Reasons for Designation
A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for
ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age
periods. Two of the best known and earliest recognised, with references in the
17th century, are around Avebury and Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a
World Heritage Site. In the Avebury area, the henge monument itself, the West
Kennet Avenue, the Sanctuary, West Kennet long barrow, Windmill Hill
causewayed enclosure and the enigmatic Silbury Hill are well-known. Whilst the
other Neolithic long barrows, the many Bronze Age round barrows and other
associated sites are less well-known, together they define one of the richest
and most varied areas of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and ritual
monuments in the country. Bell barrows, the most visually impressive form of
round barrow, are funerary monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze
Age, with most examples belonging to the period 1600-1300 BC. They occur
either in isolation or in round barrow cemeteries and were constructed as
single or multiple mounds covering burials, often in pits, and surrounded by
an enclosure ditch. The burials are frequently accompanied by weapons,
personal ornaments and pottery and appear to be those of aristocratic
individuals, usually men. Bell barrows are rare nationally, with less than 250
known examples, most of which are in Wessex. All examples are considered
worthy of protection.
Despite having been partially excavated, the Penning bell barrow survives well
and contains archaeological remains including a sarsen peristalith, the size
of which is unusual in the Avebury area.
The monument includes the `Penning barrow', a Bronze Age bell barrow 600m east
of Avebury Down Barn. The barrow survives as a visible earthwork, the mound
of which is c.16m in diameter and stands up to 1.1m high. The barrow has six
large sarsen stones located around it which form a peristalith or circle,
along with five smaller stones and numerous fragments around its summit.
Surrounding the barrow mound is a 3m-wide berm and, beyond this, a quarry
ditch from which material was obtained during the construction of the
monument. It is largely infilled but is visible as a slight depression c.4m
The site was visited by Merewether in the 1840s and a sketch and description
survive. These show that there were originally 12 stones, eight surviving at
that date and four pits from which others had been removed. Merewether
partially excavated the barrow and discovered pottery fragments as well as
charcoal, animal bone and the teeth of deer, cattle and pig.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.