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Anglo-Saxon barrow field and prehistoric linear earthwork on Barham Downs

List Entry Summary

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.

Name: Anglo-Saxon barrow field and prehistoric linear earthwork on Barham Downs

List entry Number: 1013377


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Canterbury

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Adisham

County: Kent

District: Canterbury

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Kingston

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 15-Aug-1939

Date of most recent amendment: 21-Dec-1995

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 27011

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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 they have been partly disturbed by modern cultivation, the barrow field and prehistoric linear earthwork on Barham Downs survive relatively well. The barrow field has been shown by partial excavation to contain archaeological and environmental remains, and the linear earthwork survives as a visually impressive monument. The fact that some of the Anglo-Saxon barrows have disturbed earlier Bronze Age burials indicates the continued use of Barhams Downs for burial over a considerable period of time.


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


The monument, which falls into two areas, includes an Anglo-Saxon barrow field and a prehistoric linear earthwork extending beyond it to the south east, all situated on a ridge of the Kent Downs, lying just to the north east of the course of Watling Street, the Roman road between London and Canterbury, now under the modern A2.

The barrow field is an area of hummocky ground in which at least three hlaews, or Anglo-Saxon burial mounds, survive as identifiable earthworks. The southernmost pair of these adjoin and are roughly west-east aligned. Each has a bowl-shaped mound measuring c.6m in diameter and surviving to a height of c.0.6m. Surrounding the mounds are encircling ditches from which material used to construct the mounds was excavated. These have become infilled over the years, but survive as buried features c.1m wide. Lying around 100m to the north, the third hlaew is larger, having a mound measuring c.13m in diameter and up to 0.5m high. The buried quarry ditch which surrounds it will be c.2m wide.

The barrow field was the subject of partial antiquarian excavation during the 18th and 19th centuries, at which time over 300 burial mounds were recorded in this area of downland. Most of these have been flattened by modern ploughing, although the burials they once covered will survive beneath the ground surface. Each excavated mound was found to have been constructed over a west-east aligned, rectangular grave cut into the underlying chalk bedrock. Many graves contained the remains of wooden coffins within which were found extended human burials, often accompanied by grave goods in the form of artefacts deliberately deposited with the body. These included iron weapons, glass vessels, beads and silver brooches. Three grave-cuts were found to have disturbed earlier Bronze Age cremation burials, the remains of which had been collected in the original urns and placed with some care next to the later coffins. Further partial excavation in 1967, during the laying of a water pipe, revealed further Anglo-Saxon graves towards the south eastern edge of the barrow field.

The prehistoric linear earthwork, which has been interpreted as a trackway, runs from the north west to the south east along the ridge for a total length of c.700m. The earthwork lies along the north eastern edge of the barrow field and is partially overlain by the largest of the later hlaews. Lying roughly parallel to the later Roman road c.100m to the south west, the earthwork takes the form of a double lynchet around 7.5m wide and with a total height of up to 1.5m in places. Although it formerly extended further to the north west and south east, these parts of the linear earthwork have been levelled by modern ploughing. The earthwork has been damaged at the south eastern side of the barrow field by the construction of a modern track.

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

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Crawford, O G S, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Field-Notes in the Canterbury District, (1934), 59
Crawford, O G S, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Field-Notes in the Canterbury District, (1934), 59
Wilson, D, Hurst, D, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Britain in 1966, , Vol. VI, (1967), 266
Wilson, D, Hurst, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Britain in 1959, , Vol. IV, (1960), 135
RCHME, TR 25 SW 14,

National Grid Reference: TR 20285 51902, TR 20572 51736


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This copy shows the entry on 20-Sep-2018 at 05:09:43.

End of official listing