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Anglo-Saxon cemetery on Hemley Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Bledlow-cum-Saunderton, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.712 / 51°42'43"N

Longitude: -0.8443 / 0°50'39"W

OS Eastings: 479945.778248

OS Northings: 202108.161706

OS Grid: SP799021

Mapcode National: GBR C2Q.PC5

Mapcode Global: VHDVQ.B70D

Entry Name: Anglo-Saxon cemetery on Hemley Hill

Scheduled Date: 9 May 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020290

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29435

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Bledlow-cum-Saunderton

Built-Up Area: Princes Risborough

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Bledlow with Saunderton and Horsenden

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes the known extent of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery located on
the north side of Hemley Hill, a small eminence which rises from the floor of
the Saunderton Valley to the south of Princes Risborough and the Aylesbury

An iron shield boss, a gilt square head brooch and other artefacts associated
with pagan Anglo-Saxon burials were first discovered in the field to the rear
of Shootacre Lane in 1976. Geophysical survey in 1977 revealed a pattern of
buried grave-like features, pits and ditches interpreted as part of an Anglo-
Saxon cemetery. These coincided with the area of the artefact discoveries and
continued across a slight terrace overlooking the valley floor to the west.
Reports also re-emerged at around this time of human burials unearthed in the
mid-1930s in two gardens backing onto the field further confirming, the
cemetery interpretation. Other artefacts have since been discovered in the
ploughsoil overlying the cemetery. These include two disc brooches (probably
worn as a pair), a gilded strap end and a further shield boss. Together with
the earlier discoveries, these artefacts point to a pattern of both male and
female burials.

Roman coins recorded in considerable number in adjacent parts of the field are
thought to relate to the `Saunderton Villa', a Romanised farmstead of first to
fourth century date, situated a short distance to the west, partly excavated
in 1938, and the subject of a separate scheduling.

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.

Despite cultivation, the burials in the Anglo-Saxon cemetery on Hemley Hill
are believed to survive well, with disturbance limited to only the upper
sections of a limited number of graves. The graves and other buried features,
such as the ditches indicated by geophysical survey, will contain
archaeological remains relating to the funerary practices of the community
which buried its dead here, as well as sealed environmental evidence
reflecting the appearance of the surrounding landscape at the time. A matter
of particular interest is the proximity of the cemetery to the Roman villa on
the valley floor below - a spatial association which may indicate some degree
of continuity of settlement between the two periods.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
David, A, Hemley Hill: Ancient Monuments Lab Geophysical Survey Report, (1977)
Ashcroft, D, 'Records of Bucks' in Report on the excavtion of a Roman villa at Saunderton, Bucks, , Vol. 13, (1939), 398-426
Field and artifact record, Farley, M and Pike, A, 2513 Hemley Hill Anglo-Saxon cemetery, (1976)
Info from informal metal detecting, Shingleton, P, Hemley Hill Saxon Cemetery, (1998)
Note to SMR from County Archaeologist, Farley, M, Hemley Hill, Saunderton: inventory of metal detector finds, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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