Three barrows and a rectilinear enclosure 1000m NNW of Octagon Farm: part of a Neotlithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex


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.

Bedford (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 09094 50475

Reasons for Designation

Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complexes date to the period between c4000 and c700 BC. Typically they are set within topographically defined areas, perhaps between rivers or valleys, and sometimes their topographical boundaries are emphasised by ditch systems. Within the defined area such complexes comprise closely spaced groups of features of different types, later types of feature often being superimposed on earlier ones, indicating continuity of use over a long period of time. Features found on such sites include round barrows, which can take a variety of forms, of which bowl barrows are the most common. Such barrows were earthen or stone mounds covering a burial or group of burials. Such barrows were usually surrounded by a circular ditch from which material for the construction of the mound was obtained. These circular ditches are often visible through aerial photography when the mound no longer shows as an earthwork and are frequently classified as 'ring-ditches'. Burials on such sites, however, are not confined to the barrows and 'flat burials' have often been discovered in between them. Also found on such sites are a variety of enclosures, sometimes referred to as mortuary enclosures. These are often square or rectangular in plan but round- ended and even sub-circular examples are known. They are usually defined by a bank and external ditch and sometimes have opposed entrances. Their original function is uncertain but it is presumed that they were employed in the burial ritual and in subsequent commemorations. Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complexes often also include other classes of ceremonial monuments such as cursuses (which were elongated embanked enclosures which probably served as ceremonial routeways) and henges (which were major circular earthworks which probably served as gathering places). A small number of such complexes have individual components surviving as earthworks but the majority are cropmark sites which are known from aerial photography and which survive only as buried features below the ploughsoil. They provide important evidence for the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst Early Prehistoric communities and all examples where significant archaeological deposits remain are considered to be of national importance. Trial excavation at the site 1000m NNW of Octagon Farm has confirmed that the ditches surrounding the barrows and the rectilinear enclosure survive as substantial features below ploughsoil. These excavations also demonstrated the survival of other important features both inside and outside the areas defined by the ditches. The area of the site destroyed by excavation and by the cutting of the drain along its northern edge is small relation to the monument as a whole and a large area of important archaeological deposits will survive in situ. The buried features will retain structural information and environmental evidence relating to the construction of both the barrows and the rectilinear enclosure and to the landscape in which they were built. The rectilinear enclosure retains important additional information for the character of later activity on the site, whilst all four sites are of additional importance because of their association with the large concentration of related monuments 200m to the south-west. They will contribute additional information regarding the continuity and evolution of prehistoric funerary practice in this area.


The monument includes the remains of three barrows and a rectilinear enclosure initially recorded from aerial photographs and situated between the River Great Ouse and the Elstow Brook, south-east of Bedford. Although no longer visible at ground level the scheduling includes three ring ditches which can be clearly seen on aerial photographs. Each ring ditch surrounds the area of a levelled burial mound. The southern-most bowl barrow measures 30m in diameter and has a single ditch, the western-most barrow measures 25m in diameter and also has a single ditch. The eastern-most barrow is double-ditched, its outer ring measures 20m whilst the inner ring measures 13m in diameter. A rectilinear enclosure overlies the western ring ditch. The enclosure measures 70m NE-SW by 30m NW-SE and has a causeway 6m wide in its western end. It is divided into two sections of unequal size by a ditch which runs NW-SE. The northern parts of the two northernmost barrows and the rectilinear enclosure have been cut by a drainage ditch which was enlarged in the 1970's and now measures 10m in width and about 2m in depth. The northern part of the monument has been covered by the upcast from the ditch. A trial trench in this area, dug in 1990, confirmed the location of the monument and that the northern edge of the site has been cut away by the modern drainage chanel. To the south upcast has sealed and preserved the archaeological levels which include evidence of pits and post holes within the rectilinear enclosure. The rectilinear enclosure is dated to the Late Iron Age by pottery found during the trial excavation and the ring ditches are of Bronze Age date.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

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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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