Five Knolls round barrow cemetery: three bell barrows, two bowl barrows and two pond barrows on Dunstable Down


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009892

Date first listed: 31-Aug-1950

Date of most recent amendment: 15-Jun-1992


Ordnance survey map of Five Knolls round barrow cemetery:  three bell barrows, two bowl barrows and two pond barrows on Dunstable Down
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Dunstable

National Grid Reference: TL 00635 21008


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Round barrow cemeteries date to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They comprise closely-spaced groups of up to 30 round barrows - rubble or earthen mounds covering single or multiple burials. Most cemeteries developed over a considerable period of time, often many centuries, and in some cases acted as a focus for burials as late as the early medieval period. They exhibit considerable diversity of burial rite, plan and form, frequently including several different types of round barrow, occasionally associated with earlier long barrows. Where large scale investigation has been undertaken around them, contemporary or later "flat" burials between the barrow mounds have often been revealed. Round barrow cemeteries occur across most of lowland Britain, with a marked concentration in Wessex. In some cases, they are clustered around other important contemporary monuments such as henges. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape, whilst their diversity and their longevity as a monument type provide important information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving or partly-surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Five Knolls barrow cemetery is the only such site known in Bedfordshire. Although some barrows are partially excavated, the cemetery as a whole is well preserved and retains potential for the preservation of archaeological remains in and beneath the burial mounds and in the fills of the ditches. The cemetery also demonstrates a diversity of features including pond barrows, a comparatively rare class of monument.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The Five Knolls round barrow cemetery is set in a prominent location on Dunstable Down and consists of three bell barrows, two bowl barrows and two pond barrows, described separately below. The round barrows are listed first, from south to north, and are described as follows:

1) Bowl barrow, NGR TL 0064 2096. The southernmost barrow is about 15m in diameter by roughly 2m high. A ditch from which material was quarried during the construction of the monument, surrounds the mound. This has become partly infilled over the years but survives as a slight earthwork 3-4m wide by about 0.5m deep. On the south side there is a low, 2m wide outer bank. The ditch is linked to that surrounding the barrow immediately to the north (Barrow 2). Barrows 2, 3, and 4 are bell barrows, having a slight level berm between the foot of the mound and the ditch. These three barrows are also contained within a single continuous ditch, which varies between 2m and 3m wide and is 0.3m to 0.5m deep. 2) Bell barrow, NGR TL 0064 2099. The mound is 20m in diameter and 3m high and has a slight berm on the south side. 3) Bell barrow, NGR TL 0064 2102. The mound is 15m in diameter and 2m high, with a slight berm. 4) Bell barrow, NGR TL 0063 2105. The mound is 20m in diameter and 2.5m high with a slight berm. The outer edge of the ditch is almost 35m in diameter and overlies the ditch around Barrow 5. 5) Bowl barrow, NGR TL 0061 2106. This is of similar proportions to Barrow 1, 15m in diameter and about 2m high. The mound is surrounded by a 3m wide ditch and a slight outer bank which is cut by the ditch around Barrow 4. The two pond barrows lie to the east of Barrows 3 and 4. In contrast to the round barrows, the pond barrows are hollows bounded by raised banks. 6) Pond barrow, NGR TL 0066 2102, to the south (Barrow 6) is 8m in diameter by lm deep, with an outer bank 2m wide. 7) Pond barrow, NGR TL 0066 2103, 7) has a 2m deep hollow of 10m diameter with a 3m wide bank.

The barrows were first noted by William Stukeley in the 18th century. Barrow 3 and one other were partially excavated in the 1850's. Barrows 2, 3, and 5 were partially excavated in the 1920's by Gerald Dunning and Sir Mortimer Wheeler. Their results showed that the cemetery was founded in the late Neolithic and Bronze Ages and re-used for burial in the Roman period and, later, for the interment of gallows victims in the Middle Ages.

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: 20422

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dunning, G C, Wheeler, R E M, A Barrow Cemetery at Dunstable Beds, (1931), 193-217
Simco, A, Survey of Bedfordshire: The Roman Period, (1984), 103
Smith, W G, Dunstable and its History and Surroundings, (1904), 44
Stuckley, W, Itinerarium Curiosum, (1776), 109
Stuckley, W, Itinerarium Curiosum, (1776), 73
Stukeley, W, Itinerarium Curiosum, I, (1724), 73
Dyer, J F, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in The Five Knolls, , Vol. 8, (1963), 15-16
Dyer, J F, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in The Five Knolls, , Vol. 8, (1963), 18-19
Dyer, J F, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in The Five Knolls, , Vol. 8, (1963), 16
Dyer, J F, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in The Five Knolls, , Vol. 8, (1963), 17-18
Dyer, J F, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in The Five Knolls, , Vol. 8, (1963), 18
Beds CRO: X69/16, BAAS Minutes, (1850)
Beds CRO: X69/16, BAAS Minutes, (1850)

End of official listing