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Henge, ring ditch and prehistoric settlement remains, 450m west of High Holborn Lodge

A Scheduled Monument in Elton, Cambridgeshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.552 / 52°33'7"N

Longitude: -0.4048 / 0°24'17"W

OS Eastings: 508257.935224

OS Northings: 296104.815233

OS Grid: TL082961

Mapcode National: GBR GYC.SM8

Mapcode Global: VHFNB.X3WY

Entry Name: Henge, ring ditch and prehistoric settlement remains, 450m west of High Holborn Lodge

Scheduled Date: 15 September 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013281

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27104

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Elton

Traditional County: Huntingdonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Elton

Church of England Diocese: Ely

Details

The monument includes the buried remains of a Neolithic henge, defined by a
circular ditch and the remains of an external bank, located on a terrace on
the gentle, west facing slope overlooking the River Nene. The western
perimeter of the henge is partially overlain by the infilled ring ditch of a
later, Bronze Age bowl barrow, and within the interior of the the henge lies a
rectangular enclosure containing two hut circles and a number of other
features thought to be Iron Age in date.
Although no earthworks can now be observed on the ground, the henge and
associated features are clearly visible from the air as cropmarks and have
been recorded on aerial photographs. The henge is roughly circular in plan and
has a maximum diameter of approximately 100m. The north eastern part of the
circuit is broken by an entranceway, c.20m in width, and a second, similar
entrance is thought to exist to the south. The south eastern quadrant is less
clearly defined by the photographic evidence, and may include a third gap in
the bank and ditch. In 1978 a trial trench was excavated across the eastern
part of the perimeter, near the possible location of this third entrance. The
henge ditch proved to be U-shaped in profile, about 5.5m wide and 1m deep,
cut into the sandy subsoil. The appearance of the fills was consistent with a
process of gradual erosion and deposition rather than deliberate backfilling,
apart from one of the lower fills which contained evidence of burning.
Radiocarbon analysis of charcoal fragments from this fill provided a date of
c.2100 BC.
A level shelf or berm some 2m in width and approximately 0.35m deep flanked
the external side of the ditch. The vertical cut which marked the outer edge
of the berm was thought to indicate that the ground beyond had been protected
by a bank. This hypothesis was strengthened by the results of a subsequent
geophysical survey (in 1980) which recorded the presence of the remnant of the
bank in several places around the perimeter of the henge. The excavation also
revealed a narrow channel, 0.5m wide and 0.45m deep, running parallel to the
main ditch some 1.1m from the inner edge, which is considered to represent the
line of a timber fence or palisade.
Eleven worked flints were recovered from the excavation and a further 37 were
collected from the surrounding area during the work. The tool types present in
this sample are common to the Neolithic period and Bronze Age. Fragments from
the lining of a hearth dated to the Neolithic period were retrieved from the
burnt layer within the ditch. Pottery from the upper fills was less closely
datable, although it is thought to include fragments of Iron Age fabrics.
A circular ditch, c.25m in diameter, straddles the western perimeter of the
henge. This feature, now also only visible as a cropmark, is thought to
represent the quarry ditch formerly surrounding a Bronze Age barrow (burial
mound). Its location implies that at the time of its construction, the henge
had ceased to function as a ritual monument, and that the earlier earthworks
were at least partially reduced.
Within the henge, the aerial photographic evidence shows a large
sub-rectangular ditched enclosure, orientated north east to south west, and
measuring approximately 65m by 38m. The 1980 geophysical survey revealed an
entrance in the northern corner of the enclosure flanked by a western ditch
which extends for some 20m to the north, across the perimeter of the henge.
This feature is included in the scheduling in order to protect the
archaeological relationship between the different phases of the buried
remains. The enclosure contains a circular ditch, c.10m in diameter, thought
to be the foundation trench or drainage gulley for a timber structure. A
second similar, though less clearly defined, circle lies immediately to the
north, and the area also contains numerous short linear features and pits.
Together, these features are considered to represent a later prehistoric
settlement which developed after the henge had fallen into disuse. The
position of the enclosure does however imply that the earlier earthworks
still remained visible at this time, and may even have been utilised as a
boundary. The settlement may be related to a series of enclosures located on
the higher ground to the north and west, and is thought to be Iron Age in
date, judging from the pottery recovered from the upper fills of the henge
ditch.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Henges are ritual or ceremonial centres which date to the Late Neolithic
period (2800-2000 BC). They were constructed as roughly circular or oval-
shaped enclosures comprising a flat area over 20m in diameter enclosed by a
ditch and external bank. One, two or four entrances provided access to the
interior of the monument, which may have contained a variety of features
including timber or stone circles, post or stone alignments, pits, burials or
central mounds. Finds from the ditches and interiors of henges provide
important evidence for the chronological development of the sites, the types
of activity that occurred within them and the nature of the environment in
which they were constructed. Henges occur throughout England with the
exception of south-eastern counties and the Welsh Marches. They are generally
situated on low ground, often close to springs and water-courses. Henges are
rare nationally with about 80 known examples. As one of the few types of
identified Neolithic structures and in view of their comparative rarity, all
henges are considered to be of national importance.

Despite being reduced by cultivation, the henge situated to the west of High
Holborn Lodge remains one of the best preserved of its class in
Cambridgeshire, and provides an illustration of the importance of the Nene
Valley during the early prehistoric period. Limited excavation has
demonstrated the survival of features containing artefactual evidence relating
to the initial period of use, and its subsequent development. Aerial
photography and the geophysical survey have revealed the detailed information
concerning its layout, including the remains of the unusual external bank. The
henge is an important feature of the Neolithic landscape along the courses of
the Rivers Nene and Welland, which included two futher henges near Maxey and a
causewayed camp at Etton, as well as evidence for several settlement sites.
Comparisons between these sites will enable a more detailed picture of the
development of prehistoric society in this area.
The henge 450m west of High Holborn Lodge has unusual and close associations
with a Bronze Age ring ditch and an enclosed hut circle settlement of Iron Age
date. The archaeological relationships between these features and the henge
illustrate the longevity of the earlier henge earthworks, and poses important
questions about the changing use of the site and the utilisation of the
surrounding landscape.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
Anomaly frequency diagram, DoE A.M. Laboratory, Elton Henge, Cambridgeshire: Magnetometer Survey 1980, (1980)
Anomaly frequency diagram, DoE A.M. Laboratory, Elton Henge: Magnetometer Survey 1980, (1980)
CUCAP, ABW 11-12, ABV 84, 87-89, (1960)
Oblique photo's of soil\crop marks, CUCAP, ABW 11-12, ABV 84, 87-89, (1960)
Oblique photo's of soil\crop marks, CUCAP, ABW 11-12, ABV 84, 87-89, (1960)
reference to Roman pottery find spot, 151a,
Taylor, A, Excavations at Elton Henge, 1978, Unpublished excavation report (SMR)
Taylor, A, Excavations at Elton Henge, 1978, Unpublished excavation report (SMR)
Title: Aerial Photograph Overlay Map
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: Aerial Photograph Overlay Map
Source Date: 1980
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Source: Historic England

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