The monument includes an earthen burial mound, or barrow, situated in the adjoining gardens of Nos 30 and 36 Fitzwalter Road, some 200m east of the Iron Age linear boundary known as Lexden Dyke and some 1.6km west of the centre of modern Colchester.
The mound was constructed in a prominent location overlooking the valley of the River Colne to the north. It now stands to a height of about 1.5m and, having spread somewhat beyond its original, near circular plan, measures some 38m NNW to SSE by 35m. The barrow was partly excavated in 1924 by P G and H E Laver, who revealed one of the richest Iron Age burials ever discovered in Britain. The main burial was arranged in a central pit, some 8m in diameter, which may have contained a timber chamber similar to those discovered more recently to the west at Stanway. The deceased’s remains had been cremated and placed on the floor of the pit surrounded by an impressive array of domestic and personal goods; virtually all of these had been broken prior to burial, or as a result of the partial disturbance of the grave in antiquity. Amongst the grave goods were at least 17 wine jars (amphorae) imported from the Mediterranean; the copper alloy figurines of a griffin, a bear, a bull and a cupid, all of which appear to have been attached to metal vessels or items of furniture; sheet alloy and cast fittings representing a casket or chest; a chain mail tunic and under-jerkin; an iron folding stool (reminiscent of those used by Roman generals); a Bronze Age axe head (already over 1000 years old) which may have been an heirloom or cult symbol, and fragments of gold thread from articles of clothing. A particularly significant item is a silver medallion, created from a cast of a coin of the Emperor Augustus. The original coin can be dated with some accuracy to the period 18-16 BC, and thus provides the earliest possible date for the burial. The most probable date of the burial, based on modern analysis of the total assemblage, is around 15-10 BC. The elaborate contents of the grave and the unusual practice of barrow construction (largely unknown in Britain at this date) indicates a person of notable power and wealth, and it has been suggested that the individual concerned may have been Addedomaros, a king of the Trinovantes tribe who were, at that time, in control of the defended settlement surrounding modern Colchester – the oppidum of Camulodunum.
The 1924 excavation included two trenches radiating out from the centre of the mound which revealed the core to be mainly gravel overlaying a loamy soil previously stripped of turf. The excavators also recorded a ditch, 3m wide and 1.2m deep at the foot of the mound to the north east and a slightly smaller ditch (2.5m wide and 0.9m deep) to the south west. This feature may have completely encircled the barrow, although a trench placed to the west of the mound in 1973 found no evidence to support this theory.
The barrow stands within an area to the east of the Lexden Dyke which is known to have developed as a flat cemetery, or urn field, prior to the construction of the Lexden Tumulus, and to have continued or resumed this use in the period after the Roman conquest. The earliest phase of the cemetery is represented by cremation vessels dating from around 50-10 BC. The first burial to be discovered (in 1904) contained six pottery vessels and an ornate bronze mirror. Other graves, totalling some 27 urns, have since been discovered in piecemeal fashion mainly clustered to the west of St Clare Road (about 150m NNW of the Tumulus). A burial belonging to this phase was discovered directly north of the barrow in 1938 during the laying of a sewer pipe along the south side of Fitzwalter Road, and a second burial assemblage was discovered in a nearby electricity cable trench in 1973. Further burials are expected to survive within the immediate vicinity of the barrow, and a sample of this area is therefore included in the scheduling in order to protect the archaeological relationship between these two funerary practices.
All garden fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. <1>