Ancient Monuments

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Two bowl barrows 500m south of Fearnhill School

A Scheduled Monument in Letchworth South West, Hertfordshire

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Latitude: 51.9718 / 51°58'18"N

Longitude: -0.2466 / 0°14'47"W

OS Eastings: 520541.180766

OS Northings: 231816.008673

OS Grid: TL205318

Mapcode National: GBR J71.BH3

Mapcode Global: VHGNL.NPZT

Entry Name: Two bowl barrows 500m south of Fearnhill School

Scheduled Date: 3 November 1951

Last Amended: 8 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017406

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20636

County: Hertfordshire

Electoral Ward/Division: Letchworth South West

Built-Up Area: Letchworth Garden City

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Church of England Parish: Hitchin

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes the visible and buried remains of two bowl barrows
located some 100m to the south of the railway line between Hitchin and
Letchworth, on a broad west facing slope overlooking the valley of the River
Oughton. The monument lies some 700m to the south of the Iron Age hillfort on
Wilbury Hill and the route of the prehistoric trackway known as the Icknield

The western barrow, often referred to as the `Ickleford Tumulus' survives as a
substantial earthwork, domed in profile and measuring some 52m in diameter and
3.5m in height. Surrounding this mound is a 3m wide ditch from which material
was quarried for its construction. Over the years this feature has become
largely infilled, although it remains visible as a slight depression with a
maximum depth of about 0.4m. Limited excavations took place at the mound in
January 1816, revealing a cremation burial interred in a wooden casket, two
bronze spear heads and a copper blade. The mound was opened again in March of
that year when a fragment of a coarse ware urn was recovered and later in the
same year a human skeleton was unearthed on or near the mound.

To the east of the mound, and separated by a distance of some 25m, lies a
second barrow. The mound which formerly covered this burial has been reduced
by centuries of ploughing and is no longer visible on the ground, although the
quarry ditch remains clearly identifiable as a cropmark which has been
recorded from the air. The ditch is approximately 2.5m in width and forms a
circle with a maximum diameter of approximately 40m.

The intervening area between the two barrows is believed to contain evidence
of activities associated with their construction and subsequent ritual use,
and is therefore 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.

The westerly barrow to the south of Fearnhill School is particularly well
preserved. Although the minor excavations undertaken in 1816 will have removed
some artefacts, the majority of the mound has not been disturbed and will
retain further evidence including funerary remains and other indications of
prehistoric ritual practices. Despite the damage caused by ploughing, the
adjacent barrow will also retain valuable archaeological information,
preserved in features buried beneath the area of the former mound. In the case
of both barrows, silts contained in the surrounding ditches will retain
artefacts related to the period of ritual use, and valuable environmental
evidence reflecting the appearance of the landscape in which the barrow were

The existence of two barrows in such close proximity to one another is
particularly significant, providing insights into the chronology of their
construction and evidence of related funerary activity, as suggested by the
discovery of the human skeleton in 1816.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
'Proc Soc Antiq' in Proc Soc Antiq Volume 24, , Vol. 24, ()
'Trans East Herts Arch Soc' in Trans East Herts Arch Soc 1912, , Vol. 5, (1912)
'Trans East Herts Arch Soc' in Trans East Herts Arch Soc 1904, , Vol. 2, (1904)
Oblique monochrome, CUCAP, UE 48, (1957)
Vertical monochrome, Herts County Council, HCC 72 (SMR 3087), (1972)

Source: Historic England

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