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Anglo-Saxon barrow field and prehistoric linear earthwork on Barham Downs

A Scheduled Monument in Kingston, Kent

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Latitude: 51.2237 / 51°13'25"N

Longitude: 1.154 / 1°9'14"E

OS Eastings: 620324.908713

OS Northings: 151889.028066

OS Grid: TR203518

Mapcode National: GBR TYY.BJL

Mapcode Global: VHLGV.YHFT

Entry Name: Anglo-Saxon barrow field and prehistoric linear earthwork on Barham Downs

Scheduled Date: 15 August 1939

Last Amended: 21 December 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013377

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27011

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Kingston

Built-Up Area: Kingston

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument, which falls into two areas, includes an Anglo-Saxon barrow field
and a prehistoric linear earthwork extending beyond it to the south east,
all situated on a ridge of the Kent Downs, lying just to the north east of the
course of Watling Street, the Roman road between London and Canterbury, now
under the modern A2.

The barrow field is an area of hummocky ground in which at least three hlaews,
or Anglo-Saxon burial mounds, survive as identifiable earthworks. The
southernmost pair of these adjoin and are roughly west-east aligned. Each has
a bowl-shaped mound measuring c.6m in diameter and surviving to a height of
c.0.6m. Surrounding the mounds are encircling ditches from which material used
to construct the mounds was excavated. These have become infilled over the
years, but survive as buried features c.1m wide. Lying around 100m to the
north, the third hlaew is larger, having a mound measuring c.13m in diameter
and up to 0.5m high. The buried quarry ditch which surrounds it will be c.2m

The barrow field was the subject of partial antiquarian excavation during the
18th and 19th centuries, at which time over 300 burial mounds were recorded in
this area of downland. Most of these have been flattened by modern ploughing,
although the burials they once covered will survive beneath the ground
surface. Each excavated mound was found to have been constructed over a
west-east aligned, rectangular grave cut into the underlying chalk bedrock.
Many graves contained the remains of wooden coffins within which were found
extended human burials, often accompanied by grave goods in the form of
artefacts deliberately deposited with the body. These included iron weapons,
glass vessels, beads and silver brooches. Three grave-cuts were found to have
disturbed earlier Bronze Age cremation burials, the remains of which had been
collected in the original urns and placed with some care next to the later
coffins. Further partial excavation in 1967, during the laying of a water
pipe, revealed further Anglo-Saxon graves towards the south eastern edge of
the barrow field.

The prehistoric linear earthwork, which has been interpreted as a trackway,
runs from the north west to the south east along the ridge for a total length
of c.700m. The earthwork lies along the north eastern edge of the barrow field
and is partially overlain by the largest of the later hlaews. Lying roughly
parallel to the later Roman road c.100m to the south west, the earthwork takes
the form of a double lynchet around 7.5m wide and with a total height of up to
1.5m in places. Although it formerly extended further to the north west and
south east, these parts of the linear earthwork have been levelled by modern
ploughing. The earthwork has been damaged at the south eastern side of the
barrow field by the construction of a modern track.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Barrow fields are groups of between five and 300 closely-spaced hlaews, or
burial mounds, dating to the early medieval period. The usually circular
mounds, some of which are surrounded by an encircling ditch, were constructed
of earth and rubble and covered one or more inhumation burials. These were
deposited in west-east aligned, rectangular graves cut into the underlying
bedrock. Cremation burials, sometimes deposited in pottery urns, have also
been found. Many burials were furnished with accompanying grave goods,
including jewellery and weapons, and, at two sites, wooden ships were
discovered within large mounds. Most barrow fields were in use during the
pagan Anglo-Saxon period between the sixth and seventh centuries AD, although
barrows dating to the fifth and eight centuries AD have also been found.
The distribution of barrow fields is concentrated within south eastern
England, particularly in prominent locations on the Kent and Sussex Downs.
However, one Viking barrow field dating to the late ninth century AD is known
in Derbyshire, and both barrow fields containing known ship burials are
located near river estuaries in Suffolk.
Barrow fields are a rare monument type, with only around 40 examples known
nationally. They provide important and otherwise rare archaeological
information about the social structure, technological development and economic
oganisation of the people who constructed and used them. All positively
identified examples with significant surviving remains are considered worthy
of protection.

Although they have been partly disturbed by modern cultivation, the barrow
field and prehistoric linear earthwork on Barham Downs survive relatively
well. The barrow field has been shown by partial excavation to contain
archaeological and environmental remains, and the linear earthwork survives as
a visually impressive monument. The fact that some of the Anglo-Saxon barrows
have disturbed earlier Bronze Age burials indicates the continued use of
Barhams Downs for burial over a considerable period of time.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Crawford, O G S, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Field-Notes in the Canterbury District, (1934), 59
Crawford, O G S, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Field-Notes in the Canterbury District, (1934), 59
Wilson, D, Hurst, D, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Britain in 1966, , Vol. VI, (1967), 266
Wilson, D, Hurst, J, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Britain in 1959, , Vol. IV, (1960), 135
RCHME, TR 25 SW 14,

Source: Historic England

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