Bronze Age/Early Iron Age barrows identified by crop marks, Aldham Mill Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
West of Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh, Suffolk, IP7 6SB


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Statutory Address:
West of Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh, Suffolk, IP7 6SB

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Babergh (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


An area of crop mark remains representing a prehistoric ritual landscape including the remains of three Bronze Age/Early Iron Age round barrows surviving as ring ditches.

Reasons for Designation

The three Bronze Age/Early Iron Age ring ditches representing three barrows at Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: as a group of crop mark monuments representing the burial practices, beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric and possibly later communities;

* Potential: for the archaeological deposits which retain considerable potential to provide evidence not only for the individuals buried within but also evidence for the ideology, variation in burial practices and social organisation of the communities and social networks that were using the landscape for ritual and funerary purposes;

* Group value: as the remains of a small cemetery the cluster of three barrows hold a very strong group value enhanced by the two barrows recorded immediately to the east of the site which were excavated and preserved in record in advance of development.


The monument is located west of Aldham Mill Hill, and east of the River Brett, Hadleigh. It comprises an area of crop mark remains representing a multi-phased site spanning possibly from the Mesolithic/Neolithic period to late Roman, with the principal features including Bronze Age/Early Iron Age barrows which survive as ring ditches (the mounds having been spread through later agricultural processes).

Barrows are the physical remains of the ritual practices of past communities representing the way in which they treated, buried and commemorated the dead, a function and belief which has formed a distinctive part of human life for millennia. The remains of the dead have been dealt with in remarkably varied ways in the past and it appears that, in the prehistoric period especially, only a small proportion of the population received a burial which has left traces detectable using current methods. Round barrows are distinctive burial monuments which can represent both individual burials as well as larger burial groups. They are one of the main sources of information about life in this period.

The main period of round barrow construction occurred in the Early Bronze Age between about 2200-1500 BC (a period when cremation succeeded inhumation as the primary burial rite), although Neolithic examples are known from as early as 3000 BC. In general round barrows comprise a rounded earthen mound or stone cairn, the earthen examples usually having a surrounding ditch and occasionally an outer bank. They range greatly in size from just 5m in diameter to as much as 40m, with the mounds ranging from slight rises to as much as 4m in height. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Round barrows are the most numerous of the various prehistoric funerary monuments.

Groups of round barrows or barrow cemeteries comprise closely-spaced groups of up to 30 round barrows. 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. Round barrow cemeteries occur across most of lowland Britain, with a marked concentration in Wessex and in some cases are clustered around other important contemporary monuments.

Numerous archaeological investigations on the land surrounding the ring ditches have revealed a multi-phased landscape and provide an archaeological and historical context for this monument. In 1982 an archaeological investigation was carried out in advance of the construction of the A1071 Hadleigh bypass. This revealed pre-Roman Iron Age activity as well as multiple Roman ditched enclosures, a corn drying kiln and an abundance of roof tile fragments. This was considered to be an agricultural complex possibly associated with a Roman water mill. At the southern extent of the excavation a double-ditched rectilinear enclosure of Roman date was also recorded.

To the east of this site archaeological evaluation and excavation (1999 and 2000 respectively) identified two large Bronze Age ring ditches and one smaller one that surrounded a group of urned and un-urned cremations. Cremations were also found grouped together within the northern ring ditch and a few more in isolated positions just outside. In the northern ring ditch an urned cremation of a 35-40 year old male was revealed, a feature believed to be the primary burial. The southern ring ditch was a focus for four pagan Anglo-Saxon inhumations all furnished with grave goods with no evidence of Bronze Age funerary activity associated with this ring ditch. Medieval deposits were confined to the south-west of the excavations and suggested an agricultural complex of medieval date.

An archaeological evaluation was carried out across the field containing the ring ditches to establish the nature, extent and significance of any archaeological deposits present on the site, prior to a proposed housing development and as part of the planning process. Twenty four archaeological evaluation trenches and six test pits were excavated in April 2018. These were located primarily to test the features identified from previous geophysical survey (January 2018) and crop mark evidence from aerial photographs (Suffolk HER HAD 015, 020, 021, 022, 023 and 036). Of these 22 evaluation trenches and all six test pits contained archaeological features with the highest density of features located in the north and south-east of the site.

Map regression, beginning with Hoskins Map of the County of Suffolk 1787 and the 1801 Ordnance Survey (OS) map shows open land north of the focus of the settlement of Hadleigh. The 1838 Hadleigh Tithe Map and associated Award map record the site as meadow and arable land confirming that the site has, with the exception of agricultural practices, remained relatively undisturbed and unencumbered by modern development. The archaeological investigations carried out as part of the planning process does suggest the upper portions of the surviving archaeological remains may have been truncated and, as a result, no evidence of, for example, mounds associated with the ring ditches was found.


The site lies on the northern periphery of the market town of Hadleigh on agricultural land, bounded to the north by the A1071, to the east and south-east by Aldham Mill Hill, and to the west and south-west by the River Brett. Sand and gravels are recorded on the east and west sides of the site with alluvium deposits of silt and clay across the centre.

The site includes crop marks of three prehistoric ring ditches, believed to be Bronze Age/Early Iron Age in origin and representing burial mounds or barrows (Suffolk HER HAD 020, 021, 022). The group is located in the south-east corner of the field and were targeted during the test pitting investigations. They range in size from 10-47m in diameter. One ring ditch (HAD 022) revealed three sherds of pottery and worked flint, broadly dated as Late Bronze Age to earlier Middle Iron Age. One of the barrows (HAD 022) is evident as a double ring ditch, the outer ditch maybe of Early Iron Age in date although this is based on a single flint flake and no dating evidence was recovered from the small sample of the inner ditch, however based on the relationship between the two it is believed to be of contemporary date and clearly prehistoric in origin. The ring ditches are most likely associated with those previously excavated by SCCAS (1999; 2010) outside the site to the south-east, in advance of development by Suffolk County Council. It is possible the excavated Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age ring ditches were associated with an area of possible settlement occupation of similar date, as suggested by ditched field boundaries, a possible droveway and a number of square and rectangular post-built structures located to the east of the site, all of which have been excavated (HAD 061; SCCAS 2000).

Although plough damage is probably responsible for the removal or spread of the barrow mounds, and may have truncated some of the features recorded, the site remains unencumbered by development.

Overall, the archaeological record demonstrates a change in the land use over time in this part of Hadleigh, transitioning from a prehistoric ritual landscape into one of agriculture from the Roman period onwards.

Extent of Scheduling

The area of protection includes the three ring ditches which represent a group of Bronze Age/Early Iron Age barrows, and the areas between these burial monuments, to preserve their spatial relationship and to ensure any burials between the barrows are encompassed. The area includes a 5m buffer zone around the ring ditches which was considered necessary for the support and preservation of the monument.

It is quite possible that nationally important archaeological features lie beyond the scheduled area. An Early/Middle Iron Age square enclosure centred at TM 02404354 was recorded but cannot currently be confidently identified or interpreted and is not therefore included in the scheduling. A large Roman enclosure and trackway, also recorded in the northern half of the field are part of a wider Roman agricultural/villa complex but the spatial and functional relationship between the settlement focus and the wider remains has been truncated and the survival of structural archaeological remains appears fragmentary. For these reasons this part of the field is not included in the scheduling.


Archaeological Evaluation, Land off Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh, Suffolk. ASE Project No 171090, Site/Parish Code: HAD160, ASE Report no: 2018172, Sept 2018
ASE 2017, Written scheme of investigation for an archaeological evaluation on land at Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh, Suffolk, IP7 6RF, Unpub Archaeology South-East Rep
CgMs 2017, Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment: Land at Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh, Suffolk
CgMs Archaeological Statement of Significance, Land at Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh, Suffolk; June 2018
Historic England Introduction to Heritage Assets, Roman Settlements. May 2011.
SCCAS 2010, An Assessment on the Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh Excavations (HAD 059), unpubl. SCCAS Rep. 2000/96
Suffolk Historic Environment Record (HER): HAD 015, 002, 150, 055, 036, 030, 020, 021, 022, 023, 055, 059, 152, 153, 031, 007
TigerGeo 2018, Land at Aldham Mill Hill, Hadleigh, Suffolk: Geophysical Survey Report


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.

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