REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. 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. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.
The bowl barrow WSW of Pilsley is apparently undisturbed and retains intact archaeological remains throughout. Its later function as the site of a medieval wayside cross is also of interest and further adds to its importance. Wayside crosses are one of several types of Christian cross erected during the medieval period, mostly from the 9th to the 15th centuries AD. In addition to serving the function of reiterating and reinforcing the Christian faith amongst those who passed the cross and of reassuring the traveller, wayside crosses often fulfilled a role as waymarkers, especially in difficult or otherwise unmarked terrain. The crosses might be on regularly used routes linking ordinary settlements or on routes having a more specifically religious function, including those providing access to religious sites for parishioners and funeral processions or marking long-distance routes frequented on pilgrimages. Over 350 wayside crosses are known nationally, concentrated in south west England throughout Cornwall and Dartmoor where they form the commonest type of stone cross. A small group also occurs on the North York Moors but relatively few examples have been recorded elsewhere and these are generally confined to remote moorland locations. In Cornwall, the commonest form is the round or wheel-headed cross, but elsewhere almost all wayside crosses take the form of a `Latin' cross in which the cross head itself is shaped with the projecting arms of an unenclosed cross. The cross heads and shafts may be unadorned or may be ornamented with decorative carved panels and religious iconography. Most wayside crosses have either a simple socketed base or show no evidence for a separate base at all. Wayside crosses contribute significantly to our understanding of medieval religious customs and sculptural traditions and to our knowledge of medieval routeways and settlement patterns. All wayside crosses which survive as earthfast monuments, except those which are extremely damaged and removed from their original locations, are considered worthy of protection. Although only the base of the Pilsley cross survives, that component is extremely well-preserved and is important evidence of a wayside cross outside the main distribution areas which does not conform to the usual function of serving as a waymarker across inhospitable terrain.
The monument is a bowl barrow surmounted by the base of a medieval wayside cross. Formerly the cross would also have included a shaft and a cross head but these are now missing, possibly as a result of 16th or 17th century iconoclasm. The barrow comprises a low, roughly circular mound of earth and stones measuring 7.5m by 7m and standing 0.3m high. Its form and hilltop location, together with its proximity to other barrows on Calton Pasture, indicate a probable Bronze Age date. The cross base or socle is a finely dressed sandstone block with three sloping sides and one vertical side and a rectangular socket hole measuring 30cm by 27cm by 15cm deep. It stands c.35cm high and measures 65cm by 55cm at the base, tapering to 45cm square. Locally it is known as the Christening Stone and is located in Stump Cross Field. It is also the subject of several local legends, one of which indicates that it was moved to the village in the 18th or 19th century but was replaced in its original position after bad luck afflicted its subsequent owners. Approximately 100m downhill from the socle is a roughly dressed post of the same sandstone which, it has been suggested, is the original shaft. This seems unlikely due to the contrasting neatness of the socle and the fact that the depth of the socket hole suggests a shaft of greater height. Also, one face of the post is cut at an angle suggesting that it may have been part of a squeeze-through stile. The barrow and cross base are situated next to an ancient right of way which leads through the village of Pilsley, linking up with roads from Bakewell and Baslow. Its location on an established route between settlements suggests that one possible function of the cross was to mark the route for churchgoers or to act as a place where the coffin could be set down during funeral processions.
Book Reference - Author: Barnatt, John - Date: 1994 - Type: PERS COMM
Book Reference - Author: Shackleton Hill, Angela - Date: 1994 - Type: PHOTO - Description: for MPP