Four bowl barrows at Four Firs on Woodbury Common


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018052

Date first listed: 10-Aug-1923

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Sep-1998


Ordnance survey map of Four bowl barrows at Four Firs on Woodbury Common
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: East Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Woodbury

National Grid Reference: SY 03092 86420, SY 03093 86381, SY 03131 86426, SY 03137 86382


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

Reasons for Designation

Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

The four bowl barrows at Four Firs on Woodbury Common survive well as a group despite the loss of part of the periphery of one of the barrows due to quarrying. They all display survival of their encircling ditches and they stand in association with a number of other recorded barrows in the vicinity. They will retain archaeological information about the monument and the region in which it was constructed. All four barrows appear to have been modified as part of 18th to 19th century landscaping of the area.


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


The monument, which falls into four separate areas, includes four Bronze Age bowl barrows lying in the quadrants of the Four Firs crossroads on Woodbury Common. The barrows lie on the slope of the south facing part of the common facing the mouth of the River Exe. The barrows form a group of four mounds in a square formation at intervals from one another of no more than 35m. The height of the barrow mounds within the group varies between 1.8m and 2.5m with the two barrows to the north being somewhat higher and more steep sided than those to the south. The diameter of the mounds varies between 14.5m and 18m. Each of the barrows bears evidence of having been surrounded by an encircling ditch, the best surviving example of which surrounds the south eastern barrow where it is about 1.8m wide and a maximum of 0.4m deep. None of the barrows is recorded as having been excavated but the south eastern barrow has three central depressions on its mound perhaps indicating antiquarian or more recent interest. All of the barrows retain evidence of having been enclosed within an earth bank which may be the result of landscaping modifications considered to date from the late 18th or early 19th century; this is seen most clearly around the south eastern barrow immediately beyond its encircling ditch.

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: 29653

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Southwell, C, An Archaeological Survey of Woodbury Common, (1980)
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in The Barrows of South and East Devon, , Vol. 41, (1983), 45
Probert, S A J, RCHME Field Investigation, (1990)

End of official listing