Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Square barrow 170m north east of Summer House Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.0688 / 52°4'7"N

Longitude: 0.0283 / 0°1'41"E

OS Eastings: 539121.3445

OS Northings: 243103.4265

OS Grid: TL391431

Mapcode National: GBR L8X.7YZ

Mapcode Global: VHHKT.F8TC

Entry Name: Square barrow 170m north east of Summer House Farm

Scheduled Date: 11 February 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020397

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33375

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Melbourn

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Melbourn

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes the buried remains of a square barrow located 170m north
east of Summer House Farm. It is situated near the course of the prehistoric
Icknield Way and lies in an area with evidence of continued occupation since
the Neolithic period. It is part of an extensive spread of prehistoric barrows
across the chalk uplands of north Hertfordshire and south Cambridgeshire.
Nearby, 600m to the south, lies the Bronze Age round barrow known as Goffers
Knoll, the subject of a separate scheduling, while a barrow cemetery some
1800m to the south west, which is also the subject of a separate scheduling,
contains a further square barrow.

Although the mound of the square barrow has been reduced by ploughing and is
no longer visible above ground, buried deposits survive. The surrounding
ditch, from which earth was dug in the construction of the mound, has become
infilled over the years but can be seen from the air as a cropmark (an area of
enhanced growth resulting from higher levels of moisture retained by the
underlying archaeological feature). The ditch forms a square feature which
measures approximately 20m north east to south west and 20m north west to
south east. Inside the ditch the central burial pit is preserved and is also
clearly visible on aerial photographs.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Square barrows are funerary monuments of the Middle Iron Age, most examples
dating from the period between c.500 BC and c.50 BC. The majority of these
monuments are found in the area between the River Humber and the southern
slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors but a wider distribution has also been
identified, principally through aerial photography, spreading through the
river valleys of the Midlands and south Essex. Around 200 square barrow
cemeteries have been recorded; in addition, a further 250 sites consisting of
single barrows or small groups of barrows have been identified.
Square barrows, which may be square or rectangular, were constructed as
earthen mounds surrounded by a ditch and covering one or more bodies. Slight
banks around the outer edge of the ditch have been noted in some examples. The
main burial is normally central and carefully placed in a rectangular or oval
grave pit, although burials placed on the ground surface below the mound are
also known.
A number of different types of burial have been identified, accompanied by
grave goods which vary greatly in range and type. The most elaborate include
the dismantled parts of a two-wheeled vehicle placed in the grave with the
body of the deceased.
Ploughing and intensive land use since prehistoric times have eroded and
levelled most square barrows and very few remain as upstanding monuments,
although the ditches and the grave pits, with their contents, will survive
beneath the ground surface. The different forms of burial and the variations
in the type and range of artefacts placed in the graves provide important
information on the beliefs, social organisation and material culture of these
Iron Age communities and their development over time. All examples of square
barrows which survive as upstanding earthworks, and a significant proportion
of the remainder, are considered of national importance and worthy of

Although the square barrow 170m north east of Summer House Farm is no longer
visible as an earthwork, its buried remains will survive well. It is thought
to be unexcavated and therefore will retain a wealth of archaeological
evidence relating to activity on the site, the manner and duration of use of
the barrow, its construction, and the landscape in which it was set. The
central pit may preserve grave goods and/or skeletal material, which will
provide further rare information concerning the Iron Age occupation of the

Source: Historic England

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