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