Three bell barrows and a pillow mound 400m south-west of Knap Cottage


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015986

Date first listed: 23-Mar-1927

Date of most recent amendment: 17-Jan-1991


Ordnance survey map of Three bell barrows and a pillow mound 400m south-west of Knap Cottage
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Alton

National Grid Reference: SU 11596 63717


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

Reasons for Designation

Bell barrows, the most visually impressive form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 1500-1100 BC. They occur either in isolation or in round barrow cemeteries and were constructed as single or multiple mounds covering burials, often in pits, and surrounded by an enclosure ditch. The burials are frequently accompanied by weapons, personal ornaments and pottery and appear to be those of aristocratic individuals, usually men. Bell barrows (particularly multiple barrows) are rare nationally, with less than 250 known examples, most of which are in Wessex. Their richness in terms of grave goods provides evidence for chronological and cultural links amongst early prehistoric communities over most of southern and eastern England as well as providing an insight into their beliefs and social organisation. As a particularly rare form of round barrow, all identified bell barrows would normally be considered to be of national importance.

The three Knap Cottage barrows are important as they survive well, despite partial excavation, and have considerable potential for the recovery of archaeological and environmental evidence. Their importance is enhanced by the fact that numerous other barrow mounds and additional evidence for contemporary settlement survive in the area, giving an indication of the intensity with which the area was settled during the Bronze Age period. Between 1,000 and 2,000 rabbit warrens are known in England, making them one of the more numerous classes of medieval or post-medieval monument. The term "warren" applies more to an area of land then specific features, the most common of which are pillow mounds. These are low, oblong-shaped mounds of soil including various arrangements for containment of the rabbits that lived in them. Most appeared between the 12th century AD and the 19th century. This example of a pillow mound is of interest as it has been deliberately aligned on two prehistoric round barrows which may have been incorporated in the construction of the warren. As such it represents an unusual landscape feature.


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The monument includes three bell barrows and a pillow mound, broadly aligned NNW-SSE, and surviving as earthworks in an area of undulating chalk downland 300m north of a steep south-facing escarpment. The northern barrow stands to a height of 2m and is 24m in diameter. Although no longer visible on the ground, the barrow is surrounded by a ditch from which the mound material was quarried. This has been infilled over the years but survives as a buried feature c.3m wide. The two southern barrow mounds are adjacent and aligned east-west. The eastern mound is 2m high and 24m across. The monument comprises a central mound c.9m across, set on top of what appears as a broader, flatter mound. The western mound is 16m in diameter and 0.5m high. The site was partially excavated by Thurnham who found a previously disturbed cremation burial with an intrusive female skeleton, thought to be medieval. Both barrow mounds are surrounded by ditches c.3m wide, both of which survive as buried features. Berms and ditches were recorded prior to cultivation although these are no longer visible as earthworks. The pillow mound, which was constructed in the medieval period to serve as a rabbit warren, survives as a low earthwork 44m long, 6m wide and 0.4m high. It is orientated NNW-SSE and appears to have been deliberately aligned between the northern and eastern barrow mounds.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 12192

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine, , Vol. 49, (1942)
Wilts SMR Record,

End of official listing