Two Roman barrows 200m ENE of Thornborough Bridge


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


© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2020. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1013959.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 15-Aug-2020 at 02:47:00.


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

Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 73153 33254

Reasons for Designation

Earthen barrows are the most visually spectacular survivals of a wide variety of funerary monuments in Britain dating to the Roman period. Constructed as steep-sided conical mounds, usually of considerable size and occasionally with an encircling bank or ditch, they covered one or more burials, generally believed to be those of high-ranking individuals. The burials were mainly cremations, although inhumations have been recorded, and were often deposited with accompanying grave goods in chambers or cists constructed of wood, tile or stone sealed beneath the barrow mound. Occasionally the mound appears to have been built directly over a funeral pyre. The barrows usually occur singly, although they can be grouped into "cemeteries" of up to ten examples. They are sited in a variety of locations but often occur near Roman roads. A small number of barrows were of particularly elaborate construction, with masonry revetment walls or radial internal walls. Roman barrows are rare nationally, with less than 150 recorded examples, and are generally restricted to lowland England with the majority in East Anglia. The earliest examples date to the first decades of the Roman occupation and occur mainly within this East Anglian concentration. It has been suggested that they are the graves of native British aristocrats who chose to perpetuate aspects of Iron Age burial practice. The majority of the barrows were constructed in the early second century AD but by the end of that century the fashion for barrow building appears to have ended. Occasionally the barrows were re-used when secondary Anglo-Saxon burials were dug into the mound. Many barrows were subjected to cursory investigation by antiquarians in the 19th century and, as little investigation to modern standards has taken place, they remain generally poorly understood. As a rare monument type which exhibits a wide diversity of burial tradition all Roman barrows, unless significantly damaged, are identified as nationally important.

Despite being disturbed by past investigation, the Thornborough Mounds survive exceptionally well as monuments in the landscape. The 1839 excavation clearly demonstrated the archaeological wealth of the monuments and although some of the cultural material has been removed, further important archaeological evidence still survives, particularly sealed environmental material which will provide information on the landscape in which the barrows were constructed. The preserved collection of finds (many from 19th century excavations have been dispersed or lost) indicates the wealth and prestige of the individual for whom one of the barrows was constructed, and is accessible to the public providing an example of the personal possessions of the higher echelons of Romano-British society. Excavations of comparable monuments have demonstrated that such pre-existing mounds were attractive locations for later burials, particularly in the early Anglo-Saxon period. Cemetery development of this nature between and adjacent to the Thornborough Mounds would prove highly significant for the study of early Anglo-Saxon occupation in this area; providing insights into the continuity (or otherwise) of settlement following the Roman period, the origins of nearby medieval settlements, and the beliefs of these later communities.

The relationship between the barrows and the later, medieval land use is also of considerable interest, reflecting the regard with which the mounds were held in later periods and the manner in which they were incorporated into the design of the surrounding open-field system.


The monument includes two Roman barrows located in pasture approximately 70m north of the A421 Buckingham to Thornborough road and 160m east of the Padbury Brook, a tributary of the River Great Ouse.

The western barrow is roughly circular in plan, measuring c.40m in diameter and 3.5m high, with steep sides leading to a flattened area on the summit some 15m across. Slight traces of the ditch surrounding the mound remain visible around the south western side. The second barrow lies about 30m to the east. It is similar in size to the western barrow, although slightly more oval in appearance, and appears marginally higher due to its position on the hillside. Traces of the encircling ditch are also visible around the east and west sides of the mound. The barrows were partly excavated by the Duke of Buckingham in 1839. One (although it is not recorded which) proved to have been previously robbed and little was recovered. The other revealed a floor of rough limestone blocks which had stood beneath a timber structure, some of the oak timbers of which survived intact. Within this area were found three bronze jugs; a bronze lamp and a patera (a shallow, circular dish); a cup, bowl and platter of samian-ware (red pottery imported from Gaul); two ceramic storage jars (or amphorae); a small lozenge-shaped piece of gold, and two glass vessels, the larger of which contained the cremated remains of the deceased. The calcined condition of the limestone pavement indicated that it had been used as the base of the funeral pyre.

Traces of iron objects were noted at the time, but these apparently did not survive the excavation. The remaining finds, with the exception of the gold object, were later purchased by the local antiquarian R C Neville (fourth Lord Braybrooke) and are now held by the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. They date from the first and second centuries AD (some being old when buried, perhaps being retained for generations as family heirlooms) and demonstrate that one of the barrows was constructed in the late second century AD. The other is thought to be of the same date.

The field containing the two barrows retains a clear pattern of cultivation earthworks (ridge and furrow ploughing), probably associated with the medieval village, marked by extensive earthwork remains some 400m to the north east. The cultivation pattern is of particular interest for the manner in which it developed around the earlier monuments. A narrow gap around the mounds was left uncultivated to serve as turning areas for the plough teams (green ends), or as an uncultivated margin (balk). The space separating the mounds was similarly left, perhaps for pasture, rick stands and other seasonal activities associated with the surrounding fields. Burial mounds are known to have provided a focus for later interments, particularly from the early Anglo-Saxon period. The area between the two Thornborough Mounds is considered to be of particular importance in this respect, not least as the area was left undisturbed by medieval cultivation. This area is therefore included in the scheduling, together with a margin around the mounds, 10m in width, to include a sample of the cultivation pattern and its archaeological relationship with the mounds.

The two barrows lie near the meeting of five Roman roads, and in close proximity to the site of a Romano-British cemetery and temple revealed during the construction of a new road bridge to the south of its 14th century predecessor, Thornborough Bridge (the subject of a separate scheduling).

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 10 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
Branigan, K (ed), The Archaeology of the Chilterns, (1994), 122
Grinsell, L V, Barrows in England and Wales, (1979), 30
Lipscomb, G, The History of Bucks, (1847), 115
'Records of Bucks' in The History of Stowe, , Vol. 5, (1885), 355-6
Liversidge, J, 'Records of Bucks' in The Thornborough Barrow, (1954), 29-32
Liversidge, J, 'Records of Bucks' in The Thornborough Barrow, (1954), 29-32
info plotted by Bucks Museum Service, Archaeological Map SP 73 SW,
info plotted by Bucks Museums Service, Archaeological Features Map (O.S. 1:10,000 SP 73 SW),
Ordnance Survey revision card, JRL, Thornborough Mounds SP 73 SW, (1974)
Ordnance Survey revision card, JRL, Thornborough Mounds SP 73 SW, (1974)
Title: 1:10000 SP 73 SW Source Date: 1983 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].