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Bishopsbourne Grave C

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posted on 2021-11-10, 14:52 authored by Helena HamerowHelena Hamerow
[Section: see Site Figure 3; Plan: see Site Figure 4.]The last barrow opened was a large one to the west of the first barrow. In the accompanying section, Nos. 1 and 2 are the first and third barrows. 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 observed 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, with is a plan of this grave, will shew 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 (represented in fig. 3) appeared to have been about a foot high; the lower hoop was a foot in diameter, and the upper hoop exactly ten inches. A somewhat similar bucket is represented in one of the plates of Douglas’ Nenia [Douglas 1793]. 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 fragments 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 position 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 (fig. 4), a horse’s bit (fig. 5), which appears to be an article of very unusual occurrence), a buckle (fig. 7) 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 grave, was found the fragment of iron (fig. 6), 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 (fig. 8), about a foot in diameter, and two inches and a 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, flat on one side, and convex on the other, the use of which it is impossible 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 appearances 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 of the case seems to be supported by the fact that, although so many valuable articles were found in the grave, there were no traces of the long sword and the knife generally found with the bodies of male adults in the Saxon barrows.The three graves lay very nearly north to south, the heads towards the south, as was the case with many of those opened in the last century by Douglas [1793], and described in his Nenia, the variations being only such as might be expected from the rude means possessed by the early Saxon invaders for ascertaining the exact points of the compass. It may be added that among the earth with which the smaller grave was filled two small fragments of broken Roman pottery were found, which had probably been thrown in with the rubbish. It may be observed, that the different articles found in this, as in other early Saxon barrows, are of good workmanship, and by no means evince a low state of civilization.


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Date excavated

24 June 1844


Wright 1844

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