Bryan Faussett.

Inventorium sepulchrale: an account of some antiquities dug up at Gilton, Kingston, Sibertswold, Barfriston, Beakesbourne, Chartham, and Crundale, in the county of Kent, from A.D. 1757 to A.D. 1773 online

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Online LibraryBryan FaussettInventorium sepulchrale: an account of some antiquities dug up at Gilton, Kingston, Sibertswold, Barfriston, Beakesbourne, Chartham, and Crundale, in the county of Kent, from A.D. 1757 to A.D. 1773 → online text (page 17 of 33)
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other parts of Kent, appear to be the graves of the
earlier Saxon settlers in this district. The barrows
within the park, on the top of the hill in front of
the house, were opened on Wednesday the 24th of
June, in presence of Lord Albert Conyngham, Sir
Henry Dryden, Mr. Eoach Smith, and myself. Se-
veral of them had been previously opened by his
lordship, but the only article found in them was one
boss of a shield ; it would appear as though the na-
ture of the soil (chalk) had here entirely destroyed
the deposit.

" We first opened a large barrow, which appeared
to have been rifled at some former period. Here,

as in all Saxon barrows, the deposit is not in the
mound itself, but in a rectangular grave dug into
the chalk. At the top of the grave were found two
portions of bones of the leg, and at the bottom a
fragment of a skull (in the place where the head
must originally have been placed), some teeth (which
were at the foot of the grave), some other fragments
of bones, a small piece of the blade of a sword, and
an iron hook exactly resembling those on the lower
rim of the bracket described below. At each of the
four upper corners of the grave, was a small exca-
vation in the chalk, which was filled with the skulls
and bones of mice, with the remains of seed, etc.,
which had served them for food, mixed with a quan-
tity of fine mould, apparently the remains of some
decomposed substance. From the condition of the
bones and seed, they would appear to be much more
modern than the original deposit ; but it is a re-
markable circumstance that the same articles are
found in so many of the baiTows here and on the
Breach Downs. The grave itself was of large di-
mensions, being about fourteen feet long, between
six and seven broad, and somewliat more than three
in depth, independent of the superincumbent mound.
"The next barrow opened was a smaller one,
adjacent to the former, of which the elevation was
so small as to be scarcely distinguishable from the



myself the future pleasure of examining their contents. But, on account of the
smallness of their size and number, and their proximity to so public a road (by

surrounding ground. The grave was filled, like No.
1, with the chalk which had been dug out of the
original excavation. The body, which was perhaps
that of a female, and the various articles which it
had once contained, were entirely decomposed. A
small mass of dark-coloured earth a little above the
shoulder, apparently decomposed wood, seemed to
be the remains of a small box. The bones were
distinctly traced by the colour of the earth, a small
fragment of the skull being all that remained entire ;
and from the quantity of black mould which occu-
pied the place of the body, resembling that which
in other places was found to have resulted from the
decomposition of wood, we may be led to sup-
pose that the body was placed in a wooden chest.
Another large quantity of similar black mould lay
together in an elongated form on the left side of the
body towards the foot of the grave. In the corner
to the right of tlie feet were found some fragments
of small hoops imbedded in wood.

" This small barrow lay on the east side of the
one first opened. The last barrow opened was a
large one to the west of the first barrow. In this
last barrow we again found the small holes at the
corners of the grave, but they were turned towards
the sides instead of being turned towards the ends ;
and they also contained bones of mice. This grave
was nearly as long as the first, about a foot deeper,
and rather broader in proportion to its length. The
floor was very smoothly cut in the chalk, and was
surrounded by a narrow gutter, which was not ob-
served in the others. It was not filled with the
chalky soil of the spot, but with fine mould brought
from a distance, and this was probably the cause of
the better preservation of the articles contained in
it. The second figure, which is a plan of this grave,
will show the position in which these articles were
found. At the foot of the grave, in the right-hand
corner, had stood a bucket, of which the hoops (in
perfect preservation) occupied their position one
above another, as if the wood had been there to
support them. This bucket appeared to have been
about a foot high ; the lower hoop was a foot in
diametei', and the upper hoop exactly ten inches.
A somewhat similar bucket is represented in one of
the plates of Douglas's Nenia. The hooked feet
appear to have been intended to support the wood.

and prevent its slipping in the bucket. From the
similar hook found in the grave No. 1, and the frag-
ments of hoops in the smaller grave, I am inclined
to think that similar buckets were originally placed
in both. A little higher up in the grave, in the po-
sition generally occupied by the right leg of the
person buried, was found a considerable heap of
fragments of iron, among which were a boss of a
shield of the usual Saxon form, a horse's bit (which
appears to be an article of very imusual occurrence),
a buckle, and other things which appear to have
belonged to the shield, a number of nails with large
ornamental heads, with smaller nails, the latter
mostly of brass. From the position of the boss, it
appeared that the shield had been placed with the
convex (or outer) surface downwards. Not far from
these articles, at the side of the gi'ave, was found
a fragment of iron, consisting of a larger ring, with
two smaller ones attached to it, which was either
part of the horse's bridle, or of a belt. On the left-
hand side of the grave was found a small piece of
iron which resembled the point of some weapon.
At the head of the grave, on the right-hand side,
we found an elegantly shaped bowl, about a foot in
diameter, and two inches and half deep, of very thin
copper, which had been thickly gilt, and with handles
of iron. It had been placed on its edge, leaning
against the wall of the grave, and was much broken
by the weight of the superincumbent earth. The
only other articles found in this grave were two
small round discs resembling counters, about seven-
eighths of an inch in diameter, fiat on one side, and
convex on the other, the use of which it is impos-
sible to conjecture, unless they were employed in
some game. One was made of bone, the other had
been cut out of a piece of Samian ware. The most
singular circumstance connected with this grave was,
that there were not the slightest traces of any body
having been deposited in it; in fact, the appear-
ances were decisive to the contrary ; the only ways
in which we could explain this were, either that the
body had been burnt, and the ashes deposited in an
urn concealed somewhere in the circuit of the grave
(which is not probable), or that the person to whom
the grave was dedicated had been a chief killed in
battle in some distant expedition, and that his friends .
had not been able to obtain his body. This view


means of which last circumstance I knew myself liable to be pestered with a
numerous set of troublesome spectators), I did not set about opening them till the
16th of July, 1771 ; on the morning of which day, arriving at this spot in my way
to Kingston Down (see p. 52) rather earlier than usual, and being provided with
plenty of labourers for that day's intended work, I thought that a good opportunity
to put my intentions with regard to these so publicly situated tumuli into execution.
So setting ourselves immediately to the business, we finished our work in little more
than two hours ; during which time, it being so early in the day, we had very little
or no interruption, either from the curiosity or impertinence of passengers, or other
idle spectators, the teazingness and plague of whose ill-timed attendance in business
of this sort, is not to be conceived but by those who, like myself, have had the
disagreeable experience of it.

Though I cannot boast either of the number or value of the pieces of antiquity
here discovered ; yet, as the few we did find plainly appeared to be the remains of
the same age and people with those heretofore mentioned and described in my
Inventorium Sepulchrale, as I (perhaps vainly) call it, I shall make no scruple of
giving, after my usual manner in these cases, a true account of the contents of each
tumulus, in the order in which I opened them.

1. Middle-sized tumulus. It contained, at the depth of about two feet under

of the case seems to be supported by the fact, that but with a different style of ornament, and a glass

although so many valuable articles were found in cup of the type figs. 1 and 2, pi. 19. They are

the grave, there were no traces of the long sword figured in the Archceological Album, p. 8, and are

and the knife generally found with the bodies of now in the collection of Lord Londesborough.
male adults in the Saxon barrows. This cemetery, like that at Gilton, is close to

"The three graves lay very nearly north and Roman burial places. About twenty j'ears since, in

south, the heads towards the south, as was the case digging the high-road above Bourne Park (called,

with many of those opened in the last century by from the neighbouring village, Bridge Hill), a quan-

Douglas, and described in his Nenia, the variations tity of Romano-British sepulchral urns were found,

being only such as might be expected from the rude some of which are now in the collection of Mr.

means possessed by the early Saxon mvaders for Rolfe. More recently, while excavations were being

ascertaining the exact points of the compass. It made in the low ground for a sheet of water, Mr.

may be added, that among the earth with which the Bell discovered several Roman interments, among

smaller grave was filled, two small fragments of which were urns of earthenware, red paterae, and

broken Roman pottery were found, which had pro- glass vessels. They appear to have accompanied

bably been thrown in with the rubbish. It may be the remains of bodies which had been burnt,

observed, that the different articles found in this, as although from the unfavourable nature of the soil

in other early Saxon barrows, are of good workman- most of the urns were broken to pieces. One large

ship, and by no means evince a low state of civi- urn, Mr. Bell reports, contained ashes, and was sur-

lisation." rounded by several smaller vessels. Contiguous to

Two more of these barrows were excavated during these interments were found several skeletons which,

the Congress at Canterbury. In one of them were from large and long iron nails lying about them,

found an earthenware urn, in shape like those found had been doubtless buried in thick wooden coffins,

on Kingston Down, in graves Nos. 137 and 205, See Collectanea Antiqua, vol. iii, p. 19. — Ed.]


the natural surfoce, the skeleton of an elderly person (as appeared by the much-worn
teeth), lying with the feet due east. Near its right shoulder was a small urn, of
very coarse and black earth, which was broken in pieces by a stroke from one of the
workmen's tools. The remains of a thick and burnt coffin were very visible. The
bones were very much decayed.

2. Tumulus and grave, much as the last. The remains of an unburnt coffin
were very discernible : the bones almost gone ; but the few remaining teeth shewed
they had belonged to an old person. Near or under the skull was found a very
slender piece of brass wire, about two inches long, which, from the place where it
lay, I imagine was used as an acus crinalis, or pin for the hair ; indeed, it ?iad neither
head nor point ; but they might probably have both of them been broken off in
getting it out of the ground, as the whole of it afterwards very easily fell in pieces
with common handling. I imagine this to have been a woman's grave.

3. Tumulus and grave, much as the last. No appearance of any coffin. These
bones, also, though almost gone, seem to have been those of an old person. At the
feet were found some sherds of a larger, and near the right hip, others of a smaller,
urn ; both of them of very coarse black earth ; whether these vessels suffered from
the negligence of my workmen, or were broken before, I cannot pretend to say. The
sherds were so rotten when taken out that they would scarce bear handling.

4. This tumulus was rather less than the three before mentioned, and the grave
was not more than a foot deeper than the natural surface ; it contained the skeleton
of a very young person, whose teeth were not all of them cut. Nothing was found
with it ; neither was there any appearanc of a coffin.

5. This tumulus was of about the middle size. Many loose bones appeared in
different directions as soon as we had taken the turf from its crest ; and continued to
be found in much the same manner all the way down to the last interred skeleton,
which was found undisturbed at the depth of about two feet and a half below the
natural surface, laying, like those found under the four already mentioned tumuli,
with its feet pointing to the east ; with the skeleton was found nothing but the iron
blade of a small knife, exactly like many already described. If one may judge from
the number of skulls (or rather parts of them) found here, this tumulus must have
contained the remains of at least six different persons, all of them, it is likely, of the
same family ; among them were found several small pieces of broken rusty iron, and
many oyster shells. The entire skeleton appeared very plainly to have been deposited
in a very thick unburnt coffin.

6. Middle-sized tumulus, and very shallow grave. Bones of a young person
pretty sound. Nothing was found with theai ; nor was there any appearance of a
coffin. The skull, which was pretty perfect, had a very 2)laiu frontal suture.


7. Middle-sized tumulus ; the grave was about two feet and a half deeper than
the natural surface. In it we found the remains of two old persons, lying the one on
the other. Nothing was found with them except the blade of a knife, as before ; no
appearance of any coffin.

8. This tumulus was the largest of them ; it was about twenty feet diameter at
the base, though not above four feet in perpendicular height above the natural
surface ; the grave was about three feet deep. The bones of the skeleton, which lay
at the bottom of it, were very much decayed ; yet those of a squirrel, or other small
animal (which were found near the right side of the neck or head), were surprisingly
strong and firm ; and the shell of a remarkably large common brown snail, which lay
near the little bones, seemed to be as well preserved as if it had not lain there a
month. There were no visible remains of a coffin.

9. This tumulus was of the middle size, and plainly appeared to have been
already dug into ; and, on inquiry, I was informed that about the year 1765 some
labourers employed in widening the road leading down to Bishopsbourne, before
mentioned (on the south-east corner of which it stands), dug away a great part of it,
and found some human bones and some pieces of rusty old iron.

Besides the tumuli just mentioned, there are also a great many others to be seen
at the distance of about five hundred yards to the north-west of this spot, viz. ; in
the front of the house of Stephen Beckingham, Esq., called Bourne-Place, in the
parish ; where, to the number of at least one hundred, they occupy the Hanging hill,
in that part of the paddock which lies between the rivulet Avhich runs in the bottom,
and the before mentioned hedge, which parts the paddock from the Down land ; and
by, and parallel to which hedge, the military Roman road, before described, runs on
towards Dover. Many of them, especially near the road, have large trees growing
on them ; but the greatest part of them have been so levelled when this spot was
turned into pleasure ground, or on some other occasion, that they are not very visible
but to a discerning eye. However, so great is their number, that on digging any-
where on this hill to the depth of two or three feet, human bones have been continually
cast up ; so that, when I mention " one hundred", I am certain I am much under the
mark. The best way to discover the otherwise almost invisible ones is by placing
one's head close to the ground and looking against the sun, when it is near the
horizon ; but, wherever any graves are suspected to be, which either on account
of their tumulus having been absolutely taken off", or which, perhaps, never had any
(which I have cause to believe is sometimes the case, particularly with regard to
children's graves) ; under such circumstances, and in a chalky soil like this, recourse
must be had to the probe, described at page 87 of this volume, an instrument of my
own invention, and to which I am obliged for its sure and never failing guidance to



many graves which were absolutely invisible. In short, too much cannot be said in
favour of its usefulness on such occasions, if managed by a person who understands
the use and management of it ; indeed, in any other but a chalky soil, I confess it to
be of very little if of any service.

Urn and glass cup from a barrow on Breach Down. See note, p. V9.






''§?' N the left hand of the road leading from the village of Sibertswold,
commonly called Shepherd's Well, to Sandwich, or Deal, and about
half a mile distant from the said village, is a pretty numerous parcel
of tumuli ; much like those at Kingston, of which I have given an
account in the third ^•olume of my Inventoiium Sepulchrale. They are situated near
the top of the hill, and between the road above mentioned and another road which
leads from Barbara Down over Snow Down. There are three tumuli, or barrows,
which stand close together on very high ground, in a line close to and parallel with
the road ; and on the left hand of it, going towards Waldershare. The middlemost
of them is very large and high, and is visible at a great distance ; the place where
they stand is, from them, called " Three Barrow Down"; they are commonly called
" Rubury Butts",^ perhaps corruptly for " Romes berig Butts", or the butts at the

' |_It is not unusual to find the term '' Butts"
applied to ancient burial mounds. The part of the
down at Ozingell on which the tumuli are situated
was called " the Butts". The term with us has
reference only to marks for shooting at ; the French
lutte, from which it is probably derived, signifies

also a hillock or mound. A very prominent hill
near Houdan (Seine ct Oisc), the site of a Frankish
cemetery, is called Butte dcs Gargans; another near
it is called Butte cles Ceixueils. The word "Rubury",
it need hardly be stated, does not warrant the ety-
mological interpretation here suggested. — Ed.]


Roman burying-place ; by Rubury Butts and through a lane called Long Lane, and
so to Waldershare ; from which last mentioned place these tumuli are distant about
a mile and a half. These two roads, namely, that from Sibertswold towards Sandwich
and Deal, and that from the end of Long Lane, just by, towards AValdershare, form
the legs of an isosceles triangle, which contains this burial ground, intersecting each
other at the utmost or south-east corner of it. The tumuli, though they stand pretty
much together, do nevertheless extend themselves close up to each of these roads.

I had often taken notice of them (as well as of some others just by, in the
adjoining parish of Barfriston, of which I intend, after I have fairly done with these,
to give an account) ; and from the Saxon name of the adjacent village of Sibertswold,
I had been induced to believe that some skirmish might have happened on this spot
between the Saxons and the Danes, or, perhaps, the native Britons ; andt hat these
tumuli which I am now going to give an account of, and those in Barfriston, might
cover the dead of each party which fell in the action ; and, indeed, at the time of my
beginning to dig here, I was fully persuaded in my own mind that this really had
been the case.

What made me so sanguine in favour of this conjecture was a paragraph in a
letter which I had some time before received from Awnsham Churchill, Esq., of Bath,
the worthy lord of the soil ; where, after having very genteelly given me leave to open
these tumuli, he says : " I sincerely wish you success in your undertaking ; but I
must tell y«u that, many years ago my wife's grandfather opened one of those
hillocks, and found nothing besides a spur, much larger than what are now in use.
I think it is either inlaid or gilt with gold. I have it locked up at Shepherds Well."

This spur, of which I make no doubt but that it was Danish, was what confirmed
me in this opinion ; but, upon trial, I was soon convinced of my mistake. For
though I this summer opened no less than one hundred and sixty-eight of these
tumuli, and the whole of those in Barfriston adjoining, to the number of forty-eight
more ; yet, not a single spur or anything else occurred that seemed to have the least
connection with either Danes or Saxons. But everything we met with was much of
the same kind with what I found at Ash and at Kingston ; and of which I have given
distinct accounts in the second and third volumes of this my Inventorimu Sepulchrale ;
and I make no scruple of declaring myself to be confident that the persons here
buried were neither more nor less than the peaceable inhabitants of the nigh village
or villages ; which inhabitants I take to have been Romans Britonised, or Britons
Romanised ; that is, as I have said before, people of both these nations who, having in
process of time intermarried with each other, had become as it were one people ; and
had naturally learned and adopted each other's customs and ceremonies. But that
this spot was also used as a burial-place by the Romans, even long before this union


or coalition (if I may not improperly use those words) had so thoroughly taken place,
is abundantly evident from the ossuaries, or bone urns, mentioned at their proper
places in the following inventory. But as I think I have already said enough of this
in several parts of the former little volumes, I shall refer the reader to them, and
without further delay proceed to the giving a true and exact inventory of what I
found here. In doing which, I shall make use of my former method of numbering
every grave, and giving an account of its contents in the same order in which it was
opened, and they came to hand.

SiBERTSWOLD DoWN, JuLY 13tH, 1772.

1. The tumulus was of about the middle size ; the grave was about two feet and
a half deep, reckoning from the natural surface of the ground ; the feet of it pointed
to the east, or very near it. The bones were almost gone ; the coffin, which had
passed the fire, like those already described, shewed its shape so plainly in the chalk,
that its form evidently appeared to have come nearer to that of those now-a-days in
use, than any I had met with before. We found nothing here but the iron blade of
a knife, as heretofore (pi. 15, fig. 6).

2. Tumulus and grave, much as the last ; no appearance of a coffin. The feet
pointed to the east. The bones were almost gone. Here we found a pair of iron
shears (as pi. 15, fig. 26) and the blade of a knife, as before. A woman's grave, as
I think.

3. Tumulus rather small ; grave very shallow ; no appearance of a coffin ; bones
almost gone ; feet to the east. Nothing.

4. Large tumulus ; grave full five feet deep. The coffin appeared to have been
very thick, and much burnt. The bones were almost gone ; feet to the cast. One
earthen bead ; this lay near the skull ; but rather beyond it, that is, move westward.
A woman's grave.

5. Middle-sized tumulus ; grave about three feet deep. The coffin had been
very thick and strong ; but it did not appear to have passed the fire. Pretty sound
bones of a middle-aged person, as appeared by the teeth. The feet pointed to the
east. Here we found a small iron buckle and shank, and the blade of a knife, as

6. Large tumulus, namely, full four feet high ; the grave about five feet deep.
Here were several skeletons (at least four), lying on one another ; all of them very
much decayed, and some of the bones intermixed ; none of them, except the under-
most, appeared to have had any coffin, and that had visibly passed the fire. Nothing.

Online LibraryBryan FaussettInventorium sepulchrale: an account of some antiquities dug up at Gilton, Kingston, Sibertswold, Barfriston, Beakesbourne, Chartham, and Crundale, in the county of Kent, from A.D. 1757 to A.D. 1773 → online text (page 17 of 33)