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The Six Hills Roman barrows

A Scheduled Monument in Roebuck, Hertfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8979 / 51°53'52"N

Longitude: -0.203 / 0°12'10"W

OS Eastings: 523738.770433

OS Northings: 223681.107014

OS Grid: TL237236

Mapcode National: GBR J7W.X2D

Mapcode Global: VHGP0.FKJD

Entry Name: The Six Hills Roman barrows

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Last Amended: 24 December 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015579

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27904

County: Hertfordshire

Electoral Ward/Division: Roebuck

Built-Up Area: Stevenage

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Church of England Parish: Stevenage St Andrew and St George

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

Details

The monument includes six Roman barrows known as `The Six Hills' and the
archaeologically sensitive area between them situated in an area of grassland
formerly known as Sixpenny Common, c.120m west of London Road, immediately
south of its junction with Six Hills Way in Stevenage new town.

Antiquarian descriptions of the barrows indicate that all the mounds were
formerly encircled by ditches - from which material for the mounds was
quarried - and outer banks, features which are believed to have survived
around the two northernmost mounds into the 19th century. Although the ditches
and banks are no longer apparent, evidence for these will survive beneath the
present ground surface and they are included in the scheduling.

The barrow mounds are very similar in appearance and size, being on average
about 18m in diameter and 3m in height, although they are thought to have
originally stood at least 1.25m higher than at present. The conical profiles
typical of Roman burial mounds have been gradually eroded by turf paring and
weathering, and, except where there is evidence of disturbance, all the mounds
are now smoothly rounded. The barrows are fairly regularly spaced at
intervals of approximately 5m-10m (measured from the foot of each mound) in a
line running north to south, aligned alongside a cycle track which is thought
to perpetuate the route of the `Via Alba', a Roman road running between St
Albans and Sandy.

Only the third barrow from the north has not been disturbed by excavation.
Three of the mounds have depressions on their summits indicating that shafts
were sunk into them, while the two southern barrows were dug into on the
sides. The second mound from the north is believed to have been investigated
in 1741 when scraps of wood and iron were recovered, and it seems likely from
antiquarian reports that all the other excavations date from the 18th century.

No records survive to suggest that any of these investigations resulted in the
discovery of burial deposits.

MAP EXTRACT
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

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 Six Hills' are impressive earthwork features and form the largest
surviving group of burial mounds dating to the Roman period in England.
Although a degree of landscaping has infilled the quarry ditches and levelled
the outer banks, evidence for these will survive beneath the present ground
surface. Antiquarian excavations have disturbed five of the six mounds, but
this disturbance is limited and significant archaeological deposits, including
human remains with funerary assemblages will survive, providing valuable
evidence for the dates of the mounds, the method of construction and the
religious beliefs of the builders. The fills of the buried ditches and the
old ground surfaces beneath the mounds will retain environmental information
which will illustrate the nature of the landscape in which the monument was
set.

The Six Hills stand within an area of common land and are easily accessible to
the public and visible from the adjacent highways, providing a striking and
valued recreational and educational amenity in the centre of the new town of
Stevenage.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Andrews, H C, 'Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, , Vol. 3, (1906), 181-82
Andrews, H C, 'Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, , Vol. 3, (1906), 179
Andrews, H C, 'Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, , Vol. 3, (1906), 181-82
Andrews, H C, 'Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society' in The Six Hills, Stevenage, , Vol. 3, (1906), 179

Source: Historic England

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