Wor Barrow and two bowl barrows on Handley Down


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020066

Date first listed: 11-Nov-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Sep-2001


Ordnance survey map of Wor Barrow and two bowl barrows on Handley Down
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: East Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Sixpenny Handley

County: Dorset

District: East Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Wimborne St. Giles

National Grid Reference: SU 01238 17287


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

Reasons for Designation

Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day.

Long barrows were constructed as earthen or drystone mounds with flanking ditches and acted as funerary monuments during the Early and Middle Neolithic periods. They represent the burial places of Britain's early farming communities. Some 500 examples have been recorded in England. Wor Barrow is of great archaeological significance. The excavations of General Pitt-Rivers represented the first `scientific investigation' of a long barrow, during which many innovative approaches were adopted (for example, the first use of a photographic tower at an excavation in England). Models were produced to show the site before and after excavation and the results were published in detail. Subsequent research has shown that Wor Barrow is unusual in form with complex origins. An antler recovered from the ditch has provided a radio-carbon date for the barrow, and this indicates that it belongs within the later phase of the long barrow tradition. General Pitt-Rivers applied some unusual approaches following the excavation of the site. Pioneering experiments were conducted into the rates of weathering within the exposed ditches of Wor Barrow, such experiments were not repeated for another 50 years. Pitt-Rivers then ordered that Wor Barrow should be converted into an amphitheatre `for games or other amusements and exhibitions'. The surviving earthwork is, therefore, unique having been created by General Pitt-Rivers and, as such, represents a monument to the social theories of a great antiquary. The presence of Wor Barrow is likely to have been a significant factor in the location of the two adjacent bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, and the important round barrow cemetery situated on Oakley Down to the east. The two adjacent bowl barrows are both likely to have Neolithic origins and, therefore, represent early examples of burial monuments which typically covered single or multiple burials. The occurence of such a group of Neolithic monuments is notable and important for an understanding of the development of funerary traditions during this period.


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The monument includes Wor Barrow long barrow and two bowl barrows situated on Handley Down, overlooking a dry valley to the east, within the area of Cranborne Chase. Wor Barrow, the largest barrow within the group, is located at the centre near the crest of Handley Down. The long barrow is of Early to Middle Neolithic date (3400-2400 BC). It originally included a mound 45m long, 23m wide and about 3m high, aligned south east by north west. This was surrounded by a ditch between 3m to 7.5m in width and up to about 4m deep, interrupted by a causeway at the north western end, with three further causeways at the south eastern end. The ditch, which was excavated by General Pitt-Rivers in 1893, was found to contain two Early Neolithic burials, a sequence of Neolithic pottery, an antler pick and several burials from the Romano-British period. The long barrow mound was excavated in 1894, when more burials of Romano- British date were found in the upper levels and the remains of a timber rectangular enclosure was discovered beneath the mound. The enclosure had dimensions of about 27m by 10m, with an entrance at the south eastern end and it was found to contain six primary inhumation burials beneath a circular turf mound. Following the excavations, Pitt-Rivers ordered that the material from the mound should be terraced along the south west side and the area exposed within the ditch formed into an arena, thereby creating an amphitheatre for entertainment and games. The bowl barrow situated to the north of Wor Barrow includes a mound composed of earth, flint and chalk, with maximum dimensions of 15m in diameter and about 0.5m in height. The barrow was partially excavated by Edward Cunnington, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and General Pitt-Rivers. The investigations confirmed the presence of human remains within the mound and an outer ditch 2.5m wide. A pit just outside of the ditch was found to contain red deer antler fragments. More recent investigations by John Barrett and Richard Bradley (1991) confirmed that the barrow ditch contained evidence for at least three phases of construction. The bowl barrow situated to the south east of Wor Barrow includes a mound 11m in diameter and about 0.5m high. The site was investigated by Colt Hoare and General Pitt-Rivers in 1894. The mound was found to contain human bone and is surrounded by a quarry ditch 2m wide. The beehives and all gates and fence posts which relate to the modern field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 35208

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 71
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 71

End of official listing