Ancient Monuments

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

A Scheduled Monument in Bridge, Kent

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Latitude: 51.24 / 51°14'23"N

Longitude: 1.1315 / 1°7'53"E

OS Eastings: 618680.656443

OS Northings: 153636.391217

OS Grid: TR186536

Mapcode National: GBR TYQ.BWF

Mapcode Global: VHLGV.K3K8

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

Scheduled Date: 15 August 1939

Last Amended: 7 June 2007

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021421

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35554

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Bridge

Built-Up Area: Bridge

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


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.

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.

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.

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.

Source: Historic England

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