Ancient Monuments

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Bowl barrow 200m south east of Horseley Fen Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Manea, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.4246 / 52°25'28"N

Longitude: 0.0723 / 0°4'20"E

OS Eastings: 541005.493432

OS Northings: 282752.457565

OS Grid: TL410827

Mapcode National: GBR L4J.TB4

Mapcode Global: VHHJ3.6BK5

Entry Name: Bowl barrow 200m SE of Horseley Fen Farm

Scheduled Date: 10 April 1951

Last Amended: 22 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011723

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24434

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Manea

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Chatteris St Peter and St Paul

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes the remains of a bowl barrow encircled by three
concentric ditches. It is located within Horseley Fen, a terrace of clayish
gravels which stood above the peat fen during the early prehistoric period,
but which was rendered uninhabitable by rising water levels from the early
part of the first millenium BC. It lies near the former course of the River
Great Ouse, which formed a focus for early prehistoric settlements and ritual
Over the years the mound overlying the central burials has been reduced in
height by ploughing, and the surrounding ditches have become infilled. The
ditches, however, survive as buried features which can be traced as crop and
soil marks, occasionally visible on the ground, and which have frequently been
recorded from the air since their discovery in 1946. The outer ditch is
slightly oval in plan and measures approximately 55m north east to south west
by 50m north west to south east. The middle ditch measures approximately 40m
in diameter and the inner circuit some 30m. All the ditches measure between 2m
and 3m in width. The soil within the central area of the monument is somewhat
lighter in colour than its surroundings, although this may in part result from
the excavation of a small pit within the interior in the 1950's. This pit has
subsequently been infilled together with a field boundary ditch, which
formerly traversed the western edge of the monument.
The monument has not been excavated, and precise details of its function and
date have yet to be determined. However, two comparable monuments have
recently been excavated; one in the Lincolnshire fens near Deeping St
Nicholas, the other near the course of the River Great Ouse at Goldington on
the outskirts of Bedford. These excavations have demonstrated that sites of
this type result from a complex sequence of construction and adaptation
spanning considerable periods of time from the Late Neolithic period to the
Early Bronze Age. The example at Goldington originated as a ceremonial ditched
enclosure, within which a small barrow was later erected and subsequently
enlarged; each alteration accompanied by the excavation of a further ring
ditch. At Deeping St Nicholas, a small timber mortuary structure constructed
in the Early Bronze Age was later covered by a ditched barrow. This in turn
was surrounded by a ring of stakes and later enlarged by the addition of a
further ditch circuit. Both monuments contained a wealth of information
relating to each phase of development, including primary and secondary
inhumations and cremation burials (within the barrows, the areas separated by
the ditches, and within the ditches themselves), grave goods, pottery, flint
artefacts, and (in the case at Goldington) ritual deposits of antler, bone and
hazelnuts. The monument at Horseley Fen is considered to contain similar
information, and evidence for an equally complex sequence of development.
The monument is thought to have been associated with a series of Neolithic
and Bronze Age enclosures, located some 300m to the north east (the subject
of a separate scheduling); and would have formed a major component of the
landscape at the time of their occupation and use.

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

Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments
dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most
examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as
earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple
burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often
acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar,
although 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 (many more have already been destroyed), occurring
across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are
a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable
variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important
information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early
prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period
and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of

The bowl barrow at Horseley Fen represents a rare and unusual variation from
the normal design of such monuments, reflecting a complex and prolonged
process of construction and adaptation. The concentric ditches remain
substantially undisturbed as buried features, and will contain artefacts and
other dateable evidence relating to the sequence of construction. Despite the
damage caused by the reduction of the central mound, deeper features
(including burials) will remain within the centre of the monument and the
intervening areas between the ditches, providing information concerning the
phases of the monument's development and corresponding changes in the beliefs
of the community responsible for its construction.
The importance of the monument is enhanced by its association with a series of
proven Neolithic and Bronze Age enclosures located to the north. Together,
these features provide a significant insight into the development of the
prehistoric fenland landscape.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hall, D N, Palmer, R, Fenland Evaluation Project: Cambridgeshire, (1990), 23
Hall, D N, Fenland Research No.1: The South Western Cambridgeshire Fens, (1984), 7
Hall, D N, Coles, C, 'English Heritage Archaeological Report' in The Fenland Survey, An Essay In Landscape And Persistance, , Vol. 1, (1994), 73-74
Hall, D, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project No.6: The South-western Cambridgeshire Fens, , Vol. 56, (1992)
Mustoe, R S, 'Bedfordshire Archaeology' in Salvage Excavation of a Neolithic and Bronze Site at Goldington, , Vol. 18, (1988), 1-5
AM107 report, Patterson, H, Ring Ditch 210m SE of Horseley Fen Farm, (1988)
CCC archaeology notes on site visit, Malim, T, 05222, (1991)
CUCAP aerial photograph collection, M76-77 1946/ZM64-65 1959/ABJ26 1960/5-7 1970/CDR52-53/RC8DC 91-2,
NMR aerial photograph collection, TL4052/2/5/71 1986, (1986)
Rectified plot from AP evidence, Cambs County Council Archaeology Section, 05222, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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