West Mersea Barrow

Just up the East Mersea road as you come onto Mersea Island, is a conspicuous mound on the left. It is thought to be a Roman burial barrow, dated around 150 AD. The mound was excavated in 1912 and an entrance passage built. In the centre was a small burial chamber built of Roman bricks capped by septaria (clay nodules) and inside was a lead box with a wooden lid. The box contained an urn of green glass containing cremated remains.
The barrow is also known as Mersea Mound, Mersea Mount or Grim's Hoe.

Entrance passage
Mersea Barrow - urn and bones in Mersea Museum
Barrow Hall and the Barrow before the 1912 excavation.

  The Barrow, by the road to East Mersea
  The chamber in the centre of the Barrow

Left top: Barrow - view down the entrance passage..
Left centre: The urn and bones, with the lead box below, now on display in Mersea Museum.
Left bottom: A postcard of Barrow Hall and the Barrow before the 1912 excavation.
Above: Chamber in the centre of the Barrow which once contained the tomb.
Below: The barrow, thought to be around the time of the original excavation. The postcard shows the entrance passage cut into the side of the mound.

Mersea Barrow around the time of the excavation.

In 2012, the lead box and its contents returned to Mersea for the first time in 100 years, to be exhibited at Mersea Museum for the summer. The opportunity was then taken to have the bones analysed to try and find out more about the person buried in the Barrow. The bone report revealed that the deceased was a male between 35 and 45. Even more significant was the discovery on the bones of a rare combination of pine resins and precious frankincense from East Africa. Pottery fragments re-analysed put the estimated date for the barrow construction around 150AD, a little later than earlier estimates. Click here to read about the results of the analysis.
7 August 2014 the bones returned to Mersea once more for display in the Museum.

The bones returned to Colchester Museum in 2021 as part of the Decoding the Roman Dead special exhibition October 2021 to January 2022. Before the exhibition, further analysis was done. It was now possible to perform strontium isotope analysis on the small petrous bone located near to the ear. Results revealed that the individual may have spent their early years in western Germany or southern Gaul (southwest Belgium). See Results of Further Research.

May 2022 the bones were back on the Island and on display in Mersea Museum. We are grateful to Colchester and Ipswich Museums for the loan of the bones and their help in getting them here.

Mersea Museum organises open days at the barrow from time to time.
Contact us for details - Info@MerseaMuseum.org.uk.

Do you want to know more?
Follow the links below to view some historic and recent reports on the Barrow:

Extracts from the report on the 1912 excavation of the Barrow

View full report on the 1912 excavation of the Barrow

1969 article from Essex Countryside on Mersea Barrow

June 2013 article on the analysis of the Bones from the Barrow

May 2013 Cremated Bone Report by Jacqueline McKinley (opens in a new window)

May 2013 Report by Rhea Brettell on the residue found on the bones (new window)
(Feb 2018 this was covered in "The Bioarchaeology of Ritual and Religion" ISBN: 9781785708282.)

2021 Who was the man in the barrow ? - results of further research

The Secrets of the Mound - Mersea Barrow 1912-2012
A detailed history of the Barrow, 2024 extended edition, is available in the Museum Shop or by Mail. See Publications for more details.

Wheel Tomb and Child's Burial Tomb"