Five bowl barrows: part of the round barrow cemetery on Therfield Heath


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Five bowl barrows: part of the round barrow cemetery on Therfield Heath
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 34090 40269

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.

The round barrow cemetery on Therfield Heath is the largest known example of its type in Hertfordshire. Despite partial excavation, these five barrows survive in good condition, providing archaeological information on the development of the cemetery and environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which it was constructed.


The monument includes the main part of a wider round barrow cemetery and contains five closely spaced bowl barrows situated on Therfield Heath on a spur of the Chiltern Hills. The mound of the most easterly of the group measures 22m in diameter and c.2.5m in height. It is flat topped and has a wooden bench on its summit. Around the perimeter of the mound is a shallow ditch which measures approximately 2m in width. The next barrow mound lies about 8m west, is hemispherical in shape and is 17m in diameter and c.2.5m in height. The third barrow is situated approximately 8m south of the last and is also hemispherical in shape. It is 19m in diameter and almost 4m in height. A fourth barrow is situated l0m north-west; it measures 15m in diameter and c.1.5m in height. The mound of the most westerly of the group is 19m in diameter and c.1.7m in height. Although four of the five bowl barrows have no visible ditch at ground level, ditches, from which material was quarried during the construction of the monument, are thought to surround each barrow mound. These have become infilled over the years but survive as buried features c.2m wide. The ground between the barrows is included in the scheduling as it is considered likely to retain evidence for flat burials and contemporary settlement. All of the barrows were partially excavated by E B Nunn in 1855. Burials, including some metal and bone grave goods, were found in the three central barrows of the group. The wooden bench on the most easterly of the barrow mounds is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath 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.

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NAR No TL 63 SE 9, Information from NAR,


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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