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Historic England Research Records

Monument Number 1031833

Hob Uid: 1031833
Location :
North Hertfordshire
Grid Ref : TL3340039900
Summary : Enigmatic figure-of-8 shaped earthwork, alleged to be a pond barrow, probably a dene hole
More information : (TL 334 399). In November 1992, RCHME carried out an analytical earthwork survey of Therfield Heath as a training project for new staff (1). This rather curious monument, previously wrongly located and described under NMR reference TL 34 SW 19, consists of an oval depression, measuring 10.5m x 9.0m and up to 1m deep, formed by the partial intercutting of two separate features; the overall result resembles a figure of eight, oriented NE-SW. The hollows are cut into a very low mound, roughly 15m in diameter. The feature was excavated by J Beldam in 1856, producing a wide range of pottery (1a). It has been alleged to be a pond barrow (1b).

Hollow (a) is roughly circular (6 x 7m) with a flat bottom and traces of a bank on the N side. This may be a disused bunker of Royston golf course and therefore of relatively modern origin.

Hollow (b) abuts the SW side of (a), is deeper and more oval in plan (9m NW-SE x 4.5m). The floor of the hollow is irregular, the SE half being somewhat deeper than the rest.

Both the dimensions and the orientation of (b) suggest that this was the feature excavated by Joseph Beldam in 1856 (1a). The finds from this excavation cover a broad spectrum from possible Romano-British pottery to clay pipes and do little to suggest a function for the hollow. Beldam's conclusion that this was a pit dwelling of the 'ancient Britons' is clearly erroneous. However it is significant that Beldam stated that 'nothing was discovered...of a sepulchral character'.

Interpretation of the 'figure of eight' as a barrow (1b) seems unlikely although there is some confusion between this feature and a possible second monument, described as a pond or disc barrow (see TL 33 NW 10). Seeing that both monument have been placed in the same general area, the correct identification is of some importance, since the area is scheduled under its guise as a pond barrow (Herts.97b). There are two possibilities, namely that the 'figure of 8' has previously been identified as a barrow, or that a barrow once existed nearby, but has subsequently been destroyed. Both are equally tenable.

Beldam's description of the hollow as being 'flanked on the north-east by a truncated mound' might favour the existence of a second monument. However, all that can be said with certainty is that neither the field observations nor the excavation record support the identification of the 'figure of eight' as a barrow. A more plausible explanation might be a surface quarry for flint or chalk, an activity attested elsewhere on the Heath (TL 34 SW 62). The exact date is open to question, but the clay pipes and 16th century pottery recovered by Beldam may suggest a terminus ante quem. The presence of possible prehistoric pottery may simply be a residual deposit.

Alternatively, the mound may have been a beacon site; 17th century county maps show a beacon on Therfield heath, the area near the Hopscotch (TL 33 NW 1) at TL 332 397 subsequently becoming known as Beacon Hill.

For further details, see RCHME Level 3 client report and plans at 1:500 and 1:2500 scales, held in Archive. (1)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source :
Source details : RCHME: Therfield Heath Survey
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Source Number : 1a
Source :
Source details : J Beldam 1856 Letter in PSA (1st Series) 4, 5-9
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Source Number : 1b
Source :
Source details : Dyer J 'Barrows of the Chilterns' Arch J 116, 1-24
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Bronze Age
Display Date : Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -700
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Round Barrow, Pond Barrow
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Dene Hole
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Post Medieval
Monument End Date : 1901
Monument Start Date : 1540
Monument Type : Quarry, Extractive Pit, Dene Hole, Beacon
Evidence : Earthwork, Documentary Evidence, Find

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery
Period : Medieval
Component Monument Type : Dene Hole
Object Type : VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery
Period : Post Medieval
Component Monument Type : Quarry, Extractive Pit, Dene Hole, Beacon
Object Type : VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TL 33 NW 44
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments :
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments :
Relationship type : Is referred to by

Related Activities :
Associated Activities :
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1992-11-01
End Date : 1992-11-01