide evidence of settlement, land use or agricultural practices for any stage between the prehistoric and post-medieval periods. Some examples are known from partial excavation to have had a particular purpose and belonged to a specific period; many, however, remain poorly understood. Within the context of enclosures generally, except in upland areas, earthwork examples are relatively rare, the majority being known from crop or soil marks recorded on aerial photographs. The existence of a series of ditched enclosures within the vicinity of Tar Barrows was first indicated by cropmarks on aerial photographs taken by English Heritage in the summer of 2005. The findings from a subsequent geophysical survey and an aerial photo interpretation and mapping exercise, which analysed the form and extent of the enclosures, has resulted in them being interpreted as the remains of a Romano-British funerary and ritual site, possibly with earlier origins. The discovery of surface scatters of C5-C9 chaff-tempered pottery in the area suggests that the site was also occupied in the Saxon period.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS Situated on the high ground to the north-east of Cirencester are the earthwork remains of two prehistoric or Roman round barrows and, adjacent to the easternmost barrow, the buried remains of a Romano-British ritual and funerary site, possibly with earlier origins.

DESCRIPTION The earthworks of a prehistoric or Roman round barrow are centred at SP0311802524. Of a conical profile, the earthworks stand up to 2.2m high on the west side and up to 3.2m high on the east side. The surrounding ditch, from which material was excavated during the construction of the barrow, has become infilled over the years, but it will survive as a buried feature. Although a Roman date for the barrow has been inferred from its conical shape, antiquarian investigation has also suggested that the barrow could be of Neolithic or Bronze Age date. Standing some 210m to the north-west, centred at SP029502659, are the earthworks of a second barrow of prehistoric or Roman date. It stands up to 1.7m high and has a diameter of 21m north to south by 30m east to west. The profile of the mound has been partially altered by post-medieval quarrying.

Surrounding the easternmost barrow, and extending across an irregular area measuring c.285 by 185m, are the buried remains of a series of ditched enclosures, all aligned north-east to south-west. The most substantial of these enclosures is situated c.60m to the south-west of the barrow, centred at SP0306802488. Ditches, measuring up to 5m wide in places, enclose an area measuring 21m wide and at least 31m long on its north-west, north-east and south-east sides. It is not known whether the south-west side of the enclosure was defined by a similar ditch, which has since been quarried away, or whether it was originally open-ended. Within the enclosure is a rectangular structure measuring 10.8m by 6m, defined by stone foundations surrounding a pit or cut feature measuring 8m by 5m. Based on its form, along with its setting, it is believed that this is a small temple or mausoleum, serving the local Romano-British population of Cirencester (Corinium). To the south, south-east and north-east of the barrow there is a series of smaller ditched enclosures interspersed with individual and conjoined square or sub-square structures, possibly building foundations, which measure between 5m and 10m across. The enclosures have parallels, in terms of setting and form, to Romano-British religious and funerary structures.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The monument is defined by two separate areas of protection on a south-west facing slope to the north-east of Cirencester; one is an irregular-shaped section of land of some 5.9ha whilst the second is a more discrete area situated to its north-west.

Area of protection 01 This is the larger of the two areas and aims to protect the earthwork and buried remains of the easternmost round barrow (centred at SP0311802524) and the buried remains of the Romano-British ritual and funerary site. Given the open nature of the landscape, only part of the area of protection is defined by fixed points on the ground, the western edge particularly is identified by a series of National Grid References. The constraint line begins at the north-western corner of the area of protection at SP0315702670. From here it follows the field boundary in an east-south-east direction to SP0328302634 where it turns south and follows the field boundary to the southern extent of the area of protection at SP0313902316. Here the line turns north-west across open pasture and continues in this direction form some 108m before turning to the north-north-east for around 68m from SP0304602373 to SP0307002436. It then follows the 125m contour in a north-west direction to the westernmost extent of the area of protection at SP0299402485. At this point it turns north-east for some 110m until it meets the 130m contour at SP0306902562. From here it turns east-south-east along the line of the contour for around 43m until SP0310902546. From here it continues in a north-north-east direction until it meets with the north-western most tip of the area of protection.

Area of protection 02 This area of protection aims to protect the westernmost round barrow and is centred at SP0295802659.

EXCLUSIONS All modern field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these is included.


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

Legacy System number:
GC 268
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Brook, N, Cirencester The Roman Town Defences, Public Buidings and Shops, (1998), 16
Holbrook, N, 'Journal of Roman Archaeology' in Cirencester and the Cotswolds in the Early Roman Period: the Evolution of a Town and Rural Landscape, , Vol. 21, (2008)
Reece, R, 'Britannia' in The Siting of Roman Corinium, , Vol. 34, (2003), 280
Winton, H. (2009). English Heritage Research Department Report Series No.51-2009: Tar Barrow, Cirencester, Gloucestershire: A Roman or Iron Age Ceremonial Area - Aerial Photo Interpretation and Mapping,


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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