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Timber circle, hengi-form monument and part of a pit alignment at Catholme

A Scheduled Monument in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire

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Latitude: 52.7473 / 52°44'50"N

Longitude: -1.7104 / 1°42'37"W

OS Eastings: 419645.6428

OS Northings: 316674.9444

OS Grid: SK196166

Mapcode National: GBR 4D1.LF0

Mapcode Global: WHCGJ.P6QN

Entry Name: Timber circle, hengi-form monument and part of a pit alignment at Catholme

Scheduled Date: 23 January 1973

Last Amended: 8 December 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019109

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21679

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Barton-under-Needwood

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Barton-under-Needwood

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes the buried remains of a Neolithic timber circle, a
hengi-form monument and part of a pit alignment located on the western gravel
terrace of the River Tame, to the east of Catholme. It is protected within
three separate areas.

The timber circle to the east of Catholme has been reduced by ploughing and
its remains are no longer visible on the ground surface. It is visible,
however, as cropmarks, areas of enhanced crop growth over the fills of the
buried postholes which regularly appear, and have been recorded from the air
on a number of occasions between 1945 and 1995. The circle is roughly round in
plan, approximately 50m in diameter, and consists of a regular arrangement of
closely spaced postholes which are radially aligned. At least five concentric
circles of some 225 postholes have been identified.

The timber circle at Catholme is spatially associated with the buried remains
of a hengi-form monument which is situated 200m to the west, within a
separate area of protection. It has also been reduced by ploughing and the
earthwork remains are no longer visible above ground level. Aerial photographs
have revealed that the hengi-form monument is roughly circular in plan and its
central area, which measures 17m in diameter, is enclosed by a ditch that will
survive as a buried feature. Short lines of postholes are visible radiating
out from the ditch and are arranged in a `wheel-like` pattern.

Approximately 200m north west of the timber circle, aerial photographs have
identified the buried remains of a pit alignment which runs roughly west-east
for about 600m. A second alignment, approximately 450m in length, branches off
in a north easterly direction from the central section of the former. Part
excavation in 1999 immediately to the west of the monument provided evidence
that the pits forming the alignments average 1.3m in diameter and are
approximately 0.5m deep. A 150m long section of the west-east alignment
immediately to the north of the hengi-form monument together with the first
30m section of the alignment running north eastward are included in the
scheduling within a third area of protection in order to preserve their
relationship with the hengi-form monument.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Timber circles are the remains of large communal buildings used as meeting
places or ceremonial centres during the Late Neolithic period (3000-1000 BC).
They are generally round or oval in plan and constructed using two or more
concentric rings of substantial timber uprights which were either free-
standing or acted as roof supports. Each ring may contain between 6 and 60
individual posts, the number being related to the diameter of the ring.
Entrances were provided through the posthole rings and are generally marked by
wider than average postholes either side of the gap. Associated features can
include additional postholes within and outside the circle, floor surfaces and
grave pits. Finds from the postholes and the interiors of the timber circles
provide important evidence on the chronological development of these sites,
the activities carried out within them and the type of environment in which
they were constructed.
Timber circles survive as arrangements of postholes, buried features best seen
from the air, and consequently sites are generally identified from aerial
photography as discrete monuments or as components of henges and henge
enclosures. Examples in England are found widely scattered around central and
southern counties, with a small number recorded in Wales and Scotland. Dorset
and Wiltshire provide the focus of distribution for those associated with
henges and henge enclosures, while discrete examples are extremely rare. Less
than 50 examples of timber circles have been identified. In view of their
rarity and importance as one of the few types of identified Neolithic
structures all examples are identified to be nationally important.

Despite ploughing, the timber circle at Catholme survives well and is
considered to be one of only three discrete timber circles currently
identified nationally. The fills of the postholes will retain structural
evidence, namely post replacing and recutting, of phases of rebuilding and
modification. They will also provide artefactual information for the date of
the circle's construction, its function, and the duration of the monument's

Hengi-form monuments are ritual or ceremonial centres closely linked with
burial and dating to the Middle and Late Neolithic periods. They are very rare
nationally with only 24 examples known and in view of this, all hengi-form
monuments are considered to be of national importance. Aerial photographs have
indicated that the buried remains of the hengi-form monument north of Catholme
survive well. The fill of the buried ditch and the external postholes will
retain artefactual evidence for the chronological development of the monument
and for the types of activity that occurred here.

Pit alignments are among a fairly wide range of monuments of later prehistoric
date and although little is known about their function and significance, they
are believed to be related to the division of the agricultural and political
landscape. The pit alignments at Catholme are considered to be spatially
associated with the buried remains of other prehistoric monuments in the area.
Despite the damage caused by ploughing, archaeological excavation adjacent to
the monument has demonstrated that the fill of the pits will provide valuable
information relating to the landscape within which they were originally

Taken as a whole, the monument at Catholme will advance our understanding of
Neolithic and later prehistoric societies, in particular, the ritual practices
and technical abilities of their builders.

Source: Historic England


Air Photo Services Ltd, Land at Catholme, Staffordshire, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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