Two barrows 500m NE of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Two barrows 500m NE of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex
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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 09794 50003

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 or 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 a 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. The geophysical survey of the two barrows 500m north-east of Octagon Farm has confirmed that the monument survives well below ground. The ditches will retain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the burial mounds and the landscape in which they were constructed. The association of these barrows with the main group of mortuary monuments to the west will contribute information regarding the continuity and evolution of Prehistoric funerary practices in this area.


The monument includes two barrows initially recorded from aerial photographs and situated between the River Great Ouse and the Elstow Brook, south-east of Bedford. The scheduling includes two ring ditches which represent the remains of the barrows and which can be clearly seen on aerial photographs, enclosing the levelled area of the burial mounds. The eastern ring ditch measures 23m in diameter and contains a rectilinear enclosure. This monument can be paralleled with a ring ditch 1km to the north-east where, on excavation, a rectilinear enclosure was found to pre-date the ring ditch. The western ring ditch is situated 20m to the west. This barrow is double ditched. The outer ditch measures 32m in diameter whilst the inner ditch measures 12.5m in diameter. Although no longer visible at ground level these monuments survive as buried features below the ploughsoil and their locations have been confirmed by geophysical survey. The survey also revealed that the square-shaped enclosure within the eastern-most ring ditch has a causeway, 3m wide, in its north- eastern corner and includes five internal pits which may contain human burials.

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.

End of official listing

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