Long barrow at Foulmire Fen, 140m north west of the junction of Back and Small Fen Drove


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Long barrow at Foulmire Fen, 140m north west of the junction of Back and Small Fen Drove
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 42007 76779

Reasons for Designation

Long barrows were constructed as earthen or drystone mounds with flanking ditches and acted as funerary monuments during the Early and Middle Neolithic periods (3400-2400 BC). They represent the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, long barrows appear to have been used for communal burial, often with only parts of the human remains having been selected for interment. Certain sites provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow and, consequently, it is probable that long barrows acted as important ritual sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Some 500 examples of long barrows and long cairns, their counterparts in the uplands, are recorded nationally. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as earthworks, and due to their comparative rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument type, all long barrows are considered to be nationally important.

The long barrow at Foulmire Fen, 140m north west of the junction of Back and Small Fen Drove, survives exceptionally well, having been protected by overlying fen deposits of clay and peat, and contained a well-preserved wooden chamber, human bone and pottery fragments. Partial excavation revealed that the barrow developed through various construction stages, as well as a phase of deliberate destruction and burning; an activity which has been documented on other locations but remains poorly understood. Surviving deposits will provide further valuable information on the construction and use of the tomb, while waterlogged deposits in the ditch will contain evidence on the local prehistoric environment. The long barrow is of additional importance as it is situated in close vicinity of an oval and a round barrow, which provides an unusual insight into the development of prehistoric funerary monuments from the early Neolithic up to the Bronze Age. As part of an alignment of at least three long barrows, the monument holds unique information on the spatial and social organisation of Neolithic funerary rituals.


The monument includes a long barrow at Foulmire Fen situated approximately 140m north west of the junction of Back and Small Fen Drove. It is part of an alignment of three long barrows, the other two of which are the subject of separate schedulings. The long barrow has been covered by later deposits of marine clay and peat, from which the crown emerges and has been exposed by modern ploughing. Underlying the fen deposits is a trapezoidal mound, aligned north east to south west, which is 1.2m high, 50m long, 16m wide at its east end and 11m at its west end, as partial excavation between 1985 and 1987 demonstrated. Surrounding the mound is a berm approximately 4m wide and an infilled ditch up to 5m wide and 1.5m deep, from which earth was dug in the construction of the mound. The ditch contains waterlogged deposits, sealed by a layer of marine clay deposited shortly after the construction of the long barrow.

Inside the mound a well-preserved rectangular flat-roofed wooden funerary chamber was found, measuring up to 1.3m high, 7.2m long and up to 1.5m wide. The structure was held in place by an external earth bank and several rows of posts creating a porch and main room. While the porch was empty, the main room contained the remains of five or six human burials together with a number of leaf-shaped arrow heads. To the east of the chamber was a wooden facade, probably 1.7m-2.2m high and 12m long, with 4m long arms curving to the west. Leading up to this facade was a funnel shaped forecourt, surrounded by a 5.5m wide gravelled surface, creating a false entrance. In the forecourt Mildenhall pottery fragments were found. The chamber was originally a freestanding structure, enclosed by a palisade running from the outermost ends of the facade. This enclosure was later filled with a gravel capped clay and silt creating a mound up to 0.5m high. A phase of destruction followed in which the chamber, facade and forecourt were partly dismantled and burned. In its final construction phase the long mound, some 1.2m high, was erected on top of and to the west of the previous structures. The mound itself was reused at a later date, as two secondary burials of unknown date indicate.

The long barrow is situated on a gravel island along the former course of the River Great Ouse, where it met the Fen edge. This location acted as a focal point for prehistoric activity, leaving a range of monuments such as a large causewayed enclosure (3km to the south west) and a spread of barrows of various forms. About 180m to the north east a round and an oval barrow fall in line with the axis of the long barrow. These barrows are the subject of a separate scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 4 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.

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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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