Oval barrow, the north-western of two on Stoughton Down


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010917

Date first listed: 28-Sep-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Jan-1992


Ordnance survey map of Oval barrow, the north-western of two on Stoughton Down
© 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.

County: West Sussex

District: Chichester (District Authority)

Parish: Stoughton

National Park: SOUTH DOWNS

National Grid Reference: SU 82174 12187

Reasons for Designation

Oval barrows are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early to Middle Neolithic periods, with the majority of dated monuments belonging to the later part of the range. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds of roughly elliptical plan, usually delimited by quarry ditches. These ditches can vary from paired "banana-shaped" ditches flanking the mound to "U-shaped" or unbroken oval ditches nearly or wholly encircling it. Along with the long barrows, oval barrows represent the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, oval barrows have produced two distinct types of burial rite: communal burials of groups of individuals, including adults and children, laid directly on the ground surface before the barrow was built; and burials of one or two adults interred in a grave pit centrally placed beneath the barrow mound. Certain sites provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow and, consequently, it is probable that they may have acted as important ritual sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Similarly, as the filling of the ditches around oval barrows often contains deliberately placed deposits of pottery, flintwork and bone, periodic ceremonial activity may have taken place at the barrow subsequent to its construction. Oval barrows are very rare nationally, with less than 50 recorded examples in England. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as earthworks, and due to their rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all oval barrows are considered to be nationally important.

The north-western of the two oval barrows on Stoughton Down retains considerable archaeological potential despite the disturbance caused by 19th century and more recent partial excavations. Evidence of the manner and duration of use of the monument will survive not only in and below the barrow mound but also in the flanking ditches. The proximity of this example to a similar barrow, an unusual grouping for this class of monument, illustrates the importance of the locality for burials in the Neolithic period.


The monument includes the mound and flanking ditches of an oval barrow located just west of the crest of Stoughton Down. The barrow mound measures 34m long by 20m wide and averages 1.6m in height. The widest point is to the south-east side of the centre, giving the mound an egg-shape plan. A hollow area on the south-west side indicates the position of one of the two flanking ditches which were clearly visible when the barrow was surveyed in 1925. The ditches, some 3m wide at the surface, turned inwards at the ends of the barrow but did not join. The south-east end of the barrow mound shows signs of partial excavation in the form of a shallow 4m trench along the axis of the mound. It is the spoil from these excavations, which probably took place in the 19th century, which has created the unusual egg-shape plan of the mound. Like its near neighbour, this example is likely to have been a more regular oval in its original form. In 1980, further excavations comprising a narrow slot across the flanking ditch confirmed the dimensions of the ditch which was found to survive to a depth of 0.8m. A few flint tools were found during the excavation.

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: 12851

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Drewett, P, Rescue archaeology in Sussex, 198021-47
County Site No. 0933,

End of official listing