Tumulus: OS Grid Reference – TQ 2432 5902
Archaeology & History
This ancient “bowl barrow” as the modern archaeo’s are wont to describe it, is a Bronze Age tumulus that has seen better days. But at least it’s still there – albeit slightly damaged and enclosed by modern housing, in the back of someone’s garden. I expect that if you were to ask the owners, it would be OK to see this 4000 year old burial mound (in Scotland at least, we always find people very amiable when it comes to asking such things). It’s quite a big thing too, so you can’t really miss it! Standing more than 12 feet high, it rises like an archetypal fairy mound—now out of place—measuring some 38 yards east-west and roughly 44 yards north-south.
Highlighted on the early OS-map of the region, the name of the site indicates its multi-period usage, with the ‘beacon’ element derived from when, in 1594, a fire was lit upon it to tell of the arrival of the Spanish Armada. Whether it had been used as a beacon prior to that, I can find no historical accounts. One of the early archaeological descriptions came from the pen of the old historian and folklorist, Walter Johnson (1903), who told us simply:
“About a mile South-west of Banstead Church, in a field close by Tumble Farm, on the outskirts of Nork Park, is an eminence marked on the map as Tumble Beacon. A picturesque clump of pines stands on the mound, which, from its general character, and from the flint scraps we have found there, we have every reason to believe is a round barrow, despite the local tradition that it is a ‘sea-mark.’ The Scotch pines, in such positions as we find here, may probably, Mr. Grant Allen thought, be the descendants of trees put in by human hands when the barrow was first raised.”
Whilst this latter idea might be very hard to prove, the assertion that it’s prehistoric certainly gained favour as more antiquarians examined the site. Johnson later told that when examining this and other sites nearby (sadly destroyed) he came across a variety of prehistoric stone utensils in the area.
- Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Surrey, Cambridge Univserity Press 1934.
- Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
- Johnson, Walter, Neolithic Man in North-East Surrey, Elliot Stock: London 1903.
- Lambert, H.C.M., History of Banstead in Surrey, Oxford University Press 1912.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian