Roman barrow known as Lexden Mount: part of the Iron Age territorial oppidum and Roman town of Camulodunum
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1019963
Date first listed: 10-Aug-1923
Date of most recent amendment: 02-Sep-2002
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Colchester (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TL 96862 24871
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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 reused 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.
The Roman barrow known as `Lexden Mount' lies within the borders of an extensive late Iron Age settlement surrounding modern Colchester (`Camulodunum' in antiquity). This settlement, or territorial oppidum (after the Latin `oppida' for town), encompassed an area of about 25 sq km between the converging courses of the River Colne and the Roman River to the west of the Colne estuary. In addition to the rivers the settlement was defined and protected by the largest group of linear earthworks of the period in Britain.
These dykes have been interpreted as an expression of the settlement's status, as a means to control and protect grazing stock and as an effective defence against chariots - one of the principal features of later Iron Age warfare. The interior of the oppidum is thought to have been largely agricultural - a mixture of enclosed fields, pasture and woodland - with small occupation sites scattered throughout and two particularly large and complex areas of activity located at Gosbecks to the west and Sheepen to the north. Associated with the settlement sites are burial grounds, the most prominent of which are The Mount, Lexden Tumulus, a group of excavated burial enclosures at Stanway (beyond the western dykes) and a similar (unexcavated) enclosure at Gosbecks. These sites reflect the beliefs and complex burial rituals afforded to the society's elite. A large number of less elaborate burials have also been discovered across the oppidum.
Camulodunum was clearly of central importance to the region in AD 43 when it formed the primary military objective for the invading Roman army. After the collapse of local resistance the Emperor Claudius personally led his victorious forces into the oppidum, which was subsequently reorganised to provide a centre of provincial government and bridgehead for the further conquest of Britain. As the focus of military activity shifted further north and west the fortress established at Colchester was redesignated as a `colonia', a chartered town for a colony of retired soldiers. `Colonia Victricensis' (City of Victory) was the first Roman town established in Britain and thus the earliest truly urban settlement in the country. Native settlement and burial practices continued within the territorial oppidum which was probably run as a `civitas' or self governing town.
Although partly excavated in 1910 (and found to have been previously disturbed) Lexden Mount remains substantially intact. Although the central burial, most possibly that of a native aristocrat, has been disturbed, further burials may remain undisturbed both beneath the barrow and within the sides of the mound. The mound itself will contain valuable evidence for the date and manner of its construction, and the old ground surface, sealed at the time of the barrow's construction, may retain evidence of funerary rituals or earlier activity within this part of the oppidum. The Mount is one of the more prominent funerary monuments of Camulodunum and, together with the other high status burial sites in the area, provides significant insights into the continuation of elite burial practices under Roman government.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the buried and upstanding remains of Lexden Mount, an
earthen burial mound, or barrow, located in the garden of No 11 Wordsworth
Road, south of London Road and some 2.5km west of Colchester town centre.
The barrow is circular in plan, measuring some 30m in diameter and 5m high. The mound may originally have been completely conical in profile, but by 1759, when William Stukeley included an illustration of the barrow in his study of the earthworks on Lexden Heath, the summit appears to have been flattened. Stukeley, who referred to the mound as `Cunobelini Tumulus' (the burial of the British king Cunobelin), depicted the barrow crowned by an ornamental copse, encircled by a low wall or hedge and ascended by a path across the northern slope.
The single documented investigation of the barrow took place in 1910 under the auspices of the Morant Club. Excavation was limited in scale but the approximate date of the barrow was established by the presence of fragments of Roman tiles in the material of the mound. The central burial area was found to have been disturbed or robbed at an earlier date.
All fences and garden features 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. 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: 29459
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Stukeley, W, A Perspective View of Cunoblines Circus on Lexden Heath, (1759)
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 85
Laver, H, Reader, F , 'Trans Essex Arch Soc (new series)' in The Excavation of Lexden Mount, , Vol. 12, (1913), 186-92
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