Ancient Monuments

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Combe Beacon barrow

A Scheduled Monument in Combe St Nicholas, Somerset

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Latitude: 50.9057 / 50°54'20"N

Longitude: -3.0043 / 3°0'15"W

OS Eastings: 329481.217346

OS Northings: 112278.813313

OS Grid: ST294122

Mapcode National: GBR M5.R8P5

Mapcode Global: FRA 46LQ.3DP

Entry Name: Combe Beacon barrow

Scheduled Date: 1 August 1977

Last Amended: 16 April 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018633

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32154

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Combe St Nicholas

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Church of England Parish: Combe St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Bath and Wells


The monument includes Combe Beacon barrow, a Bronze Age bell barrow situated
in an elevated position at the eastern edge of the Blackdown Hills. The barrow
mound was enlarged and modified, as its name suggests, for use as a beacon
probably at some stage in the 18th century.
A part excavation in 1935 revealed the original structure of the barrow.
A turfed mound, approximately 20m in diameter and 2.4m high was surrounded by
a berm 8m wide and enclosed by a quarry ditch. A cist containing charcoal was
located 0.4m below the original ground level. Sherds from a cinerary urn
located in the mound confirmed a Bronze Age date. This excavation also
revealed the structure of the modified mound giving it its present flat-topped
profile. Deposits of local clay-with-flint were used to enlarge the mound and
these contained 16th to 18th century sherds of pottery suggesting that the
modification took place in the later part of the 18th century, since when it
is known to have been used as a fire-beacon. The present barrow mound is 4m
high and has a diameter of 38m. The surrounding quarry ditch is 5.5m wide and
0.5m deep on the east and north east of the mound where it is most visible.
The remaining circuit of the ditch survives as a shallow depression giving the
barrow an overall diameter of 49m.
The concrete triangulation point, all fence posts and a concrete overflow pipe
located on the north east of the barrow are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Bell barrows, the most visually impressive form of round barrow, are funerary
monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age, with most examples
belonging to the period 1500-1100 BC. They occur either in isolation or in
round barrow cemeteries and were constructed as single or multiple mounds
covering burials, often in pits, and surrounded by an enclosure ditch. The
burials are frequently accompanied by weapons, personal ornaments and pottery
and appear to be those of aristocratic individuals, usually men. Bell barrows
(particularly multiple barrows) are rare nationally, with less than 250 known
examples, most of which are in Wessex. Their richness in terms of grave goods
provides evidence for chronological and cultural links amongst early
prehistoric communities over most of southern and eastern England as well as
providing an insight into their beliefs and social organisation. As a
particularly rare form of round barrow, all identified bell barrows would
normally be considered to be of national importance.

Combe Beacon barrow is one of only seven known bell barrows in Somerset. The
original mound survives well beneath the later deposits of the beacon mound
which have helped to preserve its original form and the adaptation of the
barrow mound as a beacon gives the monument added interest. It is known from
limited excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental
evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Gray, H G, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society' in Combe St Nicholas Barrow, (1936), 83-107
Gray, H G, 'Proceedings of Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society' in Combe St Nicholas Barrow, (1936), 83-107

Source: Historic England

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