Bowl barrow in Isleham Plantation


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015242

Date first listed: 13-Oct-1980

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Nov-1996


Ordnance survey map of Bowl barrow in Isleham Plantation
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cambridgeshire

District: East Cambridgeshire (District Authority)

Parish: Chippenham

National Grid Reference: TL 65938 71088


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

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.

The bowl barrow in Isleham Plantation stands almost to its original height and is very well preserved. The results of the excavation of neighbouring barrows (which survived less well) provide an insight into the wealth of archaeological information which the monument will contain. Funerary remains together with other artefacts and structural evidence will provide details concerning the date of the barrow's construction, the duration of its use and the character of prehistoric ritual practice. As demonstrated by excavation nearby, the former ground surface beneath the mound may retain valuable evidence for activities preceding its construction and, using modern methods of environmental analysis, for the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set. The 1930s excavations were of a high standard and made a significant contribution to the understanding of prehistoric burial practices in the region. Although the excavated barrows no longer exist, the records and artifact collections preserve details which place the remaining barrow in context, allowing further study of this small barrow cemetery in relation to the wider issues surrounding prehistoric ritual and settlement on the margins of the East Anglian fens.


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


The monument includes a Bronze Age bowl barrow located on the crest of a gentle spur to the south of the Isleham Fen basin. The barrow now stands approximately in the centre of Isleham Plantation, some 200m east of the B1104 Isleham Road. The barrow mound is circular in plan and domed in profile, measuring c.36m in diameter and 1.6m high. The encircling ditch (from which material for the mound would have been quarried) is thought to exist in a buried condition, and the scheduling includes a 2m margin around the foot of the mound for its protection. There are no records or physical evidence to suggest that the barrow has ever been excavated, although a number of barrows with encircling ditches and banks were excavated in the the immediate vicinity in the 1930s. The thorough nature of the excavations and the effects of subsequent cultivation has resulted in the complete destruction of these barrows. The Isleham Plantation barrow is now the only surviving example from this small barrow cemetery, and therefore the only one to be included in the scheduling. The excavated barrows, however, provide some indication of the wealth of information to be found in the remaining monument. The excavation in 1935 of two barrows, located some 230m to the east of the monument, revealed a currency of use from the Early to the Mid-Bronze Age (c.1800-1200 BC) which included phases of timber or earthen enclosures before the construction of the mounds. Both contained flint implements and pottery, and the northernmost barrow contained a primary inhumation accompanied by a bronze dagger as well as two secondary burials. The third barrow lay c.360m to the north east of the remaining barrow. It was excavated between 1937 and 1938 and shown to have included a ditch, bank and stockade around the central mound, and to have contained five inhumations and five cremation burials in addition to the primary inhumation. The mound (constructed in the Mid-Bronze Age) sealed and preserved a sample of a pre-existing settlement site which was evident from a number of hearths and a scatter of flint implements and broken pottery.

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: 27176

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Gibson, A M, 'PCAS' in A Reinterpretation of Chippenham Barrow 5, , Vol. 70, (1980), 48-60
Leaf, C S, 'PCAS' in Further Excavations in Bronze Age Barrows at Chippenham, Cambs, , Vol. 39, (1940), 25-68
Leaf, C S, 'PCAS' in Two Bronze Age Barrows at Chippenham, Cambs, , Vol. 36, (1935), 134-55
10232 BA Flint Scatter, (1984)
Map & information board on B1104, Mamre Wood, (1994)
Summary of O.S. notes and CCC visits, Rooke, N, 7491: Round Barrow in Isleham Plantation, (1985)

End of official listing