Bull Ring henge, oval barrow and bowl barrow


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.

High Peak (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 07846 78237

Reasons for Designation

Henges are ritual or ceremonial centres which date to the Late Neolithic period (2800-2000 BC). They were constructed as roughly circular or oval- shaped enclosures comprising a flat area over 20m in diameter enclosed by a ditch and external bank. One, two or four entrances provided access to the interior of the monument, which may have contained a variety of features including timber or stone circles, post or stone alignments, pits, burials or central mounds. Finds from the ditches and interiors of henges provide important evidence for the chronological development of the sites, the types of activity that occurred within them and the nature of the environment in which they were constructed. Henges occur throughout England with the exception of south-eastern counties and the Welsh Marches. They are generally situated on low ground, often close to springs and water-courses. Henges are rare nationally with about 80 known examples. As one of the few types of identified Neolithic structures and in view of their comparative rarity, all henges are considered to be of national importance.

Bull Ring henge is a well-preserved example of a Class II henge which, although disturbed by recent development and past agricultural and industrial practices, nevertheless retains further substantial archaeological remains. Also important, not only as monuments in their own right but as elements in a wider prehistoric ritual landscape, are the adjacent superimposed oval barrow and bowl barrow, both of which survive well. Oval barrows are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early to Middle Neolithic periods, with most dated examples belonging to the later part of the range. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds usually delimited by flanking or encircling quarry ditches. Along with long barrows, they represent the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving in the landscape. Where investigated, oval barrows have produced two distinct types of burial rite: communal burials of groups of both adults and children laid directly on the ground 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 acted as important ritual sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Similarly, as the ditch-fill around oval barrows is often found to contain deliberately placed deposits of pottery, flintwork and bone, periodic ceremonial activity may have taken place at the barrow after 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, considerable age and longevity as a monument type, all oval barrows are considered to be nationally important. Much less rare nationally, but also important as prehistoric funerary monuments, are bowl barrows. These date from the Late Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age (c.2400-1500BC) and were constructed as hemispherical mounds of rubble or earth covering single or multiple burials. Sometimes ditched, they occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as foci for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, though 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, with many more having already been destroyed. Their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important evidence on burial practises and social organisation among early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of survivng examples are considered worthy of protection.


The monument is situated on the north-western edge of the limestone plateau of Derbyshire and includes, within a single area, Bull Ring henge and the adjacent oval barrow. Also included is the bowl barrow superimposed on the western end of the oval barrow. The henge has an external diameter of 93m by 90m and comprises a bank and internal quarry ditch surrounding an oval area measuring 53m from north to south by 46m from east to west. The steep-sided rock-cut ditch currently varies between 8m and 12m wide and between 0.5m and 1m deep. Partial excavations carried out by Alcock in 1949, demonstrated that, originally, it measured 5m to 6.5m wide and was between 1.2m and 2.1m deep. The surrounding bank is currently c.1m high and between 9m and 11m wide. It has spread since its construction, however, and was originally 2m high and 5.5m to 7m wide. It is broken by opposing entrances to north and south, each with a causeway across the ditch and each measuring c.9m wide. The northern example was damaged by quarrying in the nineteenth century, when a human skeleton was reputedly found. Between the bank and ditch is a berm or terrace which originally measured 5m wide and is clearly visible in the southern part of the site. Northwards, it becomes narrower and is finally obscured by the spread material of the bank. The interior of the henge contains the linear earthwork remains of eighteenth century ploughing which, to the west of the northern entrance, has partially levelled the inner edge of the ditch. Also during the eighteenth century, a drystone wall crossed the site and has since been removed though the line of it can still be seen as a gap in the plough ridges. Pilkington, writing in 1789, records that a single orthostat of a possible stone circle remained within the henge. This has gone and no investigation of the interior of the henge has been carried out to confirm whether or not a stone circle existed. In addition to Alcock's excavations of the ditch and bank, a minor excavation was carried out in the west ditch by Salt in 1902 and, in 1984, a larger excavation by Barnatt and others took place outside the south entrance. Material recovered by Salt has been lost but is reported to have included pottery sherds and flint flakes, while Alcock found further flint flakes and artefacts and a rim from a pottery food vessel. The 1984 excavation confirmed that the area south of the henge had been disturbed in the post-medieval period, but several pits and the stakeholes of a hurdle fence which followed the henge bank are undated and may be contemporary with the henge. In addition to post-medieval material and a sherd of Roman pottery, numerous flint flakes and implements were also found in this area. On the south-west side of the henge, c.20m distant, is a large mound interpreted as an oval barrow overlain on its western end by a later bowl barrow. It is sub-rectangular in shape and measures 27m by 21m by c.2.5m high. Originally it would have been somewhat higher but has been disturbed on the summit by a World War II slit trench. Its current plan is due to modern disturbance round its edges, caused by ploughing and the construction and later removal of drystone walls on its east and north sides. No recorded excavation of the barrow has been carried out so it cannot be precisely dated. However, it's position and form are analogous with those of Gib Hill: the superimposed oval barrow and bowl barrow at nearby Arbor Low henge. All modern walls and fences and the surfaces of the track and carpark round the outside of the monument are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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
Barnatt, J, The Peak District Barrow Survey (1989), (1989)
Barnatt, J, The Peak District Barrow Survey (1989), (1989)
Alcock, A, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in The Henge Monument of the Bull Ring, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, , Vol. 16, (1950), 81-86
Barnatt, J, 'Sheffield Arch. Monograph 1' in The Henges, Stone Circles and Ringcairns of the Peak District, (1990), 39-41
Barnatt, J, Myers, A, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations At The Bull Ring Henge, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, , Vol. 108, (1988), 5-20
Barnatt, J, Myers, A, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations At The Bull Ring Henge, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, , Vol. 108, (1988), 5-20
Barnatt, J, Myers, A, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations At The Bull Ring Henge, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, , Vol. 108, (1988), 7
Tristram, E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Stone Circle...at Dove Holes And The Mound Adjoining, (1915), 77-86
Tristram, E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Stone Circle...at Dove Holes And The Mound Adjoining, (1915), 77-86
Turner, W, 'The Leek Times' in The Bull Ring, Doveholes, (1902)


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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