Anglo Saxon Burial Mounds


One of the grass-covered burial mounds. Photograph by Cliff Wilkinson


On the Croom’s Hill side of the park is an Anglo-Saxon burial site. It’s a scheduled monument (a site that’s legally protected), making it recognised as a nationally important archaeological site. The burial site consists of small, raised areas known as burial mounds or barrows and dates to around the 6th-8th centuries – just a century or two after the Romans left Britain. It is thought that there could have been more than 40 barrows originally, but only 31 still survive due to erosion, excavation and damage caused by an aborted attempt to build a reservoir in 1844.

The barrows were first excavated in the early eighteenth century by a keeper named Hearn and then, more thoroughly, in 1784 by the Rev. James Douglas. Items found inside the barrows included glass beads, wool and hair, as well as shields and swords, indicating that these were pagan, not Christian, burials. Unfortunately, most of these finds are now missing, but we know that they date from the early Anglo-Saxon period. It’s possible that the site was used for burials as early as the Bronze Age (roughly 2500-800BC) and that the Anglo-Saxons were simply recycling existing plots.

They might not be the most noticeable feature in the park today, but as a testament to the long interaction between humans and the park, these mounds are a fine example of the historical importance of the area. A tarmac path cutting across the site is being removed, and the original grassland reinstated as part of Greenwich Park Revealed, helping to restore the integrity of the site. Details here