Ancient Monuments

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Goldbury Hill Anglo-Saxon cemetery

A Scheduled Monument in West Hendred, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.5889 / 51°35'20"N

Longitude: -1.3554 / 1°21'19"W

OS Eastings: 444752.055693

OS Northings: 187983.102763

OS Grid: SU447879

Mapcode National: GBR 7ZM.655

Mapcode Global: VHCYK.GB98

Entry Name: Goldbury Hill Anglo-Saxon cemetery

Scheduled Date: 13 July 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017686

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20601

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: West Hendred

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire


This Anglo-Saxon cemetery is located on a small but prominent chalk hill on
the southern edge of the vale overlooking the Ginge Brook and Holy Trinity
Church. The Icknield Way lies at its southern foot. The hill is steep-sided
with a flat, elongated top running south-west to north-east. Geophysical
survey has shown that the cemetery is largely confined to the top and upper
slopes of the hill. A small excavation has taken place revealing three
south-west north-east orientated inhumation burials of Anglo-Saxon type: one
adult male, a possible adolescent female and a rare infant burial. The graves
lay only 30cm under the ground surface. With the human bone in one of the
graves were found a spear, a shield boss and associated rivets, and a knife.
Pottery sherds of urns in the surrounding plough soil suggest that cremations
are also present. Apart from the burial evidence, other features located
included a large circular shaped pit with a central clay pad, one post-hole,
and a ditch.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

Goldbury Hill is considered to represent a fairly small family cemetery,
probably with an associated settlement in the immediate vicinity. The site
lies in an area of dense Anglo-Saxon occupation from which a number of
cemeteries are known, including those of Lockinge, Arn Hill, Betterton House,
Harwell, Abingdon and Frilford. Settlements in the area include Sutton
Courtney, Drayton and Milton. It is one of the few cemeteries in this area to
come into use in the first half of the fifth century and to remain in use
until the mid-sixth century. The site is largely undisturbed and therefore
offers considerable archaeological potential.

Source: Historic England

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