Youngsbury Roman barrows


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018271

Date first listed: 08-Dec-1997


Ordnance survey map of Youngsbury Roman barrows
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hertfordshire

District: East Hertfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Thundridge

National Grid Reference: TL 37218 17774


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

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 investigation, the Youngsbury barrows survive well as monuments in the landscape. The excavations of 1788 and especially of 1889 clearly demonstrated the high level of archaeological survival within the barrows and although some of the cultural material has been removed, further significant archaeological evidence still survives, particularly sealed environmental material which will provide information on the landscape in which the barrows were constructed.

The preserved collection of finds from the 1889 excavation (many from similar 19th century excavations have been dispersed or lost) indicates the wealth and prestige of the individual for whom one of the barrows was constructed, and is accessible to the public as an example of high status burial practice in Romano-British society. Excavations of comparable monuments have demonstrated that such pre-existing mounds were attractive locations for later burial, especially in the pagan Anglo-Saxon period. Cemetery development of this nature between and adjacent to the Youngsbury mounds would prove highly significant for the study of post Roman occupation in the area, and the beliefs of these later communities.


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The monument includes two Roman barrows located some 150m south east of Home Farm and 1.2km to the east of the A10 (Ermine Street). They stand on the southern edge of a broad plateau and, but for the present woodland, are well positioned to command extensive views across the broad valley of the River Rib.

The eastern barrow is roughly circular in plan, measuring approximately 18m in diameter and 1.5m high, with steep sides leading to a flattened area on the summit some 5m across. A slight depression on the summit is thought to mark the location of a minor excavation in 1788, which uncovered spear heads, coins and Roman pottery. The second barrow stands about 10m to the west. It is similar in size to the eastern barrow although slightly more oval in appearance and marginally greater in height. This barrow was partly excavated in 1899 by J Evans, who was shortly to become president of the Society of Antiquaries. The excavation trench was not backfilled and is still visible on the south side of the barrow extending some 9m between the foot and the centre of the mound. A low earthen bank runs from the foot of the trench towards the eastern barrow and is believed to represent the upcast from the excavation. At the centre of the mound, Evans discovered the remains of a wooden chest (evident from the survival of four iron clamps or hinges) containing a burial assemblage. The cremated remains were contained in a large coarseware vessel, or grain jar, and in a square glass bottle with a strap handle. These and other associated artefacts are now in the Verulamium Museum at St Albans.

Burial mounds are known to have provided the focus for later interments, both in the Roman and early Anglo-Saxon period. The area between the two Youngsbury barrows is considered to be of particular importance in this respect, and is therefore included in the scheduling. The bank, which overlies part of this area and is thought to contain upcast material from Evan's excavation, is also included.

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: 29388

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Hertfordshire, (1914), 164
'Trans E Herts Arch Soc' in Twenty-Second Excursion June 7th 1906, , Vol. III, (1906), 229
'EHAS Newsletter' in Standon: The Youngsbury Burial Goods, , Vol. 15, (1964)
Evans, J, 'Archaeologia' in On the Exploration of a Barrow at Youngsbury, near Ware, Herts., (1890), 287-96
Evans, J, 'Archaeologia' in On the Exploration of a Barrow at Youngsbury, near Ware, Herts., (1890), 287-96

End of official listing