Ancient Monuments

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Bell barrow and moot 600m SSE of Finger Post Plantation: part of Great Bircham barrow group

A Scheduled Monument in Houghton, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.846 / 52°50'45"N

Longitude: 0.6359 / 0°38'9"E

OS Eastings: 577609.24505

OS Northings: 330870.083313

OS Grid: TF776308

Mapcode National: GBR Q5J.KLK

Mapcode Global: WHKPW.RQ0J

Entry Name: Bell barrow and moot 600m SSE of Finger Post Plantation: part of Great Bircham barrow group

Scheduled Date: 12 April 1926

Last Amended: 27 January 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010565

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21352

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Houghton

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: The Birchams and Bagthorpe

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument includes a bell barrow which is the southernmost of three round
barrows aligned north west-south east above a slight north east facing
slope. They are situated on what was once heathland in the Good Sands region
of upland north west Norfolk. The barrow is visible as an earthen mound
surrounded by a ditch and an external bank, and measures c.52m in diameter
overall. The central mound stands to a height of c.1.7m and covers a circular
area c.24m in diameter, and between the mound and the encircling ditch is a
berm c.4m wide. The ditch, from which earth was dug and used in the
construction of the barrow, has become partly infilled, but is marked by a
hollow between 6m and 8m wide and c.0.5m deep below the level of the berm. The
bank around the outer edge of the ditch is c.0.4m high and c.3.5m wide at the
base except on the south side of the barrow where the ground appears level.
The barrow was investigated in 1842 by F C Lukis, who carried out a limited
excavation on the mound and found a Bronze Age urn containing burnt human bone
and also a bronze awl, or pin, and six or seven round and biconical beads. The
barrow is identified as the one reused as Moot Hill of Smithdon Hundred.
The posts of a fence surrounding the barrow are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Bell barrows, the most visually impressive form of round barrow, are funerary
monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age, with most examples
belonging to the period 1500-1100 BC. They occur either in isolation or in
round barrow cemeteries and were constructed as single or multiple mounds
covering burials, often in pits, and surrounded by an enclosure ditch. The
burials are frequently accompanied by weapons, personal ornaments and pottery
and appear to be those of aristocratic individuals, usually men. Bell barrows
(particularly multiple barrows) are rare nationally, with less than 250 known
examples, most of which are in Wessex. Their richness in terms of grave goods
provides evidence for chronological and cultural links amongst early
prehistoric communities over most of southern and eastern England as well as
providing an insight into their beliefs and social organisation. As a
particularly rare form of round barrow, all identified bell barrows would
normally be considered to be of national importance.

The bell barrow 600m SSE of Finger Post Plantation survives well and is
unusual in its class in having an external bank surrounding the ditch. The
objects recovered during the antiquarian investigation of the mound
demonstrate the high status of burials in the barrow, yet the disturbance
caused by the excavation was limited in extent in relation to the monument as
a whole. Archaeological information concerning the construction of the barrow
and the manner and duration of its use, and also evidence for the local
environment at that time, will be retained in the barrow mound, in soils
buried beneath the mound and the external bank, and in the fill of the ditch.
The barrow has further interest as one of a group of four round barrows which
includes a second bell barrow 620m to the north. The group has particular
importance for the study of the prehistory of the region, since bell barrows
are a rare class of monument in Norfolk. Prehistoric barrows, as conspicuous
features of the landscape, were sometimes chosen as meeting places, or moots,
for courts and other bodies who dealt with the administration and organisation
of the countryside in the Saxon and medieval period. The identification of
this barrow as the moot hill for the hundred, which in Saxon and medieval
times was the basic unit of local government and land management, gives it an
additional, historical interest.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Lukis, F C, A Brief Account of the Barrows near Bircham Magna, Norfolk, (1843)
Salmon, N, A New Survey of England, (1728), 193
Salmon, N, A New Survey of England, (1728), 193
1705: West Norfolk, Bircham,

Source: Historic England

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