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Youngsbury Roman barrows

A Scheduled Monument in Thundridge, Hertfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8417 / 51°50'30"N

Longitude: -0.0096 / 0°0'34"W

OS Eastings: 537218.39975

OS Northings: 217774.076448

OS Grid: TL372177

Mapcode National: GBR KB7.JDN

Mapcode Global: VHGP9.SZ90

Entry Name: Youngsbury Roman barrows

Scheduled Date: 8 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018271

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29388

County: Hertfordshire

Civil Parish: Thundridge

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Church of England Parish: High Cross St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

Details

The monument includes two Roman barrows located some 150m south east of Home
Farm and 1.2km to the east of the A10 (Ermine Street). They stand on the
southern edge of a broad plateau and, but for the present woodland, are well
positioned to command extensive views across the broad valley of the River
Rib.

The eastern barrow is roughly circular in plan, measuring approximately 18m in
diameter and 1.5m high, with steep sides leading to a flattened area on the
summit some 5m across. A slight depression on the summit is thought to mark
the location of a minor excavation in 1788, which uncovered spear heads, coins
and Roman pottery.
The second barrow stands about 10m to the west. It is similar in size to the
eastern barrow although slightly more oval in appearance and marginally
greater in height. This barrow was partly excavated in 1899 by J Evans, who
was shortly to become president of the Society of Antiquaries. The excavation
trench was not backfilled and is still visible on the south side of the barrow
extending some 9m between the foot and the centre of the mound. A low earthen
bank runs from the foot of the trench towards the eastern barrow and is
believed to represent the upcast from the excavation. At the centre of the
mound, Evans discovered the remains of a wooden chest (evident from the
survival of four iron clamps or hinges) containing a burial assemblage. The
cremated remains were contained in a large coarseware vessel, or grain jar,
and in a square glass bottle with a strap handle. These and other associated
artefacts are now in the Verulamium Museum at St Albans.

Burial mounds are known to have provided the focus for later interments, both
in the Roman and early Anglo-Saxon period. The area between the two Youngsbury
barrows is considered to be of particular importance in this respect, and is
therefore included in the scheduling. The bank, which overlies part of this
area and is thought to contain upcast material from Evan's excavation, is also
included.

MAP EXTRACT
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

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.

Despite being disturbed by past investigation, the Youngsbury barrows survive
well as monuments in the landscape. The excavations of 1788 and especially of
1889 clearly demonstrated the high level of archaeological survival within the
barrows and although some of the cultural material has been removed, further
significant archaeological evidence still survives, particularly sealed
environmental material which will provide information on the landscape in
which the barrows were constructed.

The preserved collection of finds from the 1889 excavation (many from similar
19th century excavations have been dispersed or lost) indicates the wealth and
prestige of the individual for whom one of the barrows was constructed, and is
accessible to the public as an example of high status burial practice in
Romano-British society. Excavations of comparable monuments have demonstrated
that such pre-existing mounds were attractive locations for later burial,
especially in the pagan Anglo-Saxon period. Cemetery development of this
nature between and adjacent to the Youngsbury mounds would prove highly
significant for the study of post Roman occupation in the area, and the
beliefs of these later communities.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Hertfordshire, (1914), 164
'Trans E Herts Arch Soc' in Twenty-Second Excursion June 7th 1906, , Vol. III, (1906), 229
'EHAS Newsletter' in Standon: The Youngsbury Burial Goods, , Vol. 15, (1964)
Evans, J, 'Archaeologia' in On the Exploration of a Barrow at Youngsbury, near Ware, Herts., (1890), 287-96
Evans, J, 'Archaeologia' in On the Exploration of a Barrow at Youngsbury, near Ware, Herts., (1890), 287-96

Source: Historic England

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