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Kent Archaeological Review extract

A Search for a Giants Grave.
by Don Smith.

A few centuries ago it seems to have been customary to refer to tumuli or barrows as Giants Graves and there are references on maps and documents which give a clue to their situation. The term seems to imply that it was then thought that persons of abnormal size were buried in these graves but we know that they contain remains of humans similar to present day man! It may be that our forefathers only meant to convey that the size of the mound was giant compared will the small heaps they knew in medieval churchyards.

A Giants Grave at Hythe is shown on a "Map of Seacoast within the Royalty of Folkestone" circa 1698 of which the Folkestone Reference Library possess a photograph copy. This shows Seabrook Road running on the top of a wide shingle beach at the foot of cliffs, with Red House, the Summer Stone and Newing ton Pound on the north side. On the south side a little east of the Pound a pointer oblong marks the grave. Like many other ancient maps this is copiously illustrated with pictures and in particular, churches are shown by an elevation drawing anc streets are lined with views of the gables and roofs of the houses. All this has led to distortion and although the map is reasonably proportioned it is not drawn accurately to scale. By comparing the inches measured on the map between build. ings which exist at the present day (as for example Folkestone and Hythe Churches) with the miles and yards scaled from modern maps one can say that the scale of the photographed copy is about 1 inch to 685 yards. Using this scale to transfer the distance of the Giants Grave from Folkestone Church gives a location at the junction of Earlsfield Road with Seabrook Road. A check measurement from Hythe Church shows it 200 yards further east so there is a substantial margin of error.

However it is possible to be more precise because Number 47 Seabrook Road is known as Pound Cottage and the owner knows that it is 300 years old and so existed when the map of 1698 was drawn. It adjoined the former Newington Pound, the name of which is at first puzzling. Newington village is a considerable distance from Hythe but formerly there was a detached portion of the parish extending from the millstream at Hythe eastward along the seacoast. A measurement based on Pound Cottage would give a location for the grave about 70 yards to the east and the fact that the cottage is still in the same position relative to Seabrook Road shows that the route of the road has not changed at this point. Accordingly one would look for the Grave on the south side of Seabrook Road a little to the east of Earlsfield Road.

A search for further information then followed. Neither Hills Hythe Hospital Map of 1684 nor Andrews, Drury and Herberts map of 1769 show the Giants Grave or the Summer Stone. The 1 inch to 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map circa 1816 provides no clue but there is a reference in volume 24 of Charles Igglesden's Saunter through Kent with Pen and Pencil which quotes Leland (the Kent Historian 1506 to 1562) and says that "There were four churches in Hythe . .. The fourth stood in the borders of the parish of Newington just north of Seabrook Road and here skulls have been dug up." This church seems to have been near to the Giants Grave but the reference to skulls is quite appropriate to a medieval churchyard and probably has no connection with a barrow.

There is a photograph (circa 1893) in Folkestone Library showing Pound Cottage as a three storey building facing an open field. No mound is visible but due to the small scale of the photograph this is not entirely conclusive. Finally there is an article in the Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate and Cheriton Herald, of November 7th, 1925, by W H Elgar, a local historian of Folkestone which says "Newington Pound will be remembered by many yet. It adjoined the stone built cottage near Cannon Gate House; but Summer Stone is not known to the writer who has tried on several occasions to locate the Giants Grave." Mr Elgar evidently had access to the original map at the Manor Office from which the Folkestone Library photograph was taken because a reproduction of part of the map accompanies his article.

Despite this discouragement from Mr Elgar I visited the site but found nothing for a distance of 250 yards east of Earlsfield Road. The area is completely built up with houses and the Royal Military Canal is at the rear of the houses. The construction of either could have resulted in the removal of an unwanted mound of earth. The pointed oblong on the map of Seacoast would scale over 100 yards in length and so suggests a long barrow but one suspects that the size is exaggerated. When the map was drawn the site was on a beach and this is not a situation likely to attract barrow builders as suitable for an interment. If not a barrow a fanciful thought comes to mind -- could it have been a ship burial? Equally it could have been a midden or rubbish dump. One can only say that a 17th century cartographer saw it and thought it was a Giants Grave.

I considered deeply whether anything more could be done to pinpoint the site which would perhaps lead to an archaeological dig. Is there a construction plan for the Military Canal still preserved somewhere? Do the deed plans for the houses show anything? I rememberd that Mr Elgar had tried on several occasions to find the grave and if he could not do so was I likely to succeed nearly fifty years later.

Unless some more information turns up I doubt if anyone will ever do so.

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