Churn Knob bell barrow and adjacent bowl barrow on Churn Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018715

Date first listed: 26-Oct-1934

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Feb-1999


Ordnance survey map of Churn Knob bell barrow and adjacent bowl barrow on Churn Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Oct-2018 at 18:44:59.


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

County: Oxfordshire

District: Vale of White Horse (District Authority)

Parish: Blewbury

National Grid Reference: SU 52188 84677


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

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.

Bowl barrows are the most numerous form of round barrows, and like bell barrows they are funerary monuments. They date to a broad period from the Late Neolithic to the Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. Their construction was similar to that of bell barrows but they differ in not having a berm between the mound and the surrounding ditch. Bowl barrows occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries which often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. They often occupy prominent locations and are a major historic element in the modern landscape. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

The `Churn Knob' bell barrow survives well despite cultivation over part of the berm and ditch. It will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction and the landscape in which it was built, both in its ditch fill and in the mound itself.

In addition, the barrow has been the focus of an annual pilgramage due to its association with St Birinus and this provides evidence of how such monuments remained prominent focal places for later generations.

Along with the adjacent bowl barrow, it forms part of the larger cemetery on Blewbury Down and will tell us much about funerary practice in the prehistoric period.


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


The monument includes a Bronze Age bell barrow 800m NNW of Upper Chance Farm, situated on the north facing crest of Churn Hill and a smaller plough-levelled bowl barrow immediately to the south west. The bell barrow is known locally as `Churn Knob'. Both barrows form part of a large dispersed round barrow cemetery which originally consisted of at least 15 individual barrows, many of which are the subject of separate schedulings.

The bell barrow mound survives as a visible stone and earth mound measuring 23m in diameter and standing up to 1.5m high. It is surrounded by a gently sloping berm approximately 5m wide beyond which lies a quarry ditch from which material was obtained during its construction. This has become infilled over the years but can be seen as an approximately 3m wide darker ring of soil where it has been ploughed.

Churn Knob is traditionally believed to have been the site of a sermon by St Birinus, first Bishop of Dorchester-on-Thames, in the 7th century and is still the focus of an annual pilgramage and service.

The smaller bowl barrow lies 10m to the south west and although no longer visible at ground level, is clearly visible as a soil mark (where a darker spread of soil represents the fill of the ditch below the modern topsoil) on recent aerial photographs. It is known from part excavation carried out in 1848 that the barrow mound measures 12m in diameter with a 2m wide quarry ditch surrounding it and running into the ditch of its larger neighbour. Finds included iron harness material and fragments of horse teeth and bones.

Excluded from the scheduling are the two modern concrete post bases, although the ground beneath is 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: 28188

Legacy System: RSM


PRN 7616, C.A.O., BELL BARROW - CHURN KNOB, (1994)
PRN 9210, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1994)

End of official listing