Bul Barrow, Woolland, Dorset

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – ST 7751 0574

Also Known as:

  1. Bulbarrow
  2. Bull Barrow

Archaeology & History

A prehistoric round barrow with an ancient literary pedigree, dating back to Anglo-Saxon records according to A.D. Mills (1989), when is was described in the boundary records of 833 AD as ‘on burg‘.  It was described again in local records as Buleberwe in 1270, then more like the form we recognize today as the Bulbarowe in 1545, and variants thereof many times since then.

Measuring about 18 yards across and standing four feet high, Grinsell (1959) defined the monument as a ‘Bowl Barrow’, due to the shape of the mound.  A brief description of the site by the Royal Commission (1970) lads told:

Bulbarrow (77500574), bowl, lies at about 870ft above sea-level near the summit of the chalk escarpment, here known as Bulbarrow Hill. The centre of the mound has been dug into. Diameter 54tf, height 4ft.”

Grinsell and the Royal Commission both made note of a “sharpened bone of deer”, reported by Mr Woolls (1839), but pointed out there was an uncertainty whether the bone was dug “from this or the Bull Barrow in Holt” parish.

All early forms of the burial mound’s name strongly suggest it derived to a once great bull.  The reason for this cannot be known for certain, but if we follow Conrad (1959) or Eliade’s (1986) rationale, the animal here was very likely a sacred bull — akin to the more famous Bull of Minos, or Apis, or Nandi.  The religious importance of sacred animals was just as widespread in the British Isles as it was elsewhere in the world (examples of bulls relating to prehistoric remains scatter the British Isles with a similar association: see the Bull Stone, Guiseley; the Creagantarbh stones and hillfort, Argyll, etc.).  It would be good to know of any local folklore relating to oxen or other bovines in the Woolland area.


  1. Conrad, Jack Randolph, The Horn and the Sword: The History of the Bull as Symbol of Power and Fertililty, MacGibbon & Kee: London 1959.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, Zalmoxis, University of Chicago Press 1986.
  3. Grinsell, Leslie V., Dorset Barrows, Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Society 1959.
  4. Mills, A.D., The Place-Names of Dorset – part 3, English Place-Name Society 1989.
  5. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), An Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset – Volume 3: Central Dorset, Part 2, HMSO: London 1970.
  6. Woolls, Charles, The Barrow Diggers, Oxford 1839.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian