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Roman barrow 125m south west of Leath House

A Scheduled Monument in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.9494 / 52°56'57"N

Longitude: 0.7563 / 0°45'22"E

OS Eastings: 585271.440202

OS Northings: 342668.844534

OS Grid: TF852426

Mapcode National: GBR R5W.01L

Mapcode Global: WHKPK.L4B7

Entry Name: Roman barrow 125m south west of Leath House

Scheduled Date: 19 January 1962

Last Amended: 26 September 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013092

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21379

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Burnham Thorpe

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Burnham Thorpe All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Norwich


The monument includes a Roman barrow located c.6.5km WSW of the Roman fort of
Branodunum (Brancaster) on low lying, heavy clay land c.1.5km west of the
Roman road which ran southwards from the coast to Toftrees and c.650m from the
River Burn to the south west. The barrow is visible as a very large earthen
mound standing to a height of c.3.5m and covering a circular area c.70m in
diameter. The mound was originally higher but has been reduced and spread by
cultivation since the early 19th century. It stands within a rectangular
enclosure with internal dimensions of c.82m square, surrounded by three
concentric ditches c.5m wide and spaced c.8m-10m apart. These ditches have
become completely infilled but survive as buried features which have formed
crop marks and been recorded by means of aerial photography on the north, east
and south sides of the enclosure. The barrow is identified as one investigated
by the Earl of Orford in 1862, when a broad east-west trench was cut through
the centre of the mound, with an extension from the centre southwards. The
excavation uncovered fragments of Roman pottery and the remains of a chamber
c.2.75m square with walls of chalk and flints, and many pieces of roof tile.
Within the chamber there was earth reddened by burning and charcoal and
thought to have been the remains of a cremation.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Earthen barrows are the most visually spectacular survivals of a wide variety
of funerary monuments in Britain dating to the Roman period. Constructed as
steep-sided conical mounds, usually of considerable size and occasionally with
an encircling bank or ditch, they covered one or more burials, generally
believed to be those of high-ranking individuals. The burials were mainly
cremations, although inhumations have been recorded, and were often deposited
with accompanying grave goods in chambers or cists constructed of wood, tile
or stone sealed beneath the barrow mound. Occasionally the mound appears to
have been built directly over a funeral pyre. The barrows usually occur
singly, although they can be grouped into "cemeteries" of up to ten examples.
They are sited in a variety of locations but often occur near Roman roads. A
small number of barrows were of particularly elaborate construction, with
masonry revetment walls or radial internal walls. Roman barrows are rare
nationally, with less than 150 recorded examples, and are generally restricted
to lowland England with the majority in East Anglia. The earliest examples
date to the first decades of the Roman occupation and occur mainly within this
East Anglian concentration. It has been suggested that they are the graves of
native British aristocrats who chose to perpetuate aspects of Iron Age burial
practice. The majority of the barrows were constructed in the early second
century AD but by the end of that century the fashion for barrow building
appears to have ended. Occasionally the barrows were re-used when secondary
Anglo-Saxon burials were dug into the mound. Many barrows were subjected to
cursory investigation by antiquarians in the 19th century and, as little
investigation to modern standards has taken place, they remain generally
poorly understood. As a rare monument type which exhibits a wide diversity of
burial tradition all Roman barrows, unless significantly damaged, are
identified as nationally important.

The Roman barrow south west of Leath House remains an impressive monument,
even though the original height of the mound has been reduced by cultivation,
and the rectangular form and triple ditches of the enclosure, which contains
the mound, are very unusual features. The investigation which was carried out
in 1862 was limited in extent, and the parts of the mound which have not been
disturbed will retain archaeological information concerning the construction
of the barrow and the manner of the burial within it. Evidence for land use
prior to the construction of the barrow will also be contained in soils buried
beneath the mound, and deposits in the bottom of the buried ditches are likely
to have remained waterlogged and to have preserved organic material, including
evidence for the local environment at that time.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Lee-Warner, J, 'The Norfolk Chronicle' in Letter to Editor of the Norfolk Chronicle, (1862)
1778: West Norfolk, Burnham Thorpe, (1974)
RAF 3023Y (7th June, 1946), (1946)

Source: Historic England

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