Priddy Circle and barrow cemetery 400m north of Castle of Comfort Inn


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Priddy Circle and barrow cemetery 400m north of Castle of Comfort Inn
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 54189 53542

Reasons for Designation

Round barrow cemeteries date to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They comprise closely-spaced groups of up to 30 round barrows - rubble or earthen mounds covering single or multiple burials. Most cemeteries developed over a considerable period of time, often many centuries, and in some cases acted as a focus for burials as late as the early medieval period. They exhibit considerable diversity of burial rite, plan and form, frequently including several different types of round barrow, occasionally associated with earlier long barrows. Where large scale investigation has been undertaken around them, contemporary or later "flat" burials between the barrow mounds have often been revealed. Round barrow cemeteries occur across most of lowland Britain, with a marked concentration in Wessex. In some cases, they are clustered around other important contemporary monuments such as henges. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape, whilst their diversity and their longevity as a monument type provide important information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving or partly-surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

The Priddy Circles are considered to be related to henge monuments, but have unique characteristics which distinguish them from other henges: the ditches are external; the four circles are arranged in a distinct alignment suggesting contemporaneous construction, and they have the same or similar dimensions to each other; they are located on the uplands of the Mendip Hills, whereas most henges have lowland sites. The northern Priddy Circle is distinct in that it is unfinished, and could therefore provide comparative information on the construction process in relation to the other circles, and the reason for abandonment. Henges are ritual or ceremonial centres which date to the Late Neolithic period (2800-2000 BC). They were constructed as roughly circular or oval-shaped enclosures, comprising a flat area over 20m in diameter enclosed by a ditch and external bank. One, two or four entrances provided access to the interior of the monument. The entrances to the Priddy Circles are expected to be aligned NNE-SSW, but none have been discovered for the northern circle. The interior of henges may have contained a variety of features, including timber or stone circles, post or stone alignments, pits, burial or central mounds. Finds from the ditches and interiors of henges provide important evidence for the chronological development of the sites, the types of activity that occurred within them and the nature of the environment in which they were constructed. Henges occur throughout England with the exception of the south eastern counties and the Welsh Marches. They are generally situated on low ground, often close to springs and water courses. Henges are rare nationally with about 80 known examples. As one of the few types of identified Neolithic structures, and in view of their comparative rarity, all henges are considered to be of national importance.


The monument includes a part-finished Neolithic earth circle, one of the so- called Priddy Circles, and a barrow cemetery containing five bowl barrows. It is located on the Mendip Hills and lies 350m to the NNE of the three other Priddy Circles. The Priddy Circles are regarded as Neolithic ritual monuments similar to the henge class of monuments, but having external ditches. The circle consists of an external ditch and an internal bank, partly enclosing a slightly raised interior. The circle has a projected diameter of 185m-190m, and appears to be two-thirds complete. The missing western third was investigated by a series of bore-holes in 1956-1959, which showed no evidence for the presence of a bank or ditch. The external ditch is up to 6m wide and 0.6m deep, with the internal bank standing up to 0.4m above the internal ground level, which, as seen in the other Priddy Circles to the south, appears to be slightly raised. The earthworks are best preserved to the north east. The fact that the circle was unfinished could have been the result of the subsidence which affected the other Priddy Circles, leading to the abandonment of the whole site before completion. There are four bowl barrows within the projected line of the circle, and another located slightly to the west. The three eastern barrows were excavated in 1832, with reported findings of ashes. Excluded from the scheduling are all walls, fences and buildings, though the ground beneath these features is included.

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.

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Books and journals
Tratman, E K, 'Proc. of University of Bristol Spelaeological Society' in The Priddy Henge Monument, , Vol. 11(2), (1966), 97-125
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
Tratman, E K, 'University of Bristol Speleological Society' in Barrow Catalogue, ()
ms reference, B M Skinner excavation, SMR entry, 24049,, (1832)
ms reference, B M Skinner, 24047, SMR entry, (1832)
ms refernce, B M Skinner excavation, 24048 SMR entry, (1832)


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.

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