Ancient Monuments

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Two barrows 500m north east of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex

A Scheduled Monument in Cople, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.1374 / 52°8'14"N

Longitude: -0.3972 / 0°23'49"W

OS Eastings: 509791.956144

OS Northings: 250003.008393

OS Grid: TL097500

Mapcode National: GBR H3D.VTL

Mapcode Global: VHFQ9.2JCT

Entry Name: Two barrows 500m NE of Octagon Farm: part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age mortuary complex

Scheduled Date: 19 May 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008510

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20746

County: Bedford

Civil Parish: Cople

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Cople

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes two barrows initially recorded from aerial photographs
and situated between the River Great Ouse and the Elstow Brook, south-east of
Bedford. The scheduling includes two ring ditches which represent the remains
of the barrows and which can be clearly seen on aerial photographs,
enclosing the levelled area of the burial mounds. The eastern ring ditch
measures 23m in diameter and contains a rectilinear enclosure. This monument
can be paralleled with a ring ditch 1km to the north-east where, on
excavation, a rectilinear enclosure was found to pre-date the ring ditch. The
western ring ditch is situated 20m to the west. This barrow is double
ditched. The outer ditch measures 32m in diameter whilst the inner ditch
measures 12.5m in diameter.
Although no longer visible at ground level these monuments survive as buried
features below the ploughsoil and their locations have been confirmed by
geophysical survey. The survey also revealed that the square-shaped enclosure
within the eastern-most ring ditch has a causeway, 3m wide, in its north-
eastern corner and includes five internal pits which may contain human

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 or 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 a 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 geophysical survey of the two barrows 500m north-east of Octagon Farm
has confirmed that the monument survives well below ground. The ditches will
retain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the
burial mounds and the landscape in which they were constructed. The
association of these barrows with the main group of mortuary monuments to the
west will contribute information regarding the continuity and evolution of
Prehistoric funerary practices in this area.

Source: Historic England

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