Ancient Monuments

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Bowl barrow 250m ESE of Common Farm: part of a dispersed round barrow cemetery in Block Fen

A Scheduled Monument in Mepal, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.4257 / 52°25'32"N

Longitude: 0.1028 / 0°6'10"E

OS Eastings: 543075.611945

OS Northings: 282941.972937

OS Grid: TL430829

Mapcode National: GBR L4K.W8F

Mapcode Global: VHHJ3.Q9P8

Entry Name: Bowl barrow 250m ESE of Common Farm: part of a dispersed round barrow cemetery in Block Fen

Scheduled Date: 1 May 1952

Last Amended: 2 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015241

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24426

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Mepal

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Mepal St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a bowl barrow situated on the eastern edge of the gravel
terrace surrounding Chatteris, some 260m to the east of the Mepal Short
The barrow mound measures 25m north east to south west and 30m north west to
south east and, although successive ploughing has reduced the height of the
mound to c.0.45m, in its original condition it would have served as a
prominent local landmark. The mound was constructed primarily from the
underlying gravel quarried from an encircling ditch. Over the years this
ditch, which measures c.10m in width, has become infilled. However, it
survives as a buried feature recorded by numerous aerial photographs since
1937. The monument is apparently unexcavated, although fragments of Bronze Age
pottery were collected from the surface of the mound in 1860.
The barrow is the most southerly example in a group of seven similar monuments
identified from aerial photography, five clustered in the field immediately to
the north and two more located in an adjacent field some 600m to the north
east. This dispersed round barrow cemetery provides an indication of the
habitable extent of the gravel island underlying Chatteris, which stood above
the level of the surrounding fens in the Bronze Age. The other barrows have,
however, fared considerably less well than the monument located 250m ESE of
Common Farm. Recent archaeological work found no traces of the barrow mounds,
and the ditches (where present) had been severely truncated by ploughing.
These barrows are therefore not included in the scheduling.

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

Round barrow cemeteries date to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They comprise
closely-spaced groups of up to 30 round barrows - rubble or earthen mounds
covering single or multiple burials. Most cemeteries developed over a
considerable period of time, often many centuries, and in some cases acted as
a focus for burials as late as the early medieval period. They exhibit
considerable diversity of burial rite, plan and form, frequently including
several different types of round barrow, occasionally associated with earlier
long barrows. Where large scale investigation has been undertaken around them,
contemporary or later "flat" burials between the barrow mounds have often been
revealed. Round barrow cemeteries occur across most of lowland Britain, with a
marked concentration in Wessex. In some cases, they are clustered around other
important contemporary monuments such as henges. Often occupying prominent
locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape, whilst
their diversity and their longevity as a monument type provide important
information on the variety of beliefs and social organisation amongst early
prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period
and a substantial proportion of surviving or partly-surviving examples are
considered worthy of protection.

Despite the damage caused by prolonged ploughing, the bowl barrow to the ESE
of Common Farm will retain significant archaeological deposits both within
the mound and within the fills of the surrounding ditch. These deposits will
include human remains, providing insights into the nature of prehistoric
ritual and beliefs, and other features relating to the date and method of the
barrow's construction and the duration of its use. The old ground surface
buried beneath the mound is of particular significance, as this may retain
evidence of former land use. Environmental evidence, although generally poor
in this area due to the de-watering effect of nearby quarries, will still
survive in the ditch fills, illustrating the appearance of the landscape in
which the monument was set and providing valuable information about the
gradual inundation of the fen and its effect on prehistoric habitation and
land use.
The association between this barrow and the others which constitute the wider
cemetery is of particular interest. Although these other barrows are less well
preserved (and therefore not included in the scheduling), some information
will remain, providing evidence for the duration of the related settlement and
for variations and development in their burial practices.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Coxah, M, Lisboa, I M G, Archaeological Field Evaluation (Phase 2): Block Fen B, (1994)
'The Fenland Project No.6: The SW Cambridgeshire Fenlands' in East Anglian Archaeology, , Vol. 56, (1992), 96-103
'Cambridge Antiquarian Society' in Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, (1860)
Air Photo Services, Palmer, R, Arial Photograph analysis report, (1992)
Info from CCC Development Control, Sydes, B, Block Fen B: Gravel Extraction, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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