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Lexden Tumulus Iron Age barrow and associated cemetery area: part of the Iron Age territorial oppidum of Camulodunum

A Scheduled Monument in Lexden and Braiswick, Essex

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Latitude: 51.8859 / 51°53'9"N

Longitude: 0.8689 / 0°52'8"E

OS Eastings: 597534.198039

OS Northings: 224706.822366

OS Grid: TL975247

Mapcode National: GBR RLS.QH1

Mapcode Global: VHKFZ.0VQM

Entry Name: Lexden Tumulus Iron Age barrow and associated cemetery area: part of the Iron Age territorial oppidum of Camulodunum

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Last Amended: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019967

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29464

County: Essex

Electoral Ward/Division: Lexden and Braiswick

Built-Up Area: Colchester

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Lexden St Leonard

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes an earthen burial mound, or barrow, situated in the
adjoining gardens of Nos 30 and 36 Fitzwalter Road, some 200m east of
the Iron Age linear boundary known as Lexden Dyke and some 1.6km west of
the centre of modern Colchester.

The mound was constructed in a prominent location overlooking the valley of
the River Colne to the north. It now stands to a height of about 1.5m and,
having spread somewhat beyond its original, near circular plan, measures some
38m NNW to SSE by 35m. The barrow was partly excavated in 1924 by P G and H E
Laver, who revealed one of the richest Iron Age burials ever discovered in
Britain. The main burial was arranged in a central pit, some 8m in diameter,
which may have contained a timber chamber similar to those discovered more
recently to the west at Stanway. The deceased's remains had been cremated and
placed on the floor of the pit surrounded by an impressive array of domestic
and personal goods; virtually all of these had been broken prior to burial, or
as a result of the partial disturbance of the grave in antiquity. Amongst the
grave goods were at least 17 wine jars (amphorae) imported from the
Mediterranean; the copper alloy figurines of a griffin, a bear, a bull and a
cupid, all of which appear to have been attached to metal vessels or items of
furniture; sheet alloy and cast fittings representing a casket or chest; a
chain mail tunic and leather under-jerkin; an iron folding stool (reminiscent
of those used by Roman generals); a Bronze Age axehead (already over 1,000
years old) which may have been an heirloom or cult symbol, and fragments of
gold thread from articles of clothing. A particularly significant item is a
silver medallion, created from a cast of a coin of the Emperor Augustus. The
original coin can be dated with some accuracy to the period 18-16 BC, and
thus provides the earliest possible date for the burial. The most probable
date of the burial, based on modern analysis of the total assemblage, is
around 15-10 BC. The elaborate contents of the grave and the unusual
practice of barrow construction (largely unknown in Britain at this date)
indicates a person of notable power and wealth, and it has been suggested
that the individual concerned may have been Addedomaros, a king of the
Trinovantes tribe who were, at that time, in control of the defended
settlement surrounding modern Colchester - the oppidum of Camulodunum.
The 1924 excavation included two trenches radiating out from the centre
of the mound which revealed the core to be mainly gravel overlying a
loamy soil previously stripped of turf. The excavators also recorded a
ditch, 3m wide and 1.2m deep at the foot of the mound to the north east
and a slightly smaller ditch (2.5m wide and 0.9m deep) to the south west.
This feature may have completely encircled the barrow, although a trench
placed to the west of the mound in 1973 found no evidence to support this

The barrow stands within an area to the east of the Lexden Dyke which is known
to have developed as a flat cemetery, or urnfield, prior to the
construction of the Lexden Tumulus, and to have continued or resumed this
use in the period after the Roman conquest. The earliest phase of the
cemetery is represented by cremation vessels dating from around 50-10 BC.
The first burial to be discovered (in 1904) contained six pottery vessels
and an ornate bronze mirror. Other graves, totalling some 27 urns, have
since been discovered in piecemeal fashion mainly clustered to the west
of St Clare Road (about 150m NNW of the Tumulus). A burial belonging to
this phase was discovered directly north of the barrow in 1938 during the
laying of a sewer pipe along the south side of Fitzwalter Road, and a
second burial assemblage was discovered in a nearby electricity cable
trench in 1973. Further burials are expected to survive within the
immediate vicinity of the barrow, and a sample of this area is therefore
included in the scheduling in order to protect the archaeological
relationship between these two funerary practices.

All garden fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Iron Age barrow known as `Lexden Tumulus' lies within the borders of an
extensive late Iron Age settlement surrounding modern Colchester
(`Camulodunum' in antiquity). This settlement, or territorial oppidum (after
the Latin `oppida' for town), encompassed an area of about 25 sq km
between the converging courses of the River Colne and the Roman River to
the west of the Colne estuary. In addition to the rivers the settlement
was defined and protected by the largest group of linear earthworks of
the period in Britain. These dykes have been interpreted as an expression
of the settlement's status, as a means to control and protect grazing
stock and as an effective defence against chariots - one of the principal
features of later Iron Age warfare. The interior of the oppidum is
thought to have been largely agricultural - a mixture of enclosed fields,
pasture and woodland - with small occupation sites scattered throughout
and two particularly large and complex areas of activity located at
Gosbecks to the west and Sheepen to the north. Associated with the
settlement sites are burial grounds, prominent among which are the Lexden
Tumulus, a group of burial enclosures excavated at Stanway (beyond the western
dykes) and a similar (unexcavated) enclosure at Gosbecks. These sites reflect
the beliefs and complex burial rituals afforded to the society's elite,
although a large number of less elaborate burials have also been discovered
clustered and scattered across the oppidum.

Camulodunum was clearly of central importance to the region in AD 43 when it
formed the primary military objective for the invading Roman army. After the
collapse of local resistance the Emperor Claudius personally led his
victorious forces into the oppidum - which was subsequently reorganised to
provide a centre of provincial government and bridgehead for the further
conquest of Britain. As the focus of military activity shifted further north
and west the fortress established at Colchester was redesignated as a
`colonia', a chartered town for a colony of retired soldiers. `Colonia
Victricensis' (City of Victory) was the first Roman town established in
Britain and thus the earliest truly urban settlement in the country. Native
settlement and burial practices continued within the territorial oppidum which
was probably run as a `civitas' or self governing town.

The excavation of 1924 provided ample evidence for the significance of the
Lexden Tumulus, with no other Iron Age grave found then or since containing
such a diverse and impressive assemblage of funerary artifacts. The contents
of the grave provide a significant indication of the funerary rites accorded
to the highest echelons of late Iron Age society, and illustrates not only
wealth but also the cultural influences of the period. The use of a circular
mound to cover the grave is unusual, the custom having declined in Britain
some 1,000 years prior to this date. Although a few Iron Age round barrows are
known in England, barrows on the scale of the Lexden Tumulus generally appear
only after the Roman conquest, following trends developed amongst the
occupants of Roman Gaul. The Lexden Tumulus appears to be ahead of this
fashion, and thus reflects a considerable interest in the activities of
contemporary tribes under Roman rule across the English Channel. The
medallion of Augustus provides further compelling evidence that the
occupant, whether Addedomaros or not, held the Romans in high esteem and
perhaps still honoured (or at least remembered) the treaty established
with the Trinovantes tribe at the time of Julius Caesar.

The central area of the mound has been throughly examined, but the greater
part of the mound remains substantially undisturbed. This, together with the
encircling or partly surrounding ditch, will retain further valuable evidence
for the date and manner of the barrow's construction, and may contain
environmental traces indicating the appearance of the landscape in which the
monument was originally set.

The mound is believed to fall within the area of an unenclosed cemetery, or
urnfield, which extended along the western side of the Lexden Dyke after its
construction in the last quarter of the 1st century BC. These burials
follow the common practice of the time - cremated remains buried in
wheel-thrown pottery vessels, accompanied by further vessels (perhaps
containing offerings of food and drink) and items of personal value.
Burials in this fashion continued after the construction of the barrow
and through the period of Roman rule up to the 3rd century AD. Together
with the barrow, these burials provide significant insights into the
social structure, beliefs and economy of the late Iron Age and,
furthermore, for the continuity of tribal customs under Roman government.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Crummy, P, City of Victory, (1997), 22-25
Crummy, P, City of Victory, (1997), 23
Crummy, P, 'Essex Archaeology News' in Archaeology in Essex 1973-4, (1975), 11
Foster, J, 'BAR' in The Lexden Tumulus: a reappraisal of an Iron Age burial, , Vol. 156, (1986)
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 164-69
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 85-6
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 127-130
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 85-94
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 127-30
Laver, P G, 'Archaeologia' in The Excavation of a Tumulus at Lexden, Colchester, , Vol. 76, (1927), 241-54

Source: Historic England

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