Scheduled Monument: Five barrows and an enclosure on Challacombe Common
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
06 August 1975
Date last amended
16 November 2015
Summary of Monument
Five bowl barrows and an enclosure 860m north west of Withycombe Farm.
Reasons for Designation
Exmoor is the most easterly of the three main upland areas in the south western peninsula of England. In contrast to the others, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, there has been no history of antiquarian research and little excavation of its monuments. However, detailed survey work by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England has confirmed a comparable richness of archaeological remains, with evidence of human exploitation and occupation from the Mesolithic period to the present day. Many of the field monuments surviving on Exmoor date from the later prehistoric period. Examples include stone settings, stone alignments, standing stones, and burial mounds (`barrows'). Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating to the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Over 370 bowl barrows, varying in diameter from 2m to 35m, have been recorded on Exmoor. Many of these are found on or close to the summits of the three east-west ridges which cross the moor - the southern escarpment, the central ridge, and the northern ridge - whilst individual barrows and groups may also be found on lower lying ground and hillslopes. Those which occupy prominent locations form a major visual element in the modern landscape. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. Despite partial early excavation or robbing of the barrows the five bowl barrows and an enclosure 860m north west of Withycombe Farm survive comparatively well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to their construction, relative chronologies, funerary and ritual practices, social organisation, territorial significance and their overall landscape context. The enclosure is of unknown date and function it could be a stock pen, a turf building or shelter of some kind and the preserved archaeology would clarify its date, function and association with the barrows.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 16 November 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument which falls into six areas includes five bowl barrows and an enclosure situated close to the summit of the prominent ridge known as Challacombe Common. The five bowl barrows survive as circular mounds which vary in diameter from 11.2m up to 25m and from 0.5m to 1.5m high. All five have surrounding quarry ditches from which material to construct the mounds was derived which are preserved as up to 3m wide buried features. All of the barrows show signs of having been disturbed by early partial excavation or robbing in the form of central hollows or small trenches around their edges. The enclosure which lies to the west of the barrows survives as a rectangular enclosure measuring 7.5m long by 5.3m wide internally and is defined by an up to 4m wide and 0.3m high bank with a 0.3m deep continuous outer ditch. There is a simple gap entrance in the enclosure bank only on the southern side. The date and function of this enclosure is unknown. Further archaeological remains in the vicinity are scheduled separately.
PastScape Monument No:-34715, 34718, 34721 and 1469359
National Grid Reference: SS 68040 42930, SS 68077 42915, SS 68219 42783, SS 68316 42944, SS 68346 42996, SS 68348 42954