Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex 600m NW of Octagon Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011629

Date first listed: 19-May-1993


Ordnance survey map of Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex 600m NW of Octagon Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Bedford (Unitary Authority)

District: Bedford (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Cardington

District: Bedford (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Cople

National Grid Reference: TL 09134 49914


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

Reasons for Designation

Neolithic and Bronze mortuary complexes date to the period between c4000 and c700 BC. Typically they are set within topographically defined areas, perhaps between rivers and valleys, sometimes their topographical boundaries are emphasised by ditch systems. Within the defined area such complexes comprise closely spaced groups of features of different types, later types of feature often being superimposed on earlier ones, indicating continuity of use over a long period of time. Features found on such sites include round barrows, which can take a variety of forms, of which bowl barrows are the most common. Such barrows were earthen or stone mounds covering a burial or group of burials. Such barrows were usually surrounded by a circular ditch from which material for the construction of the mound was obtained. These circular ditches are often visible through aerial photography when the mound no longer shows as an earthwork and are frequently classified as 'ring-ditches'. Burials on such sites, however, are not confined to the barrows and 'flat burials' have often been discovered in between them. Also found on such sites are a variety of enclosures, sometimes referred to as mortuary enclosures. These are often square or rectangular in plan but round-ended and even sub-circular examples are known. They are usually defined by a bank and external ditch and sometimes have opposed entrances. Their original function is uncertain but it is presumed that they were employed in the burial ritual and in subsequent commemorations. Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complexes often also include other classes of ceremonial monuments such as cursuses (which were elongated embanked enclosures which probably served as ceremonial routeways) and henges (which were major circular earthworks which probably served as gathering places). A small number of such complexes have individual components surviving as earthworks but the majority are cropmark sites which are known from aerial photography and which survive only as buried features below the ploughsoil. They provide important evidence for the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst Early Prehistoric communities and all examples where significant archaeological deposits remain are considered to be of national importance. The Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex north west of Octagon Farm was discovered through aerial photography and has been investigated by fieldwalking, geophysical survey and sample excavation. These investigations have confirmed that the sites within the complex retain important archaeological information, which is well preserved below the ploughsoil. This information is important to our understanding of the structure and function of the monuments and in our appreciation of the landscape in which they were built and used. Individually, the cropmarks represent important ceremonial and ritual monuments and, when taken as a group, they demonstrate how such ceremonials and rituals developed over an extended period of time through the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. It is also apparent that the complex north west of Octagon Farm retains important information regarding the decline in use of this major ceremonial site and its conversion into agricultural land during the later Prehistoric period.


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


The monument includes the central part of a group of Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary sites, initially recorded from aerial photographs and situated between the River Great Ouse and the Elstow Brook, south-east of Bedford. The monument includes at least 19 closely spaced sites, including four large rectangular mortuary enclosures with one or more entrances, a long oval-shaped enclosure, a small oval-shaped enclosure, a cursus and 11 ring ditches representing the remains of barrows with single, double and triple rings. The four rectangular enclosures, which are in the central and south-western part of the monument, are identified as long mortuary enclosures and measure between 70m and 180m in length by 20m and 60m in width. The long oval enclosure, which is in the same part of the site, measures 70m SW-NE by 15m NW-SE and has an entrance 15m wide in the south-eastern side. A second, smaller oval enclosure is situated 850m east of the long oval enclosure and measures 41m SE-NW by a maximum of 28m NE-SW. It has an entrance 5m wide in the northern arm and one of the ring ditches is sited within it. North of the smaller oval enclosure, and on the same alignment, is the cursus. It measures 130m in length by 20m in width; another ring ditch is sited at its eastern end. A curvilinear ditch, measuring approximately 60m in length and situated nearer the centre of the complex, is considered to have been part of another oval-shaped enclosure. The 11 ring ditches represent the remains of barrows which vary in size from a maximum of 45m to a minimum of 16m in diameter. The largest of these is the triple ring ditch, near the centre of the monument, which is the only site in the group which remains visible as an earthwork; it is approximately 0.3m high. Most of the ring ditches are grouped in the northern and western part of the site away from the rectangular enclosures. Although, with the exception of the centrally placed triple ring ditch, these sites are no longer visible as earthworks, they survive as buried features and their locations have been confirmed by both geophysical survey and partial excavation. The geophysical survey indicated that other, less well preserved features also belonged to this group of sites. These include internal features within the long mortuary enclosures and ring ditches, some of which may represent the site of burials. In 1992 a total of thirteen trenches were excavated in order to evaluate the cropmarks. It was found that the depth of plough soil overlying the archaeological features varied from 0.9m to as little as 0.28m. Both the western-most long mortuary enclosure and the adjacent long oval-shaped enclosure, contained some Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery and flint flakes within their ditches. A trial trench across the northern-most ring ditch, which contains a rectangular enclosure, showed that the rectangular enclosures predated the barrow. The excavations also revealed a number of other features associated with these sites, including groups of pits within the enclosures and a number of postholes and linear ditches outside them. The linear ditches, in particular, are believed to be part of a Prehistoric field system which was in use between the Bronze Age and the Roman period. The public footpath and the row of telegraph poles which run along the south side of the path are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath the path 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: 20745

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bedford Bypass Archaeological Evaluation: The Norse Road Link, (1992)

End of official listing