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Three barrows and a rectilinear enclosure 1000m NNW of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex

A Scheduled Monument in Newnham, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.1418 / 52°8'30"N

Longitude: -0.4071 / 0°24'25"W

OS Eastings: 509103.746182

OS Northings: 250469.74347

OS Grid: TL091504

Mapcode National: GBR G21.RVY

Mapcode Global: VHFQ8.WFNG

Entry Name: Three barrows and a rectilinear enclosure 1000m NNW of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex

Scheduled Date: 19 May 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007322

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20748

County: Bedford

Electoral Ward/Division: Newnham

Built-Up Area: Bedford

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Cople

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes the remains of three barrows and a rectilinear enclosure
initially recorded from aerial photographs and situated between the River
Great Ouse and the Elstow Brook, south-east of Bedford. Although no longer
visible at ground level the scheduling includes three ring ditches which can
be clearly seen on aerial photographs. Each ring ditch surrounds the area of a
levelled burial mound. The southern-most bowl barrow measures 30m in diameter
and has a single ditch, the western-most barrow measures 25m in diameter and
also has a single ditch. The eastern-most barrow is double-ditched, its outer
ring measures 20m whilst the inner ring measures 13m in diameter. A
rectilinear enclosure overlies the western ring ditch. The enclosure measures
70m NE-SW by 30m NW-SE and has a causeway 6m wide in its western end. It is
divided into two sections of unequal size by a ditch which runs NW-SE. The
northern parts of the two northernmost barrows and the rectilinear enclosure
have been cut by a drainage ditch which was enlarged in the 1970's and now
measures 10m in width and about 2m in depth. The northern part of the monument
has been covered by the upcast from the ditch. A trial trench in this area,
dug in 1990, confirmed the location of the monument and that the northern edge
of the site has been cut away by the modern drainage chanel. To the south
upcast has sealed and preserved the archaeological levels which include
evidence of pits and post holes within the rectilinear enclosure. The
rectilinear enclosure is dated to the Late Iron Age by pottery found during
the trial excavation and the ring ditches are of Bronze Age date.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complexes date to the period between c4000
and c700 BC. Typically they are set within topographically defined areas,
perhaps between rivers or valleys, and sometimes their topographical
boundaries are emphasised by ditch systems. Within the defined area such
complexes comprise closely spaced groups of features of different types, later
types of feature often being superimposed on earlier ones, indicating
continuity of use over a long period of time. Features found on such sites
include round barrows, which can take a variety of forms, of which bowl
barrows are the most common. Such barrows were earthen or stone mounds
covering a burial or group of burials. Such barrows were usually surrounded by
a circular ditch from which material for the construction of the mound was
obtained. These circular ditches are often visible through aerial photography
when the mound no longer shows as an earthwork and are frequently classified
as 'ring-ditches'. Burials on such sites, however, are not confined to the
barrows and 'flat burials' have often been discovered in between them. Also
found on such sites are a variety of enclosures, sometimes referred to as
mortuary enclosures. These are often square or rectangular in plan but round-
ended and even sub-circular examples are known. They are usually defined by a
bank and external ditch and sometimes have opposed entrances. Their original
function is uncertain but it is presumed that they were employed in the burial
ritual and in subsequent commemorations.
Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complexes often also include other classes
of ceremonial monuments such as cursuses (which were elongated embanked
enclosures which probably served as ceremonial routeways) and henges (which
were major circular earthworks which probably served as gathering places).
A small number of such complexes have individual components surviving as
earthworks but the majority are cropmark sites which are known from aerial
photography and which survive only as buried features below the ploughsoil.
They provide important evidence for the diversity of beliefs and social
organisation amongst Early Prehistoric communities and all examples where
significant archaeological deposits remain are considered to be of national
Trial excavation at the site 1000m NNW of Octagon Farm has confirmed that the
ditches surrounding the barrows and the rectilinear enclosure survive as
substantial features below ploughsoil. These excavations also demonstrated the
survival of other important features both inside and outside the areas defined
by the ditches. The area of the site destroyed by excavation and by the
cutting of the drain along its northern edge is small relation to the monument
as a whole and a large area of important archaeological deposits will survive
in situ. The buried features will retain structural information and
environmental evidence relating to the construction of both the barrows and
the rectilinear enclosure and to the landscape in which they were built. The
rectilinear enclosure retains important additional information for the
character of later activity on the site, whilst all four sites are of
additional importance because of their association with the large
concentration of related monuments 200m to the south-west. They will
contribute additional information regarding the continuity and evolution of
prehistoric funerary practice in this area.

Source: Historic England

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