Bowl barrow and later beacon at Tumble Beacon


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Reigate and Banstead (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 24318 59020

Reasons for Designation

Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Beacons were fires deliberately lit to warn of the approach of hostile forces. They were prominently located as intervisible groups or chains of beacons on natural hills and/or earlier earthworks, such as Tumble Beacon, and formed part of the defensive system of the country from at least as early as 1326 through until at least 1745. Originally the fires were simple bonfires but, later, barrels of pitch were used, fire baskets on poles and, less frequently, fires in stone structures of some kind. The recognition of beacon sites contributes to our understanding of the defensive systems in the medieval period and many have become identified in folklore. The reuse of the bowl barrow at Tumble Beacon is known to date back to at least the 16th century when it was used as a beacon hill. The addition of further material to increase the height of the original barrow mound will have helped to preserve the archaeological and environmental evidence it contains and protected the monument from the attentions of the later antiquarians who examined many similar barrows.


The monument includes a bowl barrow, later modified and reused as a beacon hill, situated on a gentle north facing slope of the chalk of the North Downs. The barrow survives as a mound 35m east-west by 40m north-south and 4m high surrounded by a ditch from which material was quarried for its construction. When the mound was later modified for reuse it is likely that the size of the mound was greatly increased, causing the area of the earlier ditch to be infilled and buried. The monument was known to be in use as a beacon in 1594. Excluded from the scheduling are the concrete steps on the north side of the mound, the retaining walls around the mound, and the tarmac surface of the surrounding driveway, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Manning, O, Bray, W, History of Surrey, (1809), 581
Grinsell, L V, 'Surrey Archaeological Collections' in Surrey Barrows 1934-1987: A Reappraisal, , Vol. 79, (1987), 11


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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