Barrow field on Breach Down, Derringstone

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012967

Date first listed: 06-Jul-1937

Date of most recent amendment: 11-May-1995

Map

Ordnance survey map of Barrow field on Breach Down, Derringstone
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

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

County: Kent

District: Canterbury (District Authority)

Parish: Barham

National Grid Reference: TR 20676 48929

Summary

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

Reasons for Designation

Barrow fields are groups of between five and 300 closely-spaced hlaews, or burial mounds, dating to the early medieval period. The usually circular mounds, some of which are surrounded by an encircling ditch, were constructed of earth and rubble and covered one or more inhumation burials. These were deposited in west-east aligned, rectangular graves cut into the underlying bedrock. Cremation burials, sometimes deposited in pottery urns, have also been found. Many burials were furnished with accompanying grave goods, including jewellery and weapons, and, at two sites, wooden ships were discovered within large mounds. Most barrow fields were in use during the pagan Anglo-Saxon period between the sixth and seventh centuries AD, although barrows dating to the fifth and eight centuries AD have also been found. The distribution of barrow fields is concentrated within south eastern England, particularly in prominent locations on the Kent and Sussex Downs. However, one Viking barrow field dating to the late ninth century AD is known in Derbyshire, and both barrow fields containing known ship burials are located near river estuaries in Suffolk. Barrow fields are a rare monument type, with only around 40 examples known nationally. They provide important and otherwise rare archaeological information about the social structure, technological development and economic oganisation of the people who constructed and used them. All positively identified examples with significant surviving remains are considered worthy of protection.

Although the barrow field on Derringstone Downs has been partially disturbed by past ploughing, the construction of modern tracks and gardens, and by scrub growth, it survives well when compared to similar sites elsewhere, and has been shown by partial excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence.

History

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

Details

The monument includes an Anglo-Saxon barrow field which comprises a group of at least 19 hlaews, or burial mounds, covering an area of around 0.45ha, situated along a narrow, roughly north-south aligned spur of the Kent Downs. To the south east is the most prominent hlaew, known locally as Mount Sinai. This has a bowl-shaped mound measuring around 14m in diameter and up to 2m high. A central hollow and further disturbance on the southern side of the mound indicates that it has been partially excavated some time in the past. Surrounding the mound is a ditch from which material used to construct the hlaew was excavated. This has become infilled over the years but survives as a buried feature around 2m wide.

Lying to the north west are at least 18 further hlaews with roughly circular mounds measuring between 5m-10m in diameter. Most of these show signs of partial excavation and survive to heights of between 0.4m-1.5m. The mounds are surrounded by buried quarry ditches measuring between 1m-2m wide. Seven hlaews have been partially disturbed by the construction of modern tracks, and the profiles of several have been partly obscured by the dumping of modern construction waste and garden refuse.

The barrow field was partially excavated in 1809 and again during the 1840's, at which time over 100 visible barrows were recorded in this area of downland. Each mound excavated was found to have been constructed over a west-east aligned, rectangular grave cut into the underlying chalk bedrock. The graves contained extended human burials, many accompanied by grave goods, or artefacts deliberately deposited with the body. These mainly dated to the period between the sixth and early eighth centuries AD, although some earlier, Romano-British objects were also found.

The modern surfaces of all tracks and paths which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling, as are the modern electricity poles situated within the monument, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 25499

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Jessup, R F, Taylor, M V, The Victoria History of the County of Kent, (1932), 145
Jessup, R F, Taylor, M V, The Victoria History of the County of Kent, (1932), 145
Meaney, A L S, Gazetteer of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites, (1964), 111
Meaney, A L S, Gazetteer of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites, (1964), 111
Meaney, A L S, Gazetteer of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites, (1964), 111
Smith, R A, The Victoria History of the County of Kent, (1908), 348-349
Smith, R A, The Victoria History of the County of Kent, (1908), 348-9

End of official listing