MDE1283 - Wood Barrow on the Devon/Somerset County Boundary (Monument)


A Bronze Age bowl barrow lying on the Devon/Somerset boundary that was a boundary marker for Exmoor Forest. The name 'Wood Barrow' may derive from 'Ward', perhaps referring to the site being used as a beacon.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (3)

Protected Status

Full Description

Wood Barrow is located at SS 7162 4250. [1] SS 71634250. Challacombe 27. Wood Barrow is 28 paces in diameter and 7 feet high with a hollow in the top. A surrounding ditch is indicated by rushes. It was visited in April 1959. The name Wood Barrow may be derived from Ward Barrow, possibly where watch and ward were kept, in which case it would have been formerly used as a beacon. It is on the Devon/Somerset boundary and was included in the bounds of Exmoor Forest. [2] Wood Barrow may be called the extreme southern member of the Chapman group. It is located at SS 7162 4250, and is a bowl barrow on the county boundary, 28.0 metres in diameter and 1.8 metres high with a slight 0.5 metre deep central mutilation. It was surveyed at 1:2500. [3] Wood Barrow, at SS 716 425, is scheduled. [4] The barrow was used as a boundary marker of the forest, and is mentioned in the Perambulations of 1651 and 1815. [5] Wood Barrow lies on the western boundary of the forest of Exmoor. [6] It appears that it was first broken into in the early 17th Century. [7] It is said to have been opened in the early 17th Century, in search of a 'great brass pan' full of treasure. [8] The barrow is shown as 'Wadborowe' on the 'Map of Exmore' of 1675. [9] Wood Barrow, a turf-covered round barrow, is located at SS 7163 4251. This bowl barrow is prominently situated in rough grassland at 477 metres above Ordnance Datum, astride the Devon/Somerset County Boundary. There are extensive views; northwards to the Bristol Channel and the coast of South Wales, eastwards to Chains Barrow and beyond, southwards to Five Barrows, and westwards across to the Chapman Barrows. The barrow is well defined with a clear periphery giving a diameter of 26 metres. Probing revealed an earth and stone content. The remains of a crude excavation, dug from the western side, are evident as a central oval depression 10.5 metres east to west 2 to 3 metres wide and about 0.7 metres deep. The spoil from this excavation has been spread around the summit of the barrow forming a 'cap' which increases its original height of about 1.8 metres by some 0.7 to 2.5 metres. The spoil is quite stony and from the depth achieved by the excavation it appears that any contents in the interior could still be intact. A band of rushes, about 2 metres wide, surrounding the barrow suggests an original ditch, now silted. Wood Barrow has a diameter of 28 paces, and a height of 2.13 metres. Grinsell states that the earliest known mention of this site (as Woodburrow, Woodburrowgh, and Woodburrowg) seems to be in 'The Survey of Exmoor Chase', dated the 25th March 1651, but a reference by John Leland implies that it can be taken back to about 1540. Grinsell also states that MacDermot [5] suggests that the use of this barrow as a Forest and County boundary marker dates from 1207, if not earlier [10]. [11] The site is a Scheduled Monument: Devon 238 and Somerset 168. [12,13] The barrow has a concave top from previous excavation. It rises to 2.5 metres, and has a diameter of 24 metres with an old trench which is 0.45 metres deep. There is an area of rush grasses near the base of the mound, which seems to indicate an original ditch. There has been no recent disturbance. [12] The barrow was still substantial in 1979. [16,17] In private ownership. [17] Wood Barrow is clearly visible as a substantial earthwork on aerial photographs taken for Exmoor National Park Authority; however the ditch described is not apparent. [20-21] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 0. [23] The site was surveyed in March 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 0. [24] The site was photographed by the RCHME in 1999. [25] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [26] The site is included in a 2023 Condition Survey [27]

Sources/Archives (27)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560.
  • <2> Article in serial: Grinsell, L.V.. 1969. Somerset Barrows. Part I: West and South. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 113. P.16, 32. Challacombe 27.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Fletcher, M.J.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 1 October 1974.
  • <4> Index: English Heritage. 1913-. Schedule of Monuments. Dept of the Environment. Ancient Monuments of England 2 1978. 117.
  • <5> Monograph: MacDermot, E.T.. 1911. The History of the Forest of Exmoor. Barnicott and Pearce, The Wessex Press. 113, 181.
  • <6> Article in serial: Rawle, E.J.. 1894. Final Perambulation of Exmoor Forest. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 40. 171-178. Part II. P.175.
  • <7> Article in serial: Worth, R.H.. 1906. Twenty-Fifth Report of the Barrow Committee. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 38. P.65-66.
  • <8> Article in serial: Grinsell, L.V. 1967. Barrow Treasure, in Fact, Tradition, and Legislation. Folklore. 78. 1. P.29.
  • <9> Monograph: MacDermot, E.T.. 1973. The History of the Forest of Exmoor. David and Charles Limited. Revised Edition. Frontispiece Map.
  • <10> Article in serial: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Barrows of North Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 28. P.95-129. Site visit 1969.
  • <11> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 8 March 1995.
  • <12> Index: English Heritage. 1913-. Schedule of Monuments. 1979 List of Scheduled Ancient Monuments: Devon, County No 238.
  • <13> Index: English Heritage. 1913-. Schedule of Monuments. 1987 Schedule of Ancient Monuments: Somerset, County No 168.
  • <14> Report: Various. Various. Field Monument Warden Report. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
  • <15> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography. Gazetteer Number SS7142a.
  • <16> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR SS7146:sf 1460/43 (7 March 1979).
  • <17> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. Somerset County Council Planning.
  • <18> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF/CPE/UK/1980.3085 (April 1947).
  • <19> Aerial photograph: Meridian Air Maps. 1977-1978. Infrared False Colour Aerial Photography. MAM/13/118 (May 1977).
  • <20> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. Exmoor National Park Authority MAL 4974-75 (16 August 1981).
  • <21> Archive: English Heritage. 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 74 SW. MD002182.
  • <22> Article in serial: Chanter, J.F. and Worth, R.H.. 1905. The Rude Stone Monuments of Exmoor and its Borders. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 37. I. P.387.
  • <23> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <24> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <25> Photograph: Hesketh-Roberts, M.. 1999. Wood Barrow. Colour. Negative.
  • <26> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35361, Extant 11 January 2022.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 658
  • Devon SMR: SS74SW/4
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20023
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO98
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10884
  • Local Heritage List Status (Rejected)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 74 SW13
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NBR Index Number: 2K/00046
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35361
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33023



Grid reference Centred SS 2716 1425 (31m by 32m) Estimated from sources
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Feb 15 2024 2:06PM


Your feedback is welcome. If you can provide any new information about this record, please contact us.