Two bowl barrows 500m south of Fearnhill School


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

North Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 20544 31816

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 westerly barrow to the south of Fearnhill School is particularly well preserved. Although the minor excavations undertaken in 1816 will have removed some artefacts, the majority of the mound has not been disturbed and will retain further evidence including funerary remains and other indications of prehistoric ritual practices. Despite the damage caused by ploughing, the adjacent barrow will also retain valuable archaeological information, preserved in features buried beneath the area of the former mound. In the case of both barrows, silts contained in the surrounding ditches will retain artefacts related to the period of ritual use, and valuable environmental evidence reflecting the appearance of the landscape in which the barrow were constructed.

The existence of two barrows in such close proximity to one another is particularly significant, providing insights into the chronology of their construction and evidence of related funerary activity, as suggested by the discovery of the human skeleton in 1816.


The monument includes the visible and buried remains of two bowl barrows located some 100m to the south of the railway line between Hitchin and Letchworth, on a broad west facing slope overlooking the valley of the River Oughton. The monument lies some 700m to the south of the Iron Age hillfort on Wilbury Hill and the route of the prehistoric trackway known as the Icknield Way.

The western barrow, often referred to as the `Ickleford Tumulus' survives as a substantial earthwork, domed in profile and measuring some 52m in diameter and 3.5m in height. Surrounding this mound is a 3m wide ditch from which material was quarried for its construction. Over the years this feature has become largely infilled, although it remains visible as a slight depression with a maximum depth of about 0.4m. Limited excavations took place at the mound in January 1816, revealing a cremation burial interred in a wooden casket, two bronze spear heads and a copper blade. The mound was opened again in March of that year when a fragment of a coarse ware urn was recovered and later in the same year a human skeleton was unearthed on or near the mound.

To the east of the mound, and separated by a distance of some 25m, lies a second barrow. The mound which formerly covered this burial has been reduced by centuries of ploughing and is no longer visible on the ground, although the quarry ditch remains clearly identifiable as a cropmark which has been recorded from the air. The ditch is approximately 2.5m in width and forms a circle with a maximum diameter of approximately 40m.

The intervening area between the two barrows is believed to contain evidence of activities associated with their construction and subsequent ritual use, and is therefore included in the scheduling.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
'Proc Soc Antiq' in Proc Soc Antiq Volume 24, , Vol. 24, ()
'Trans East Herts Arch Soc' in Trans East Herts Arch Soc 1912, , Vol. 5, (1912)
'Trans East Herts Arch Soc' in Trans East Herts Arch Soc 1904, , Vol. 2, (1904)
Oblique monochrome, CUCAP, UE 48, (1957)
Vertical monochrome, Herts County Council, HCC 72 (SMR 3087), (1972)


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.

End of official listing

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