This former gravel pit is one of several in the area in which significant archaeological discoveries were made betweenthe late 19th century and the mid 20th century. It should be noted that there is a degree of uncertainly as to whether certain discoveries were made in this pit or in those that lay on the opposite side of the road (NHER 2268). It does however appear that this pit was the first to be opened and therefore the most likely source of several Palaeolithic flint handaxes that were recovered during the late 19th century. It also seems likely that it was this site where a number of Early Saxon cremation urns were uncovered during quarrying in the early 1940s. If this was indeed the case then a reasonably large cemetery was disturbed as there are also records of Early Saxon cremations and inhumations being uncovered in the pit to the west (NHER 2268).
A number of significant archaeological discoveries were made at this site during gravel quarrying between the late 19th century and the mid 20th century. The first pit to be opened is clearly marked on the 1st Edition O.S map (at TF 637 108), although it appears to have closed shortly after, being shown as a former pit on the 2nd Edition map. At some point between the late 1930s and early 1940s a much larger quarry was opened to the south, the extent of which is marked by a series of water-filled pits. As a series of quarry pits were also present to the west of the Lynn Road around the same time there is a degree of uncertainty as to the precise provenance of many archaeological discoveries in this area. After a reconsideration of the available evidence a number of the finds previously associated with these pits are now thought to have actually come from the quarries to the west (NHER 2268).
P. Watkins (HES), 25 November 2013.
1897-1898. Stray Find.
In 1897 a number of Palaeolithic implements were recovered in a pit at Tottenhill by Dr C. B. Plowright. These discoveries were reported in a paper read at a meeting of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia in 1910 (S1). These are likely to have come from the pit to the east of the Lynn Road, which is the only pit to be shown as open and in use on the 1st Edition O.S. map. Boon's pit (the pit to the west of the road) is noted in (S1), although it is noted after the description of the artefacts and it should not necessarily be taken as their provenance.
As noted by (S1) the King's Lynn Museum holds at least some of the Palaeolithic worked flints that were recovered by Plowright in Tottenhill. These finds include several pieces that are recorded as being found in 1897 and therefore presumably from this pit. Four of these objects are handaxes (KILLM : 2001.479-481; KILLM : 2001.518), three of which are described and figured by Baden-Powell in (S2) (KILLM : 2001.479; KILLM : 2001.481 and KILLM : 2001.518). One of these is likely to be "tongue-shaped implement" recorded by (S3) as having been found in that year 1898 (probably KILLM : 2001.518). From (S8) it is clear that this information came from W. G. Clarke's notes (NRO). The KLM also holds a probable broken handaxe that had been found by Plowright at Tottenhill (KILLM : 2001.520).
Other objects in the KLM Plowright collection from Tottenhill include a small "near-Clactonian" handaxe (KILLM : 2001.484) and an object described as a crude diamond-shaped handaxe (KILLM : 2001.477). It is unclear whether these are genuine artefacts. There are also two objects that were originally thought to be handaxes but which were subsequently identified by Derek Roe (according to the museum's records) as most likely natural (KILLM : 2001.482-3). Although the pieces were heavily rolled the main scars appeared to be thermal. It was just possible that one (KILLM : 2001.482) is an abandoned handaxe roughout.
The above objects are likely to include the five Plowright handaxes described by Marr in 1920 (S4). Here they are described as being five "coup-de-poing, three of which are about seven inches long, of an ochreous colour, and little waterworn". Marr also notes that Plowright had presented his manuscript collection to the KLM, which contained full details of his finds. These finds were subsequently noted in (S5) and (S6). These discoveries are also the reason the Tottenhill is listed in (S21) as a location that had produced Palaeolithic material prior to 1907.
The finds in the KLM are presumably also the 5 handaxes from Tottenhill that are listed by Roe (S7), although as discussed above the association with 'Boon's Pit' is probably an error. They are described by Wymer on (S8) and in (S9) as comprising pointed or tongue-shaped handaxes (Wymer type FK); 2 sharp and 3 slightly rolled. These discoveries are also noted in (S10) and (S11), although little additional information is given. It should be noted that the grid reference in (S9) is incorrect, Wymer having mistakenly associated these early discoveries with a pit to the north-west that was worked in the 1980s by Atlas Aggregates (NHER 59919).
1942-1943. Salvage excavation.
Discovery of Early Saxon cremation cemetery.
It is known that a number of cremation urns were exposed during gravel quarrying in Tottenhill around this time. In a letter to the Norwich Castle Museum (S12) the then owner of several of the pots  described the site (which they had not seen) as having been "…stumbled upon by the driver of a mechanical excavator during the excavation of a gravel pit in connection with the construction of Downham Market aerodrome [NHER 2455]". The site was "…apparently Collett's Gravel Pit, Bexhill [this almost certainly an error as Bexhill was the local name for Downham Market airfield], just off the main road, east of Downham by a mile or two". These discoveries were recorded by the Norwich Castle Museum as coming from a pit to the east of the main road (S13). It should be noted that Collett's Pit is a name that has also been associated with the pit to the west of the road. However, this is far from conclusive as it is clear from 1946 aerial photographs that pits were open on both sides of the road around this time. Either way it is clear that a reasonably extensive Early Saxon cemetery existed in this location, with both inhumations and probable cremations having been previously found in the area; most likely in the pit to the west of the road (NHER 2268).
Pots and other objects were apparently uncovered continuously over a period of several weeks, this also suggesting a large cemetery had been disturbed. According to (S12) the urn cemetery was found "3ft [0.9m] deep in sandy soil concentrated in area of around 30 x 30 ft [9.1m x 9.1m] but possibly extending to east", with about forty urns discovered. These urns were mostly broken. It appears that a number of other objects were recovered, including an iron spearhead. The Wisbech Museum was given five of the urns and the spearhead, with a further two urns in the possession of  at the time (S13) was created. These discoveries were apparently reported in (S14) and (S15). See drawings of the urns held by the Wisbech Museum (S16)-(S20) and file for associated correspondence.
Compiled by E. Rose (NLA), 22 October 1990. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 26 November 2013.
|---||Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 61 SW 8; TF 61 SW 10; TF 61 SW 11. |
|---||Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card. |
|---||Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Roman. Tottenhill. |
|---||Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service. |
|<S1>||Article in Serial: 1911. Summary of Proceedings. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. Vol I Pt I (for 1909-1910) pp 109-121. p 118. |
|<S2>||Article in Serial: Baden-Powell, D. F. W. 1950. Palaeoliths from the Fen District. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. Vol XVI pp 29-41. pp 29, 39; Figs 12-14. |
|<S3>||Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Palaeolithic. |
|<S4>||Article in Serial: Marr, J. E. 1920. Man and the Ice Age. Presidential Address. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. Vol III Pt II (for 1919-20) pp 177-191. p 187. |
|<S5>||Article in Serial: Marr, J. E. 1926. The Pleistocene deposits of Lower Part of the Great Ouse Basin. With appendix by A. S. Kennard and B. B. Woodward on the non-marine mollusca. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. Vol 82 pp 101-143. p 120. |
|<S6>||Article in Monograph: Sainty, J. E. 1935. Norfolk Prehistory. Report of the Annual Meeting, 1935. Norwich, September 4-11. British Association for the Advancement of Science. Appendix pp 60-71. p 63. |
|<S7>||Monograph: Roe, D. A. 1968. A Gazetteer of British Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Sites. CBA Research Report. No 8. p 240. |
|<S8>||Record Card: Wymer, J. J. Wymer Index Card - Palaeolithic. Tottenhill. |
|<S9>||Publication: Wymer, J. J. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia. p 42. |
|<S10>||Unpublished Contractor Report: 1996. The English Rivers Palaeolithic Project. Regions 9 (Great Ouse) and 12 (Yorkshire and the Lincolnshire Wolds). Wessex Archaeology. N&W-2, Nos. 11, 12 & 13. |
|<S11>||Website: TERPS online database. Site 23072. |
|<S12>||Correspondence: Hooper, E.W.. 1947. Letter to Norwich Castle Museum re: Anglo Saxon cemetery at Collett's Pit. 8 February. |
|<S13>||Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Early Saxon. Tottenhill. |
|<S14>||Newspaper Article: Wisbech Standard. 1942. [unknown]. 14 August. |
|<S15>||Newspaper Article: Wisbech Standard. 1942. [unknown]. 21 August. |
|<S16>||Illustration: [Unknown]. 1960. Drawing of an Early Saxon pottery cremation urn from Tottenhill (held by Wisbech Museum). Paper. 1:1. |
|<S17>||Illustration: [Unknown]. 1960. Drawing of an Early Saxon pottery cremation urn from Tottenhill (held by Wisbech Museum). Paper. 1:1. |
|<S18>||Illustration: [Unknown]. 1960. Drawing of an Early Saxon pottery cremation urn from Tottenhill (held by Wisbech Museum). Paper. 1:1. |
|<S19>||Illustration: [Unknown]. 1960. Drawings of two Early Saxon pottery cremation urns from Tottenhill (held by Wisbech Museum). Paper. 1:1. |
|<S20>||Illustration: [Unknown]. 1960. Drawings of two Early Saxon cremation urns from Tottenhill (held by Wisbech Museum). Paper. 1:1. |
|<S21>||Article in Serial: Clarke, W. G. 1907. The Distribution of Flint and Bronze Implements in Norfolk. Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society. Vol VIII Pt III (for 1906-1907) pp 393-409. p 396. |