Roman barrow and Bronze Age bowl barrow in Graffridge Wood, 250m east of Wintergreen Cottages


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015486

Date first listed: 13-Dec-1929

Date of most recent amendment: 20-Mar-1997


Ordnance survey map of Roman barrow and Bronze Age bowl barrow in Graffridge Wood, 250m east of Wintergreen Cottages
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hertfordshire

District: North Hertfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Knebworth

National Grid Reference: TL 21750 20996

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.

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 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. Although the Roman barrow in Graffridge Wood has been somewhat disturbed by excavation, it survives as a substantial earthwork, and its situation immediately adjacent to the Bronze Age bowl barrow suggests that the ritual significance of the location was recognised during the Roman period. The bowl barrow also survives well, and both will contain valuable archaeological deposits, including funerary material, within the mounds and the fills of the ditches. These will provide comparative information relating to the dates and methods of construction of the barrows, the periods of their use, and the religious beliefs of the builders. Environmental evidence preserved on the buried ground surfaces beneath the mounds and in the fills of the ditches will illustrate the changing nature of the landscape in which the barrows were set. The Roman barrow will also retain evidence relating to the 19th century excavation, providing interesting insights into the aims and methods of early archaeologists. A bell barrow some 300m to the south west (SM 27907) is a further indication of the area's funerary significance, and a comparison of these two Bronze Age burial mounds will provide opportunities for the study of varying funerary rites during this period.


The monument includes a Roman barrow and a Bronze Age bowl barrow located in Graffridge Wood, 250m east of Wintergreen Cottages. The steep-sided Roman barrow stands to a height of approximately 1.3m and is some 18m in diameter. A depression approximately 5m across in the summit of the barrow mound is thought to indicate the site of an excavation in the 19th century, and a slight declivity to the south may be connected with this investigation. An encircling ditch c.3m-5m wide, from which material for the mound would have been quarried, has been largely infilled but is still visible, particularly to the north and west. The barrow was investigated in 1869 when evidence of burning was found. This may have represented a funeral pyre built over a rough stone platform, since the burnt debris contained human finger bones. However, it is possible that the cremation took place elsewhere and the remains were subsequently placed in a small stone chamber or wood-lined grave beneath the mound. No secondary burials were reported from this investigation but, since only a small portion of the barrow was investigated, any such deposits will survive undisturbed. Immediately to the east is a bowl barrow constructed during the Bronze Age. The circular barrow mound is some 23m in diameter and 0.5m high with a smooth, gently rounded profile. The quarry ditch is apparent as a shallow depression some 3m wide around the northern arc of the barrow mound and will survive elsewhere beneath the present ground surface. There is no evidence that the barrow has been disturbed by excavation, and it is thought that significant funerary deposits will be largely intact.

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: 27906

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Fowler, Rev H, 'Transactions of the S. Albans Archit. & Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, (1891), 46
discussion, Money, A F, (1995)
Text, Morris J, Ordnance Survey Antiquity Model Card, (1958)

End of official listing