Belas Knap Long Barrow, Sudeley, Gloucestershire

Text by Tim Darvill

Belas Knap Long Barrow lies on a gentle hill-slope overlooking a steep-sided river valley. The name derives from the Old English words bel meaning a beacon and cnaepp meaning a hilltop. It displays many of the classic features of Cotswold-Severn long barrows and is often seen as the type-site for examples with lateral chambersThe wedge-shaped mound is over 50m long and stands nearly 4m high;  it is  orientated north-south.

At the north end is a deep forecourt between two rounded horns, and in the back of the forecourt is an H-shaped setting of stones, perhaps the remains of a portal dolmen. The ditch that seems to define the sides of the mound is a product of reconstruction work during the 1930s; the bank of soil and stone outside the ditch is in fact material that has weathered off the top of mound.

Three chambers, all heavily restored, open into the mound from its long sides, while a fourth (roofless) chamber opens from the narrow southern end. The remains of about 30 people were found in the burial chambers during excavations in 1863-5 and 1928—31.

Key points to look for at Belas Knap are: the portal setting in the back of the forecourt; the dry-stone walling of the forecourt walls, the lower courses of which are original; the great size and bulk of the mound; the small size of the chambers; and the differences that exist in the shape of the chambers. The two slabs flanking the entrance to the north-east chamber have crescentic hollows in their facing edges and may have once formed a porthole entrance as at Windmill Tump, Rodmarton).

A round barrow is visible in the ploughed field to the west of the long barrow.


SP 0209 2554. 3km S of Winchcombe on NE side of Cleeve Hill, best approached along sign-posted lanes from the main A46 SW of Winchcombe. The turning is immediately SW of Winchcombe Hospital. Steep (signposted) footpath leads from a small parking area to the hilltop site about 1km away. English Heritage. Finds in Cheltenham Museum.

Further reading: Crawford 1925, 67-80 (C12); Berry 1929; 1930; Hemp 1929; Radford 1930; Grinsell 1966; Parsons 2002.

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