The earthwork and buried remains of a bell barrow known as Westbury Beacon situated approximately 720m west of Brimble Pit Pool. It is one of a group of three barrows.
Reasons for Designation
The bell barrow known as Westbury Beacon is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
Rarity: as a bell barrow it is a rare site type since approximately only 350 examples are known nationally;
Diversity: its probable re-use as a beacon enhances its interest and reflects the continuing prominence of this area during the medieval or post-medieval period;
Potential: it will contribute to our understanding of the social organisation and burial practices of the country's Bronze Age population.
The main period of round barrow construction occurred in the Early Bronze Age between about 2200-1500 BC (a period when cremation succeeded inhumation as the primary burial rite), although Neolithic examples are known from as early as 3000 BC. They were constructed as earthen mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus of burials in later periods. Bell barrows are the most visually impressive form of round barrow, with most examples belonging to the period 1500-1100 BC. They were constructed as single or multiple mounds covering burials, often in pits, and surrounded by an enclosure ditch. Burials within bell barrows are frequently accompanied by weapons, personal ornaments and pottery and appear to be those of aristocratic individuals, usually men.
The bell barrow known locally as Westbury Beacon (ST 50048 50747) is situated on the summit of a prominent ridge overlooking a steep slope with the settlement of Rodney Stoke at its foot. In the late C18 the Rev. John Skinner (c1790) produced an illustration of the barrow and recorded that a number of bronze spear heads and other implements had been recovered from a stone-lined cist within the mound. E K Tratman (1923-5) noted that the barrow 'has been much disturbed, leaving a crater-like depression on the top', while Grinsell (1939) recorded that the summit of the mound had been hollowed out ' for the purpose of piling up the wood for the Beacon'. Barrow mounds were sometimes re-used as platforms for fire beacons which formed part of widespread signalling systems during the medieval or early post-medieval periods. Certainly place name evidence suggests that the barrow was probably used as a beacon mound in common with many barrows in the Mendip Hills. The first edition OS map also shows a trig point on the barrow; this must have been re-located at some point as it is now situated some 30m to the north-west adjacent to a field wall.
The bell barrow, known locally as Westbury Beacon, dates from the Early to Middle Bronze Age and is prominently situated on an eminence on the lip of a south-facing Mendip escarpment
It includes a roughly circular mound that stands up to 3m high and is 28m in diameter, with a berm up to 1.8m wide which is most clearly evident around the eastern side. An irregular quarry ditch that measures approximately 5m wide surrounds the mound and is most evident on the south and north-eastern sides; it has been partially infilled over time but will survive as a buried feature. There is a large depression, 9.4m wide and 1.5m deep, dug into the centre of the mound, probably the result of antiquarian excavations in the late C18.
Extent of scheduling
The scheduling boundary around the bell barrow includes a 2m margin of support and protection for the monument.