Ferrybridge Henge, a prehistoric enclosure, and two round barrows


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
The site is centred on SE 47421 24235; It is located in fields between Stranglands Lane and the A1(M) road, near to the Holmfield Interchange and Ferrybridge Power station


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

Location Description:
The site is centred on SE 47421 24235; It is located in fields between Stranglands Lane and the A1(M) road, near to the Holmfield Interchange and Ferrybridge Power station
Wakefield (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


The buried remains of a henge, a prehistoric enclosure, and two round barrows located in fields between Stranglands Lane and the A1(M) road, near to the Holmfield Interchange and Ferrybridge Power station.

Reasons for Designation

The Ferrybridge Henge, prehistoric enclosure, and two round barrows, are scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Rarity: as a rare example of a Neolithic henge, of which there are only about 50 known examples in England; * Period: Henges and round barrows are highly representative of the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods; henges are one of relatively few monuments known from the Neolithic, which also possess a high degree of longevity, whilst round barrows were built and used over an extended period of time; * Survival: partial excavation has confirmed that the buried remains of Ferrybridge Henge and the prehistoric enclosure survive well; * Potential: the site will retain significant archaeological potential for buried deposits illustrating the nature of prehistoric activity, the date of construction and duration of use of the monuments, and the landscape in which the henge, prehistoric enclosure, and barrows were set; * Documentation (Archaeological): the monuments have been well documented through aerial photography, geophysical survey and excavations, which enhance our knowledge of this prehistoric landscape; * Group value: the henge, prehistoric enclosure and round barrows are a closely associated group of Neolithic to Bronze Age monuments, which will contribute valuable information regarding the continuity of land use and the evolution of prehistoric ritual, ceremonial and funerary practices.


The site at Ferrybridge includes a Neolithic henge, a prehistoric enclosure and two round barrows. Ferrybridge Henge is an early example of a henge; evidence indicates it was constructed from about 3000 BC and may have only reached its final form in the mid-3rd millennium BC. Recent national surveys list about 50 more-or-less certain henges in England. They were built from about 3000 BC but most date to the Late Neolithic (2800-2200 BC) and are generally found in downland landscapes and river valleys. Henges were constructed as roughly circular or oval-shaped enclosures comprising a flat area enclosed by a ditch and external bank. However, unlike those enclosures with a defensive purpose, the ditch of a henge lies inside its bank (although this is not the case at early sites like Stonehenge I - even though it gives its name to the type). Most henges have one or (more commonly) two entrances and are up to 110m in diameter. A few, however, are much larger; irregular in shape and may have several entrances. Human burials are found at some henges but this never seems to have been their primary purpose. They are better interpreted as places where communities who lived rather mobile lives gathered periodically for meetings and ceremonies of various kinds.

The prehistoric enclosure to the west of Ferrybridge Henge shows some similarities to a henge and has formerly been called a ‘hengiform’ monument (Roberts 2005, 32); this is a term that was originally applied in Britain to small monuments of similar type but has since become a catch-all name for almost any small prehistoric enclosure (Last 2011, 3). In common with a henge, it is an oval-shaped enclosure formed by a ditch with a causewayed entrance. However no evidence has been found for a bank. It is likely to be broadly contemporary with Ferrybridge Henge and may have served a ritual or ceremonial function in association with it.

Round barrows are funerary or ceremonial monuments dating from the Middle Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age. Round barrows begin to appear from before 3000 BC but the majority belong to the period 2200-1500 BC. In general round barrows comprise a rounded earthen mound or stone cairn, the earthen examples usually having a surrounding ditch and occasionally an outer bank. They range greatly in size from just 5m in diameter to as much as 40m, with the mounds ranging from slight rises to as much as 4m in height. Variations of round barrows include simple bowl barrows and more elaborate ‘fancy barrows’, which are subdivided into bell barrows, saucer barrows, pond barrows, and disc barrows. Many round barrows went through a series of phases before reaching their final form, while others were the focus for secondary burials (in the mound, in any surrounding ditch, or in the immediate vicinity as ‘satellite burials’) after their principal period of use.

INVESTIGATION HISTORY Archaeological studies of the area near Ferrybridge on the western edge of the Aire valley have identified a complex multi-period landscape (See Roberts 2005). The field-name ‘Roundhillfeilde’, recorded in 1636, alludes to the earthworks of at least one barrow at that time situated to the north of Ferrybridge Henge. A barrow is shown on the 1852 OS map and was excavated in the C19 by Cannon Greenwell and again in the C20. The Ferrybridge Henge and a series of surrounding monuments are shown as cropmarks on aerial photographs from 1948 onwards (including an RCHME survey in 1992 and 1997). In 1989-90 excavations were undertaken by the West Yorkshire Archaeology Service (WYAS) at the school and cemetery to the south and south-west of the Ferrybridge Henge. Two timber circles and a pit alignment were uncovered.

Ferrybridge Henge and the monuments immediately surrounding it underwent geophysical survey in 1990. The following year two sections were excavated through the east and west sides of the henge enclosure. This excavation indicated that the henge had been built from about 3000 BC. There were two main phases to the construction of the henge bank; material was first quarried from the inner ditch before it was widened using material quarried from the outer ditch. Within these phases were six discrete episodes in the make-up of the bank, including potential hiatus points that may have lasted several years or decades. These indicated that the henge may only have reached its final form in the mid-3rd millennium BC. Among the finds were a Bronze Age double-ended scraper from the primary fill of the inner ditch and a re-sharpened scraper from the bank, along with 23 other flints. The henge was reused (or continued in use) in the Iron Age and Late Roman period; the inner ditch contained a decorated Iron Age scabbard that appears to have been ritually bent and deposited, beneath a fill of Roman pottery of the C2 to C4 and a Late Roman coin. The upper fills of the ditch contained 250 sherds of medieval and post-medieval pottery, largely of C13 to C14 date, indicating that the site was under cultivation in the medieval period and that the ditches had largely been in-filled by the post-medieval period.

In 2001-2 WYAS excavated a large part of the area now covered by the Holmfield Interchange of the A1 Motorway. This revealed numerous monuments that were not previously recorded or known as cropmarks, many of which were associated with Ferrybridge Henge. A total of 22 ritual monuments, largely dating to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods, have now been identified within 500m of the henge. Among these are nine barrows, five ‘henge-type’ enclosures, two long barrows, two pit circles and two timber circles. An Iron Age pit alignment of at least 164 pits was found to follow an 820m curvilinear course around the south, west and north-west side of the henge. Further west was an Iron Age and Romano-British field system, including roundhouses, a rectangular post-built house, enclosures and trackways.

In 2004 WYAS excavated a section through the east side of the prehistoric enclosure immediately to the west of Ferrybridge Henge. This recorded two phases of construction: the initial quarrying of the ditch and a later, and shallower, recut. Three flint flakes were recovered.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the buried remains of a henge, a prehistoric enclosure and two round barrows situated at c15m above ordnance datum on gently sloping ground about 1km west of the River Aire. The henge is immediately south of Stranglands Lane, with a round barrow within it, whilst the prehistoric enclosure and second round barrow are c65m west of the henge. All four features are not visible at ground level but produce distinctive cropmarks which have been recorded by aerial photography on numerous occasions since 1948, and confirmed through geophysical survey.

DESCRIPTION: the henge survives as the buried remains (centred on SE 47458 24250) of a sub-circular enclosure c240m - 260m in diameter with an inner ditch, bank, and outer ditch, and a causewayed entrance on the south-west. Part of the north side of the henge, including the opposing north-east entrance, lies largely beneath Stranglands Lane and is not included in the scheduling. The inner ditch varies in depth and breadth but has been recorded as c12.5m wide and c2.7m deep at the east, with a broad U-shaped profile and a flat base about 2.5m wide. It forms a sub-circular inner enclosure, c120m in diameter, with a causewayed entrance aligned with those through the bank and outer ditch. The inner ditch is separated from the buried remains of the bank by a berm c21m - 30m wide. A round barrow, defined by a ditch c24m in diameter, is situated on the south side of the berm (centred on SE 47483 24182). The henge bank is formed of soil and limestone and has been recorded as c17m wide and c0.7m high at the east. There were two main phases to the construction of the henge bank; material was first quarried from the inner ditch before it was widened using material quarried from the outer ditch. Outside the bank is a c9m wide berm, surrounded by an outer ditch which varies in depth and breadth but has been recorded as up to c16m wide and 1.2m deep. The outer entrance at the south-west is formed by a causeway approximately 30m wide. Both the inner and outer ditches have expanded terminals; they are wider on either side of the causewayed entrance.

The prehistoric enclosure is situated c65m to the west of the Ferrybridge Henge and survives as buried remains (centred on SE 47240 24276). It is a pennanular or sub-circular enclosure c42m in diameter with an east-facing causewayed entrance 3.5m wide that directly faces the henge. Partial excavation has shown that the ditch is formed of a primary cut and a later, shallower, re-cut; the primary cut is 1.8m wide and 0.7m deep whilst the recut is 1.3m wide and 0.3m deep.

A round barrow is situated immediately south of the curvilinear enclosure and survives as buried remains (centred on SE 47253 24246). It is a sub-circular ditched enclosure c11m in diameter formed by a ditch c0.5m wide. Aerial photographs indicate that it originally formed part of a barrow cemetery, formerly visible as cropmarks to the south and west but these have largely been destroyed by the construction of the A1(M) road.

EXCLUSIONS The scheduling excludes all modern fences and fence posts, gates and gate posts. However the ground beneath all these features is included.


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

Legacy System number:
WY 720
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Roberts, I ((Ed.)), Ferrybridge Henge: The Ritual Landscape – Archaeological Investigations at the Site of the Holmfield Interchange of the A1 Motorway, (2005)
CBA Forum, CBA Group 4 Newsletter (1990), p35-36.
CBA Forum, CBA Group 4 Newsletter (1991), p15.
Historic England Archive, RCHME National Mapping Programme: Ferrybridge Henge Project (Collection UID 922907 and 1082880).


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.

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