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Swarkestone Lows round barrow cemetery and part of an aggregate field system 300m north west of The Lowes Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Swarkestone, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 52.8618 / 52°51'42"N

Longitude: -1.4563 / 1°27'22"W

OS Eastings: 436700.28892

OS Northings: 329503.572312

OS Grid: SK367295

Mapcode National: GBR 6FN.JMQ

Mapcode Global: WHDH6.LBQF

Entry Name: Swarkestone Lows round barrow cemetery and part of an aggregate field system 300m north west of The Lowes Farm

Scheduled Date: 13 December 1929

Last Amended: 9 February 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019060

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29971

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Swarkestone

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Swarkestone St James

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of Swarkestone Lows, the
only known Bronze Age round barrow cemetery to survive in the Trent Valley.
The monument also includes the buried remains of Bronze Age occupation and
part of an Iron Age aggregate field system. It is situated on the crest of a
narrow east to west ridge of Triassic Mercia Mudstone which rises
approximately 15m above the River Trent to the south and Sinfin Moor to the

The monument is visible as a series of earthworks and cropmarks, the latter
being evident from aerial photographs. Four barrows are visible as upstanding
earthworks, the largest and most prominent measuring approximately 91.5m in
diameter and 3.6m in height. This barrow is under pasture and is situated
towards the western end of the monument. The remaining three barrows lie
within an arable field and have been denuded by ploughing to heights ranging
from 1m to 0.4m. Cropmarks indicate that each of these was encircled by a
ditch ranging in diameter from 26m to 34m. The ditches would have provided raw
material for the mounds and served as a symbolic boundary to them. Partial
excavation of one of the barrows in 1956 revealed evidence of an early Bronze
Age occupation area underlying the barrow.

Although only four barrows are visible from the surface, a detailed contour
survey of the field has revealed a further two mounds. One of these correlates
with 19th century records of a fifth barrow but the other may have been too
denuded even at that time to be recorded.

Later activity on the site is evident in the form of a substantial ditched
boundary running along the northern and eastern margins of the barrow
cemetery. The northern arm of the boundary ditch was destroyed during the
construction of the new road which now runs east to west immediately north of
the monument. The eastern arm is still evident as an infilled feature on
aerial photographs, running north to south approximately 5m east of the
easternmost barrow, across the full width of the area of protection.
Excavations have shown the ditch to be of Iron Age date.

Four linear cropmarks running north to south serve to divide the enclosure
into sub-rectangular units measuring between 70m and 130m wide. The
easternmost boundary of this system is formed by the eastern arm of the
boundary ditch, suggesting this once formed part of an aggregate field system.
The westernmost unit is further sub-divided by a narrow east west ditch and
appears to have been flanked on its western side by a ditched trackway. All
the Iron Age boundary ditches respect the earlier and, at that time, still
prominent barrows.

All modern fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath it is included.

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

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.

Field systems can take different forms. Regular aggregate field systems date
from the Bronze Age to the end of the 5th century AD. They comprise a discrete
block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field
boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another.
Individual fields can be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or
polygonal in shape. The field boundaries can take various forms and follow
straight or sinuous courses.

The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for
land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought
to have been used mainly for crop production, although rotation may also have
been practised in a mixed farming economy. Aggregate field systems represent a
coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time, and can thus
provide important information about developments in agricultural practices in
a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and
environmental change over several centuries.

The Bronze Age barrow cemetery known as Swarkestone Lows is the only known
example to survive in the Trent Valley. Although parts of the site have been
denuded by ploughing, significant remains will survive beneath the present
ground surface. The earthwork and buried remains will add significantly to our
the knowledge and understanding of Bronze Age beliefs, social organisation and
the impact these monuments had on the wider landscape both during and after
the Bronze Age period.

The survival of the stratigraphic relationship between the barrow cemetery,
Bronze Age occupation area and Iron Age boundary ditch and field system is
rare. Such a relationship provides important information about the continuity
and change of settlement and land use over time.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Elliott, L, Knight, D, Excavations of an Iron Age settlement, field system and pit alig, (1998), 1-60
Elliott, L, Knight, D, Excavations of an Iron Age Settlement, Field System and Pit, (1998), 1-60
Greenfield, E, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Excavation At Barrow 4 At Swarkestone, , Vol. 80, (1960), 1-48
Hughes, R, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in Archaeological Sites In The Trent Valley, , Vol. 81, (1961), 149-150
Posnansky, M, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Bronze Age Round Barrow At Swarkestone Part 2, , Vol. 76, (1956), 10-25
Posnansky, M, 'Derbyshire Archaeological Journal' in The Bronze Age Round Barrow At Swarkestone, , Vol. 75, (1955), 123-139

Source: Historic England

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