The Six Hills Roman barrows


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015579

Date first listed: 10-Aug-1923

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Dec-1996


Ordnance survey map of The Six Hills Roman barrows
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Dec-2018 at 18:16:54.


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

County: Hertfordshire

District: Stevenage (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: TL 23737 23687


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

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.

`The Six Hills' are impressive earthwork features and form the largest surviving group of burial mounds dating to the Roman period in England. Although a degree of landscaping has infilled the quarry ditches and levelled the outer banks, evidence for these will survive beneath the present ground surface. Antiquarian excavations have disturbed five of the six mounds, but this disturbance is limited and significant archaeological deposits, including human remains with funerary assemblages will survive, providing valuable evidence for the dates of the mounds, the method of construction and the religious beliefs of the builders. The fills of the buried ditches and the old ground surfaces beneath the mounds will retain environmental information which will illustrate the nature of the landscape in which the monument was set.

The Six Hills stand within an area of common land and are easily accessible to the public and visible from the adjacent highways, providing a striking and valued recreational and educational amenity in the centre of the new town of Stevenage.


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


The monument includes six Roman barrows known as `The Six Hills' and the archaeologically sensitive area between them situated in an area of grassland formerly known as Sixpenny Common, c.120m west of London Road, immediately south of its junction with Six Hills Way in Stevenage new town.

Antiquarian descriptions of the barrows indicate that all the mounds were formerly encircled by ditches - from which material for the mounds was quarried - and outer banks, features which are believed to have survived around the two northernmost mounds into the 19th century. Although the ditches and banks are no longer apparent, evidence for these will survive beneath the present ground surface and they are included in the scheduling.

The barrow mounds are very similar in appearance and size, being on average about 18m in diameter and 3m in height, although they are thought to have originally stood at least 1.25m higher than at present. The conical profiles typical of Roman burial mounds have been gradually eroded by turf paring and weathering, and, except where there is evidence of disturbance, all the mounds are now smoothly rounded. The barrows are fairly regularly spaced at intervals of approximately 5m-10m (measured from the foot of each mound) in a line running north to south, aligned alongside a cycle track which is thought to perpetuate the route of the `Via Alba', a Roman road running between St Albans and Sandy.

Only the third barrow from the north has not been disturbed by excavation. Three of the mounds have depressions on their summits indicating that shafts were sunk into them, while the two southern barrows were dug into on the sides. The second mound from the north is believed to have been investigated in 1741 when scraps of wood and iron were recovered, and it seems likely from antiquarian reports that all the other excavations date from the 18th century.

No records survive to suggest that any of these investigations resulted in the discovery of burial deposits.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 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: 27904

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Andrews, H C, 'Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, , Vol. 3, (1906), 181-82
Andrews, H C, 'Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, , Vol. 3, (1906), 179
Andrews, H C, 'Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, , Vol. 3, (1906), 181-82
Andrews, H C, 'Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, , Vol. 3, (1906), 179

End of official listing