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Monument record MDR4288 - Viking barrow cemetery, Heath Wood, Ingleby

Type and Period (2)

  • (Saxon - 850 AD to 900 AD)
  • (Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age - 1000 BC to 401 BC)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

Thomas Bateman described the barrow cemetery in the mid-19th century, where he noted more than fifty mounds located in a plantation known as 'The Ferns' near Foremark Hall. He opened five mounds on May 22 1855 and found that in each case the mound had been raised over cremated human bones. He recorded little in the way of finds and considered that 'no great variation of date, if any, existed as to their age', attributing them to 'a sanguinary conflict between the Saxons and their Danish enemies'. (1) The Pagan-Danish barrow-cemetery at Heath Wood, Ingleby (see plans A0/LP/63/163 & 164) has been dated between AD 878 and 900 by Shetelig (2), Clarke & Fraser (3) and Wainwright (4). Eight mounds were excavated between 1941 and 1949 (2,5) and in 1955 the Ministry of Works excavated and levelled seven outlying barrows preparatory to re-afforestation by the Forestry Commission. A well-cut V-shaped linear ditch was found in 1955 below Mounds 9 and 12 (see plan A0/LP/63/163), thought to date to a period immediately before their erection. (6, 7) Scheduled. (8) The area of this cemetery is densely covered by afforestation and high undergrowth, it is possible to identify isolated mounds only adjacent to the fire breaks and survey is not possible without extensive clearing. (9) Early in 1993 RCHME conducted an earthwork survey of the cemetery. (11) This showed that the barrows cluster into four distinct spatial groups with only a few isolated barrows lying between these groups. It also showed that this clustered distribution within the cemetery is real and not the product of differential survival. In addition, the survey indicated that some barrows were built with encircling ditches whilst others very clearly were constructed without. It has been argued that many of the Ingleby graves involved a burial rite in which the deceased were cremated upon sections of planking derived from boats and that this rite should be seen as a token form of ship burial. (12) In 1998-2000 two further mounds (nos 50 and 56) were excavated by JD Richards (York University) and Marcus Jecock (English Heritage). In mound 50 fragments of cow skull, possibly from funeral feasting, directly overlay a cremation layer. Below this was a spread of charcoal and cremated bone, representing an adult with an infant or juvenile, and a number of cremated animal offerings. In addition, a large number of iron nails and tacks, representing at least three wooden objects, were recovered, as well as a silver mount, probably a hilt guard from a sword. A platform had been made for the pyre by digging a ring ditch, leaving two causeways for access. A clean layer of sand had then been dumped and the pyre had been built on this sand surface. In mound 56, a patch of charcoal and burnt human bone was found, together with a ring headed pin. There was no trace of a pyre in this mound. These excavations confirmed Heath Wood as a Viking cemetery of 9th century date, probably representing a single generation buried in the last quarter of the 9th century. (13) A full report on the 1998-2000 excavations has now been published. It includes a reconsideration of the relationship of the cemetery to the neighbouring site at Repton. The cemetery comprises at least sixty burials, of which a third had been cremated in situ, but the remaining two-thirds of which may represent people who had died at some distance and whose ashes had been brought to Heath Wood. They were cremated with items of personal dress and weaponry; the grave offerings include both sacrificial animals as well as food offerings. The cemetery is reinterpreted as representing the principal war cemetery of the Viking Great Army, probably maintained by a garrison force, which remained in Repton. The pre-cemetery use of the site was also considered, following excavations of a further section of V-shaped ditch and it was concluded that it represented part of a land boundary rather than a defensive feature, as it cut across the contours. The hill was therefore part of a prehistoric field system in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age as indicated also by a few pottery sherds. (14)

Sources/Archives (14)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Bateman, T. 1861. Ten Years' Diggings in Celtic and Saxon Grave Hills. pp 92-93.
  • <2> Bibliographic reference: Shetelig, M. 1940. Viking Antiquities of Great Britain and Ireland. Part VI, 77-79, 91.
  • <3> Article in serial: Clarke, C & Fraser, W. 1946. 'Excavation of pagan burial mounds: Ingleby, Derbyshire', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 66, pp 1-23.
  • <4> Article in serial: Wainwright, F. 1947. 'Early Scandinavian settlement in Derbyshire', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 67, pp 96-119.
  • <5> Article in serial: Clarke, C, Fraser, W, & Monslow, F. 1949. 'Excavation of pagan burial mounds at Ingleby', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 69, pp78-81.
  • <6> Article in serial: Posnansky, M. 1955. 'The pagan Danish barrow cemetery at Heath Wood, Ingleby', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 75, pp 140-144.
  • <7> Article in serial: Posnansky, M. 1956. 'The pagan Danish barrow cemetery at Heath Wood, Ingleby, 1955 excavations', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 76, pp 40-56.
  • <8> Scheduling record: A.M's Eng Wales 1961 32 (M.O.W.).
  • <9> Personal Observation: F1 FDC 03-JAN-67.
  • <10> Bibliographic reference: Marsden, B. 1977. The Burial Mounds of Derbyshire. p64.
  • <11> Unpublished document: RCHME. 1994. Archaeological Survey Report, Heath Wood, Ingleby, Derbys., NMR no: SK 32 NW 2.
  • <12> Article in serial: Richards, JD, Jecock, M, Richmond, L & Tuck, C. 1995. 'The Viking barrow cemetery at Heath Wood, Ingleby, Derbyshire', Medieval Archaeology. Vol. 39, pp 51-70.
  • <13> Article in serial: Richards, J. 2003. 'Heath Wood, Ingleby', Current Archaeology. No. 184, pp 170-173.
  • <14> Article in serial: Richards, J D. 2004. 'Excavations at the Viking barrow cemetery at Heath Wood, Ingleby, Derbyshire', The Antiquaries Journal. Volume 84, pp 23-116.



Grid reference Centred SK 341 259 (299m by 217m) (Centre)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (6)

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Record last edited

Jul 15 2014 4:35PM

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