Round barrow cemetery incorporating Wambarrows on Winsford Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Round barrow cemetery incorporating Wambarrows on Winsford Hill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Somerset (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SS 87616 34301, SS 87832 34201

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.

Despite disturbance to three of the mounds, the five round barrows which form the prehistoric round barrow cemetery on Winsford Hill survive well as a group and will contain archaeological deposits and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the wider landscape in which it was constructed. The cemetery includes the Wambarrows which have been described as among the best known groups on Exmoor. It occupies a prominent position on the summit of Winsford Hill close to a well-used route through the moor and would have formed a striking visual element in the prehistoric landscape.


The monument, which lies in two separate areas of protection, includes a round barrow cemetery of prehistoric date which is situated on open moorland in a prominent location on the summit of Winsford Hill. The cemetery comprises at least five round barrows which extend broadly in a line from north west to south east adjacent to the north side of the B3223 road, between Spire Cross and Comer's Gate. The three westernmost of the round barrows have attracted the collective name Wambarrows and appear to have formed the focus of the cemetery. The name Wambarrows is derived from `Wamburg' and `Wimureghe', which are mentioned in the Exmoor Forest perambulations of 1219 and 1279 respectively as recognisable boundary markers.

The barrows are formed by circular earth and stone mounds and the westernmost three, those known as Wambarrows, range in diameter from between 17.6m to 28.8m. The westernmost barrow measures 27.7m north-south and 28.8m east-west. It has an uneven summit, 1.8m high, which slopes to the north. The mound of the central barrow of these three, which is 17.6m in diameter, has been disturbed leaving the eastern part surviving to a height of 1.8m, whilst the remaining part, having been robbed in antiquity, survives to a height of 0.9m. In addition, a pit, 5.3m by 3.4m, and up to 0.6m deep has been dug into the south west quadrant of the mound. The mound of the barrow located 60m east of the former is 21.6m in diameter and 1.9m high and has a large central pit 9m wide dug into its summit.

Two further barrows, which form part of the round barrow cemetery, are located some 200m to the east of the Wambarrows. These are formed by low earthen mounds, one of which is 8.5m in diameter and 0.5m high with a rectangular pit 2.9m by 2.6m and 0.3m deep dug into its surface, and the other, located 12m to the north west, is 4m in diameter and 0.4m high with its mound intact. The barrow cemetery is overlain by an extensive field system which is formed by a series of low banks and ridge and furrow, which is believed to date from the late medieval to the early post-medieval period. The field system has encroached upon at least two of the barrow mounds: the central barrow of the five lies in the corner of a former field and two of its banks have impinged on its eastern and southern sides. The westernmost barrow of the group has been impinged on its southern side by a low field bank. An earthwork enclosure which lies to the north west of the easternmost barrow is the subject of a separate scheduling.

All fence posts and fencing 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.

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Books and journals
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 42
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 42
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 42
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaelogical & Natural History Society' in Somerset Barrows, , Vol. 113, (1969), 42
Grinsell, L V, 'Proceedings Somerset Archaeology & Natural History Society' in Somerset barrows: revisions, , Vol. 131, (1987), 24
SS 83 SE 3, National Monuments Record,
SS 83 SE 5, National Monuments Record,


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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