Swarkestone Lows round barrow cemetery and part of an aggregate field system 300m north west of The Lowes Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Swarkestone Lows round barrow cemetery and part of an aggregate field system 300m north west of The Lowes Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Derbyshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 36710 29503

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.

Field systems can take different forms. Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age to the end of the 5th century AD. They comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another. Individual fields can be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The field boundaries can take various forms and follow straight or sinuous courses.

The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought to have been used mainly for crop production, although rotation may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. Aggregate field systems represent a coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time, and can thus provide important information about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries.

The Bronze Age barrow cemetery known as Swarkestone Lows is the only known example to survive in the Trent Valley. Although parts of the site have been denuded by ploughing, significant remains will survive beneath the present ground surface. The earthwork and buried remains will add significantly to our the knowledge and understanding of Bronze Age beliefs, social organisation and the impact these monuments had on the wider landscape both during and after the Bronze Age period.

The survival of the stratigraphic relationship between the barrow cemetery, Bronze Age occupation area and Iron Age boundary ditch and field system is rare. Such a relationship provides important information about the continuity and change of settlement and land use over time.


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of Swarkestone Lows, the only known Bronze Age round barrow cemetery to survive in the Trent Valley. The monument also includes the buried remains of Bronze Age occupation and part of an Iron Age aggregate field system. It is situated on the crest of a narrow east to west ridge of Triassic Mercia Mudstone which rises approximately 15m above the River Trent to the south and Sinfin Moor to the north.

The monument is visible as a series of earthworks and cropmarks, the latter being evident from aerial photographs. Four barrows are visible as upstanding earthworks, the largest and most prominent measuring approximately 91.5m in diameter and 3.6m in height. This barrow is under pasture and is situated towards the western end of the monument. The remaining three barrows lie within an arable field and have been denuded by ploughing to heights ranging from 1m to 0.4m. Cropmarks indicate that each of these was encircled by a ditch ranging in diameter from 26m to 34m. The ditches would have provided raw material for the mounds and served as a symbolic boundary to them. Partial excavation of one of the barrows in 1956 revealed evidence of an early Bronze Age occupation area underlying the barrow.

Although only four barrows are visible from the surface, a detailed contour survey of the field has revealed a further two mounds. One of these correlates with 19th century records of a fifth barrow but the other may have been too denuded even at that time to be recorded.

Later activity on the site is evident in the form of a substantial ditched boundary running along the northern and eastern margins of the barrow cemetery. The northern arm of the boundary ditch was destroyed during the construction of the new road which now runs east to west immediately north of the monument. The eastern arm is still evident as an infilled feature on aerial photographs, running north to south approximately 5m east of the easternmost barrow, across the full width of the area of protection. Excavations have shown the ditch to be of Iron Age date.

Four linear cropmarks running north to south serve to divide the enclosure into sub-rectangular units measuring between 70m and 130m wide. The easternmost boundary of this system is formed by the eastern arm of the boundary ditch, suggesting this once formed part of an aggregate field system. The westernmost unit is further sub-divided by a narrow east west ditch and appears to have been flanked on its western side by a ditched trackway. All the Iron Age boundary ditches respect the earlier and, at that time, still prominent barrows.

All modern fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it 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
Elliott, L, Knight, D, Excavations of an Iron Age settlement, field system and pit alig, (1998), 1-60
Elliott, L, Knight, D, Excavations of an Iron Age Settlement, Field System and Pit, (1998), 1-60
Greenfield, E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Excavation At Barrow 4 At Swarkestone, , Vol. 80, (1960), 1-48
Hughes, R, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Archaeological Sites In The Trent Valley, , Vol. 81, (1961), 149-150
Posnansky, M, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Bronze Age Round Barrow At Swarkestone Part 2, , Vol. 76, (1956), 10-25
Posnansky, M, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Bronze Age Round Barrow At Swarkestone, , Vol. 75, (1955), 123-139


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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