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Bull Ring henge, oval barrow and bowl barrow

A Scheduled Monument in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 53.301 / 53°18'3"N

Longitude: -1.8837 / 1°53'1"W

OS Eastings: 407844.704788

OS Northings: 378232.402708

OS Grid: SK078782

Mapcode National: GBR HZ88.ZD

Mapcode Global: WHCCR.1987

Entry Name: Bull Ring henge, oval barrow and bowl barrow

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1928

Last Amended: 17 January 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011204

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23282

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Chapel-en-le-Frith

Built-Up Area: Dove Holes

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Peak Forest and Dove Holes

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument is situated on the north-western edge of the limestone plateau of
Derbyshire and includes, within a single area, Bull Ring henge and the
adjacent oval barrow. Also included is the bowl barrow superimposed on the
western end of the oval barrow.
The henge has an external diameter of 93m by 90m and comprises a bank and
internal quarry ditch surrounding an oval area measuring 53m from north to
south by 46m from east to west. The steep-sided rock-cut ditch currently
varies between 8m and 12m wide and between 0.5m and 1m deep. Partial
excavations carried out by Alcock in 1949, demonstrated that, originally, it
measured 5m to 6.5m wide and was between 1.2m and 2.1m deep. The surrounding
bank is currently c.1m high and between 9m and 11m wide. It has spread since
its construction, however, and was originally 2m high and 5.5m to 7m wide. It
is broken by opposing entrances to north and south, each with a causeway
across the ditch and each measuring c.9m wide. The northern example was
damaged by quarrying in the nineteenth century, when a human skeleton was
reputedly found. Between the bank and ditch is a berm or terrace which
originally measured 5m wide and is clearly visible in the southern part of the
site. Northwards, it becomes narrower and is finally obscured by the spread
material of the bank.
The interior of the henge contains the linear earthwork remains of eighteenth
century ploughing which, to the west of the northern entrance, has partially
levelled the inner edge of the ditch. Also during the eighteenth century, a
drystone wall crossed the site and has since been removed though the line of
it can still be seen as a gap in the plough ridges. Pilkington, writing in
1789, records that a single orthostat of a possible stone circle remained
within the henge. This has gone and no investigation of the interior of the
henge has been carried out to confirm whether or not a stone circle existed.
In addition to Alcock's excavations of the ditch and bank, a minor excavation
was carried out in the west ditch by Salt in 1902 and, in 1984, a larger
excavation by Barnatt and others took place outside the south entrance.
Material recovered by Salt has been lost but is reported to have included
pottery sherds and flint flakes, while Alcock found further flint flakes and
artefacts and a rim from a pottery food vessel. The 1984 excavation confirmed
that the area south of the henge had been disturbed in the post-medieval
period, but several pits and the stakeholes of a hurdle fence which followed
the henge bank are undated and may be contemporary with the henge. In addition
to post-medieval material and a sherd of Roman pottery, numerous flint flakes
and implements were also found in this area.
On the south-west side of the henge, c.20m distant, is a large mound
interpreted as an oval barrow overlain on its western end by a later bowl
barrow. It is sub-rectangular in shape and measures 27m by 21m by c.2.5m high.
Originally it would have been somewhat higher but has been disturbed on the
summit by a World War II slit trench. Its current plan is due to modern
disturbance round its edges, caused by ploughing and the construction and
later removal of drystone walls on its east and north sides. No recorded
excavation of the barrow has been carried out so it cannot be precisely dated.
However, it's position and form are analogous with those of Gib Hill: the
superimposed oval barrow and bowl barrow at nearby Arbor Low henge.
All modern walls and fences and the surfaces of the track and carpark round
the outside of the monument are excluded from the scheduling although the
ground beneath these features is included.

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

Henges are ritual or ceremonial centres which date to the Late Neolithic
period (2800-2000 BC). They were constructed as roughly circular or oval-
shaped enclosures comprising a flat area over 20m in diameter enclosed by a
ditch and external bank. One, two or four entrances provided access to the
interior of the monument, which may have contained a variety of features
including timber or stone circles, post or stone alignments, pits, burials or
central mounds. Finds from the ditches and interiors of henges provide
important evidence for the chronological development of the sites, the types
of activity that occurred within them and the nature of the environment in
which they were constructed. Henges occur throughout England with the
exception of south-eastern counties and the Welsh Marches. They are generally
situated on low ground, often close to springs and water-courses. Henges are
rare nationally with about 80 known examples. As one of the few types of
identified Neolithic structures and in view of their comparative rarity, all
henges are considered to be of national importance.

Bull Ring henge is a well-preserved example of a Class II henge which,
although disturbed by recent development and past agricultural and industrial
practices, nevertheless retains further substantial archaeological remains.
Also important, not only as monuments in their own right but as elements in a
wider prehistoric ritual landscape, are the adjacent superimposed oval barrow
and bowl barrow, both of which survive well.
Oval barrows are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early to Middle
Neolithic periods, with most dated examples belonging to the later part of the
range. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds usually delimited by
flanking or encircling quarry ditches. Along with long barrows, they represent
the burial places of Britain's early farming communities and, as such, are
amongst the oldest field monuments surviving in the landscape. Where
investigated, oval barrows have produced two distinct types of burial rite:
communal burials of groups of both adults and children laid directly on the
ground 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 acted as important ritual sites
for local communities over a considerable period of time. Similarly, as the
ditch-fill around oval barrows is often found to contain deliberately placed
deposits of pottery, flintwork and bone, periodic ceremonial activity may have
taken place at the barrow after 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,
considerable age and longevity as a monument type, all oval barrows are
considered to be nationally important.
Much less rare nationally, but also important as prehistoric funerary
monuments, are bowl barrows. These date from the Late Neolithic to the Late
Bronze Age (c.2400-1500BC) and were constructed as hemispherical mounds of
rubble or earth covering single or multiple burials. Sometimes ditched, they
occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as foci for
burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, though differing widely
in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial
practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally,
with many more having already been destroyed. Their considerable variation of
form and longevity as a monument type provide important evidence on burial
practises and social organisation among early prehistoric communities. They
are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion
of survivng examples are considered worthy of protection.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barnatt, J, The Peak District Barrow Survey (1989), (1989)
Barnatt, J, The Peak District Barrow Survey (1989), (1989)
Alcock, A, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in The Henge Monument of the Bull Ring, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, , Vol. 16, (1950), 81-86
Barnatt, J, 'Sheffield Arch. Monograph 1' in The Henges, Stone Circles and Ringcairns of the Peak District, (1990), 39-41
Barnatt, J, Myers, A, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations At The Bull Ring Henge, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, , Vol. 108, (1988), 5-20
Barnatt, J, Myers, A, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations At The Bull Ring Henge, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, , Vol. 108, (1988), 5-20
Barnatt, J, Myers, A, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Excavations At The Bull Ring Henge, Dove Holes, Derbyshire, , Vol. 108, (1988), 7
Tristram, E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Stone Dove Holes And The Mound Adjoining, (1915), 77-86
Tristram, E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Stone Dove Holes And The Mound Adjoining, (1915), 77-86
Turner, W, 'The Leek Times' in The Bull Ring, Doveholes, (1902)

Source: Historic England

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