Combe Beacon barrow


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


Ordnance survey map of Combe Beacon barrow
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Somerset (District Authority)
Combe St. Nicholas
National Grid Reference:
ST 29481 12279

Reasons for Designation

Bell barrows, the most visually impressive form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 1500-1100 BC. They occur either in isolation or in round barrow cemeteries and were constructed as single or multiple mounds covering burials, often in pits, and surrounded by an enclosure ditch. The burials are frequently accompanied by weapons, personal ornaments and pottery and appear to be those of aristocratic individuals, usually men. Bell barrows (particularly multiple barrows) are rare nationally, with less than 250 known examples, most of which are in Wessex. Their richness in terms of grave goods provides evidence for chronological and cultural links amongst early prehistoric communities over most of southern and eastern England as well as providing an insight into their beliefs and social organisation. As a particularly rare form of round barrow, all identified bell barrows would normally be considered to be of national importance.

Combe Beacon barrow is one of only seven known bell barrows in Somerset. The original mound survives well beneath the later deposits of the beacon mound which have helped to preserve its original form and the adaptation of the barrow mound as a beacon gives the monument added interest. It is known from limited excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed.


The monument includes Combe Beacon barrow, a Bronze Age bell barrow situated in an elevated position at the eastern edge of the Blackdown Hills. The barrow mound was enlarged and modified, as its name suggests, for use as a beacon probably at some stage in the 18th century. A part excavation in 1935 revealed the original structure of the barrow. A turfed mound, approximately 20m in diameter and 2.4m high was surrounded by a berm 8m wide and enclosed by a quarry ditch. A cist containing charcoal was located 0.4m below the original ground level. Sherds from a cinerary urn located in the mound confirmed a Bronze Age date. This excavation also revealed the structure of the modified mound giving it its present flat-topped profile. Deposits of local clay-with-flint were used to enlarge the mound and these contained 16th to 18th century sherds of pottery suggesting that the modification took place in the later part of the 18th century, since when it is known to have been used as a fire-beacon. The present barrow mound is 4m high and has a diameter of 38m. The surrounding quarry ditch is 5.5m wide and 0.5m deep on the east and north east of the mound where it is most visible. The remaining circuit of the ditch survives as a shallow depression giving the barrow an overall diameter of 49m. The concrete triangulation point, all fence posts and a concrete overflow pipe located on the north east of the barrow are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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.

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Books and journals
Gray, H G, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society' in Combe St Nicholas Barrow, (1936), 83-107
Gray, H G, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society' in Combe St Nicholas Barrow, (1936), 83-107


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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