Oval barrow and adjacent bowl barrow, 220m west of Firle Beacon


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Oval barrow and adjacent bowl barrow, 220m west of Firle Beacon
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Sussex
Lewes (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
TQ 48320 05893

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 adjacent Bowl barrow is an example of the most numerous form of round barrow, over 10,000 examples surviving nationally. It too is a funerary monument, although it was constructed in a later period than the Oval barrow -- 2000-1500bc. Such a small example as this is likely to have covered a single burial. The proximity of these two burial mounds adds to the importance of the site because it illustrates well the changing mode of burial between the periods and also because it provides an example of a location selected for burial in one period being reused for a similar purpose in a later period.


The monument includes both an oval barrow and an adjacent bowl barrow. Each includes both an earthen mound and a surrounding ditch, although in both cases the ditch has been almost completely infilled by a combination of erosion and agricultural activity. Both mark the sites of burials, the oval barrow dating from the Neolithic period and therefore older than the bowl barrow which dates from the Bronze Age. The small gap between the barrow ditches may have been used for further, unmounded, burials. The mound of the oval barrow measures 28m in length and 12m in width, although the presence of a large spoil heap from former partial excavations, on the south side of the mound, makes measurement difficult. At most the mound stands 1.6m above the level of the surrounding land. The ditch surrounding the mound was more clearly visible earlier this century than it is now. The ditch measures some 3m across and can now be seen only as a very shallow depression flanking either side of the mound. A break in the ditch towards the south-east end was visible in former years but is no longer discernible. The neighbouring bowl barrow takes the form of a circular mound 5m in diameter and 40cm in max. height. The encircling ditch is no longer visible in this case. The depression in its top shows it to have been partially excavated also, the spoil having been added to that of the oval barrow mound. The fencing around the monuments, where it lies within the constraint area, is excluded from the scheduling.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Toms, H S, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in The Long Barrows of Sussex, , Vol. 63, (1922), 157-65
TQ40 NE22,
TQ40 NE23,


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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