This article appeared in the Autumn 1971 (Issue #25) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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Is it a Barrow?
Probably every parish in the county contains within or on its boundary enigmatic mounds, usually regarded as burial mounds either from the word 'tumulus' marked on maps, or more often, from local legend only. These mounds may be barrows of Bronze Age or Roman origin, or where groups of smaller mounds exist, they may be Saxon but before an emphatic opinion is expressed, due thought should always be given to what alternatives are possible.
Not only are size and shape important, but geographical siting, location in relation to known archaeological sites and finds and especially past and present local industries. As an aid to field workers in Kent, the following list of probable origins of mounds is compiled from examples examined during the last ten years and should in no way be regarded as exhaustive. Occasional dialect words are used where appropriate and a limit of two parishes for example deemed sufficient.
- MILL MOUNDS: Common from 14th to 19th Century AD. Often marked on estate or OS maps (ELMSTED; CHARING).
- FLINT: Gathered for road making and not collected. Mostly in woodlands by POW's 1914-18. (POSTLING; CHILHAM).
- FLINT HEAPS: Collected on surface or quarried and burnt to reduce them in size before efficient crushing undertaken in quarries began. Probably 17th-18th Century AD. Usually surrounded by charcoal.
- QUARRY SPOIL: Known as 'CALLOW' or 'CALLER.' Top clearance before quarrying. Sometimes removed by contract a considerable distance and deposited in heaps. (BOUGHTON ALUPH; KINGSTON).
- FOX EARTHS: Artificial mounds constructed over central chamber with earthenware pipes giving access. Earlier barrow may have been utilised (STELLING MINNIS). Common in vicinity of hunt kennels. (BOSSINGHAM; NEWNHAM).
- COLLAPSED STACK: Usually straw, asymmetrical, lush green herbage, spongy when stamped upon. (PLUCKLEY; TENTERDEN).
- EMMETT-CAST HEAP: Often found in corners of fields where old pastures have ant hills. Hills cut off, collected, dumped in corner to weather down, then re-spread or sold. Symmetrical and common in Weald. From EMMETE, Saxon ANT. (HASTINGLEIGH; RUCKINGE).
- MEDIAEVAL COTTAGE SITE: Often slight insignificant mounds, mostly in old pastures. (ROMNEY MARSH; HASTINGLEIGH).
- CHARCOAL BURNING SITE: Usually in woodland, where stack has caught fire and site abandoned. The covering turves having been cut from around, ves the appearance of a ditched barrow. (WHITSTABLE; WYE).
- GAZEBO SITES: Mostly on older estates and often in formally landscaped surroundings; stone or flint foundations occasionally. (SEVENOAKS; NEWINGTON).
- TREE MOUNDS: Usually artificial for this purpose, but earlier barrow might be used as at Sandling Park, Saltwood. (CHILHAM; BOUGHTON UNDER BLEAN).
- PILLOW MOUND: Artificial rabbit warrens adjacent to old manor sites or in older parklands; rectangular or elliptical: Mediaeval. (GODMERSHAM, WYE).
- BEACON SITE: Often identified from placename or old maps and includes 'port-lights' on higher ground along tidal estuaries. (BONNINGTON; WESTWELL).
- KILN SITE: Both pottery and tile and includes waste heaps. Often surface indications, and 13th-15th Century AD in date. (CANTERBURY; ROMNEY MARSH).
- BOUNDARY MARK: Mounds usually at corners of or on boundary of parishes. Probably earlier barrows, but may be Saxon without interments. (ALKHAM-TEMPLE EWELL; KINGSTON-UPPER HARDRES).
- CASTLE MOUNDS: Mostly too large to be barrows and 11th-13th Century AD. (STOWTING; STOCKBURY).
- CINDER AND SLAG HEAPS: Of indeterminate date without careful excavation. Should be reported to Wealden Iron Research Group. More common than earlier believed in the County. (CHARING; PETHAM).
- SAWDUST MOUNDS: Usually in woodland felled in 1914-18 War; spongy when stamped, and fungi prevalent in summer. (STURRY; ELHAM).
- RAILWAY SPOIL HEAPS: From digging tunnels or cuttings, or adjoining lines for repair purposes. Linear banks for the former and single mounds the latter. (SALTWOOD; ELTHAM).
- SALT WORKINGS: Irregular mounds adjacent to tidal marshes. Earliest Roman, mostly Mediaeval. DIALECT 'COTERELS.' Improbable origin, raised mounds in areas liable to flood to which cattle could retreat. (SEASALTER; ISLE OF SHEPPEY).
- MILITARY REMAINS: This group includes various mounds and banks from both World Wars and, where possible, surviving Home Guard officers should be consulted for information. Includes old gun emplacements, dug-out protection mounds, blast walls of earth and collapsed sandbags, false beacons etc. (BLEAN: GODMERSHAM).
- ICE HOUSES: Large mounds with usually signs of a brick entrance and 17th-19th Century AD in date. Can give rise to wonderful local legends as at Kennington, Ashford, where one was asserted to be:
- Entrance to secret tunnels leading to the Church and Kennington Hall.
- Built by a retired Master of Foxhounds so that he could follow the hunt from a chair placed on top.
- Built by an Army general for reviewing troops and watching manoeuvres therefrom; evidenced by the name of an adjoining field "The Barracks."
Despite these and probably other impediments to the recording of barrows, no site should be dismissed without being reported to the Ordnance Survey, local museums or secretaries of local Research Groups. Who knows, it might turn out to be the mound under which Sir John Honeywood buried his favourite horse with a gold sovereign as payment for service (ELMSTED) or the burial place of the golden calf (STELLING MINNIS).