Bell barrow and moot 600m SSE of Finger Post Plantation: part of Great Bircham barrow group

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010565

Date first listed: 12-Apr-1926

Date of most recent amendment: 27-Jan-1995

Map

Ordnance survey map of Bell barrow and moot 600m SSE of Finger Post Plantation: part of Great Bircham barrow group
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Location

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

County: Norfolk

District: King's Lynn and West Norfolk (District Authority)

Parish: Bircham

National Grid Reference: TF 77609 30870

Summary

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

Reasons for Designation

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 1500-1100 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 (particularly multiple barrows) are rare nationally, with less than 250 known examples, most of which are in Wessex. Their richness in terms of grave goods provides evidence for chronological and cultural links amongst early prehistoric communities over most of southern and eastern England as well as providing an insight into their beliefs and social organisation. As a particularly rare form of round barrow, all identified bell barrows would normally be considered to be of national importance.

The bell barrow 600m SSE of Finger Post Plantation survives well and is unusual in its class in having an external bank surrounding the ditch. The objects recovered during the antiquarian investigation of the mound demonstrate the high status of burials in the barrow, yet the disturbance caused by the excavation was limited in extent in relation to the monument as a whole. Archaeological information concerning the construction of the barrow and the manner and duration of its use, and also evidence for the local environment at that time, will be retained in the barrow mound, in soils buried beneath the mound and the external bank, and in the fill of the ditch. The barrow has further interest as one of a group of four round barrows which includes a second bell barrow 620m to the north. The group has particular importance for the study of the prehistory of the region, since bell barrows are a rare class of monument in Norfolk. Prehistoric barrows, as conspicuous features of the landscape, were sometimes chosen as meeting places, or moots, for courts and other bodies who dealt with the administration and organisation of the countryside in the Saxon and medieval period. The identification of this barrow as the moot hill for the hundred, which in Saxon and medieval times was the basic unit of local government and land management, gives it an additional, historical interest.

History

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

Details

The monument includes a bell barrow which is the southernmost of three round barrows aligned north west-south east above a slight north east facing slope. They are situated on what was once heathland in the Good Sands region of upland north west Norfolk. The barrow is visible as an earthen mound surrounded by a ditch and an external bank, and measures c.52m in diameter overall. The central mound stands to a height of c.1.7m and covers a circular area c.24m in diameter, and between the mound and the encircling ditch is a berm c.4m wide. The ditch, from which earth was dug and used in the construction of the barrow, has become partly infilled, but is marked by a hollow between 6m and 8m wide and c.0.5m deep below the level of the berm. The bank around the outer edge of the ditch is c.0.4m high and c.3.5m wide at the base except on the south side of the barrow where the ground appears level. The barrow was investigated in 1842 by F C Lukis, who carried out a limited excavation on the mound and found a Bronze Age urn containing burnt human bone and also a bronze awl, or pin, and six or seven round and biconical beads. The barrow is identified as the one reused as Moot Hill of Smithdon Hundred. The posts of a fence surrounding the barrow are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 21352

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Lukis, F C, A Brief Account of the Barrows near Bircham Magna, Norfolk, (1843)
Salmon, N, A New Survey of England, (1728), 193
Salmon, N, A New Survey of England, (1728), 193
Other
1705: West Norfolk, Bircham,

End of official listing