Bell barrow and pond barrow on Bacombe Hill
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1013935
Date first listed: 22-Dec-1995
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SP 86169 07144
Reasons for Designation
Bell barrows, the most visually impressive form of round barrow, are funerary
monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age, with most examples
belonging to the period 1500-1100 BC. They occur either in isolation or in
round barrow cemeteries and were constructed as single or multiple mounds
covering burials, often in pits, and surrounded by an enclosure ditch. The
burials are frequently accompanied by weapons, personal ornaments and pottery
and appear to be those of aristocratic individuals, usually men. Bell barrows
(particularly multiple barrows) are rare nationally, with less than 250 known
examples, most of which are in Wessex. Their richness in terms of grave goods
provides evidence for chronological and cultural links amongst early
prehistoric communities over most of southern and eastern England as well as
providing an insight into their beliefs and social organisation. As a
particularly rare form of round barrow, all identified bell barrows would
normally be considered to be of national importance.
Pond barrows are ceremonial or funerary monuments of the same period. The term `barrow' is something of a misnomer as, rather than a mound, they were constructed as regular circular depressions with an embanked rim. Where excavation has taken place, single or multiple pits or cists, sometimes containing human remains, have been discovered within the central depression. At one example a well-like shaft was revealed. Like bell barrows, pond barrows occur both singly and in round barrow cemeteries, although they are even more rare with only about 60 examples recorded nationally. As very few examples have been excavated they have a particulay high value for the future study of the nature and variety of belief in prehistoric communities. Due to their rarity, all identified pond barrows would normally be considered to be of national importance.
The bell barrow and the pond barrow on Bacombe Hill are well preserved and will retain significant archaeological information. Funerary remains surviving in buried features within the area of the barrows will illustrate the function of the monuments and the beliefs of the community which built them. The close association of the two barrows will provide stratigraphic evidence for the sequence and development of ritual practices, and the proximity of a third (bowl) barrow slightly to the west will allow further comparisons. The unusual form of the bell barrow, which utilises an outer scarp rather than an encircling ditch, is also of particular interest. The original intention, presumably to create an impressive landscape feature, is still realised. The site is accessible, and the views from its summit pose wider questions about the nature and location of associated Bronze Age settlement in this part of the Chiltern Hills.
The monument includes two Bronze Age barrows: a bell barrow located on the tip
of a pronounced spur on Bacombe Hill, overlooking Wendover to the east and the
Vale of Aylesbury to the north; and a pond barrow which is situated on the
southern side of the bell barrow, about 10m from the central mound.
The bell barrow mound is c.10m in diameter and 0.7m high, surrounded by a
platform or berm which is encircled by an outward facing scarp. The berm is
approximately 8m wide and slopes gently away from the mound on every side. The
scarp, which is artificial, enhances the prominence of the barrow and its
construction would have provided material for the mound. It is quite steep on
the north and north eastern sides of the barrow (which overlooks the end of
the spur), measuring some 4m in width and 1m high; although the gradient and
angle are gradually reduced around the remaining circumference. The pond
barrow lies within the southern part of the berm. It includes a circular
depression, c.6m in diameter and 0.5m deep, enclosed by a shallow bank, the
southern edge of which coincides with the upper part of the artificial scarp
containing the berm.
A number of worked flints, broadly contemporary with the two barrows, have
been found in the vicinity of the monument; and a further barrow, a small bowl
barrow, (the subject of a separate scheduling) lies some 55m to the south
west, separated by a broad saddle across the spur.
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: 27131
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Allcroft, A H, Earthworks of England, (1908)
Page, F (ed), The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire, (1914)
Dyer, J F, 'Archaeological Journal' in Barrows of the Chilterns, (1959), 24
Dyer, J F, 'Archaeological Journal' in Barrows of the Chilterns, (1959), 23-24
info from Chilterns Project Officer, Damant, C, Bacombe Hill, (1995)
Note of finds by Dr.J.Evans in 1970, 0011,
Site visit by M E Farley 1992, 0011,
visit notes - M Farley 1992, 0011,
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