Ancient Monuments

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Oval barrow and round barrow at Small Fen, 250m north of the junction of Back and Small Fen Drove

A Scheduled Monument in Haddenham, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.3719 / 52°22'18"N

Longitude: 0.0862 / 0°5'10"E

OS Eastings: 542122.249424

OS Northings: 276923.490942

OS Grid: TL421769

Mapcode National: GBR L59.BM2

Mapcode Global: VHHJ9.FNY1

Entry Name: Oval barrow and round barrow at Small Fen, 250m north of the junction of Back and Small Fen Drove

Scheduled Date: 9 May 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019984

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33365

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Haddenham

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Haddenham Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes an oval barrow and a round barrow at Small Fen, situated
250m north of the junction of Back and Small Fen Drove. The barrows have been
protected by later deposits of marine clay and peat, from which the crowns of
the mounds emerge. These have been levelled by ploughing but are visible as
sandy soilmarks. The deeper lying remains of the barrows, including encircling
ditches from which earth was dug in the construction of the mounds, are
preserved underneath the fen deposits. The ditches are thought to contain
waterlogged material, covered and sealed by the inundation of marine clay
deposits from the Late Neolithic onwards.

The oval barrow is visible on the modern ground surface as a spread of lighter
coloured sandy soil mixed with gravel, covering an area with dimensions of
approximately 25m north east to south west by 14m north west to south east.
Below this, underlying the peat and clay, is an earthen mound, which by
comparison with other excavated examples in the region, is thought to be 30m
long and 16m wide and surrounded by a ditch up to 4m wide. In between the
ditch and the mound is a berm up to 4m wide.

Approximately 70m north east of the oval barrow and protected in the same area
is a round barrow, visible as a patch of sandy soil and gravel of
approximately 17m in diameter. The underlying mound is thought to measure 20m
in diameter with an encircling ditch up to 5m wide.

The barrows are situated on a gravel island along the former course of the
River Great Ouse, where it met the Fen edge. This location acted as a focal
point for prehistoric activity, leaving a wide range of monuments, including a
spread of barrows of various forms. The oval barrow and the round barrow are
positioned in line with the axis of a partially excavated long barrow situated
180m to the south west and located about 250m north west of another round
barrow, which is the subject of a separate scheduling.

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 barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to
the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC.
They were constructed as earthen mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered
single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as
cemeteries and often acted as a focus of burials in later periods. Often
superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit
regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are
over 10,000 surviving examples recorded nationally (many more have already
been destroyed), occurring across most of Britain, including the Wessex area
where it is often possible to classify them more closely, for example as bowl
or bell barrows. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major
historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation in
form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the
diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric
communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a
substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of

Oval barrows are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early to Middle
Neolithic periods, with the majority of dated monuments belonging to the later
part of the range. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds of
roughly elliptical plan, usually delimited by quarry ditches. These ditches
can vary from paired "banana-shaped" ditches flanking the mound to "U-shaped"
or unbroken oval ditches nearly or wholly encircling it. Along with the long
barrows, oval barrows represent the burial places of Britain's early farming
communities and, as such, are amongst the oldest field monuments surviving
visibly in the present landscape. Where investigated, oval barrows have
produced two distinct types of burial rite: communal burials of groups of
individuals, including adults and children, laid directly on the ground
surface before the barrow was built; and burials of one or two adults interred
in a grave pit centrally placed beneath the barrow mound. Certain sites
provide evidence for several phases of funerary monument preceding the barrow
and, consequently, it is probable that they may have acted as important ritual
sites for local communities over a considerable period of time. Similarly, as
the filling of the ditches around oval barrows often contains deliberately
placed deposits of pottery, flintwork and bone, periodic ceremonial activity
may have taken place at the barrow subsequent to its constuction. Oval barrows
are very rare nationally, with less than 50 recorded examples in England. As
one of the few types of Neolithic structure to survive as earthworks, and due
to their rarity, their considerable age and their longevity as a monument
type, all oval barrows are considered to be nationally important.

The oval barrow and round barrow at Small Fen, 250m north of the junction of
Back and Small Fen Drove, are exceptionally well-preserved, having been
protected by overlying deposits of peat and clay and will contain a wealth of
archaeological information relating to their construction, the manner and
duration of their use and other activities surrounding the site. Waterlogged
deposits, preserved in the ditches, will provide evidence on the local
prehistoric environment. The barrows are of additional importance as part of a
complex, which also contains a long barrow and provides an unusual insight
into the development of prehistoric funerary monuments from the Early
Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

Source: Historic England

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