Southdown Cottage, Cotmandene, Dorking, Surrey

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 1686 4958

The Cotmandene urn

Archaeology & History

Highlighted on the 1914 OS-map (as ‘Site of’), nothing now remains of the prehistoric structure that either covered or surrounded the ancient burial urn, found fortuitously by a Mr Turner in the garden of Southdown Cottage at the beginning of the 20th century.  Believed to be either Iron Age or Romano-British in origin, the find was noted by Mr Malden (1913) in his brief in the Surrey ArchaeologicalCollections, who wrote:   

“Early in 1913 it came to my knowledge that some years ago some discoveries had been made in the garden of a house on Cotmandene, Dorking.  Mr Turner…was digging for sand in his garden when he found a small cinerary urn (see illustration), with ashes in it.  The height is only 5 inches, the diameter across the top about 4 inches, but at the widest part 5⅜.  The urn is so small that it probably contained the ashes of a child: it is wheel-made, but badly; the diameter is not precisely the same across the top from every direction: Mr Reginald Smith attributes it to the first century BC.  Some fragments of other urns were found.  Mr Turner has kindly presented the whole specimen to the Society’s Museum.  At a lower depth in the same garden were numerous flints, some implements, many flakes, and traces of a hearth with several burnt stones. These clearly belonged to an earlier date, considerably, than the interments, but as the finds were made about 1906-7, and not investigated till this year, it is impossible to be precise about the depth at which they occurred.”

References:

  1. Malden, H.E., “A Cinerary Urn and other Matters found at Dorking and Betchforth,” in Surrey Archaeological Collections, volume 26, 1913.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  51.233449, -0.327574 Southdown Cottage tomb

Bedford Hill, Tooting, Surrey

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TQ 288 726

Archaeology & History

This long lost prehistoric tomb is one of many that has fallen under the destructive hammer of the christian Industrialists in this part of the country.  Located somewhere in the parkland grounds of Bedfordhill House (also destroyed), its memory was thankfully preserved by the renowned folklorist and historian Walter Johnson (1903) who wrote of it in his work on prehistoric Surrey, where he told:

“A few years ago a supposed barrow was levelled in Bedford Park, Bedford Hill, Tooting, and no record taken of the results. The mound was enclosed in the Park for several  centuries, but when the grounds were laid out for building purposes ten or a dozen years since, it suffered rough usage, and was finally destroyed. It was nearly 100 yards long, and about 20 feet in breadth in its highest part.  It ran East and West, and had several trees growing on it before its desecration….  A moat had been made round the mound for about two-thirds of its circuit.  This moat was supplied with water by the Ritherdon, a small stream rising in Streatham.  The name is preserved in the adjacent Ritherdon Road.  The material of the mound was gravel and gravelly loam, which, in the neighbourhood, occurred only in a thin layer, thus forbidding the conclusion that the structure was merely composed of the soil dug out in making the moat. The excavated material would largely be London Clay.  As the genuineness of this barrow was, we believe, called in question after its demolition, when the subject was beyond reconsideration, we mention two shreds of collateral evidence. The ground on which the tumulus stood was about the highest in the district. The name Tooting may also have some bearing, for Mr. Clinch thinks that it was a Celtic settlement where was worshipped the deity known as Taith. (Compare also toot-hill, as exemplified in Tot Hill, Headley, Tothill Fields, Westminster, famous for fairs and tournaments, also Tutt Hill, near Thetford.)”

The ‘toot’ in Toothill however, is ascribed by Gover, Mawer & Stenton (1934) as being the usual “look-out hill”.  Although they do make note of the fact “that there is no hill in Tooting which would make a good look-out place.”  But if this was a large barrow of some type, it would explain the etymological oddity.  Any further information on this site would be welcome.

References:

  1. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Surrey, Cambridge Univserity Press 1934.
  2. Johnson, Walter, Neolithic Man in North-East Surrey, Elliot Stock: London 1903.
  3. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1954.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  51.438102, -0.148399 Bedford Hill tumulus

Tumble Beacon, Banstead, Surrey

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – TQ 2432 5902

Archaeology & History

Tumble Beacon in 1911

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:

Tumble Beacon on 1871 map
Walter Johnson’s 1903 sketch

“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.

References:

  1. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Surrey, Cambridge Univserity Press 1934.
  2. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
  3. Johnson, Walter, Neolithic Man in North-East Surrey, Elliot Stock: London 1903.
  4. Lambert, H.C.M., History of Banstead in Surrey, Oxford University Press 1912.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  51.316710, -0.217431 Tumble Beacon

Vauxhall Well, Lambeth, London, Surrey

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference — TQ 3006 7734

Archaeology & History

Position of Vauxhall Well on 1824 map

In Thomas Allen’s (1827) huge survey of Lambeth parish, he told that there was little of any interest along Wandsworth Road, apart from a good orchard, “and a fine spring called Vauxhall Well.”  According to Daniel Lysons (1792), it was located “not far from the turnpike”; and according to Mr Sunderland’s (1915), was to be found “on the right-hand side of the Wandsworth Road” as you walked down it to the south.  Thankfully its position was highlighted on the 1824 map of the parish (right) that accompanied Mr Allen’s work.

It appears to have been built over in the latter-half of the 19th century, soon after William Thornbury (1878) wrote that he thought the well was still visible, but vanished soon after.

The waters were universally ascribed by all historians, from Mr Allen onwards, as being,

“esteemed highly serviceable in many disorders of the eyes, and in the hardest winter it is never known to freeze.”

The name ‘Vauxhall’ derives from that brilliantly famous family name of ‘Fawkes’ (as in Guy Fawkes), being the ‘hall of Fawkes’.  The name was first recorded here as early as 1241. (Gover et al, 1934)

References:

  1. Allen, Thomas, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Lambeth, J. Allen: London 1827.
  2. Foord, Alfred Stanley, Springs, Streams and Spas of London: History and Association, T. Fisher Unwin: London 1910.
  3. Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Surrey, Cambridge University Press 1934.
  4. Lysons, Daniel, The Environs of London – volume 1,  T. Cadell & W. Davies: London 1792.
  5. Sunderland, Septimus, Old London Spas, Baths and Wells, John Bale: London 1915.
  6. Thornbury, William, History of Old and New London – volume 6, Cassell, Petter & Galpin: London 1878.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Vauxhall Well

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Vauxhall Well 51.480198, -0.128334 Vauxhall Well

Frensham Common necropolis, Frensham, Surrey

Tumuli:  OS Grid Reference – SU 853 406

Archaeology & History

There are several tumuli near the top of the hill here, but only one of them really stands out.  Nick Thomas (1976) told it to be one “of the best preserved bowl barrows in Surrey.”  A brief description of the relevant tombs, running north to south:

“the first is 75ft across and 6ft high; the second, which has a surrounding ditch 9ft wide, is also 75ft across, but is 8ft high.  The third has a diameter of 42ft and a height of 4ft.  The last is 54ft wide and 5½ft high.  It has a surrounding ditch 8ft wide. ” (Thomas 1976)

None of the tombs had been excavated up to the early 1980s, but I’m not sure if anything has been found since then.  There was also a potential “great stone” up here that was mentioned by John Aubrey in the late 17th century, but nothing has been seen of it since.  In all probability this was a standing stone or the remains of some prehistoric tomb.

Folklore

Several hundred years ago the King’s antiquary, John Aubrey, told the curious tale of the great cauldron that was said to have been found here:

“In the vestry (of Frensham church, in Surrey), on the north side of the chancel, is an extraordinary great kettle or caldron, which the inhabitants say, by tradition, was brought hither by the fairies, time out of mind, from Borough-Hill, about a mile hence. To this place, if anyone went to borrow a yoke of oxen, money, etc., he might have it for a year or longer, so he kept his word to return it. There is a cave where some have fancied to hear music.  On this Borough hill…is a great stone lying along, of the length of about six feet. They went to this stone and knocked at it, and declared what they could borrow, and when they would repay, and a voice would answer when they should come, and that they should find what they desired to borrow at that stone. This caldron, with the trivet, was borrowed here after the manner aforesaid, and not return’d according to promise; and though the caldron was afterwards carried to the stone, it could not be received, and ever since that time no borrowing there.”

In relation to the folklore that is generally attached to the tumulus on top of the hill here from which modern lore ascribes the cauldron to have originated, when A.G. Wade (1928) came to investigate the nature of the site and the folktale he found that,

“there are several folk-tales other than those given by Aubrey.  One relates that it was dug up on Kettlebury Hill, south of Hankley Common, by the monks of Waverley Abbey, and that it was taken by them to Frensham for brewing ale.  Another tale says that it was a loan from the fairies of Thursley — there are tumuli in this parish, south of Ockley Common — and that Mother Ludlam, a medieval witch who lived, according to tradition, in Ludlam’s Cave in Moor Park, was the owner and lender.  The cave was dug by a monk of Waverley Abbey who, when the water supply of the Abbey failed, found that three springs joined here, and by enlarging their outlets and bringing them together he obtained a good supply of fresh drinking water…”

Mr Wade was also unable to satisfactorily show that the Borough Hill named in Aubrey’s survey and Frensham Common hilltop were one and the same.

References:

  1. Aubrey, John, The Natural History and Antiquities of Surrey, E. Curll: London 1719.
  2. Thomas, Nicholas, Guide to Prehistoric England, Batsford: London 1976.
  3. Wade, A.G., “The Great Cauldron of Frensham,” in Antiquity, 2:6, June 1928.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  51.158426, -0.781114 Frensham Common