Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Churn Knob bell barrow and adjacent bowl barrow on Churn Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Blewbury, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.5586 / 51°33'30"N

Longitude: -1.2486 / 1°14'54"W

OS Eastings: 452190.091526

OS Northings: 184675.54212

OS Grid: SU521846

Mapcode National: GBR 91G.94M

Mapcode Global: VHCYT.93S1

Entry Name: Churn Knob bell barrow and adjacent bowl barrow on Churn Hill

Scheduled Date: 26 October 1934

Last Amended: 4 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018715

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28188

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Blewbury

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire

Church of England Parish: Blewbury

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a Bronze Age bell barrow 800m NNW of Upper Chance Farm,
situated on the north facing crest of Churn Hill and a smaller plough-levelled
bowl barrow immediately to the south west. The bell barrow is known locally as
`Churn Knob'. Both barrows form part of a large dispersed round barrow
cemetery which originally consisted of at least 15 individual barrows, many of
which are the subject of separate schedulings.

The bell barrow mound survives as a visible stone and earth mound measuring
23m in diameter and standing up to 1.5m high. It is surrounded by a gently
sloping berm approximately 5m wide beyond which lies a quarry ditch from which
material was obtained during its construction. This has become infilled over
the years but can be seen as an approximately 3m wide darker ring of soil
where it has been ploughed.

Churn Knob is traditionally believed to have been the site of a sermon by
St Birinus, first Bishop of Dorchester-on-Thames, in the 7th century and is
still the focus of an annual pilgramage and service.

The smaller bowl barrow lies 10m to the south west and although no longer
visible at ground level, is clearly visible as a soil mark (where a darker
spread of soil represents the fill of the ditch below the modern topsoil) on
recent aerial photographs. It is known from part excavation carried out in
1848 that the barrow mound measures 12m in diameter with a 2m wide quarry
ditch surrounding it and running into the ditch of its larger neighbour. Finds
included iron harness material and fragments of horse teeth and bones.

Excluded from the scheduling are the two modern concrete post bases, although
the ground beneath 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

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.

Bowl barrows are the most numerous form of round barrows, and like bell
barrows they are funerary monuments. They date to a broad period from the Late
Neolithic to the Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period
2400-1500 BC. Their construction was similar to that of bell barrows but they
differ in not having a berm between the mound and the surrounding ditch.
Bowl barrows occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries which often
acted as a focus for burials in later periods. They often occupy prominent
locations and are a major historic element in the modern landscape. They are
particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of
surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

The `Churn Knob' bell barrow survives well despite cultivation over part of
the berm and ditch. It will contain archaeological and environmental evidence
relating to its construction and the landscape in which it was built, both in
its ditch fill and in the mound itself.

In addition, the barrow has been the focus of an annual pilgramage due to its
association with St Birinus and this provides evidence of how such monuments
remained prominent focal places for later generations.

Along with the adjacent bowl barrow, it forms part of the larger cemetery on
Blewbury Down and will tell us much about funerary practice in the prehistoric

Source: Historic England


PRN 7616, C.A.O., BELL BARROW - CHURN KNOB, (1994)
PRN 9210, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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