Neolithic enclosure known as Waulud's Bank


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015558

Date first listed: 26-Jun-1924

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Jan-1998


Ordnance survey map of Neolithic enclosure known as Waulud's Bank
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Luton (Unitary Authority)

National Grid Reference: TL 06174 24583


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The enclosure known as Waulud's Bank does not conform precisely with any known class of prehistoric monument, although it is perhaps closest in appearance to the type which has been termed `henge-enclosure'. Only four such sites have been firmly identified, all of which lie in Wiltshire or Dorset. These were constructed as circular or oval enclosures, usually over 300m across, occupying low-lying areas and river valleys. They are dated to the late Neolithic period (c.2400-2000 BC) and show evidence of high levels of activity, both domestic and ritualistic in character. Waulud's Bank shares several points of similarity with these sites (especially with that at Marden, Wiltshire, which is also partly enclosed by a water course) although it also differs in two main respects. Firstly, the ditch, which has been shown to be Neolithic in date from the discovery of Grooved Ware pottery in the basal fills, lies outside the bank, whereas these sites are characterised by internal ditches. Secondly, the monument currently lacks evidence for the opposed or multiple entrances which typify henge-enclosures. Given such a small number of known sites, the possibility of variations based on spatial or cultural differences has yet to be fully explored and, although Waulud's Bank is currently thought to be unique, further work may demonstrate that it does represent a significant but recognisable variation within this monument class. The monument survives well, and is highly valuable as a rare example of upstanding earthworks of Neolithic date. The long history of pastoral use and the consequent lack of significant ground disturbance within the enclosure should ensure the preservation of buried features which will provide dateable material and other evidence for the duration and the character of the site's use. Organic material, including plant remains and bone, were found in waterlogged deposits at the base of the ditch during the 1953 excavations. These deposits are especially significant, given the subsequent development of scientific techniques for dating and the analysis of environmental conditions. The earthworks also have considerable value as an educational resource, and as a visible indication of the region's past.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Waulud's Bank lies towards the northern end of a broad valley which transects the chalk ridge of the Chiltern Hills in an area now occupied by the suburban outskirts of Luton which have subsumed the former villages of Leagrave and Limbury. The surviving earthworks define a large D-shaped enclosure measuring some 250m north east to south west by 350m transversely. The curving side of the enclosure forms a wide semicircular arc to the east of the River Lee which rises in a series of springs within the north western corner of the monument. This side is defined by a broad bank, partly denuded by ploughing, but surviving in places to 1m in height, and a largely infilled external ditch measuring some 15m-20m across. The remaining western part of the perimeter, adjacent to the course of the Lee, is defined by a single scarp accentuated by a relatively modern hedgerow boundary, and is believed to have originally overlooked a marshy area surrounding the spring head. This was drained during the construction of the adjacent railway line in the mid-19th century. The interior of the enclosure includes a slight prominence to the south and a wide bowl-like depression to the north and, apart from a short episode of ploughing shortly after the World War II, has remained under pasture since the 1880s. During the later part of the 19th century, a vast collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age flintwork, including leaf-shaped and barbed and tanged arrowheads, was recovered from the vicinity, including the area of the enclosure itself. The earthworks have been subject to limited excavation on three occasions. Trial trenches were placed across the bank and ditch to the north and to the east in 1953. Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery was found in the lower fill of the ditch and, to the north, the excavator found evidence for a small hut outside the perimeter. A further trench was dug across the south eastern part of the enclosure in 1971, where again Late Neolithic pottery was found in the primary ditch fills, and an adjacent trench was placed across the bank and ditch in 1982. Geophysical surveys undertaken in 1971 and in 1985 produced generally poor results, although in the later case several pits and a ditch were identified outside the enclosure to the south east (alongside Waulud's Bank Drive), adding to the evidence of external activity suggested by the hut base found in 1953. The place-name `Waulud' has been taken to be a corruption of `Wayland', the smith in Teutonic mythology. His name is connected to several archaeological sites across the country (notably Wayland's Smithy, a Neolithic chambered tomb in Oxfordshire), implying that their origin and purpose were long forgotten by the time of the Anglo-Saxon settlement. The adjacent village of Limbury led some early writers to identify Waulud's bank with Lygeanburgh, one of the settlements allegedly captured by Cuthwulf, king of the West Saxons, after the battle of Bedcanford in AD 571. There is, however, no archaeological confirmation of this. Roman and Iron Age pottery found in the upper fills of the enclosure ditch is thought to indicate some activity, possibly settlement, in or around the monument during these latter periods. Evidence for Medieval or early post-medieval activity within the enclosure is limited to slight traces of ridge and furrow cultivation across the northern part of the interior. Excluded from the scheduling are all fences and fenceposts, all bollards, sign posts and information boards, the made surfaces of paths and roads, street lights and the concrete platforms marking the site of a former building and overlying the storm drain in the northern part of the ditch, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 29383

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Struth, P, Waulud's Bank: A Prehistoric Enclosure at Luton, Bedfordshire, (1994)
Bradley, R, 'Proc Prehist Soc' in Proc Prehist Soc, , Vol. 36, (1970), 367
Bryant, S, 'Chiltern Archaeology - Recent Work' in Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age in the North Chilterns, (1995), 17-27
Dyer, J, 'Beds Arch J.' in Leagrave, Bedfordshire, , Vol. 7, (1972), 93
Dyer, J, 'Beds Arch Mag' in Waulud's Bank, Leagrave, , Vol. 8, (1963), 57-64
Dyer, J, 'Beds Arch J.' in A Secondary Neolithic Camp at Waulud's Bank, Leagrave, , Vol. 2, (1964), 1-15
Farley, M, 'Chiltern Archaeology - Recent Work' in Later Prehistoric Settlement in Central and Southern Bucks, (1995), 28-30
MPP schedule entry, Went, D, SM:27156 Large Multivallate Hillfort known as Danesfield Camp, (1995)
Reply to RCHM survey (Luton Mus copy), Dyer, J, Observations on 'Waulud's Bank Prehistoric Enclosure at Luton', (1994)
Revised schedule entry, BD2: Waulud's Bank Neolithic Henge, (1989)
Single monument class description, Darvill, T, Henge-Enclosures, (1989)

End of official listing