Dial Hill Roman barrow, 50m north west of St Nicholas's Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

Buckinghamshire (Unitary Authority)
Great and Little Kimble cum Marsh
National Grid Reference:
SP 82497 05993

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.

Despite being disturbed by past investigations, the Dial Hill Roman barrow remains substantially intact - retaining much of its original size and profile. The small scale excavation of 1887 provided evidence for the period of construction, yet neither this work, nor the limited exploration in 1950, appears to have disturbed the primary burial. The proximity of the barrow to a known site of Romano-British settlement is particularly significant, since the two monuments are undoubtedly related. The occupant of the mound may well have lived in the adjacent villa, and the burial may provide valuable information concerning his or her lifestyle and status.


The monument includes a small Roman barrow located within the grounds of Manor Farm, 50m north west of St Nicholas's Church. The conical barrow mound, which stands on a slight prominence at the foot of the Chiltern escarpment, measures approximately 20m in diameter and 3m in height. A depression on the summit marks the location of two minor excavations; the first undertaken by the local vicar in 1887 and the second conducted by a former owner of the property in 1950. The later exploration established little beyond the fact that the mound is composed mainly of chalk which, in the absence of a surrounding ditch, appears to have been quarried elsewhere. The earlier exploration also appears to have missed the primary burial, although fragments of Romano-British pottery were recovered from the material of the mound. As well as providing a general date for the mound's construction, these broken vessels may represent the grave goods of secondary burials, inserted after construction. The barrow lies only a short distance to the south of a minor Roman villa (the subject of a separate scheduling) discovered during the construction of the turnpike road near All Saints' Church, Little Kimble, in the 1850s. The evidence recovered in 1887 suggests that the burial mound was contemporary with this settlement. The spoil from the 1887 excavation forms a low bank extending southwards from the foot of the mound. The bank may contain further artefacts, overlooked at the time, and is therefore included in the scheduling. A sundial (from which the barrow acquired a name) once stood upon the summit of the mound. This had been removed before 1887, although local tradition held that stones from the pedestal could be found set about the parish. All fences and fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath these items is included.

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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Allcroft, A H, Earthworks of England, (1908), 80
Sheahan, J, History and Topography of Buckinghamshire, (1862), 166
'Records of Bucks' in Records of Bucks, , Vol. 6, (1887), 76
'Archaeological Service Report' in Archaeological Survey of the Earthworks at Little Kimble, (1996), 2-4
'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London' in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, , Vol. 2/12, (1889), 340
Reference to 1950 investigation, CAS 1038 Dial Hill, (1980)
Reference to sources, CAS 0901 Roman Building/Villa SE of Little Kimble Church, (1981)


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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