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Neolithic enclosure known as Waulud's Bank

A Scheduled Monument in Sundon Park, Luton

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.9099 / 51°54'35"N

Longitude: -0.4579 / 0°27'28"W

OS Eastings: 506172.885514

OS Northings: 224610.103061

OS Grid: TL061246

Mapcode National: GBR TL7.Q1

Mapcode Global: VHFRF.08S6

Entry Name: Neolithic enclosure known as Waulud's Bank

Scheduled Date: 26 June 1924

Last Amended: 29 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015558

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29383

County: Luton

Electoral Ward/Division: Sundon Park

Built-Up Area: Luton

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Marsh Farm

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

Source: Historic England

Sources

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
Other
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)

Source: Historic England

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