Bartlow Hills Roman barrow cemetery


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


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1018974.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 27-Nov-2021 at 21:19:51.


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

South Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 58619 44877, TL 58662 44963

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.

Bartlow Hills Roman barrow cemetery includes some of the best preserved Roman barrows in Britain and on the continent. As part of a concentration of Roman barrows in East Anglia, they provide a unique insight into the social and economic development of south east England in the early days of the Roman occupation. Their association with contemporary features, such as a Roman villa and possibly a metal working area, reveals the multi-dimensional use of the Bartlow Hills site for domestic, funerary and industrial purposes and highlights its exceptional importance. As a result of investigation at the beginning of the 19th century, the remains are quite well understood, while significant archaeological deposits have been left intact.


The monument includes a group of six Roman barrows,known as Bartlow Hills, in two areas of protection. They are situated on a north facing slope, 150m south of the River Granta, at Bartlow. Four barrows remain preserved as steep conical mounds, while two have been largely levelled but survive as low mounds. Despite archeological investigations in the area, no evidence of ditches surrounding the mounds has been found. The barrows form two parallel rows running roughly north to south. In the western row two mounds survive as slight earthworks after being partly levelled by agricultural activity. The northernmost mound measures approximately 24m in diameter and is 1m high. Investigation in 1832 revealed a decayed wooden chest with fittings holding a deposit of human bones and numerous grave goods, such as glass vessels, Samian pottery stamped with the potters' marks, a bronze lock and an iron lamp. The mound immediately south of it measures 23m in diameter with a height of 1m. In the centre a tile-built chamber protecting a glass cinerary urn was found, accompanied by a gold ring, a coin of Hadrian, a wooden tankard and a wicker work bottle filled with incense. The eastern row consists of four conical mounds with flat platform tops. The northernmost mound, which is in a separate area of protection, has a diameter of 30m and is approximately 6.4m high. Explorations in 1815 recovered an iron lamp-holder, a bronze patera (shallow bowl used in banquets), and a small sickle shaped knife. Immediately south of it lies a second mound with a diameter of approximately 32m and a height of 7.1m. In 1840 a tunnel was dug to the centre revealing a wooden chest protecting a green glass cinerary bottle and grave goods, including a Bronze cup and flagon, Samian pottery, and an iron lamp holding a half burned wick. In between the artifacts were the petals of roses or poppies. Its neighbour to the south is the largest mound in the group, measuring 46m in diameter and 12.3m high. It contained a glass cinerary bottle in a wooden chest, holding the cremated remains of a small adult, possibly a female. Grave goods included an iron folding chair with a seat of leather straps, glass containers filled with liquids such as wine mixed with honey, and bronze strigils (skin-scrapers), flagons and a gilt bowl enamelled in blue, green and red. The southernmost mound measures 40m east-west and 34m north-south and is 5.2m high. Its contents included a glass cinerary bottle in a wooden chest, a bronze flagon on top of a patera, both decorated with silver and covered with cloth, a sponge, an iron lamp holder decorated with a wreath, and glass and pottery vessels, one of which contained chicken bones. The Bartlow Hills Roman barrow cemetery dates from the late first to the early second century AD and is part of a larger funerary complex. Between the two rows of barrows a flint surface dated by a coin of Valens (AD 364-78) may have served as the foundation of a monumental tomb or mausoleum. During the construction of the railway through the barrow group in 1864, 15 skeletons were uncovered, while in 1853 a former cemetery of Roman or Anglo-Saxon date was found 100m north east of Bartlow Hills. The site was of considerable economic importance, as stray finds of large quantities of rough bronze lumps, coin moulds, and hoards as large as 350 coins, indicate. Approximately 100m east of Bartlow Hills, Richard Neville discovered the remains of a Roman villa inhabited until roughly AD 350, of which no trace remains today. All fence posts, as well as the steps providing access to the highest mound, are excluded from 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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].