Pleasington Cemetery, Blackburn, Lancashire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – SD 650 272

Getting Here

The site is situated in a natural hollow just above a steep sided ravine known as Scotsman’s Wood through which a stream flows. The location in the hollow obscures all surrounding views of the East Lancashire Pennines and the Billinge Hill massif. The near surrounding area is on a natural sandbank created by the western shore of the post-glacial ‘Lake Accrington’.

Archaeology & History

During the early spring of 1996, grave digger Grant Higson, whilst excavating a new grave, uncovered course fragments of pottery displaying a herringbone pattern and other material. Grant stopped work immediately and alerted Blackburn Museum worker Maggy Simms, who gathered together the shattered remains and brought in Lancaster University Archaeological Unit for identification. They identified the fragments to be a Bronze Age Urn some 12 inches in height, decorated with a herringbone pattern and containing bones and ashes of several cremations, some stained green by some copper object that had disintegrated over the years. The burial was assigned to c. 1500 BC, a period of history referred to as the Bronze Age. The urn and its contents are now held by Blackburn Museum. A geo-physical survey was undertaken by the Unit on the surrounding areas that displayed undulation of the ground surface but nothing was found, the undulations deemed natural features.  No archaeological report or radiocarbon dating has been made to date by Blackburn Museum Service, the Lancaster University Archaeological Unit being now defunct.

During August 2009, I visited the site and was fortunate to meet with Grant Higson who not only showed me the location of the find, but also described the geological formation of the cemetery area.

The urn found is typical of the well developed Pennine urns recovered from the Anglezarke, Bleasdale and Burnley districts and a date of 1500+250 BC is more than likely cet. par.

Given the ‘sheltered’ location of the find I would ascribe the site as one of a primary domestic nature, the burial being a secondary feature: primary tumulus burials in prominent locations being the sole preserve of the ruling aristocracy. What we are looking at is a hearth burial within a communal living hut: following the Indo-European custom, the dead were given to the Earth inside the human habitation. The dear departed, who had been so close to the family group in life, had to remain among them in death also and share the family’s joys and struggles, food and drink. While living they had enjoyed nightly rest under the roof of the communal hut, dead they slept the eternal slumber beneath the domestic heart.

This site is noted by ’TheElf’ on The Modern Antiquarian. ‘TheElf’ goes on to mention, “I saw what could possibly be a standing stone, some 200 metres north east of the cemetery.”   I located this stone (SD 648 273) and found it to be a broken 17th century gate-stoop for pole fence – a gate post with a series of holes used to create a ‘heck’, being an adjustable series of pole bars in lieu of a gate.

Article contribution courtesy of John Dixon – © John Dixon 2009.

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