A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones placed over a grave. Tumuli are also known as barrows and can be found throughout much of the world. A cairn (mound of stones found on top of a hill) might originally have been a tumulus with the earth removed. The word tumulus is Latin for 'mound' or 'small hill'. The method of burying the dead varied and could either involve placing the whole body there (in which case skeletons usually survive) or cremated remains in pottery jars.
There are various types of barrow but the ones commonly found in Shropshire are :-
Round Barrows – were usually created in the Bronze Age but Neolithic examples are known. They consist of hemispherical mounds of earth and/or stone raised over a burial placed in the middle. Beyond this there are numerous variations which may employ surrounding ditches, stone kerbs or flat platforms between ditch and mound. Construction methods range from a single creation process of heaped material to a complex depositional sequence involving alternating layers of stone, soil and turf with timbers or wattle used to help hold the structure together. The central burial may be placed a stone chamber or cist or in a cut grave. Where several contemporary round barrows are grouped together, the area is referred to as a barrow cemetery.
Bowl Barrows - were created from the Neolithic through to the Bronze Age. They are hemispherical mounds covering one or more Inhumations or cremations. Where the mound is composed entirely of stone, rather than earth, the term cairn replaces the word barrow. The mound may be simply a mass of earth or stone, or it may be structured by concentric rings of posts, low stone walls, or upright stone slabs. In addition, the mound may have a kerb of stones or wooden posts. They were usually built in isolation in various situations on plains, valleys and hill slopes, although the most popular sites were those on a hilltop.
Disc Barrows – were created in the Bronze Age. They consist of a circular or oval-shaped flat platform, defined by a continuous earthen bank and inner ditch; sometimes the platform is raised above the surrounding ground level. On the platform there are one or more small mounds covering human burials deposited in cists or grave-pits. Disc barrows are relatively rare, generally regarded as being the burial monuments of important people.
Gazetteer of Sites
Ashlet Hill, Church Stretton (SO44109325)
Scheduled Monument. Round barrow 11m in diameter and 0.7m high, heather covered and apparently undisturbed. The perimeter of the mound shows evidence of kerbing around the East and South-West quarters. There is a slightly sunken area immediately east of the barrow centre which may mark the position of a collapsed cist, otherwise the barrow appears entirely undamaged. Although no longer visible as a surface feature, a ditch, from which material was quarried during the construction of the monument, surrounds the mound. This has become infilled over the years but survives as a buried feature with an estimated width of 1.5m. A natural outcrop of stone to the north east was probably used as a source of building material for the construction of the monument.
Belair, Craven Arms (SO43038405)
A possible bowl barrow on private land, partly destroyed by a railway embankment. It appears as a slight mound topped by an oak tree. Doubt about its Bronze Age origin centres on its close proximity to a pond and suggestions that the mound is the result of digging the pond. If this is true it must have been dug hundreds of years ago because of the great age of the oak tree.
Bronze Age bowl barrow surviving as an earthwork with excavation hollow in centre. Appears as a mound with a diameter of 30-35m and covered in heather.
Church Farm, Welshampton (SJ43573499)
Bowl barrow in Welshampton village centre. A sizeable mound, 20m in diameter, and 3m high.
Cove Coppice, Cound (SJ555046)
Line of four ring ditches running West-East suggest the site as a possible Bronze Age barrow cemetery. The site has all been recently ploughed and nothing is visible.
Giant’s Grave, Llanymynech (SJ264217)
There was once a burial mound but it was destroyed by quarrying. The story goes that a giant buried his wife there, with a golden circlet round her neck and many a vain attempt has been made by covetous persons to find it. Tradition says that three brothers, who overturned the capstone of the cromlech, were visited by sudden death immediately afterwards.
Giant’s Grave, Meadowtown (SO316992)
Possible chambered tomb on the South-East side of Stapeley Hill.
Grey Stones, Newcastle-on-Clun (SO185834)
Probably a bowl barrow, with a diameter of about 30m. Largely destroyed by 1883. Revealed and damaged by penetrative ploughing in 1945 and again ten years later. Nothing visible.
Henley Knap, Church Stretton (SO42799685)
Bronze Age bowl barrow, appearing as a heather covered mound some 15m diameter and 1m high. It appears quite significantly damaged by grazing and scraping by sheep.
Leasowes, Ratlinghope (SO408997)
Long Mynd East, Church Stretton (SO426945)
Round barrow on the north side of the road, much depleted, and partially destroyed by the route of the road.
Long Mynd North, Church Stretton (SO423955)
Depleted bowl barrow, North-East from the Shooting Box disc barrow, with signs of excavation in the centre.
Long Mynd South, Church Stretton (SO416933)
Very large depleted round barrow, on the South side of the track which leads to the Barrister's Plain Cross Dyke.
Middleton Hill, Priest Weston (SO302987)
Two round barrows.
Oak Farm, Clun (SO283820)
A ploughed out bowl barrow situated on high ground, North of the River Clun. All that can be seen now is a slight mound but aerial photography shows a surrounding ditch.
Pole Cottage, Church Stretton (SO412939)
Ratlinghope Hill, Ratlinghope (SO41179817)
Bronze Age bowl barrow above Lower Darnford. It measures 21m in diameter and stands 1.3m high.
Robin Hoods Butts, Ludlow (SO48977787)
Scheduled Monument. Bronze Age bowl barrow, part of a group of barrows in Old Field. The mound appears as an earthwork 30 metres in diameter and 4.7 metres high. There is no trace of any surrounding ditch. Excavation in 1884 recovered cremated human bones and a fragment of a bronze spearhead from the body of the mound. A Bronze Age cinerary urn in Ludlow Museum is said to come from this barrow.
Rossett, Churchstoke (SO24879352)
Large Bronze Age bowl barrow, close to Offa's Dyke. The earthwork survives to a considerable height but there is no trace of the three concentric ditches that once surrounded the barrow. Due to ploughing, these are now only visible as crop marks.
Shooting Box, Ratlinghope (SO42119538)
Early Bronze Age disc barrow, surviving as an earthwork disturbed by construction of shooting hut and excavation hollow.
Wildmoor, Ratlinghope (SO42409672)
Large bowl barrow approximately 200m to the North-West of Wildmoor Pool.