Bell Barrow, 500m south of Morden Grange Plantation

This archaeological feature is a protected scheduled monument.

Scheduled Monument

Listing details: Scheduled Monument since 26 July 1995

Reasons for Designation

Bell barrows, the most visually impressive form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 1500-1100 BC. They occur either in isolation or in round barrow cemeteries and were constructed as single or multiple mounds covering burials, often in pits, and surrounded by an enclosure ditch. The burials are frequently accompanied by weapons, personal ornaments and pottery and appear to be those of aristocratic individuals, usually men. Bell barrows (particularly multiple barrows) are rare nationally, with less than 250 known examples, most of which are in Wessex. Their richness in terms of grave goods provides evidence for chronological and cultural links amongst early prehistoric communities over most of southern and eastern England as well as providing an insight into their beliefs and social organisation. As a particularly rare form of round barrow, all identified bell barrows would normally be considered to be of national importance.

Despite the gradual erosion caused by ploughing, the bell barrow located to the south of Morden Grange Plantation retains a substantial proportion of the mound, and the surrounding ditch is largely undisturbed. The barrow forms part of a wider group of similar monuments distributed across the chalk uplands of northern Hertfordshire and southern Cambridgeshire. However, with few exceptions, notably on Therfield Heath and to the south of Melbourn, these features have been severely degraded by ploughing and can only be recognised from the cropmarks and soilmarks generated by the fills of the surrounding ditches. The importance of the monument is enhanced by its rarity as a surviving earthwork, and by its proximity to a number of these less well preserved round barrows, some 25 of which (including those at Gallow’s Hill and Deadman’s Hill) lie within a distance of 2m-3km. The significance of the monument is also enhanced by its proximity to the Icknield Way, a major communication route with prehistoric origins. The barrow will retain archaeological remains relating to the burial practices of the peoples who constructed and used it, and to the landscape in which it was set.


The monument is situated between the A505 and the Baldock to Royston railway line on a natural rise which projects northwards from the line of the eastern Chiltern Hills. This location is clearly visible from the northern slopes of the chalk escarpment and from the route of the Icknield Way which crosses the lower ground to the north. The barrow mound is circular in plan, measuring approximately 35m in diameter and survives to a height of c.1m. Material for the construction of the barrow, which would have largely constituted chalk from the underlying bedrock, was quarried from a ditch, c.42m in diameter, which encircles the mound. Over the years the ditch has become infilled, yet it survives as a buried feature which has been recorded by aerial photography as a distinct soilmark measuring about 3m in width. The mound is apparently unexcavated, although it is thought likely to contain burial evidence and funerary artefacts dating from the Bronze Age, similar to that revealed in the mid 19th century when a series of barrows were opened on Therfield Heath, some 2.5km to the east.


Last Updated on July 2, 2020