Western Howes round barrows, 250m north west of White Cross


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018988

Date first listed: 19-Jun-2000


Ordnance survey map of Western Howes round barrows, 250m north west of White Cross
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: Westerdale


National Grid Reference: NZ 68118 02224


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

Reasons for Designation

Round barrows 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 mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus of 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 examples recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of Britain, including the Wessex area where it is often possible to classify them more closely, for example as bowl or bell barrows. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation in 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 majority of round barrows in the region were dug into by 19th century antiquarians in search of burials and artifacts, leaving behind a central depression as evidence of their work. However, excavations in the latter half of the 20th century have shown that round barrows typically contain archaeological information that survives earlier digging. These excavations demonstrate a wide range of burial rites, from simple scatters of cremated material to coffin inhumations and cremations contained in urns, typically dating to the Bronze Age. A common factor is that barrows were normally used for more than one burial and that the primary burial was frequently on or below the original ground surface, often with secondary burials located within the body of the mound which were frequently missed by antiquarian excavators. The three Western Howes barrows 250m north west of White Cross form an important, prominently sited group of burial mounds. The survival of records of the antiquarian investigation of these barrows adds to their significance.


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The monument includes buried and earthwork remains of a group of three prehistoric burial mounds. The round barrows are located on the northern edge of the plateau which forms the central watershed of the North York Moors, the land surface gently sloping away to the north to form Castleton Rigg. They are prominently sited, with the larger two barrows being part of the skyline when viewed from the north. All three barrows were investigated by Canon Atkinson, vicar of Danby, in 1863. The central barrow is the largest. It is 11m in diameter, standing 1m high. At the centre of this barrow, Atkinson uncovered a carefully built stone cairn, encased by large flat slabs, which was just over 4m in diameter. About 2.5m east of its centre there were two Bronze Age cremation urns. One contained a small amount of cremated bone, a granite battle-axe, a small cup, a bone toggle and parts of four bone pins. The second contained cremated bone along with parts of two further burnt bone pins. The excavation hollow left by Atkinson is 5m in diameter and 0.5m deep. The eastern barrow is approximately 25m north east of the central barrow. This is just under 11m in diameter and is 0.7m high, and also with a central excavation hollow 5m in diameter and 0.5m deep. Atkinson noted that this barrow was constructed of earth and some stone with a large, irregularly shaped stone at its centre which he believed to have been naturally sited. The smallest barrow lies 40m to the west of the central barrow. It is 6m in diameter and at most 0.3m high with a small central excavation hollow. Atkinson recorded that this contained a deposit of cremated bone and charcoal on top of a naturally sited stone. Although there are no ditches visible around the barrows, excavations of other examples in the region have shown that, even where no encircling depression is discernible on the modern ground surface, ditches immediately around the outside of barrows frequently survive as infilled features, containing additional archaeological deposits. Investigations in the 20th century of barrow groups have also revealed the presence of flat graves between barrows. These burials without covering mounds are of especial interest, so that the ground between the barrows is considered to be archaeologically sensitive and worthy of protection.

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: 32647

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Smith, M J B, Excavated Bronze Age Burial Mounds of Durham and N' land., (1994), 57
Smith, M J B, Excavated Bronze Age Burial Mounds of Durham and N' land., (1994), 56

End of official listing