Belas Knap

Belas Knap

name = Belas Knap

caption = Neolithic long barrow burial mound.
established = c. 4500 BC
country = UK
location = Winchcombe, Glos.
coordinates = coord|51|55|38|N|1|58|15|W|display=inline,title
owner = English Heritage
size = 55 m × 18 m

Belas Knap is a neolithic long barrow, situated on Cleeve Hill, near Cheltenham and Winchcombe, in Gloucestershire, England. It is in the care of English Heritage. "Belas" is possibly derived from the Latin word "bellus", 'beautiful', which could describe the hill or its view. "Knap" is derived from the Old English for the top, crest, or summit of a hill.


The barrow is about convert|178|ft|m long, about convert|60|ft|m wide and nearly convert|14|ft|m in height.


What appears to be the main entrance to the barrow, with intricate dry-stone walling and large limestone jambs and lintels is, in fact, a false one. The actual burial chambers are down the long East and West sides of the barrow and at its Southern foot. There are four burial chambers, two on opposite sides near the middle, one at the South-East angle and one at the South end. These are formed of upright stone slabs, linked by dry-stone walling and originally had corbelled roofs.


In the 1863-1865 excavations, the skeletal remains of five children, aged between 6 months and 8 years, the skull of a young adult male, horse and pig bones and fragments of pottery and serrated flint blade were found among the rubble blocking the 'false entrance'. The passages leading to the chambers were roughly blocked with stones and clay. The lintels and much of the dry walling were rebuilt on the original lines in 1863-65, when the barrow was first explored. After the 1928-1931 work, the walling was secured, three of the chambers were covered and the contour of the mound was restored. Excavations in 1963 found the remains of 38 human skeletons, together with animal bones, flint implements and pottery of the end of the Neolithic period (New Stone Age), circa 2000 BC. These burials, however, occurred over a long period of time and it may be that none date to the time when the mound was built.


It is accessed by either of two paths. The most well-known is the one from the narrow and steep Charlton Abbots road, South of Winchcombe. There is a 'pull-in' on the left, with a signpost pointing up through the trees to the right. There is a steep climb for the first stretch of the footpath, affording views of Winchcombe, until the rounded hill top is reached. This walk takes approximately 10 minutes. The other is from the 'no through road', which leaves the above road at SP 019263, to go up to Corndean Hall. The last part of the drive is on an unsurfaced track, on which vehicular right of way is unclear. This cuts out the steep climb of the other route and approaches the site from the West.


The mound is situated at Ordnance Survey six-figure grid reference SP 021 254. It is just below the summit.

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