Location Description: Centred on TM 021 241, the barrows lie north of Arber House at Annan Road, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SE.
District: Colchester (District Authority)
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference: TM0212624166
Group of four round barrows forming part of a cemetery, most likely of Bronze Age origin but with evidence of reuse in the Iron Age, Roman or later period.
Reasons for Designation
The group of barrows at Annan Road, Colchester is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: as a rare earthwork survival of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery in the east of England in an unusual, river flood plain location;
* Potential: for the high level of archaeological potential in the form of earthwork and buried deposits including the potential for waterlogged deposits;
* Diversity: for the broad diversity of features which help us to understand and contextualise the use and reuse of the monument over thousands of years;
* Period: barrow cemeteries are highly representative of the Bronze Age period and are the most common and informative monument type available for the study and understanding of the Bronze Age period of prehistory.
Round barrow cemeteries date to the Bronze Age (around 2000-700 BC). They comprise closely-spaced groups of up to 30 round barrows - rubble or earthen mounds covering single or multiple burials. Most cemeteries developed over a considerable period of time, often many centuries, and in some cases acted as a focus for burials as late as the early medieval period. They exhibit considerable diversity of burial rite, plan and form, frequently including several different types of round barrow, occasionally associated with earlier long barrows. Where large scale investigation has been undertaken around them, contemporary or later "flat" burials between the barrow mounds have often been revealed. Round barrow cemeteries occur across most of lowland Britain, with a marked concentration in Wessex. In some cases, they are clustered around other important contemporary monuments such as henges.
A Bronze Age barrow cemetery has been recorded on the flood plain, on the site known as Knowledge Gateway, University of Essex. Three of the five known barrows have surviving mounds and although there may well have been more examples it is thought these may have been destroyed during the construction of the railway in the 1950s or during construction of the B+Q car park to the west.
In 2003 an archaeological desk-based assessment and walkover survey was carried out on an area of land north of Annan Road and east of Salary Brook, as part of the Knowledge Gateway site. The study was in part to identify areas of archaeological potential to inform further evaluation in advance of development. Three upstanding barrows, adjacent to the railway line were recorded. The desk-based assessment was followed in 2004 by an archaeological evaluation carried out by Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit. The excavation of a total of 28 trenches revealed residual Bronze Age pottery and Neolithic worked flint across the eastern side of the development area suggesting earlier prehistoric activity in the area. A scatter of undated features and a modern field boundary were also recorded. On the western side trench 27 confirmed that a ring ditch on aerial photos was in fact a fourth barrow which, judging from artefacts found from the mound interior was reused in the IA, Roman or later period. Between September 2010 and August 2011 an archaeological watching brief was carried out across the site.
Principal elements: the site is comprised of the earthwork and buried remains of three complete barrows and another for which the western edge had been cut by the diversion of Salary Brook during the construction of the railway in the 1950s.
Description: the barrow cemetery is located in the flood plain of the River Colne, on the western edge of the development area for the University of Essex Knowledge Gateway research park. Their topographical position, on the river flood plain, is unusual although not unknown.
During the archaeological evaluation in 2004 the three upstanding barrows known as barrows B, C and D were fenced off to protect them from damage (the wooden post fence remains). The fourth barrow, barrow A, remained within the area of development and was stripped of top soil. Although originally identified as a ring-ditch on aerial photographs, once stripped the mound was visible on the ground and stood to approximately 0.15cm higher than the surrounding alluvial deposits. Finds from the surface included numerous worked flints, post-medieval pottery and building materials. It is possible the flints were from the deposits beneath the topsoil and the post-medieval finds from the topsoil itself. A total of 33 worked flints were collected from within a 40m radius of the centre of Barrow A following the removal of the topsoil. At least 23 were found from within the area of the barrow. A fifth barrow, barrow E appeared as the largest and most complex barrow in the cemetery. It had a mound surrounded by two concentric ditches with a bank between the two ditches and another possible bank surrounding the outer ring-ditch. Such complex barrows are known elsewhere in Essex, in Langham, East Tilbury (see sources) and further afield. Where excavated the presence of two ditches appears to attest to the enlargement or re-use of the barrow rather than implying a more sophisticated barrow form. Although described here as part of the barrow group, barrow E is not part of the scheduling as it now lies beneath a car park and it is unclear how well it survives.
As part of the archaeological watching brief, a magnetometer survey of barrow A was carried out and identified an interrupted ring-ditch surrounding the barrow. It is thought the interruptions are features of the barrow with that in the north-west corner representing a causeway flanked by post-holes and pits or enlarged ditch terminals. Further causeways are indicated on the eastern and south-eastern sides of the ditch but in the south-eastern corner of the circuit there appears to be little evidence of the ditch. Instead there are five evenly spaced spot anomalies which appear just outside of the ditch circuit suggesting post-holes forming a peripheral post-circle. What is clear is that the ring-ditch and post-circle have a considerably smaller circumference than the mound recorded on the surface. This may be the result of degradation from flooding resulting in a spread mound or the intentional enlarging perhaps in association with the later re-use of the monument. An external bank is also picked up particularly on the western side of the mound and in the centre of the barrow, there is another strong positive anomaly. It is highly possible that the oval-shaped feature is either an inhumation burial or a pit excavated to loot grave goods. A secondary burial is suggested by a rectangular feature identified within the ring-ditch. Further anomalies identified outside of the ring-ditch could be secondary burials located around and between the barrows as witnessed elsewhere (Brightlingsea (2008) and Chitts Hill (1977) – see sources). The LiDAR image of the barrow cemetery clearly shows the outer bank to Barrow A which is particularly pronounced on the western side and appears to be a similar height to the barrow mound. The mound appears considerably larger than the ring-ditch identified in the magnetometer survey.
The LiDAR also shows that barrow C is the tallest barrow with barrow B being just a little lower. Both are clearly visible in the field and stand approximately 0.8m high. An interruption to the circuit of barrow D indicates that a 12m wide corridor along the eastern side of Salary Brook was disturbed during the brooks diversion. What remains of Barrow D appears to be an outer ditch with no indication of a surviving internal mound or ring-ditch. Barrows B and C both have approximately hemispherical mounds surrounded by ring ditches and are classifiable as ditched bowl barrows. It is possible these two were the focus of the cemetery as they have very prominent mounds and are located very close to one another. If there is no ring-ditch in barrow D, then this could be a pond barrow, a circular depression surrounded with a banked rim. Barrow A is difficult to classify because of the discrepancy in the diameter of the barrow seen on the ground and that of the ring-ditch and the outer bank seen on LiDAR imagery. It is possible that Barrow A was originally a ditched bowl barrow, the same as C and D, and that the outer bank identified in the LiDAR was a later addition as a result of reuse possibly in the Roman period. Numerous Roman pottery fragments were recovered from the possible ditch suggesting that the re-use of the barrow could have occurred in the Roman period. Valuable archaeological deposits will be preserved on the buried ground surface beneath the mounds, in the mounds themselves and in the fills of ditches. These will provide rare information concerning the dating and construction of the monument and the sequence of mortuary practices at the site. The same deposits also have potential to retain environmental evidence illustrating the nature of the landscape in which the monuments were set.
Extent of Scheduling: the scheduling includes the four barrows and other subsurface features identified as part of the archaeological survey and investigations. On the west side the area is defined by the east bank of the River Colne, on the east side the line includes a 5m buffer zone around the features which is considered appropriate for the support and preservation of the monument.
Exclusions: all modern fences are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.
Books and journals
Lawson, A J, Martin, E A, Priddy, D, The Barrows of East Anglia, (1981), ?
Crummy, P, 'A Bronze Age cemetery at Chitts Hill, Colchester, Essex' in Essex Archaeology and History, , Vol. 9, (1977), 1-16
'An Early Neolithic ring-ditch and Middle Bronze Age cemetery: excavation and survey at Brightlingsea, Essex' in East Anglian Archaeology, , Vol. 120, (2008), 1-?
An archaeological watching brief at the knowledge gateway, the University of Essex, Colchester, Essex September 2010 - August 2011
ECC FAU Report 1328, 2004 Land adjacent to Elmstead Road and Boundary Road, University of Essex, Colchester, Archaeological Evaluation, Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit Report by T Ennis
University of Essex Research Park, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex. Archaeological Desk Based Assessment and Walk Over Survey. E. Heppell 2003 Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit.
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.