Round barrow cemetery 1375m north west of West End Farm.
Reasons for Designation
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. 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, occasionally associated with earlier long barrows. Where large scale investigation has been undertaken around them, 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. In some cases, they are clustered around other important contemporary monuments such as henges. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape, whilst their diversity and their longevity as a monument type provide important information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period. A hlaew is a burial monument of Anglo-Saxon or Viking date and comprising a hemispherical mound of earth and re-deposited bedrock constructed over a primary burial or burials. These were usually inhumations, buried in a grave cut into the subsoil beneath the mound, but cremations placed on the old ground surface beneath the mound have also been found. Hlaews may occur in pairs or in small groups; a few have accompanying flat graves. Constructed during the pagan Saxon and Viking periods for individuals of high rank, they served as visible and ostentatious markers of their social position. Some were associated with territorial claims and appear to have been specifically located to mark boundaries. They often contain objects which give information on the range of technological skill and trading contacts of the period. Only approximately 60 hlaews have been positively identified in England. As a
rare monument all positively identified examples are considered important. Although much is already known about the round barrow cemetery with a hlaew 1375m north west of West End Farm but it will retain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the development and construction of the cemetery, the relative chronologies of each barrow, the social organisation of the builders the territorial significance of the hillside throughout a prolonged period, the adaptive re-use of the cemetery in the Anglo-Saxon period and ritual and funerary practices through time set against the overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 24 September 2015. 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 six areas, includes a round barrow cemetery which also contains a hlaew situated on the upper slopes of a prominent ridge called Roundway Hill overlooking the valleys of several tributaries to the River Avon. The round barrow cemetery includes six bowl barrows, all of which have been excavated and all survive differentially: four are circular mounds of between 11.8m and 24m in diameter and from 0.2m up to 2.1m high surrounded by buried quarry ditches from which the construction material was derived; two are preserved as entirely buried structures layers and deposits visible as soil or crop marks on aerial photographs with diameters of 10.9m and 21.9m. Two of the extant mounds are conjoined but excavation showed them to be two entirely separate bowl barrows. All except one of the bowl barrows were excavated by Cunnington in the period from 1855-8. They produced a wide range of finds, including barbed and tanged arrowheads, burnt bones, animal bones, daggers, worked antler, a quartz pebble, whetstones, a slate wrist guard, a bell beaker and sherds of Romano-British pottery as well as the primary and secondary cremations and inhumations set into grave pits or wooden boxes. One further bowl barrow was excavated by Thurnam in the mid 19th century but only an empty cist was revealed. The southernmost ‘barrow’ excavated by W Cunnington in 1805 appeared not to be a bowl barrow despite still surviving as a circular mound of 15m in diameter and up to 1m high. Instead this mound was a hlaew which contained a primary Anglo-Saxon inhumation orientated east to west and accompanied by an iron ring, a bone gaming piece and a shield boss. A second excavation (by a different Cunnington – Henry or William Jnr) carried out in 1877 which produced a flint knife and whetstone may not have been from this mound at all. The entire cemetery lies within the Registered Battlefield - the Battle of Roundway Down, 1643 - an English Civil War skirmish which saw a defeat for the Parliamentary forces many of whom were killed as cavalry horses hurtled over the steep scarp sides at nearby Oliver’s Castle (scheduled separately) plunging into what became known as ‘Bloody Ditch’.