Two Captains, Stetchworth, Cambridgeshire

Tumuli (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TL 6246 6048

Also Known as:

  1. Two Howes

Archaeology & History

Mentioned as early as the 15th century in the Ely Cartulary as the “Tuomhowe,” or “two hills”, the place-name authority P.H. Reaney (1945) identifies this with the two “barrows” which our early cartographers map as our ‘Two Captains’.

Site shown on 1834 map
Site of the Two Captains on the 1885 OS map

In the 1834 survey by the Ordnance Survey lads, these conspicuous burial mounds were clearly marked on the west side of the Devil’s Dyke, less than 2 miles south of the Newmarket Necropolis.  They were seen first-hand by a number of local walkers, including A.J. King (1845) in his account of the aforementioned dyke.  But on the 1885 OS map, the old tombs had apparently gone.  Evidently some local knob-head had come along and took it upon himself to destroy these two burial mounds, which had lived here for thousands of years.  However, despite the OS-maps indicating that it had been totally destroyed in the 1880s, a couple of later writers said that faint traces were still visible, including the historian Charles Harper. (1904)  When he came here, he told how

“Little is now left of this once prominent mound, once important enough to be marked on Ordnance maps, but now ploughed nearly flat.  It stands in the third field from the road, on the right hand, a field now under corn, but until forty years ago a wood.”

A.J. King’s 1845 map

Very little is known about the place and even the late great barrow fetishist, L.V. Grinsell (1936) could dig nothing out, despite the two tombs mentioned in passing by a number of writers.

Folklore

In Grinsell’s (1976) book on the folklore of ancient sites, he drops the Two Captains into a simple category of them relating to some battle, without any information.  But it seems there isn’t much to go on.  The local history work of Charles Harper (1904) intimates the same thing, bringing attention to the folklore of the adjacent Devil’s Dyke, as

“it is one of the many sites identified as the scene of Boadicea’s defeat by Suetonius Paulinus, but we are sceptical of this particular one, although the ancient tumulus on the outer face of the Ditch, still called the Two Captains, points to some forgotten conflict in which two leaders were slain and buried on the contested field.”

 

References:

  1. Gomme, G.L., The Gentleman’s Library: Archaeology – volume 2, Elliot Stock: London 1886.
  2. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
  3. Grinsell, Leslie, Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, David & Charles: Newton Abbot 1976.
  4. Harper, Charles G., The Newmarket, Bury, Thetford and Cromer Road, Chapman & Hall: London 1904.
  5. King, A.J., “The Devil’s Dyke, Newmarket,” in The Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1845.
  6. Reaney, P.H., The Place-Names of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, Cambridge University Press 1943.
  7. Royal Commission Ancient Historical Monuments, Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire – Volume 2: North-East Cambridgeshire, HMSO: London 1972.
  8. Tymms, S., “The Devil’s Dyke, Newmarket” in Proceedings Suffolk Inst. Archaeology. 1, 1849-53 168-70

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  52.218577, 0.376758 Two Captains

Cowpasture Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1192 4759

Archaeology & History

Urn found below Cowpasture Rd in 1874

In a lecture given by Frank Hall at the Ilkley Library in February, 1910, he described a number of prehistoric remains found in the area—including the remnants of a “cinerary urn, containing calcined human remains” and more, as illustrated in the old photo here.  He contextualized the findings as being typical of the remains found “under a large heap of earth and stones which we now call a ‘barrow’, ‘cairn’ or ‘tumulus'” and believed that one must have existed here in bygone times.  The urn, he told us,

“was found within a few yards of these premises, for it was dug up when the excavations were being carried out for the erection of Messrs Robinson and Sons’ buildings on the opposite side of Cowpasture Road, in March 1874.”

Although we list this site as a cist, we don’t know for sure; but due to the lack of descriptive and historical data about a mound of any form in this area, it is most likely to have been a cist burial and not a tumulus or barrow which Mr Hall inferred.  Its location near the valley bottom is unusual when we consider the huge number of cairns on the moors above here; but a cist was found in a similar low-lying geographical position on the south side of the moors near Bingley, 5.8 miles due south, when construction of local sewage works were being done.

References:

  1. Hall, Frank, The Contents of Ilkley Museum, William Walker: Otley 1910.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.924310, -1.819974 Cowpasture cist

Woodhenge Circle (4), Durrington, Wiltshire

Round Barrow (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference — SU 1510 4330

Also Known as:

  1. Durrington 70

Archaeology & History

Cunnington’s sketch of the barrow remains

This was one of four ploughed-out round barrows (or ‘ring ditches’ in modern archaeo-jargon) that once existed immediately southeast of the well-known Woodhenge and was the closest of the four to the monument, being just 60 yards away. It was first noticed as a faint crop mark in an aerial survey photograph taken in 1926 of the fields hereby.  When it was investigated at ground level by Mr & Mrs Cunnington in August 1928, “no trace could be detected on the surface” of any extant monument—which they described as ‘Circle  IV’ in their superb survey.

The Cunnington’s (1929) account of the excavation they did here was pretty brief, telling:

“The soil was removed and the chalk brushed over that part of the area enclosed within firm lines.  Beyond a few shards of pottery in the soil, nothing whatever was found.  As the ditch was comparatively shallow and the filling-in was in patches dark in colour, with much ash and some burnt flints in it, a considerable length was dug out, as shown (in the sketch, above).  A few fragments of pottery similar to some of that from Woodhenge were found in and below the old turf line.

“The only find of interest was that of a piece of glass slag on the actual bottom of the ditch.  It is true it was at the shallowest point, but there was no evidence of disturbance.

“Conclusion — Like those of the other rings (Woodhenge Circles 1, and 3, PB) this ditch may have originally surrounded a Bronze Age burial, placed on the surface and covered with a mound, both of which were destroyed when the ground was levelled.”

References:

  1. Cunnington, M.E., Woodhenge, George Simpson: Devizes 1929.
  2. Royal Commission Historical Monuments, England, Stonehenge and its Environs, Edinburgh University Press 1979.
  3. Wainwright, G.J. & Longworth, Ian, Durrington Walls: Excavations 1966-1968, Society of Antiquaries: London 1971.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.188728, -1.785316 Woodhenge C4

Woodhenge Circle (3), Durrington, Wiltshire

Round Barrow (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference — SU 1511 4327

Also Known as:

  1. Durrington 69

Archaeology & History

Cunningham’s sketch of Woodhenge-3 barrow

This was one of four ploughed-out round barrows (or ‘ring ditches’ in modern archaeo-jargon) that once existed immediately southeast of the well-known Woodhenge complex, constructed approximately 95 yards away.  As with others in this field, the site was first noticed as a faint crop mark in an aerial survey photograph taken in 1926.  When it was subsequently investigated at ground-level by Mr & Mrs Cunnington in August 1928, “no trace could be detected on the surface” of the monument in question—which they described as ‘Circle  III’ in their superb survey.

Very little was found in the Cunnington’s (1929) excavation, as their following brief account indicates:

“The soil was removed and the surface of the chalk brushed, over the whole of the area enclosed within this ditch.

“Only one small oval-shaped hole was found, near the edge of the ditch at “a” (above), 33in x 22in, and only 5in deep in the chalk; in it were a number of fragments of bones of a small ox and pig, a piece of burnt clay and a flint scraper weathered white.

“As there was nothing dateable in the circle it was not thought worth while to excavate more than a short section of the ditch.  Pottery comparable with that found at Woodhenge came from the old turf line and from the bottom of the ditch.

“Conclusion — Like those of the other circles (Woodhenge circles 1, 2 and 4, PB) it is probable that this ditch was originally made round a Bronze Age burial that had been placed on the surface, and that it was destroyed together with the covering mound when the ground was levelled.”

References:

  1. Cunnington, M.E., Woodhenge, George Simpson: Devizes 1929.
  2. Royal Commission Historical Monuments, England, Stonehenge and its Environs, Edinburgh University Press 1979.
  3. Wainwright, G.J. & Longworth, Ian, Durrington Walls: Excavations 1966-1968, Society of Antiquaries: London 1971.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.188458, -1.785175 Woodhenge C3

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

 

loading map - please wait...

  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

 

loading map - please wait...

  51.316710, -0.217431 Tumble Beacon

Caravan Park, Blair Drummond, Stirlingshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NS 7253 9906

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 46065
  2. Old Farm

Getting Here

Caravan Park burial mound

Caravan Park burial mound

Along the A84 Stirling-Doune road, watch out for the minor Cuthill Brae road to the caravan park. Go up and into Blair Drummond caravan park (ignore the old grumpy southern-type fella who tells you “this is private”), right into and through the walled area where the caravans are situated.  Out the other side is a children’s playground— and the very large mound to your left with a tree on top (and a children’s slide built on it) is the burial mound in question.

Archaeology & History

Tumulus from the southeast

Tumulus from the southeast

This comes as something of a surprise when you first set eyes on it.  It’s big! (bigger than I expected anyway!)  Seemingly on its own, rising from the level ground and surrounded by cultivated land, there were probably others of its kin close by, but the closest that we know about is 1.5km to the east; although the standing stone of Boreland Hill a few hundred yards west might have had some relevance….

This tumulus may be the one noted by Charles Roger (1853) in his visit to the area.  He spoke of the now denuded burial mound to the east (in the Safari Park), but also told that,

“Within the park are two other tumuli, one situated in the garden, of a conical form and measuring 92 yards in circumference and about 15 yards in height…”

Blair Drummund tumulus on 1866 OS-map

Blair Drummund tumulus on 1866 OS-map

This mound is more 15 feet in height than yards, but the other measurement is close—and it does seem to be in the right area.

There is much greater certainty in J.G. Callander’s (1929) account.  He was fortunate in being part of the excavations undertaken here by Sir Kay and Lady Muir in 1927-28 and gave a damn good account of what went on:

“The mound is not quite circular, as it measures about 75 feet in diameter from north to south and about 65 feet from east to west, its height being about 15 feet.  Before the excavations were started it seemed as if the monument consisted entirely of earth, but before the examination was completed it was found that it contained a small cairn of stones, heaped over a grave formed of large slabs arid boulders which undoubtedly was the primary interment.

“Commencing at the south-south-eastern edge of the mound, a trench driven in towards the centre, revealed the presence of a short cist which had apparently been disturbed at some previous time.  A large block of stone formed the northern end and a large slab the east side.  A smaller slab lay at the south end and another on the west side, but as the latter was too short to fill the space, a larger slab lay obliquely between it and the large stone at the north end.  There was no appearance of a cover stone.  The length of this grave was 3 feet 3inches, its breadth 3 feet, and its depth 2 feet 3 inches.  The longer axis lay practically north and south.  No traces of human remains or relics of any sort were found here.  This was evidently a secondary burial sunk into the mound as far as the original surface of the ground, and covered with about 4 feet of soil at the centre.

“As the trees interfered with further excavations at this part, another trench was cut in from the northern arc as far as the centre of the mound, where an undisturbed cist, formed of large rough slabs and a cover stone, was encountered.  Although this grave was considerably larger in length, breadth and depth than any of the numerous short cists that I have examined, I think it should be classed with them rather than with the large cist-like chambers sometimes found in long cairns.  It was formed of two side and two end slabs.  The sides were roughly parallel, but the slab at the southern end was placed obliquely so that the length of the grave was 4 feet 6 inches on the east side and 4 feet on the west side. The general breadth was 3 feet at the floor, and the depth 4 feet.  Both side slabs converged towards the top.  As the slabs on the east side and at the ends were not so high as that on the west, the spaces between them and the cover stone were carefully built up with smaller stones.  A slight vacancy between the slabs at the south-east corner was filled in a similar fashion.  A small cairn of clean stones without a mixture of soil had been heaped up over the cist, covering the lid to a depth of about 9 inches: the diameter of the cairn at the base was  not ascertained.  The depth of earth above the summit of the cairn was about 8 feet.  But for a layer of a few inches of earth on the floor the cist was empty.  Nothing was found except some small unburnt fragments of human bone, very much decayed, and a few teeth.  Some small fragments of charred wood were found in making the trench and in the grave, but whether it was charred by natural carbonisation or by burning was not determined.

“In making the trench just before the grave was reached, but at a higher level, a small portion of the cutting edge of a stone axe was found.  It had no evident connection with the cist, and may have happened to be lying about amongst the soil that was piled up over the grave.

“As there remained a space on the top of the mound which could be excavated without destroying any of the trees, it was examined.  About 1 foot under the surface a cinerary urn was found in an inverted position.  The base had been crushed in, and the wall was full of cracks into which tree roots had penetrated.  On taking it out the vessel was found to have originally been about half-filled with cremated human bones.  These after examination were reinterred in the mound.  No other relics were found in the urn.

“The vessel, which is formed of buff-coloured clay with a tinge of red in places, is a cinerary urn of the cordoned variety belonging to the Bronze Age.  It is encircled at the widest part, about 3½ inches below the lip, by a raised moulding or cordon, and about 3 inches lower down by another.  The greater part of the vessel was recovered, but as the basal portion was completely crushed, it is impossible to ascertain the height of the vessel or the width of the base when complete.  It measures 10¾ inches in external diameter at the mouth and 11 inches at the widest part: what remains of the wall is 13 inches in height.  The rim, which is unusually thin for a vessel of this class, is only ⅜-inch in thickness, and it is bevelled downwards towards the interior.  The space between the upper cordon and the rim is the only part which is decorated, and here there is a row of large triangles, alternately plain and filled, with a reticulated design, bordered above and below with a single marginal line, all formed by pressing a twisted cord on the clay before it was fired.”

Protected tumulus, damaged by slide

Protected tumulus, damaged by slide

The burial mound is still in a reasonably good state of preservation… on the whole…  There is however, a slightly worrying note: this tumulus is a protected scheduled monument but despite this it has, as of late, been quite deliberately built upon.  When Penny Sinclair and I visited the nearby Christ’s Well recently (out of season), an unhelpful grumpy man working or living there told us we were “not allowed on the site – it’s private.”  We thought he was joking and I laughed that, “This is Scotland!”  He repeated his words.  A week later, Paul Hornby and I revisited the Christ’s Well and then took to see this large burial mound – only to find that a children’s play area had been built right up to, and upon, the northwestern part of the monument. This is in contravention of legal regulations to build upon Scheduled Monuments, as:

“The area to be scheduled encompasses the mound and an area around it in which traces of associated activity may be expected to survive.”

This has been violated.

If you like your prehistoric burial mounds, this is well worth having a look at.

References:

  1. Callander, J. Graham, “A Bronze Age Burial Mound at Blair Drummond, Perthshire,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 63, 1929.
  2. Roger, Charles, A Week at Bridge of Allan, Adam & Charles: Edinburgh 1853.
  3. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  56.167180, -4.054446 Caravan Park

Dumpton Park, Ramsgate, Kent

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TR 389 661

Archaeology & History

A little-known site which archaeologist Brian Philp (2002) called “a Bronze Age barrow”.  When the old Greyhound Stadium at Ramsgate was being demolished for a new housing estate, planning conditions required an archaeological evaluation and so Philps and his team set out to explore the area in February 2000.  They weren’t to be disappointed!  Unearthing a ring ditch nearly 20 yards (18m) across, they found that it had been cut into the local chalk some three feet deep.  Although there was no obvious entrance, the northeast section of the ancient monument,

“was found to be covered by a compact layer of flint metalling.  This was a wide and well-made surface or platform, perhaps of Iron Age date, which clearly covered the silted ring-ditch,  Nearby was a large male skeleton in a very shallow grave and with head missing due to later disturbances.”

The excavated ring ditch (after Philp 2002)

The excavated ring ditch (after Philp 2002)

The crouched skeleton (after Philp 2002)

The crouched skeleton (after Philp 2002)

But the best was yet to come!  In another section of the circular monument, cut into the chalk itself, they found a complete male skeleton laid in typical foetus position, on its left side, with a large beaker pot positioned in front of it.  These beakers are pretty common and tend to be seen as once holding food enabling the dead to eat in their journey into the Land of the Dead.  It makes sense.  The entire monument has since been completely destroyed.

References:

  1. Philp, Brian, Archaeology in the Front Line, KARU: Dover 2002.

Links:

  1. Kent Archaeological Review

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 2016

Dumpton Park tomb

loading map - please wait...

Dumpton Park tomb 51.343823, 1.430006 Dumpton Park tomb

Down Farm, Basingstoke, Hampshire

Barrow (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SU 6018 5013

Archaeology & History

Downs Farm tumulus on 1897 map

Downs Farm tumulus on 1897 map

On the western edges of Basingstoke, at Kempshott, could once be found this ancient site—destroyed many decades ago.  It was one of number of similar prehistoric burial mounds in the area.  First described in a listing of tumuli by Mr Andrews (1898) who told us that it was “oval” in shape, the monument was completely destroyed in 1939 and according to the Royal Commission (1979) lads,

“its site now lies beneath a house at the southwest corner of Kempshott Lane and Homesteads Lane.”

When the house where it once stood was being constructed, a collared urn was recovered from the tomb, which the Royal Commission thought indicated “that the monument (was) likely to have been of early Bronze Age date”—but obviously we cannot be sure.  The site was listed in Leslie Grinsell’s (1979) extensive survey of prehistoric tombs in the area, in which he suggested it may have been a long barrow.

References:

  1. Andrews, S., “A Short List of Some Tumuli in North Hampshire,” in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society, volume 4, 1898.
  2. Grinsell, Leslie V., “Hampshire Barrows – part 3,” in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society, volume 14, 1940.
  3. Royal Commission on Historic Monuments, England, Long Barrows in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, HMSO: London 1979.
  4. Willis, G.W., “Bronze Age Burials round Basingstoke,” in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society, volume 18, 1953.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Downs Farm barrow

loading map - please wait...

Downs Farm barrow 51.247214, -1.139228 Downs Farm barrow

Ruston Beacon, Ruston Parva, East Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 0584 6128

Archaeology & History

Ruston Beacon tumulus on 1854 map

Ruston Beacon tumulus on 1854 map

A fallen tumulus that once marked the southwestern side of the village boundary line, and was once adjacent to the prehistoric Green Dikes earthworks that once passed here.  Sadly however, sometime early in the 20th century, this ancient burial mound fell victim to usual ignorance of arrogant land-owners who place money ahead of history and local tradition and it was ploughed-up and destroyed.  Thankfully we have an account of the site in J.R. Mortimer’s (1905) incredible magnum opus.  Listing it as ‘Barrow no.272’ in the number of tombs excavated, he told us that:

“It is situated on elevated ground about half-a-mile (south)west of Ruston Parva.  On September 20th and 21st, 1886, it measured about 70 feet in diameter and 2 feet in elevation; and had originally been several feet higher, as an old inhabitant remembered assisted in removing its upper portion, which was carried away and spread on the surrounding land many years previously.  At the base of the barrow, near the centre, was a long heap of cremated bones which had been interred in a hollow log of wood with rounded ends, about 3 feet in length and 14 inches in width, well shown by impressions in the plastic soil, and by the remains of the decayed wood.  The heap of bones was rather large and probably consisted of the remains of more than one body.  No relic accompanied them.  Several splinters and flakes of flint were picked from the mound.”

The tumulus (as its name implies) became a spot besides which one of East Yorkshire’s many ancient beacons were built.  In Nicholson’s (1887) survey of such monuments, he told that

“the modern beacon, apparently, stood on the site of the old one, on the high ground in the angle of the road from Driffield to Kilham.  It was a prominent object and would be well-known to the coachmen and guards…for it stood on the side of the road from Driffield to Bridlington.  Mr John Browne, of Bridlington, remembers it; and says, ‘It would be the last of the beacons that remained in this district and was removed between fifty and sixty years ago.  My recollection of it is that it was a tall pole, with a tar barrel at the top, and had projected steppings to reach the barrel.”

One of the earliest accounts of the beacon from the late-1500s told that it took signal for its light from the beacon at Rudston, which stood upon one of the Rudston cursus monuments, a short distance from the massive Rudston monolith.

References:

  1. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, Brown & Sons: Hull 1905.
  2. Nicholson, John, Beacons of East Yorkshire, A. Brown & Sons: Hull 1887.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Ruston Beacon tumulus

loading map - please wait...

Ruston Beacon tumulus 54.036652, -0.385331 Ruston Beacon tumulus