Anglo-Saxon inhumation and cremation cemetery
Reasons for Designation
Beginning in the fifth century AD, there is evidence from distinctive burials and cemeteries, new settlements, and new forms of pottery and metalwork, of the immigration into Britain of settlers from northern Europe, bringing with them new religious beliefs. The Roman towns appear to have gone into rapid decline and the old rural settlement pattern to have been disrupted. Although some Roman settlements and cemeteries continued in use, the native Britons rapidly adopted many of the cultural practices of the new settlers and it soon becomes difficult to distinguish them in the archaeological record. So-called Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are dated to the early Anglo-Saxon period, from the fifth to the seventh centuries AD. With the conversion to Christianity during the late sixth and seventh centuries AD, these pagan cemeteries appear to have been abandoned in favour of new sites, some of which have continued in use up to the present day. Burial practices included both inhumation and cremation. Inhumations involved the placing of burials in rectangular pits in the ground, occasionally within coffins. Cremation burials involved the placing of burnt remains in containers which were then buried in small pits in the ground. The most common burial containers were pottery vessels, frequently heavily decorated, although glass and metal ones are also known. In each type of burial the human remains might be accompanied by those of animals and also grave goods, including jewellery and weaponry. In some cemeteries only one of these burial rites was practised, in others, both are evident. Cemeteries range in size, the largest containing several thousand burials. Individual cemeteries were in use for up to 300 years. Anglo-Saxon cemeteries represent one of our principal sources of archaeological evidence about the early Anglo-Saxon period, providing information on population, social structure and ideology. All surviving examples, other than those which have been heavily disturbed, are considered worthy of protection.
The Anglo-Saxon inhumation and cremation cemetery at Worthy Park survives well. It has not been completely excavated and will retain potential for the recovery of further burials and grave goods. The site will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the cemetery, the material culture of those buried and the landscape in which the cemetery was created.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 June 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes an Anglo-Saxon inhumation and cremation cemetery surviving as buried archaeological remains. It is situated on a gentle south facing slope to the north of the River Itchen at Worthy Park near Abbots Worthy.
Partial excavation in 1944 and 1961-2 has recorded at least 94 inhumation burials and 46 cremations, many including grave goods. The inhumations are in shallow graves cut into chalk about 0.8m below ground and have various orientations. Woodstains within eight of the graves indicated traces of either coffins or wooden linings. All the cremations were placed in urns. The grave goods included a sword, a scabbard, beads, brooches, buckles, knives, latchlifters, pursemounts, rings, shield bosses, spearheads, tweezers and a late Roman unguent pot. The site has only been part-excavated and the cemetery is likely to contain further, as yet, unrecorded burials. It is thought to date to between the late 5th century and the 7th century AD.