A small barrow cemetery of three bowl barrows.
Reasons for Designation
The three bowl barrows known as Rubury Butts, Womenswold, Kent are scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: the bowl barrows survive well, with mounds of between 1m and 3.5m high, and are likely to contain structures and burials;
* Potential: the barrows have considerable potential to retain deposits pertaining to their construction and any interior structures, evidence of funerary traditions of the Bronze Age period and artefacts and ecofacts sealed within the mounds;
* Group value: the survival of three barrows in a group adds considerably to their national significance;
* Rarity: although not a rare burial feature of the prehistoric period, bowl barrows surviving in this good state of preservation are rare in Kent.
The three bowl barrows known as Rubury Butts at Three Barrow Down, Womenswold, Kent lie at the convergence of the three parishes of Womenswold, Nonington and Shepherdswell in a lightly wooded copse adjacent to the North Downs Way. They were noted by the C18 antiquarian Bryan Faussett in his Inventorium Sepulchrale published in 1860 who believed that their name derived from ‘’Romes berig Butts’, meaning ‘ the butts at the Roman burial place’. Faussett undertook excavations of Anglo-Saxon burial sites at Golgotha, Shepherdswell and Barfrestone approximately 2km to the east and it is thought possible that these later monuments may have been positioned intentionally within the sight of the three earlier barrows. It is certainly the case that a resurgence of interest in barrow construction took place in the Iron Age, Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods when burials were made in ancient mounds or new mounds were constructed. Nationally barrows are known to have acted as Parish markers as in this case.
As our Introduction to Heritage Assets on Prehistoric Barrows and Burial Mounds (May 2011) explains, round barrows (of which bowl barrows are a specific type) have a long chronology. However, the main period of round barrow construction occurred between about 4000 and 3500 years ago (2000-1500 BC) and their size varies considerably from only 5 or 6m across to 40m in diameter and 4m in height. Bowl barrows have slopes of varying profile, sometimes with a surrounding ditch and occasionally an outer bank.
The original form of barrow mounds and the processes of use and decay that they have undergone can sometimes be determined through excavation. Underlying structures revealed can comprise stone platforms, pits, stone cairns or turf mounds, various timber structures including mortuary enclosures, wooden and stone chambers, timber or stake circles, pits and postholes that might have formed rectilinear shrine-like features. Human remains (burials or cremated bone) may be found during excavation along with deposits associated with the barrow’s construction.
It is likely that the Rubury Butts bowl barrow cemetery is Bronze Age in origin. The site is recorded on the Kent Historic Environment Record and Pastscape (monument number 466038) where it is noted as having been surveyed by the Ordnance Survey. The National Mapping Project (which rectifies and plots cropmarks observed through aerial photography) has identified the buried deposits of a complex prehistoric or Roman multi-vallate enclosure approached by a ditched track immediately to the north of the barrows and a complex of rectangular and oval enclosures approximately 1km to the south-east. The North Downs Way, also known as Long Lane at this point, is thought to have Roman or earlier origins.
The site does not seem to have been ploughed.
The monument includes the earthworks and buried archaeological deposits of a small barrow cemetery comprising three bowl barrows centred at TR 24726 49630 on land at approximately 100m above OD.
The barrows are aligned in a row on a north-west to south-east axis approximately 5m apart. The northernmost barrow is 26m across and stands to 3.5m in height. The middle barrow is 14m wide and 1m high and the third, adjacent to the track, is ovoid in shape, approximately 21m wide and 1.9m high, eroded to the south-east by the track. None of the mounds have obvious ditches.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING
The scheduling boundary around the Rubury Butts bowl barrows includes a 2m margin for the support and protection of the monument and takes in a section of land between each barrow where buried archaeological deposits associated with the barrows will be preserved. The boundary at the south-east extent of the monument respects the edge of the public footpath known as Long Lane.
All modern fences and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling but the land beneath them is included.