Record Details

NHER Number:5744
Type of record:Monument
Name:Roman mound (possibly a barrow) and post medieval gallows, Gallows Hill


This one of two mounds on Gallows Hill (see also NHER 5745). It was originally thought to be a Bronze Age round barrow, but excavations in 1978-9 dated this mound to the Roman period. An 18th century map marks a set of gallows on one of the two mounds, and several post medieval skeletons were revealed around the edge of the mound during the excavations.

Images - none


Grid Reference:Not displayed
Map Sheet:TL88SE

Full description

One of two barrows on Gallows Hill (see also NHER 5745).

Mound recorded as a bowl barrow by H.D. Hewitt.
25 paces in diameter, 2 feet high, nearly levelled by plough.
Leaf arrowhead found on barrow.
See photograph (S1) in file.
H.D. Hewitt, 24 September 1905 and 2 December 1909.

Faden's map of 1797 (S2) marks a gallows about here.

1976. Site visit.
The remains of the barrow have been obliterated.
Information from (S3).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 12 August 2008.

August - September 1978. Excavation and watching brief during development of site.
Flattened barrow revealed construction of turves and sand sealing well-defined ancient soil. A layer of charcoal and several prehistoric pottery sherds were found on this old ground surface.
Two skeletons were found in a single grave in the upper silt of the ditch, 1 with a clay pipe fragment in mouth. These were thought to derive from the gallows. Charcoal on the turf stack contained mainly remains of heather and ruderals. The charred material from the eastern side of the turf stack is evidence of a fire. A single radiocarbon date of 1600 +- 70 BP (around AD 350) was obtained from these charred remains, suggesting therefore that the turf stack was constructed in the late first millennium BC or early first millennium AD. However, despite the radiocarbon date, no finds attributable to the Roman period were found.
A. Gregory (NAU), February 1979, amended by A. Cattermole (NLA), 12 August 2008.

January 1979. Excavation of a second trench to south of mound.
Six randomly orientated skeletons were found on the eastern edge of the mound, two lying above the other four. The bone was in very poor condition. No grave limits were defined. Two or possibly three more skeletons were found on the southern edge of the mound but the poor condition of the bone meant that it was not possible to ascertain the number of individuals present. No grave outlines could be defined. The skeletons are almost certainly those of bodies hanged in the gallows between the 16th and the 18th centuries, if not later.
On the edge of the mound a small pit was found, measuring only 0.26m in diameter and 0.08m deep. It contained no artefacts.
The mound was found to measure approximately 12m in diameter. It was constructed of turves with a covering of sand which had been built on a sandy heath with a predominantly heather vegetation. There was little evidence for a ditch encircling the mound. Instead, it is suggested that the mound was built on a small hummock, the sides of which naturally eroded. The central area was not investigated as it was sealed beneath a modern earth mound created after the 1978 excavation. No evidence for a primary burial was encountered in the area excavated.
Pottery sherds and flints were found in the sealed soil, but were sparse in the mound material. The probable Iron Age sherds in the buried soil provide the terminus post quem for the construction of the mound.
The reason for the construction of the mound is unresolved. Barrow burial is not the usual mode of burial in the Iron Age, and Roman barrows are often very large.
Finds from these excavations are held by NCM.
Full publication in (S3).
A. Gregory (NAU) 1980, amended by A. Cattermole (NLA), 12 August 2008.

August 1981. Excavation and metal detecting, including in the area not investigated by A. Lawson (above).
20 Roman siliquae (coins) found.
A line of unmortared flints was identified as a wall, with a ?post hole immediately south of it.
These are likely to form part of a dispersed hoard, as other discoveries of siliquae have been made nearby (NHER 14825 and NHER 16462).
See press cuttings (S4), (S5), (S6) and (S7) in file.
A. Gregory (NAU).

Although schedule maps and notifications were issued to landowners and to NCM, the Department of Environment (1979) state that this was never 'properly' scheduled.
E. Rose (NAU), 16 September 1981.

January 2011. Norfolk NMP.
This site was not visible on the available aerial photographs.
E. Bales (NMP), 19 Jan 2011.

August 2014. Field visit.
The southernmost barrow survived to a height of 10-20cm at the time of the 1970s excavation (S6). It is not entirely clear what happened to the upstanding remains after these excavations, but there are good reasons to believe it survived underneath a landscape mound created during the construction of the adjacent industrial building. If this was the case, the removal of the landscape mound prior to 20 August 2014 will have also have removed the remains of the surviving barrow.
D. Robertson (HES), 11 September 2014.

September 2014.
A re-examination of the available aerial photographs suggests that two possible mound features may be visible as parchmarks on photographs from 1946 (S8) (J.Albone pers.comm.). These may relate to the round barrows NHER 5744 and 5745 but it was not possible to be certain of this.
E. Ford (NMP), 03 Sept 2014

Monument Types

  • PIT (Unknown date)
  • FINDSPOT (Lower Palaeolithic to Roman - 1000000 BC to 409 AD)
  • (Former Type) ROUND BARROW? (Bronze Age - 2350 BC? to 701 BC?)
  • BARROW? (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • MOUND (Roman to Early Saxon - 280 AD to 420 AD) + Sci.Date
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GALLOWS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Lower Palaeolithic to Late Iron Age - 500000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FLAKE (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • LEAF ARROWHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • POT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • POT (Bronze Age - 2350 BC to 701 BC)
  • POT (Beaker - 2300 BC to 1700 BC)
  • POT (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • COIN HOARD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • PLANT REMAINS (Roman to Early Saxon - 280 AD to 420 AD) + Sci.Date
  • CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF488.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TL 88 SE 9 [5].
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Archive: Norfolk Monuments Management Project File.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Bronze Age. Thetford.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Photograph: BZE 22-4.
---*Digital Archive: Norfolk Monuments Management Project Photographic Archive.
---Collection: Norfolk Historic Environment Record Staff. 1975-[2000]. HER Record Notes. Norfolk Historic Environment Service.
<S1>Photograph: Hewitt, H.D.. 1909. Photograph of Gallows Hill, Thetford.
<S2>Publication: Faden, W. and Barringer, J. C. 1989. Faden's Map of Norfolk in 1797.
<S3>Article in Monograph: Lawson, A. J. and Le Hegarat, R. 1986. The Excavation of a Mound on Gallows Hill, Thetford, 1978-9. Barrow Excavations in Norfolk, 1950-82. East Anglian Archaeology. Lawson, A. J. et al.. Vol 29, pp 65-69.
<S4>Newspaper Article: Eastern Evening News. 1981. Expert hits out at bounty hunt. 7 August.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Thetford and Watton Times. 1981. New dig angers expert. 7 August.
<S5>Newspaper Article: Sunday Times Magazine. 1983. The finds of Fred. 28 August.
<S6>Newspaper Article: The Times. 1981. Treasure hunters upset Thetford archaeologists. 8 August.
<S7>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1981. [Article of the 20 Roman coins declared treasure]. 13 December.
<S8>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF CPE/UK/1801 3136-7 25-OCT-1946 (NHER TL 8684A-B).

Related records

5745Related to: Site of possible Bronze Age round barrow, Gallows Hill (Monument)

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