Ancient Monuments

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Oval barrow, the north-western of two on Stoughton Down

A Scheduled Monument in West Dean, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.9033 / 50°54'11"N

Longitude: -0.8327 / 0°49'57"W

OS Eastings: 482173.746374

OS Northings: 112186.937457

OS Grid: SU821121

Mapcode National: GBR DFY.699

Mapcode Global: FRA 964Q.9DM

Entry Name: Oval barrow, the north-western of two on Stoughton Down

Scheduled Date: 28 September 1954

Last Amended: 13 January 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010917

English Heritage Legacy ID: 12851

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: West Dean

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Octagon

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes the mound and flanking ditches of an oval barrow
located just west of the crest of Stoughton Down. The barrow mound measures
34m long by 20m wide and averages 1.6m in height. The widest point is to the
south-east side of the centre, giving the mound an egg-shape plan. A hollow
area on the south-west side indicates the position of one of the two
flanking ditches which were clearly visible when the barrow was surveyed in
1925. The ditches, some 3m wide at the surface, turned inwards at the ends
of the barrow but did not join.
The south-east end of the barrow mound shows signs of partial excavation in
the form of a shallow 4m trench along the axis of the mound. It is the spoil
from these excavations, which probably took place in the 19th century, which
has created the unusual egg-shape plan of the mound. Like its near
neighbour, this example is likely to have been a more regular oval in its
original form. In 1980, further excavations comprising a narrow slot across
the flanking ditch confirmed the dimensions of the ditch which was found to
survive to a depth of 0.8m. A few flint tools were found during the

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

Oval barrows are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early to Middle
Neolithic periods, with the majority of dated monuments belonging to the later
part of the range. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds of
roughly elliptical plan, usually delimited by quarry ditches. These ditches
can vary from paired "banana-shaped" ditches flanking the mound to "U-shaped"
or unbroken oval ditches nearly or wholly encircling it. Along with the long
barrows, oval barrows represent the burial places of Britain's early farming
communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving
visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, oval barrows have
produced two distinct types of burial rite: communal burials of groups of
individuals, including adults and children, laid directly on the ground
surface before the barrow was built; and burials of one or two adults interred
in a grave pit centrally placed beneath the barrow mound. Certain sites
provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow
and, consequently, it is probable that they may have acted as important ritual
sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Similarly, as
the filling of the ditches around oval barrows often contains deliberately
placed deposits of pottery, flintwork and bone, periodic ceremonial activity
may have taken place at the barrow subsequent to its construction. Oval
barrows are very rare nationally, with less than 50 recorded examples in
England. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as
earthworks, and due to their rarity, their considerable age and their
longevity as a monument type, all oval barrows are considered to be nationally

The north-western of the two oval barrows on Stoughton Down retains
considerable archaeological potential despite the disturbance caused by 19th
century and more recent partial excavations. Evidence of the manner and
duration of use of the monument will survive not only in and below the
barrow mound but also in the flanking ditches. The proximity of this example
to a similar barrow, an unusual grouping for this class of monument,
illustrates the importance of the locality for burials in the Neolithic

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Drewett, P, Rescue archaeology in Sussex, 198021-47
County Site No. 0933,

Source: Historic England

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