Anglo-Saxon cemetery on Hanging Hill, Bridge, immediately south west of Watling Street

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021421

Date first listed: 15-Aug-1939

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Jun-2007

Map

Ordnance survey map of Anglo-Saxon cemetery on Hanging Hill, Bridge, immediately south west of Watling Street
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Canterbury (District Authority)

Parish: Bishopsbourne

County: Kent

District: Canterbury (District Authority)

Parish: Bridge

National Grid Reference: TR 18682 53635

Summary

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

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. Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries consist predominantly of inhumation burials which were placed in rectangular pits in the ground, occasionally within coffins. The bodies were normally accompanied by a range of grave goods, including jewellery and weaponry. The cemeteries vary in size, the largest containing several hundred burials. Around 1000 inhumation cemeteries have been recorded in England. They 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.

Although the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Hanging Hill was ploughed in the mid-C20, both flat inhumations and those originally under mounds survive intact. The ring ditches of the burial mounds also survive. Those graves which have been excavated contained well preserved skeletons accompanied by grave goods and personal ornaments, demonstrating that the burials will provide information on diet and health, as well as on ritual, beliefs and social structure at a significant point of transition in Anglo-Saxon society. The unusual hexagonal structure may contain artefacts and evidence for its date and function. Its relationship with the burials and with Iron Age features and Late Iron Age cremations will also provide a relative date, and will illuminate the history of occupation on Hanging Hill.

History

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

Details

The monument includes an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, as well as Late Iron Age cremations, pits and post holes and a large hexagonal feature of unknown date. It occupies a prominent position on Hanging Hill, formed by the curving end of a ridge of the Kent Downs, and lies beside and to the south of the course of Watling Street, the Roman Road connecting Dover and Canterbury. To the south west and north west the land falls away sharply to the valley through which runs the Nail Bourne. The greater part of the monument lies within a field under pasture, but also includes a strip of woodland beside the road. The ring ditches of several burial mounds are visible as crop marks on aerial photographs, and several others survive as mounds within the woodland. However, excavations carried out in 2005 and 2006 to the south west of the burial mounds revealed that the cemetery extends to the west, well beyond the original scheduled area, and indicate that the mounds were probably the focal point of a larger cemetery consisting mainly of flat inhumations. In 2006 over 60 inhumations were uncovered in an area measuring about 10m x 50m, running east to west from the constraint line of the original scheduling: with a few exceptions, all had an approximate east-west orientation, and in some cases the burials appeared to be grouped in rows. Only one, towards the east end of the trench, and therefore closest to the known burial mounds, had a definite ring ditch around it, measuring 4m in diameter; although there are two other possible ring ditches on either side of this at a distance of about 3m and 5m respectively. In 2005, immediately to the south west of the 2006 trench, eleven burials were excavated, all with their heads towards the west. All contained artefacts, including glass and amber beads, buckles and two spear heads, as well as a gold pendant, a small green glass bowl and a fine wheel thrown decorated pot. Between sixty and seventy silver coins were also found, datable to between 675 and 750 AD. These place the burials in the century following St Augustine's mission to England of 597 AD to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. Amongst the inhumations uncovered in the 2006 excavation were pits and post holes dated to the Iron Age, as well as Late Iron Age cremations. Freshly knapped Neolithic flints were found in the layer of topsoil immediately above the chalk. Aerial photographs also show two parallel linear ditch features, about 110m apart running south west from and almost at right angles to the Roman road. Immediately to the west of the 2005 and 2006 excavations, and partially uncovered by them, is a large hexagonal structure, which until at least 1946 survived as an earthwork and can be seen on an aerial photograph of that date. It measures about 27m in diameter, and has an internal bank and external ditch about 80cm wide. Its date and purpose are uncertain and it is included because of its proximity to the burial mounds. There is a similar hexagonal structure, which can also be seen on an aerial photograph, about 370m to the south east: this second hexagon is not included in the scheduling. The inclusion of one is justifiable, given the proximity to the burial mounds and its relationship with them. However, given our uncertain understanding of their date and function these structures are not justifiably included on their own merits. The cemetery was first described (but not excavated) by the Reverend Bryan Faussett in 1771, who counted over 100 burial mounds on Hanging Hill, where it rises from Bourne House and Bishopsbourne to the Roman road. Altogether, Faussett recorded and excavated about 300 mounds beside Watling Street alone, where his most notable find was the Kingston Brooch, found in 1771 in a woman's grave on the Kingston Downs to the south west of Bridge. It seems that the mounds on Hanging Hill were ploughed down during and shortly after World War II. All fences, posts and boundary markers are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground around and beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 35554

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing