Record Details

NHER Number:2266
Type of record:Monument
Name:Palaeolithic worked flints and Early Saxon cremation cemetery

Summary

A number of cremations and an inhumation were discovered in this area during gravel extraction in the 19th century. The cremations were associated with a large number, perhaps as many as forty, decorated and undecorated urns, dating to the Early Saxon period. A number of Palaeolithic and Neolithic flint tools and some Roman pottery sherds and briquetage have also been recovered.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:Not displayed
Map Sheet:TF61SW
Parish:TOTTENHILL, WEST NORFOLK, NORFOLK

Full description

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 1st Edition O.S map (at TF 637 108), althought it appears to have closed shortly after, being marked as a former pit on the 2nd Edition map. At some point between the late 1930s and early 1940s a much large 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. These discoveries are also described seperately from those recovered in what is likely to have been the pit to the west of the road (Boon's Pit).

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. These obects include two that were originally thought to be handaxes but 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) was an abandoned handaxe roughout. The other 1897 finds are 4 much more convincing handaxes (KILLM : 2001.479-481; KILLM : 2001.484). Three of these handaxes (KILLM : 2001.479-481) were described and figures by Baden-Powell in 1950 (S2). The forth is described in the museum records as "near-Clactonian" (KILLM : 2001.484). A handaxe recorded as being found by Plowright in 1898 is probably also from this site (KILLM : 2001.518); this most likely being the "tongue-shaped implement" recorded by (S4) as having been found in that year. These are likely to be the five Plowright handaxes described by Marr in 1920 (S5). 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. Theses handaxes are presumably also the five from Tottenhill that are listed by Roe (S3), although as discussed above the association with 'Boon's Pit' is probably an error. The three additional, 'miscellaneous' pieces listed by Roe are presumably those listed as being in the NCM - there is no evidence that they came from this site. These finds are also noted in (S6), (S7) and (S8) (in which several are figured). Wymer (S9) described this small assemblage 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).

The King's Lynn Museum also holds two other Palaeolithic objects that were found by Plowright in Tottenhill and may therefore also be from this site. These are a "crude diamond-shaped handaxe with creamy cortex all over" that was found at an unknown date (KILLM : 2001.477) and a broken handaxe "of rather snouted form" that was found in 1890 (KILLM : 2001.520). These may though have come from Boon's Pit on the opposite side of the road (NHER 2268).

1942-3. 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 [1] 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 (S?) 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 [1] at the time (S13) was created. These discoveries were apparently reported in (S14) and (S15). See file for associated correspondence and copies of drawing of the urns held by the Wisbech Museum (S16), (S17) and (S18).

Compiled by E. Rose (NLA), 22 October 1990. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 26 November 2013.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • CREMATION (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • CREMATION CEMETERY (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)

Associated Finds

  • EOLITH? (Unknown date)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE? (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE? (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • ROUGHOUT? (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • SPEARHEAD (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Archive: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 61 SW 11.
---Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Roman. Tottenhill.
<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>Monograph: Roe, D. A. 1968. A Gazetteer of British Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Sites. CBA Research Report. No 8. p 240.
<S4>Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Palaeolithic.
<S5>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.
<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>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.
<S8>Article in Serial: Baden-Powell, D. F. W. 1950. Palaeoliths from the Fen District. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. Vol XVI pp 29-41. p 118.
<S9>Publication: Wymer, J. J. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia. p 42.
<S10>Unpublished Document: Wessex Archaeology. 1996. The English Rivers Palaeolithic Project. Regions 9 (Great Ouse) and 12 (Yorkshire and the Lincolnshire Wolds). 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>Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Early Saxon. Tottenhill.
<S14>Newspaper Article: Wisbech Standard. 1942. 14 August.
<S15>Newspaper Article: Wisbech Standard. 1942. 21 August.
<S16>Illustration: Unknown. 1960. Drawing of an Early Saxon cremation urn from Tottenhill (held by Wisbech Museum).
<S17>Illustration: Unknown. 1960. Drawing of two Early Saxon cremation urns from Tottenhill (held by Wisbech Museum).
<S18>Illustration: Unknown. 1960. Drawing of three Early Saxon cremation urns from Tottenhill (held by Wisbech Museum).

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