Oval barrow 60m west of Ranworth Walk, 650m south west of Westfield School


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013523

Date first listed: 11-Jan-1996


Ordnance survey map of Oval barrow 60m west of Ranworth Walk, 650m south west of Westfield School
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Bedford (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Great Denham

National Grid Reference: TL 02778 49153


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

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.

Despite being reduced by cultivation, the oval barrow 60m to the west of Ranworth Walk will retain significant archaeological information, all the more important given the rarity of this class of monument. Funerary remains will survive in buried features within the area of the mound and may also be found in the surrounding ditches. The remains of a mortuary structure, preceding the construction of the barrow, are also thought to survive as buried features within the area defined by the perimeter ditches. These features will contain artefactual evidence related to the period of use and sequence of construction, and will illustrate both the function of the monument and the beliefs of the community which built it.

The association between the monument and a series of other burials sites and boundary features within the Biddenham Loop is of particular interest. Together, these features provide valuable evidence for the development of settlement patterns and land use within this specific area, and contribute to the wider understanding of these developments along the course of the River Great Ouse.


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


The monument includes the buried remains of a Neolithic oval barrow located within an arable field near the north bank of the River Great Ouse, some 60m to the east of Ranworth Walk: a footpath adjacent to a residential estate at the western end of Old Ford End Road. Although no earthworks can now be observed on the ground, the buried ditches surrounding the barrow are clearly visible as cropmarks on a sequence of aerial photographs, and were recorded by a geophysical survey in 1994. The monument is orientated NNW to SSE and is approximately 25m in length and 17m in width, measured from the outer edge of the principal quarry ditch which marks the former extent of the mound. A semicircular outer ditch surrounds the southern end of the barrow (extending c.4m from the inner ditch) and is connected to the inner circuit slightly to the south of centre of the longer sides. Traces of a third, semicircular ditch are visible within the curvature of the northern end. This latter feature is thought to represent part of the foundation trench of an earlier mortuary structure located within the area of the mound. The 1994 geophysical survey indicated that the ditches are interrupted by gaps or causeways. Two long ditch sections flank the eastern and western sides of the monument, with shorter segments completing the circuit at either end and forming the outer ditch to the south. The barrow lies on the north eastern edge of the Biddenham Loop, an area of c.210ha contained within a broad meander in the course of the river to the south of the village of Biddenham. This discrete landscape has been shown both by aerial photography and ground-based fieldwork to contain extensive evidence for human activity from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods through to Roman and medieval times. Toward the centre of the loop the cropmarks of a group of five ring ditches (thought to be the remains of degraded Bronze Age round barrows) have been recorded; with further ring ditches, either singly or in pairs, located to the north east and north west. In 1975 a fieldwalking survey of the central and eastern part of the loop revealed scatters of Late Neolithic and Middle Bronze Age flint artefacts centred in two main areas to the north and north east of this barrow group. A more intensive fieldwalking survey undertaken in 1991 included the area of the oval barrow which contained a low density scatter of flints indicating residential occupation. The adjacent areas to the north and west provided evidence for seasonal occupation in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Cropmarks of later periods include a pit alignment, considered to be of Iron Age date, which traverses the area to the south west of the oval barrow. An Iron Age or Roman trackway and further rectilinear boundary ditches or enclosures have been recorded in the vicinity of the oval barrow. A large rectangular enclosure, c.50m in width, lies immediately to the north west of the barrow, the southern corner of which coincides with the northern edge of the barrow ditch. A second linear ditch is aligned across this enclosure, extending to the north east and curving around the eastern side of the oval barrow. The positions of both features indicate that the barrow was a visible earthwork at the time of their construction. In order to provide protection for a sample of these later features and to preserve their archaeological relationship with the earlier monument, the scheduling includes a margin, 10m in width, on the northern, eastern and southern sides of the barrow. The remaining features within the Biddenham Loop are not included in the scheduling.

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


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

Legacy System number: 27116

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Clarke, R, Boismier, W A, Biddenham Loop Archaeological Evaluation: Stage 1, (1991)
Evans, J, Ancient Stone Impliments, (1897), 531
White, R, Biddenham Parish Survey, (1977)
Woodward, P J, 'Arch J' in Bronze Age Settlement Patterns in the Great Ouse Valley, , Vol. 135, (1978), 32-56
Beds C C, An Archaeological Evaluation of the Biddenham Loop, 1990, Desktop survey
CUCAP, BXV-3, (1976)
dot-density diagram, Bradford Geophysical Services, Biddenham Loop, southern section: Area V, (1994)
draft enclosure map, CRO MA 52, (1794)
NMR, TL 0249/1/265, (1975)
Northants C C, 2504/11-12, 14-15, (1984)
Records of Beds Museum Society 1949, 247,
St Joseph, J K, AGA 27-8, (1962)
St Joseph, J K, AYF 50-54, (1969)
St Joseph, J K, WL 84, (1958)
St Joseph, J K, YT 35-6, (1959)

End of official listing