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Group of henge monuments, an associated group of round barrows, a Saxon cemetery, and a Norman church at Knowlton

A Scheduled Monument in Woodlands, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.8913 / 50°53'28"N

Longitude: -1.967 / 1°58'1"W

OS Eastings: 402418.99511

OS Northings: 110198.410739

OS Grid: SU024101

Mapcode National: GBR 420.1JP

Mapcode Global: FRA 66RR.CHM

Entry Name: Group of henge monuments, an associated group of round barrows, a Saxon cemetery, and a Norman church at Knowlton

Scheduled Date: 15 October 1924

Last Amended: 5 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020580

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35209

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Woodlands

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Woodlands The Ascension

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument, which falls into nine separate areas of protection, includes a
group of henge monuments, an associated group of round barrows, a Saxon
cemetery, and a Norman church, all situated on level ground in the upper Allen
valley, within the area of Cranborne Chase.
The group of monuments is often referred to as the `Knowlton Circles' and
forms a discrete cluster of sites which was surveyed by the Royal Commission
on the Historic Monuments of England (RCHME) in 1975.
The best preserved of the henges is known variously as the `Central Circle'
and `Church Henge'. This enclosure is oval in plan, with dimensions of 106m by
94m. It is defined by a ditch 10m wide and up to 1m deep, surrounded by banks
10m wide and up to 1.75m high. There are now three entrances, although it is
unknown whether all are original. Within the henge, there are several later
enclosures and a Norman church (Listed Grade II*). The church is built of
flint, with some sandstone and was abandoned in the mid-17th century when the
roof collapsed.
To the north west lies another enclosure which is often known as the
`northern circle'. It is oval in plan, with a maximum diameter of 94m and
defined by banks which have been reduced by ploughing to about 20m wide and
about 0.5m high. There is a large single entrance to the south east.
To the south of this lies a smaller enclosure known as `The Old Churchyard'.
This enclosure is of uncertain origin; it does not certainly represent a
churchyard and might be more closely associated with the nearby henges. The
enclosure is about 60m in diameter and defined by banks 20m wide and 0.5m high
and there is a possible entrance to the south.
The southern enclosure, which represents the largest henge within the group,
has a maximum diameter of about 250m. It is roughly circular in plan and is
defined by a bank and internal ditch. To the east, where under plough, the
bank is 20m wide and about 0.3m high. The ditch is known from partial
excavations by Bournemouth University in 1995 to be 15m wide and up to 5.5m
deep. The enclosure is now crossed by the Wimborne to Cranborne road and the
western area is now largely occupied by New Barn Farm. An area of the bank and
ditch survives as an earthwork within the north western area.
To the north east of the Central Circle lies the `Great Barrow', which
represents the largest mound within the monument. The mound is 40m in
diameter and about 3m high, and is surrounded by a ditch which has become
infilled, but which is known from aerial photographs to survive as a
buried feature. A second ditch, known from aerial photography and partial
excavation gives the `Great Barrow' a total diameter of 121m. This outer
ditch may represent an enclosure, as there is an entrance on the eastern
side. This is the largest in a group of broadly contemporary round barrows
located close to the henges at Knowlton. There are 15 other examples
clustered around the enclosures, with four outliers situated to the south
west. The barrows have been reduced by ploughing, some surviving as low
earthworks and others as ring ditches, the ring ditch representing the
buried ditch as it appears in aerial photographs. The barrows were
recorded by the RCHME in 1975. Further round barrows and ring ditches to
the north and south form the subject of separate schedulings.
The area between the Great Barrow and the Central Henge was partially
excavated in 1958 during the laying of a water main. A group of 16 inhumation
burials within chalk-cut graves, some aligned east-west, indicates the
presence of a cemetery which may be of early medieval date.
The central henge and the church are in the care of the Secretary of
All gates and fence posts which relate to the modern field boundaries and
farmyard, the structures of the grain silo, the timber-built livestock
shed (situated in the central western area), the structure of the
open-sided hay barn (situated in the north western area), and the
interpretation notice at the entrance to the church are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number,
density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare
combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the
largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known
cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge
monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include
a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries
which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval
periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely
to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting
Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival
within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which
applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has
attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th
century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir
Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of
British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout
the 20th century and to the present day.

Despite some reduction by ploughing, the Knowlton Circles complex survives as
a combination of earthwork and associated buried remains and is known from
partial excavations to contain archaeological and environmental evidence
relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed.
Knowlton represents one of the most significant groups of henge monuments
representing Late Neolithic ceremonial or ritual centres in England, being one
of few instances where many forms of the henge tradition occur in close
proximity. Associated with the henge group is one of the most dense
concentrations of round barrows (Late Neolithic to Bronze Age burial
monuments) in Dorset, and containing one of the largest examples of an
individual barrow. The barrow group represents the only major example in
Dorset (and one of few examples in Wessex) to be situated in an area without
an earlier long barrow tradition. The presence of a medieval church within the
Central Circle represents an unusual integration of pagan and Christian
symbolism. In addition, the presence of burials of probable Saxon date close
to the church provides further information concerning earlier medieval economy
and society within the area. The central henge and Knowlton Church are in
the care of the Secretary of State and are on public display.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
An Inventory of the Historical monuments of Dorset: Volume V, (1975), 115
Description, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Description, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention, RCHME, NMR,

Source: Historic England

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