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Square and circular barrows 260m south east of Parsonage Farm

List Entry Summary

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.

Name: Square and circular barrows 260m south east of Parsonage Farm

List entry Number: 1017231


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Uttlesford

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Great Dunmow

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 29-Oct-1999

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 32417

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

Square barrows are funerary monuments of the Middle Iron Age, most examples dating from the period between c.500 BC and c.50 BC. The majority of these monuments are found in the area between the River Humber and the southern slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors but a wider distribution has also been identified, principally through aerial photography, spreading through the river valleys of the Midlands and south Essex. Around 200 square barrow cemeteries have been recorded; in addition, a further 250 sites consisting of single barrows or small groups of barrows have been identified. Square barrows, which may be square or rectangular, were constructed as earthen mounds surrounded by a ditch and covering one or more bodies. Slight banks around the outer edge of the ditch have been noted in some examples. The main burial is normally central and carefully placed in a rectangular or oval grave pit, although burials placed on the ground surface below the mound are also known. A number of different types of burial have been identified, accompanied by grave goods which vary greatly in range and type. The most elaborate include the dismantled parts of a two-wheeled vehicle placed in the grave with the body of the deceased. Ploughing and intensive land use since prehistoric times have eroded and levelled most square barrows and very few remain as upstanding monuments, although the ditches and the grave pits, with their contents, will survive beneath the ground surface. The different forms of burial and the variations in the type and range of artefacts placed in the graves provide important information on the beliefs, social organisation and material culture of these Iron Age communities and their development over time. All examples of square barrows which survive as upstanding earthworks, and a significant proportion of the remainder, are considered of national importance and worthy of protection.

Although square barrows are most commonly of Iron Age date, the artefacts collected from the field, including finds typically deposited as grave goods and therefore likely to be from graves disturbed by ploughing, are mostly first to second century AD in date: the Early Roman period. This is of particular interest as it demonstrates the longevity of this form of burial and shows that it was not confined to the Iron Age.

The square barrows 260m south east of Parsonage Farm no longer survive as earthworks, but their buried remains, including the internal burials, are expected to survive well. The internal burials will, whether they prove to be cremations or inhumations, contain grave goods and skeletal material which will confirm their date as well as providing information on burial custom and ritual practice, and demographic information on the Roman population. Environmental evidence preserved in the buried ground surfaces and in the fills of the ditches may illustrate the nature of the landscape in which the barrows were set.

The association of the three square barrows with the single round barrow is rare and gives the site particular importance.


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


The monument includes the buried remains of three square barrows and a single circular barrow of Iron Age or Early Roman date located 260m south east of Parsonage Farm on the northern outskirts of Great Dunmow, to the west of the Church of St Mary the Virgin.

Although the square and circular barrows are no longer visible on the ground, their infilled ditches and central burial pits can be seen from the air as cropmarks. These cropmarks (areas of enhanced crop growth resulting from higher levels of moisture retained by the underlying archaeological features) were first identified on aerial photographs taken during the summer drought of 1976.

The three square barrows are defined by broad ditches, each enclosing areas measuring some 9m-10m square, with slightly rounded corners. Internal burial pits are visible within each of the three enclosed areas; in two of the barrows these are placed centrally. The circular barrow is some 10m in diameter; it too has a broad perimeter ditch and internal pits of primary and secondary burials. Originally the barrows would have had internal mounds created by the upcast from the excavation of the ditches; these, however have long since been reduced by ploughing. All four barrows are aligned close together on a NNW-SSE axis.

Although most square barrows are of Iron Age date, finds collected from the field surface suggest that these examples may be of Roman origin. Artefacts from the Roman period have been found in the field since the 1760s, when late second century coins were collected. A more recent find of a glass ointment jar dating to the second to third centuries AD is most likely to have been derived from a disturbed grave fill. The construction of houses in the 1930s some 150m to the south east revealed urned cremation burials dating from the first to third centuries AD, suggesting that the barrows may have been part of a wider cemetery.

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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Crummy, P, City of Victory, (1997)
Lawson, A J, Martin, E A, Priddy, D, The Barrows of East Anglia, (1981), p89-105
Hull, M R, 'Victoria County History' in Roman Gazetteer, , Vol. Vol.3, (1963), p125
1:10000 NMP Plot, Strachan, D, TL62SW, (1994)
NMR, TL6223/1/93, 4, (1976)

National Grid Reference: TL 62729 22980


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This copy shows the entry on 24-Sep-2018 at 08:44:53.

End of official listing