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Name:BARROWS, Galley Hill
HER No.:116
Type of Record:Monument

Summary

A group of four barrows, two round and two bowl, situated on the top and side of Galley Hill, overlooking the Icknield Way. The bowl barrows are a Scheduled Monument since 1997 (No. 1015591) and lie to the north of the two round barrows (descheduled in 1997), and are better preserved. The two southern barrows (3 and 4) have been excavated, and were found to have been disturbed and reused extensively. The larger of the two produced evidence for secondary Bronze Age burials, animal burials and the insertion into the mound of burials dating to the second half of the 4th century AD. An 18th century robber cut destroyed the primary burial and some secondary burials; a reference to gold and silver coins being found in a barrow in the area during the 18th century may refer to this barrow.

The name of Galley Hill suggests a gallows site, and the name has existed since at least 1504 when it was known as Galowehill. The 18th century robber pit may have destroyed any traces of the setting for the gallows. There are no documentary references to a gallows or to executions on this site, but a small group of burials found on the western side of the larger barrow has been interpreted as the remains of executed persons. It consisted of six individuals, in a very poor state of preservation, suggesting exposure or the addition of a chemical such as quicklime. They were all buried on the steepest part of the barrow side, at a 45 degree angle, and all but one had their heads at the foot of the slope and feet higher up. They were undated.

The smaller of the excavated barrows (No. 4) was disturbed in 1940 by the Home Guard digging a pit to create a look-out post.

Grid Reference:TL 092 270
Parish:STREATLEY, CENTRAL BEDFORDSHIRE, BEDFORDSHIRE
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Full Description

NMR/AMIE, HE NRHE Monument Inventory, 359536 (Index). SBD12367.

A round barrow, one of a group of four mounds on Galley Hill (see associated monuments). The barrow was trenched in 1951, and then totally excavated in 1961 following some illicit digging the previous summer. At the time of excavation, the mound appeared kidney-shaped rather than circular, measuring 19 metres east-west by 17 metres north-south. Human remains representing 25 burials were recovered from the barrow, although dating evidence for all of them is poor, and the general sequence of activity is unclear. Dyer suggetsed that the primary burial and the mound may have been of Neolithic origin although the supporting evidence is tenuous at best. A roughly central pit dug down through the mound was suggested by Dyer to have disturbed the primary grave. Certainly bones representing at least five individuals were in the backfill, although no dating evidence either for the human remains or for the pit was found. Dyer also considered two further inhumations to be of prehistoric date, although Roman coins were found with them. A pit containing a quantity of ox bones was also considered prehistoric, although again no dating evidence was present. Further inhumations were considered to be either of Roman date or to be associated with the presumed use of the barrow as the site of a gallows sometime during the medieval or later period. Few of the burials had any associated Roman material, and from the final report, it is not clear where some of the Roman finds (mainly some potsherds and the aforementioned coins) actually came from. Use of the barrow as a gallows is based on place-name evidence (Galley Hill is named Galowehill circa 1504), with Dyer considering this barrow as the best candidate, although no physical evidence for a gallows was encountered during the excavation. The latest datable activity was a pit containing a horse's skull, a dice and some 16th century pottery.

English Heritage, Notification of Scheduling, or an Affirmation or Revision of Scheduling, 11-Jul-97 (Scheduling record). SBD12102.

NB this record now deals solely with barrow 'C' above. The remainder have now been recorded separately. See associated monument records for further details.

The barrow was initially trenched in 1951 under the direction of James Dyer, who was responsible for its total excavation in 1961 following the discovery that some illicit digging had occurred the previous summer. At the time of excavation, the mound was described as being kidney-shaped. measuring 19 metres east-west by 17 metres north-south. Dyer regarded this as the original shape of the mound. Human remains representing 25 individuals were recovered from the mound, although dating evidence for all of them is very poor, and the general sequence of activity is highly conjectural at times. Dyet suggested that the primary burial and the mound itself may have been of Neolithic date, although the evidence is tenuous at best. The supposed central primary grave was suggested to have been disturbed by a "robber pit" dug down into the centre of the mound. However, the presence of the primary grave itself is rather conjectural, and seems to relie heavily on the presence of disturbed human remains in the "robber pit" backfill. The date of these remains, which represent at least 5 individuals, is unclear, and there is no proof that they were any earlier indate than any of the other burials encountered. Dyer also considered two further inhumations to be of prehistoric, possibly Neolithic date, although here he seems to have been relying on the presence of two potsherds "of prehistoric character", and initially identified as Windmill Hill ware (an identification later rejected), and the rather dubious suggestion that one of the skeletons "on anatomical grounds...is of typical prehistoric stock". Both these inhumations were in the same grave pit, and one of them was associated with four small Roman bronze coins. Dyer also considered a pit containing ox bones to be of possible prehistoric date. It occurred in an area where there was a also a general scatter of ox bones. Again, there was no firm dating evidence. The bulk of the burials, if not all of them, appear to be of Roman or later date, although associations with Roman material are few. Those which he was unable to assign to the prehistoric or Roman periods were associated by Dyer with presumed use of the mound as the site of a gallows. He noted that Galley Hill itself appears to have been known as "Gallowe Hill" by 1504, and argued that this barrow was the best candidate for the site of the gallows, although no physical evidence for one was encountered. The latest datable activity was represented by a pit containing a horse's skull, a chalk die (six uppermost) and some 16th century pottery. Of the other 3 mounds in the vicinity, one (TL 02 NE 40) appears to be of Late Iron Age or Roman origin, while the other two (TL 02 NE 40, 41) are suggested to be of Post Medieval or later date.

Bedfordshire County Archaeology Service, 1995, Luton East Circular Northern Section: Specialist Report On Archaeology, 95/19 (Archaeological Report). SBD12342.

<1> William Page & H. Arthur Doubleday (Editors), Victoria County History, Bedfordshire, Vol. 1, 1904, p. 280 (A. R. Goddard) (Bibliographic reference). SBD10574.

On slopes of hill above Drays Ditches, OS map shows 4 tumuli.

<2> W Austin, 1928, History of Luton, i, p. 18 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10898.

On slopes of Galley Hill near summit are 4 tumuli.

<3> The Bedfordshire Archaeologist, Vol. 1, 1955-1956, pp. 39-43 (J. F. Dyer) (Bibliographic reference). SBD10782.

Luton Grammar School Arch. Soc. excavations, 1951:
Galley Hill barrow no. 3 (TL 092 270)
July, 1951 - partial excavation of 1 of 4 bowl barrows. Numbered 1-4 from N to S: 1 & 2 appear unopened. No. 4 partly destroyed during WWII by Home Guard. No. 3 on public footpath & considerably denuded. Irregular, 60' diam, 5' high. Large hollow on N side suggesting previous opening. Skulls removed for examination, skeletal remains covered in. 4 pieces of metal & sherd deposited in Luton Museum.
Remains of 4 skeletons found, ?C4, ? represent early Christian secondary interments in probable BA barrow. Sherd of black RB pot, & 4 iron coffin nails.
Barrow on clay with flints.
Section 30' x 4' cut to centre of barrow.
Skeleton 1 - 12" deep, slightly S of centre of barrow, Female c.15-20yrs (head W)
Skeleton 2 - F, c.35 (head W)
Skeleton 3 - M, c.40 (head W)
Skeleton 4 - M, c.40. Fragmentary

Associated finds: potsherd of type common in C3; 4 coffin nails near skeleton 1.
Orientation & lack of grave goods suggests Christian & C4. Is it a group of local inhabitants disposed of by raiding party of Saxons?
[Detailed skeletal report]
Skulls = Luton Museum 177/51 & 178/51.

<4> The Bedfordshire Archaeologist, Vol. 1, 1955-1956, pp. 80 & 89(N. Thomas) (Bibliographic reference). SBD10782.

p. 80 4 bowl-barrows. Dyer had begun examination of his no. 3. Some RB secondary inhumations found, but primary burials not yet reached… nos. 1 & 2 now almost completely flattened. No. 4 opened a few years ago without recorded results.

P. 89 Barrows: 4) 4 bowl-barows. Ref (3). Luton Museum.

<5> Luton Museum & Art Gallery Report, 1955-1956, p. 6 (Article in serial). SBD10758.

Ro. sherd & nails excavated from Galley Hill tumulus, presented by Luton Grammar School Arch. Soc.

<6> Royal Archaeological Institute, Archaeological Journal, Vol. 116, 1959, p. 15 (J. F. Dyer) (Article in serial). SBD10785.

Round barrows:
15: Galley Hill 1 TL 092 271 8 paces x 1½'
16: Galley Hill 2 TL 092 271 8 paces x 1½'
(both 1 & 2 on hillside overlooking Icknield Way)
17: Galley Hill 3 TL 092 270 20 paces x 5' Saxon intrusives (ref. (3))
18: Galley Hill 4 TL 092 269 14 paces x 2' Mutilated by Home Guard 1940

<7> Bedfordshire Archaeological Council, Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 1, 1962, p. 75 (J. Morris) (Bibliographic reference). SBD10569.

4 skeletons without grave-goods, buried in no. 3 tumulus on Galley Hill, might or might not be Saxon (LM L/12/52; ref (3)).

<8> Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol. 8, p. 70 (Serial). SBD10543.

Archaeological excavations were conducted during August at tumuli on Galley Hill.

<9> Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol. 8, p. 166 (J. F. Dyer) (Serial). SBD10543.

Burial mound excavated 1961; dismembered remains of 2 young men.

<10> Bedfordshire Archaeological Council, Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 2, 1964, pp. 10-11 (J. F. Dyer) (Bibliographic reference). SBD10569.

p.10: Appears to contain 4 barrows, although one low on side of hill must be treated with caution. No. 3 produced 2 dismembered male burials with Windmill Hill ware. No. 4 contained Windmill Hill pottery associated with primary build of barrow.

P. 11: Windmill Hill & Abingdon ware (Western Neolithic).

Collared urn, Windmill Hill ware, & indeterminate Neolithic pottery, from old ground surface below Galley Hill no. 4 & in material of mound.

<11> Bedfordshire Archaeological Council, Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 2, 1964, pp. 19-20, 25, 28 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10569.

p.19: J. F. Dyer's Galley Hill no. 14 [?] may be Late Neolithic, though earlier phase not ruled out since shallow pit containing dismembered remains of 2 young men found beneath it recalls features of Middle Neolithic sites at Barton Hill.

P.20: 4 barrows currently under examination.

p.25: Windmill Hill ware from no. 3 (Type of ware not certain).

p.28: No. 14 listed under Late Neolithic, but "period within Neolithic not closely established." May have covered shallow pit….(ref (6)).

No. 15 possibly enlarged in Iron Age.

<12> James Dyer, F Stygall, John Dony, 1964, The Story of Luton, pp. 22, 27, 32 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10900.

p. 22: Unusual burial…skeletons of 2 young men… both cut up before burial.

p. 27: One of barrows seems to have been constructed in Iron Age.

p. 32: Soon after AD 360, a number of men, women & children slaughtered, & remains buried on summit of Galley Hill, in burial mound that contained mutilated Neolithic burials. 1961 excavations: old man with arm round waist of old woman; cripple who had lost leg; young woman with head & arm severed; 2 young men in same shallow grave; woman face down over man, over 12-year old boy with head some distance away. Probably victims of AD 367 uprising.

<13> James Dyer, 1969, Discovering Regional Archaeology: Eastern England, p. 8 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10905.

Galley Hill TL 092 270.

2 small barrows on summit of Galley Hill have both been excavated. Most southerly had been badly damaged by Home Guard trench. Contained parts of human burial & pieces of EIA pottery.

Northerly was kidney shaped…truncated remains of 2 young men…Later BA burial destroyed many years ago…C4 slaughter cemetery…C15, site of gallows; at foot of gibbet, witch-craft deposit had been buried, consisting of horse's skull & dice (in Luton Museum).

<14> Chilterns Standing Conference (Benson, Dyer, Gowing), 1971, Plan for the Chilterns, p. 41 (Benson, Dyer, Gowing) (Bibliographic reference). SBD10892.

Site 20. Streatley TL 092 270. 2 barrows, Galley Hill.

<15> Bedfordshire Archaeological Council, Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 9, 1974, pp. 13-34 (J. F. Dyer) (Bibliographic reference). SBD10569.

"Excavation of 2 barrows on Galley Hill, Steatley".
TL 092 269. Near crossing of Icknield Way, Salt Way & Old Bedford Road (in Middle Ages, a route centre of minor local importance).
Public open space.
OS 25" records 4 barrows, 2 of which (nos. 1 & 2) are on NW slope. I reluctantly accepted these in Arch. J. 116, but no longer consider them of any great antiquity - probably products of lime-working, or military activity in WWI.

BARROW No. 3:
Highest point of hill.
1951, J. Dyer & Luton Grammar School Arch. Soc. cut trench in W side. Discovered 4 burials, 2 skulls removed to Luton Museum. Backfilled.
Oct 1960, people seen climbing Galley Hill with digging equipment; tenant farmer discovered hole dug in centre & human remains scattered over surface (burial 7).
1961, excavated. Kidney-shaped. No surrounding ditch. Construction sequence:-
Main turf & clay mound over primary burial.
Burial pit enlarged & robbed in recent times, probably oval. Also hole in which twigs & small branches were burned.
Beneath barrow: wall-sherds of IA character; natural flints with a number of fashioned blades, probably representing pre-barrow occupation.

Two horns took shape during final enlargement.
In forecourt, large number of domestic ox-bones scattered, with concentration in shallow pit on N edge of NW horn.
In NE horn, shallow grave with scattered but semi-articulate remains of 2 men, burials 21 & 22. Could be prehistoric on skeletal evidence. On edge of grave, sherds which might be Windmill Hill ware - weathered, therefore probably derived, & can't be used to date burial. 4 Ro coins [4 coins described in finds section, see below, but not clear whether they are the same ones]; small iron hinge. Therefore burial 22 probably intrusive Roman.

Skeletons not deliberately dismembered. 21 = M, 25-30. 22=M, 24-8. Skulls to LM. Rest to BM (Nat. Hist).

Roman Burials, C4
12 hastily buried in shallow graves. Others disturbed by robber pit. AD 360, on evidence of coins, pot & metalwork. Might be connected with destruction of Runfold Ave settlement [HER167].
All approximately E-W. Numbers 1 & 2 (one above the other, suggesting hasty burial), 3, 4, 6, 7 (Photographed 1951. Destroyed 1960. No skull in 1951, but visitor recalled father had found skull whilst digging hole for noticeboard. Clear signs of such a hole, 1951), 15 (mostly destroyed by footpath) 12-14 (superimposed; over calcined deposit, suggesting hollow remained open to elements. Associated with pot of mid C2, with Ro iron straphinge, & 4 C4 coins), 23-24 (Discovered 1951; with bronze mounts).
Finds: 4 small iron nails; Brailsford suggested coffin nails. Pot included fragment of Samian Curle 11 (75-100); C2 grey wares; flagon, C3/C4. Bronze belt mounts, known in Ro period, but not common & rarely as delicate. Strap-hinge; not uncommon in Ro period.
Coins [listed in finds section, but not stated whether these coins, or those found with burials 21-2, see above] - 2 Urbs Roma (330-337), Constantius II (337-341), House of Constantine.
Skeletons: Probably Male, 20-4; ?M, 28-34; M 20-5; probably M, c. 18; M, c. 25-30; Female, c. 18; F, c. 22; ?M, 18-21; possible M; c. 14; F, ?c. 21; robust M, probably 22-8.
Skeletal evidence - might be as late as post-Norman.
Proportions (12 Male, 4 Female, 2 child), perhaps indicative of local massacre. Hints of 2 separate groups.
Coins give terminus post quem of 341.

Gallows & Horse-Pit
1504, reference to Galowehill. Site probably on barrow 3 because is the highest point. Not known whether set in horse pit or robber pit.
Burials: 5, 8-11, 25. Very poor state of preservation, suggesting decay by exposure & possibly quick-lime. At angle on steepest part of barrow side, feet uphill. 5 Male & 1 Female. No objects. No. 25 uncovered, 1951.
Horse-pit, NW horn. Horse skull with chalk die. Fragments of C16 Cistercian vase; & small bronze tag at end of leather lace.
No documentary record of hangings on hill. Various suggestions received for horse pit: sacrificial? Forgotten folklore?

Robber Pit
Perhaps as late as C18, dug into highest point of barrow, destroying primary burial pit & some secondary burials. Mixed remains of 3 Male, 1 Female & 1 child skeletons.

General
All human remains (except 2 skulls) in BM (NH). All small finds in Luton Museum.
Apart from 21 & 22, all burials could be post-Norman on skeletal grounds, possibly gallows victims. None had signs of massacre. Some had signs of possible early rickets.
Clay pipe fragments, one with mulberry tree decoration; all Oswald type 5 (c.1670-1700).
2 hollow iron ferrules, probably staff points. 90cm deep, unassociated. Ox, rabbit, sheep/goat, Cervus elaphus bones.

BARROW 4 (S of 3)
Excavated 1962. Centre scarred by deep pit. S side being eroded by ploughing.
Construction sequence:-
Turf removed.
IA pot mixed with wood ash deposited near centre. Mostly handmade cordoned vessels with beadrim or fingernail impressed shoulder decoration. All weathered; suggests ritual deposit from home of deceased. All probably early Belgic, mid C1 BC. To Luton Museum.
Burial pit, with adult male burial.
No ditch round mound.
1940 - troops created look-out post in centre, removing primary burial. Part reburied. 2nd military pit outside barrow to SW.
Numerous lenths of clay pipe.

<16> F W Kuhlicke, Bedford Museum, Annotated OS 6" map (Map). SBD12671.

"Prehistoric hut dwellings" written across Galley Hill at TL 092 270.

<17> James Dyer, 1973, Southern England: An Archaeological Guide, p. 2 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10906.

No further info.

<18> Victoria County History, Hertfordshire, Vol. 4, 1914, p. 156 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10893.

Hexton: "Quantities of gold & silver coins, principally Ro & Saxon found" (Lewis, Topog. Dictionary, 1831), perhaps interpreting a reference to 'coins' being found about Ravensburgh Castle & in barrows between there & Leagrave (Salmon, History of Herts, 1728, 170; Camden, ed. Gough, 1789, i, 342).

<19> Bedfordshire Archaeological Council, Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 9, 1974, p. 19 (J. F. Dyer) (Bibliographic reference). SBD10569.

VCH Herts 4, 1902, p. 156 - "Gold & silver coins found in C18 in barrows between Hexton & Leagrave" - Galley Hill barrows are the only known examples to fit the description.

<20> Luton Museum & Art Gallery Report, 1950-1954, pp. 4, 15 (Article in serial). SBD10758.

p. 4: Galley Hill: Partial excavation of 1 of 4 tumuli by Grammar School Arch. Soc. by J. F. Dyer. 4 skeletons found, 2 headless. Dr Hill of Zoological Society: "skulls of a type frequently associated with BA round barrows". 1 sherd of black RB pot & 4 iron coffin nails. Barrow had been previously disturbed.

p15: Accessions:
BA - 3 skulls from Galley Hill excavations, 1951 - on loan from Ministry of Works.

<21> Luton Museum, Accession Register, 160/55 (Unpublished document). SBD10775.

Pottery & nails from excavation of barrow, Galley Hill, Luton, July 1951, by Luton Grammar School Arch. Soc. Deposited per J. F. Dyer.
1 - Bowl, C3 type
2 - Iron nails. ? Coffin nails (according to J. W. Brailsford, BM)

A316 Barrow 4 - bone, flint, etc. (excavated by J. F. Dyer)
A317 Barrow 4 - pot (excavated by J. F. Dyer)
A318 Barrow 3 - finds (excavated by J. F. Dyer)
[A319 = Drays Ditches] (excavated by J. F. Dyer)
A320 Animal bones [?Drays Ditches/Galley Hill?] (excavated by J. F. Dyer)

<22> James F. Dyer, Comments, April 1977 (Observations and Comments). SBD10907.

The 2 "barrows" N of the scheduled pair are modern.

<23> Angela Simco, 1984, Survey of Bedfordshire: Roman Period, p. 118 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10650.

240. On Galley Hill, overlooking the Icknield Way, one of a pair of barrows was excavated by James Dyer in 1951 and 1961. A number of skeletons had been added to the surface of the barrow, of which twelve were attributed to a slaughter cemetery of the 4th century, on the basis of associated coins. The rest were thought to be burials from the late medieval gallows on the site. While there is no reason to doubt the late Roman date given for the group of twelve, there seems no clear evidence to justify describing it as a slaughter cemetery. It is more likely to have been the burial place for a small settlement somewhere on the hilltop (see page 72).

<24> Angela Simco, Comments, Field visit notes, 18/3/1986 (Observations and Comments). SBD10509.

Northern two "barrows" not inspected because of scrub. But on scarp slope, therefore most unlikely to be barrows.

On top of hill northern of southern barrows is a rounded knoll. No particular form discernible.
Southern of southern barrows is a slight mound. Very irregular outline, very disturbed. Plough encroachment.

<25> English Heritage, SAM Record Form, 26742 & 26743 (Scheduling record). SBD10803.

26742: Two round barrows both opened, but not scientifically. {1}
Unable to identify site. {2 - C. Gordon 1979}
Able to identify both survive with hollows in centre. {3 - C. Gordon 1980}
Farmer ploughing adjacent field beginning to encroach on S barrow. {4 - C. Gordon 1981}
In appalling conditions of mist and rain, was only able to identify one barrow in rough grass. Impossible to ascertain which. This under rough grass with invasive hawthorn. Possible ditch to S. Bisected E/W by horse track, causing erosion to depth of some 20cms. {5 - Helen Paterson 1984}
55 yds in circumference and about 3ft high. {1}
In good visibility, was again unable to locate two barrows. Erosion caused by horses noted on a previous visit is now less marked, with grass regenerating. However, area now being used as a motor-bike scrambling track. One motor-cyclist apprehended during my visit actually riding over the barrow. I asked him to keep away from this barrow. {6 - Helen Paterson 1985}
With larger scale map furnished by Beds. C.C., I have at last successfully identified both barrows. They lie almost on the crown of the hill, where the ploughed field boundary turns to NE. {7 - Helen Paterson 1987}
Originally kidney-shaped. Although the burial from the central grave has been robbed, a shallow pit at one side contained the remains of two young men whose bodies were partially disarticulated and mixed together. Pottery suggests a date of 3500BC. During the Roman period the surface of the barrow was the site of a mass burial. In the Middle Ages, the barrow was the site of a gibbet on which 6 people were hanged. {12 - J. Dyer - Southern England: Archaeological Guide}
Barrow is seen as a grassy knoll with no apparent ditch. It is surrounded by scrub and cut by a footpath, this only causing minimal erosion. {7 - Helen Paterson 1987}

26743: Two round barrows both opened, but not scientifically. {1}
Unable to identify site. {2 - C. Gordon 1979}
Able to identify both survive with hollows in centre. {3 - C. Gordon 1980}
Farmer ploughing adjacent field beginning to encroach on S barrow. {4 - C. Gordon 1981}
In appalling conditions of mist and rain, was only able to identify one barrow in rough grass. Impossible to ascertain which. This under rough grass with invasive hawthorn. Possible ditch to S. Bisected E/W by horse track, causing erosion to depth of some 20cms. {5 - Helen Paterson 1984}
In good visibility, was again unable to locate two barrows. Erosion caused by horses noted on previous visit is less marked, with grass regenerating. However, area now being used as a motor-bike scrambling track. One motor-cyclist apprehended during my visit actually riding over the barrow. I asked him to keep away from this barrow. {6 - Helen Paterson 1985}
40yds in circumference and c.3ft high, built up on the slope difficult to judge extent of barrow. {1}
With larger scale map furnished by Beds. C. C., I have at last successfully identified both barrows. They lie almost on the crown of the hill, where the ploughed field boundary turns to NE. {7 - Helen Paterson 1987}
This barrow much disturbed, the central grave having been robbed. Pottery of early Iron Age date was found bearing grain impressions. {12 - J. Dyer - Southern England: Archaeological Guide}
Approx. half of this barrow has been removed by ploughing. What remains shows as an uneven grassy surface, with a footpath along S edge. {7- Helen Paterson 1987}

<26> Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey Archaeology Record Cards, OS: TL 02 NE 8 (Unpublished document). SBD10879.

A group of four barrows on Galley Hill, shown but not described at TL 09182713 ('A'), TL 09202710 ('B'), TL 09212699 ('C') and TL 09242693 ('D') respectively (1). In 1951 'A' and 'B' were apparently undisturbed and 'C' was excavated by Luton GS Archaeol Society. Four extended skeletons, a black potsherd and four iron coffin nails (identified by Brailsford) were found (2). The potsherd was first considered to be RB (2), when Windmill Hill (3,4), then uncertain (5). 'D' was mutilated by the Home Guard in 1940 (2) and Windmill Hill pottery is said to have been found in it (4), (but perhaps not much credence can be given to this in view of the potsherd from 'C'). (OS 6" 1960; Bedfordshire archaeologist Vol 1, pp39-43; The Archaeological Journal, vol 126, 1961, p15; Bedfordshire archaeological journal, 1964, (J F Dyer) & p25 N Thomas)

Two bowl barows ('C' and 'D'), and two probable bowl barrows ('A' and 'B', all under rough pasture and in prominent positions on Galley Hill. 'A' & 'B' are on the summit ridge.
'A': about 11.0m in diameter and 1.0m high.
'B': about 14.0m diameter E-W, 12.5m N-S and 1.2m high.
'C': about 24.0m in diameter and 0.6m high. Excavation depression in centre.
'D': extensively mutilated and partly ploughed out on the S side; about 11.0m in diameter and 0.7m high.
Published survey (25") revised. JRL 04-SEP-73

<27> Nature Conservancy Council, 1988, Biological Survey of Common Land, Beds CL 30 (Unpublished document). SBD10857.

Management: Little management is carried out now, and much of the grassland is very rank - up to 1m high, and often becoming mesotrophic. There has been no grazing for many years, with rabbits making little impact. Scrub clearance has been carried out by NACRO. South-western areas have been mown in the past, first for amenity, then more sympathetically, though cuttings have not been removed. There is some mowing on path edges. The common needs grazing, with continued scrub control, which leads to fencing problems, even if stock were available. Effect of removal of growth can ebseen around point (A), where reasonable chalk grassland has developed on the occasionally-mown 'rough' of the golf course. If grazing not possible then at least annual mowing and removal of cuttings necessary on parts of site.

<28> Luton Borough Council, 1993, Beds Wildlife Working Group Manual of Wildlife Sites and Species Protection, pp. 19-20 (Unpublished document). SBD10895.

County Wildlife Site containing chalk habitats. Site comprises: Galley and Warden Hills SSSI; and an area of calcareous grassland on Dray's Ditches and adjacent to north, TL 088264.

<29> South Beds District Council, 1993, Beds Wildlife Working Group Manual of Wildlife Sites & Species Protection, p. 65 (Unpublished document). SBD10759.

County Wildlife Site containing chalk habitats. Site comprises: Galley and Warden Hills SSSI; and an area of calcareous grassland on Dray's Ditches and adjacent to north, TL 0888264.

<31> Stephen R. Coleman, Comments, March 2009 (Observations and Comments). SBD10779.

The pair of barrows excavated by James Dyer in the 1950's and 1960's were descheduled in November 1997. In July 1997 two other mounds lower down the slope to the NNW were added to the Schedule of Monuments by English Heritage who described them as bowl barrows.

<32> English Heritage, Notification of Scheduling, or an Affirmation or Revision of Scheduling, No. 27195; July 1997 (Scheduling record). SBD12102.

Notification of scheduling:
The monument includes two small Bronze Age barrows located on the north west facing slope at the tip of Galley Hill, a large promontory of the middle chalk to the north of Luton. The barrows are placed to command wide views (or to be widely visible) across the Chiltern plateau which rises from the escarpment at Barton Le Clay some 2.5km to the north, and to overlook the Icknield Way (a prehistoric trackway which skirts the foot of the hill). The barrows are separated by a distance of c.14m. The south eastern barrow is circular in plan, measuring approximately 12m in diameter and 1.2m in height, extending out in a slightly domed profile from the slope. The north western barrow is less clearly defined, measuring c.11m across and 0.6m high. Neither barrow retains any trace of a surrounding ditch, and both mounds are thought to have been constructed in the same manner as a similar pair (not included in the scheduling) located on the summit of the hill some 100m to the south. These were fully excavated in 1961-2 when it was found that the central graves had been covered with turves and soil stripped from the surrounding hillside. The larger of these two barrows was adapted for further burials later in the Bronze Age, and saw extensive reuse in both in the late Roman periods, when 18 burials were inserted in the barrow, and in the medieval period, when the mound may well have supported a gallows (hence Galley Hill). Six probable victims of execution were interred in shallow graves on the west side of the mound.
There are no indications of excavation at the two barrows on the northern slope of Galley Hill.

<33> English Heritage, Notification of Scheduling, or an Affirmation or Revision of Scheduling, November 1997 (Scheduling record). SBD12102.

Notification of descheduling of two barrows described in Reference 25. [i.e. the two excavated by James Dyer, Nos. 3 and 4].

<34> Stephen R. Coleman, Comments, 19/02/1990 (Observations and Comments). SBD10779.

Notes of conversation with Robin Holgate of Luton Museum re. reported ploughing near barrow.

<55> NMR/AMIE, HE NRHE Monument Inventory, 1316136 (Index). SBD12367.

A round barrow on Galley Hill, one of a group of four mounds (see associated monuments). It was excavated in 1962, when the mound measures circa 9 metres in diameter and a maximum of 1 metre high. A large pit 5 metres in diameter was visible at the centre of the mound. A quantity of potsherds and ashes (charcoal?) was found beneaththe mound near its centre. The pottery was suggested by the excavator to be late Iron Age, although an early Roman date might equally be possible. A roughly central pit beneath the mound is presumed to have contained the primary burial, although the centre of the barrow had been heavily disturbed during the second world war. In 1940 troops on manoeuvres used the mound as a look-out post, digging a trench into the centre of the barrow, leaving only the base of the primary burial pit intact. Some of the human remains were reburied when the site was vacated. The 1962 excavation uncovered the skull with leg-bones crossed, accompanied by a milk bottle and a Daily Mirror (the latter providing excellent dating evidence).

<56> NMR/AMIE, HE NRHE Monument Inventory, 1316148 (Index). SBD12367.

A mound, one of four on Galley Hill (see associated monuments). Although presumed in the past to be a round barrow, James Dyer has suggested that, along with its near neighbour TL 02 NE 42, "I no longer seriously consider them to be of any great antiquity, and feel that they are probably products of lime working or military activity in the First World War". No further supporting evidence for this interpretation was offered. However, both mounds have been descheduled as a result. No excavation is known to have occurred, although excavation in 1961-2 of the two mounds nearer the summit of the hill (TL 02 NE 8, 40) showed both to be round barrows of later prehistoric or later origin. In 1973, the Ordnance Survey recorded the mound as a probable round barrow 11 metres in diameter and 1 metre high.

<57> NMR/AMIE, HE NRHE Monument Inventory, 1316159 (Index). SBD12367.

A mound, one of four on Galley Hill (see associated monuments). Although presumed in the past to be a round barrow, James Dyer has suggested that, along with its near neighbour TL 02 NE 41, "I no longer seriously consider them to be of any great antiquity, and feel that they are probably products of lime working or military activity in the First World War". No further supporting evidence for this interpretation was offered. However, both mounds have been descheduled as a result. No excavation is known to have occurred, although excavation in 1961-2 of the two mounds nearer the summit of the hill (TL 02 NE 8, 40) showed both to be round barrows of later prehistoric or later origin. In 1973, the Ordnance Survey recorded the mound as a probable round barrow up to 14 metres across and 1.2 metres high.

Protected Status:

  • Archaeological Notification Area
  • Archaeological Notification Area (AI) HER116: BARROWS, Galley Hill
  • Scheduled Monument 1015591: Two bowl barrows on Galley Hill, 880m north east of the golf course club house

Monument Type(s):

Associated Finds

  • FBD1884 - FERRULE (Unknown date)
  • FBD810 - BLADE (Prehistoric - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FBD1171 - ANIMAL REMAINS (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • FBD14351 - SHERD (Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age - 800 BC to 500 BC)
  • FBD14350 - HUMAN REMAINS (Roman/Romano-British - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FBD5259 - SHERD (Roman/Romano-British - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FBD14349 - SHERD (1st Century to 4th Century - 75 AD to 399 AD)
  • FBD1810 - COIN (4th Century - 300 AD to 399 AD)
  • FBD1666 - HINGE (4th Century - 300 AD to 399 AD)
  • FBD14347 - HUMAN REMAINS (4th Century - 300 AD? to 399 AD?)
  • FBD1914 - MOUNT (4th Century - 300 AD to 399 AD)
  • FBD1697 - NAIL (4th Century - 300 AD to 399 AD)
  • FBD5258 - ANIMAL REMAINS (16th Century - 1500 AD to 1599 AD)
  • FBD1524 - GAMING PIECE (16th Century - 1500 AD to 1599 AD)
  • FBD14348 - VASE (16th Century - 1500 AD to 1599 AD)

Associated Events

  • EBD1200 - Luton East Circular Northern Section: Specialist Report on Archaeology (Ref: 95/19)
  • EBD1371 - Partial excavation of 1 of 4 bowl barrows
  • EBD1372 - Excavation of 2 barrows on Galley Hill, Streatley

Sources and Further Reading

---SBD12102 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. Notification of Scheduling, or an Affirmation or Revision of Scheduling. 11-Jul-97.
---SBD12342 - Archaeological Report: Bedfordshire County Archaeology Service. 1995. Luton East Circular Northern Section: Specialist Report On Archaeology. 95/19. 95/19.
---SBD12367 - Index: NMR/AMIE. HE NRHE Monument Inventory. 359536.
[1]SBD10574 - Bibliographic reference: William Page & H. Arthur Doubleday (Editors). Victoria County History, Bedfordshire. Vol. 1, 1904, p. 280 (A. R. Goddard).
[2]SBD10898 - Bibliographic reference: W Austin. 1928. History of Luton. i, p. 18.
[3]SBD10782 - Bibliographic reference: The Bedfordshire Archaeologist. Vol. 1, 1955-1956, pp. 39-43 (J. F. Dyer).
[4]SBD10782 - Bibliographic reference: The Bedfordshire Archaeologist. Vol. 1, 1955-1956, pp. 80 & 89(N. Thomas).
[5]SBD10758 - Article in serial: Luton Museum & Art Gallery Report. 1955-1956, p. 6.
[6]SBD10785 - Article in serial: Royal Archaeological Institute. Archaeological Journal. Vol. 116, 1959, p. 15 (J. F. Dyer).
[7]SBD10569 - Bibliographic reference: Bedfordshire Archaeological Council. Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 1, 1962, p. 75 (J. Morris).
[8]SBD10543 - Serial: Bedfordshire Magazine. Vol. 8, p. 70.
[9]SBD10543 - Serial: Bedfordshire Magazine. Vol. 8, p. 166 (J. F. Dyer).
[10]SBD10569 - Bibliographic reference: Bedfordshire Archaeological Council. Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 2, 1964, pp. 10-11 (J. F. Dyer).
[11]SBD10569 - Bibliographic reference: Bedfordshire Archaeological Council. Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 2, 1964, pp. 19-20, 25, 28.
[12]SBD10900 - Bibliographic reference: James Dyer, F Stygall, John Dony. 1964. The Story of Luton. pp. 22, 27, 32.
[13]SBD10905 - Bibliographic reference: James Dyer. 1969. Discovering Regional Archaeology: Eastern England. p. 8.
[14]SBD10892 - Bibliographic reference: Chilterns Standing Conference (Benson, Dyer, Gowing). 1971. Plan for the Chilterns. p. 41 (Benson, Dyer, Gowing).
[15]SBD10569 - Bibliographic reference: Bedfordshire Archaeological Council. Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 9, 1974, pp. 13-34 (J. F. Dyer).
[16]SBD12671 - Map: F W Kuhlicke, Bedford Museum. Annotated OS 6" map.
[17]SBD10906 - Bibliographic reference: James Dyer. 1973. Southern England: An Archaeological Guide. p. 2.
[18]SBD10893 - Bibliographic reference: Victoria County History, Hertfordshire. Vol. 4, 1914, p. 156.
[19]SBD10569 - Bibliographic reference: Bedfordshire Archaeological Council. Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 9, 1974, p. 19 (J. F. Dyer).
[20]SBD10758 - Article in serial: Luton Museum & Art Gallery Report. 1950-1954, pp. 4, 15.
[21]SBD10775 - Unpublished document: Luton Museum. Accession Register. 160/55.
[22]SBD10907 - Observations and Comments: James F. Dyer. Comments. April 1977.
[23]SBD10650 - Bibliographic reference: Angela Simco. 1984. Survey of Bedfordshire: Roman Period. p. 118.
[24]SBD10509 - Observations and Comments: Angela Simco. Comments. Field visit notes, 18/3/1986.
[25]SBD10803 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. SAM Record Form. 26742 & 26743.
[26]SBD10879 - Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Record Cards. OS: TL 02 NE 8.
[27]SBD10857 - Unpublished document: Nature Conservancy Council. 1988. Biological Survey of Common Land. Beds CL 30.
[28]SBD10895 - Unpublished document: Luton Borough Council. 1993. Beds Wildlife Working Group Manual of Wildlife Sites and Species Protection. pp. 19-20.
[29]SBD10759 - Unpublished document: South Beds District Council. 1993. Beds Wildlife Working Group Manual of Wildlife Sites & Species Protection. p. 65.
[31]SBD10779 - Observations and Comments: Stephen R. Coleman. Comments. March 2009.
[32]SBD12102 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. Notification of Scheduling, or an Affirmation or Revision of Scheduling. No. 27195; July 1997.
[33]SBD12102 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. Notification of Scheduling, or an Affirmation or Revision of Scheduling. November 1997.
[34]SBD10779 - Observations and Comments: Stephen R. Coleman. Comments. 19/02/1990.
[55]SBD12367 - Index: NMR/AMIE. HE NRHE Monument Inventory. 1316136.
[56]SBD12367 - Index: NMR/AMIE. HE NRHE Monument Inventory. 1316148.
[57]SBD12367 - Index: NMR/AMIE. HE NRHE Monument Inventory. 1316159.