Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Oval barrow on Pistle Down, 1010m north east of Stephen's Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Verwood, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.8942 / 50°53'39"N

Longitude: -1.863 / 1°51'46"W

OS Eastings: 409733.316842

OS Northings: 110535.519178

OS Grid: SU097105

Mapcode National: GBR 41Y.XGN

Mapcode Global: FRA 66ZR.414

Entry Name: Oval barrow on Pistle Down, 1010m north east of Stephen's Castle

Scheduled Date: 4 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018182

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31902

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Verwood

Built-Up Area: Verwood

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Verwood St Michael and All Angels

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes an oval barrow aligned north west by south east,
situated on Pistle Down on the southern edge of a plateau overlooking the
River Crane.
The barrow was recorded by L V Grinsell in 1959 and by the Royal Commission on
the Historic Monuments of England in 1975. It has a mound composed of sand,
earth and turf, with maximum dimensions of 16m from north west to south east
and 13m from north east to south west and about 1.5m in height. A hollow in
the top of the mound is likely to relate to the partial excavations conducted
by Dr Smart in 1828, when four leaf shaped arrowheads were recovered.
The mound is flanked by a quarry ditch along each side of its long axis. The
south western ditch is visible as an earthwork 4m wide and about 0.35m deep.
The north eastern ditch has become infilled and is now overlain by a track,
although it will survive as a buried feature.
The surface of the track is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath it is included.

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

Oval barrows are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early to Middle
Neolithic periods, with the majority of dated monuments belonging to the later
part of the range. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds of
roughly elliptical plan, usually delimited by quarry ditches. These ditches
can vary from paired "banana-shaped" ditches flanking the mound to "U-shaped"
or unbroken oval ditches nearly or wholly encircling it. Along with the long
barrows, oval barrows represent the burial places of Britain's early farming
communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving
visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, oval barrows have
produced two distinct types of burial rite: communal burials of groups of
individuals, including adults and children, laid directly on the ground
surface before the barrow was built; and burials of one or two adults interred
in a grave pit centrally placed beneath the barrow mound. Certain sites
provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow
and, consequently, it is probable that they may have acted as important ritual
sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Similarly, as
the filling of the ditches around oval barrows often contains deliberately
placed deposits of pottery, flintwork and bone, periodic ceremonial activity
may have taken place at the barrow subsequent to its construction. Oval
barrows are very rare nationally, with less than 50 recorded examples in
England. As one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as
earthworks, and due to their rarity, their considerable age and their
longevity as a monument type, all oval barrows are considered to be nationally

The oval barrow on Pistle Down, 1010m north east of Stephen's Castle survives
well and is known from partial excavation to contain archaeological and
environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it
was constructed.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
An Inventory of the Historical monuments of Dorset: Volume V, (1975), 74
Grinsell, L V, 'Procs Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Soc.' in Dorset Barrows, (1959), 139
Grinsell, L V, 'Procs Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Soc.' in Dorset Barrows, (1959), 139

Source: Historic England

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