Bowl barrow on Beacon Hill, 500m south of Ellesborough church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

Buckinghamshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 83582 06222

Reasons for Designation

Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Despite being disturbed by past investigation and reuse, the bowl barrow on Beacon Hill survives well as a landscape feature, standing out from the horizon when viewed from lower ground to the north, east and west. The 1855-6 excavation clearly demonstrates the archaeological value of the monument and although some of the cultural material has been removed, significant information will still survive. Further deposits within and beneath the mound remain largely undisturbed. These will include funerary remains, illustrating the date and function of the monument and the beliefs of the community which built it; and environmental evidence preserved in the earlier ground surface buried beneath the mound, which may indicate the character of the landscape in which it was built. Comparison with other barrows situated across the chalk escarpment will provide evidence for the development of early ritual practices, and assist in the study of Bronze Age settlement in the Chiltern Hills.


The monument includes a small Bronze Age bowl barrow situated on the tip of Beacon Hill, a pronounced spur which commands wide views over the Vale of Aylesbury to the north and along the Chiltern escarpment to the east and west. The barrow mound is roughly circular, measuring c.12m diameter and up to 0.7m in height. The ground surface falls away sharply from the edge of the mound on all but the southern side and, as there are no indications of an encircling ditch, it is thought to have been constructed using topsoil and chalk scraped from the surrounding hillside. In the centre of the mound is a conical depression, c.5m wide across the top, which is believed to have resulted from the removal of a flagstaff which stood here in the last century and, perhaps, from its further use as a gun emplacement during World War II. The barrow was partially excavated by a local antiquarian in 1855-6, revealing fragments of a ceramic urn, charcoal, bone and a horse's tooth. Further fragments of early Bronze Age pottery with impressed decoration were discovered near the mound in 1973.

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
Burgess, B, 'Records of Bucks' in Earthworks at Hampden and Little Kimble, , Vol. 1, (1856), 140-1
Dyer, J F, 'Archaeological Journal' in Barrows of the Chilterns, , Vol. 116, (1959), 16
Farley, M E, 'Ant. J' in A late Bronze Age Razor from Ellesborough, , Vol. 64, (1980), 361-62
RCHM, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Buckinghamshire, (1914)
Record of finds accessioned by B.C.M., 0910,
Visit Notes, Pike, A, 0910, (1979)


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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