Ancient Monuments

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Mortuary enclosure 1200m north-west of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex

A Scheduled Monument in Newnham, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.1395 / 52°8'22"N

Longitude: -0.4159 / 0°24'57"W

OS Eastings: 508507.25191

OS Northings: 250206.102276

OS Grid: TL085502

Mapcode National: GBR G21.X82

Mapcode Global: VHFQ8.RH06

Entry Name: Mortuary enclosure 1200m north-west of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex

Scheduled Date: 19 May 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007326

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20750

County: Bedford

Electoral Ward/Division: Newnham

Built-Up Area: Bedford

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Cardington

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes a rectangular enclosure initially recorded from aerial
photographs and situated between the River Great Ouse and the Elstow Brook,
south-east of Bedford. The monument is visible on aerial photographs as a
subrectangular-shaped enclosure surrounded by a ditch which measures 30m east-
west by 30m north-south.

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 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
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
The enclosure 1200m north-west of Octagon Farm will retain archaeological
information and environmental evidence relating to the construction of the
monument and to the landscape in which it was built. Its association with the
main group of mortuary monuments 200m to the south-east will provide
additional information regarding the continuity and evolution of funerary
practices in this area during the Prehistoric period.

Source: Historic England

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