Waulud's Bank

Last updated
Waulud's Bank
Location Leagrave, Luton
Region Bedfordshire, England
Coordinates 51°54′37″N0°27′30″W / 51.91028°N 0.45833°W / 51.91028; -0.45833 Coordinates: 51°54′37″N0°27′30″W / 51.91028°N 0.45833°W / 51.91028; -0.45833
Type Domestic enclosure or Henge
Periods Neolithic
Site notes
Condition ruin

Waulud's Bank is a possible Neolithic henge in Leagrave, Luton dating from 3,000BC.

The Neolithic, the final division of the Stone Age, began about 12,000 years ago when the first development of farming appeared in the Epipalaeolithic Near East, and later in other parts of the world. The division lasted until the transitional period of the Chalcolithic from about 6,500 years ago, marked by the development of metallurgy, leading up to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. In Northern Europe, the Neolithic lasted until about 1700 BC, while in China it extended until 1200 BC. Other parts of the world remained broadly in the Neolithic stage of development, although this term may not be used, until European contact.

Henge Type of Neolithic earthwork

There are three related types of Neolithic earthwork that are all sometimes loosely called henges. The essential characteristic of all three is that they feature a ring-shaped bank and ditch, with the ditch inside the bank. Because the internal ditches would have served defensive purposes poorly, henges are not considered to have been defensive constructions. The three henge types are as follows, with the figure in brackets being the approximate diameter of the central flat area:

  1. Henge (> 20 m). The word henge refers to a particular type of earthwork of the Neolithic period, typically consisting of a roughly circular or oval-shaped bank with an internal ditch surrounding a central flat area of more than 20 m (66 ft) in diameter. There is typically little if any evidence of occupation in a henge, although they may contain ritual structures such as stone circles, timber circles and coves. Henge monument is sometimes used as a synonym for henge. Henges sometimes, but by no means always, featured stone or timber circles, and circle henge is sometimes used to describe these structures. The three largest stone circles in Britain are each in a henge. Examples of henges without significant internal monuments are the three henges of Thornborough Henges. Although having given its name to the word henge, Stonehenge is atypical in that the ditch is outside the main earthwork bank.
  2. Hengiform monument (5 – 20 m). Like an ordinary henge except the central flat area is between 5 and 20 m (16–66 ft) in diameter, they comprise a modest earthwork with a fairly wide outer bank. Mini henge or Dorchester henge are sometimes used as synonyms for hengiform monument. An example is the Neolithic site at Wormy Hillock Henge.
  3. Henge enclosure (> 300 m). A Neolithic ring earthwork with the ditch inside the bank, with the central flat area having abundant evidence of occupation and usually being more than 300 m (980 ft) in diameter. Some true henges are as large as this, but lack evidence of domestic occupation. Super henge is sometimes used as a synonym for a henge enclosure. However, sometimes Super henge is used to indicate size alone rather than use, e.g. "Marden henge ... is the least understood of the four British 'superhenges' (the others being Avebury, Durrington Walls and Mount Pleasant Henge".
Leagrave former village and now a suburb of Luton in Bedfordshire, England

Leagrave is a former village and now a suburb of Luton in Bedfordshire in the northwest of the town. The area is roughly bounded by Vincent Road, Torquay Drive and High Street to the north, Roman Road and Stoneygate Road to the south, the M1 to the west, and Marsh Road and Leagrave Park to the east.

The Waulud's Bank earthworks are in the North of Luton and are situated on the edge of Leagrave common, with Central Leagrave to the south east and Marsh Farm to the west. The River Lea runs alongside on the western side, its source located within the vicinity of the surrounding marsh. Archaeological excavations in 1953, 1971 and 1982 date the site to around 3000 BC, in the Neolithic period, although there was evidence of earlier mesolithic hunter/fisher activity in the immediate area. [1] The 'D' shape of the earthwork is almost identical to that of Marden in Wiltshire, both sites have a river forming one side, and each produced neolithic grooved-ware pottery. Waulud's Bank lies on a glacial ridge near which runs the prehistoric Icknield Way. Initially it was probably a domestic enclosure used for cattle herding. It has been suggested that it later became a henge monument, although the position of its surrounding ditch outside its timber-faced bank would be unusual. Evidence suggests that the site was briefly re-used in the Iron Age, during the Roman occupation and in medieval times.

The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humankind. It was preceded by the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. The concept has been mostly applied to Europe and the Ancient Near East, and, by analogy, also to other parts of the Old World.

The enclosure consists of a bank and external ditch of around 7 hectares with a turf-revetted chalk and gravel bank faced by a wooden stockade. No entrances have been identified. Most external features have been destroyed by a 19th-century gravel quarry on the south, and the irresponsible dumping of tons of chalk and top-soil along the eastern side during building construction of Marsh Farm in the 1970s. Geophysical surveys in July 1985 and January 2009 failed to reveal any very positive indications of internal features.

Marsh Farm

Marsh Farm is a suburb of Luton near to Leagrave and Limbury, mainly of council and social housing. The area is bounded by the edge of Luton to the north, Bramingham Road to the south, Spinney Wood and the path from the wood to the edge of Luton to the west, and Great Bramingham wood to the east.

The bank still stands 2.6 m high in places and on the north side the excavated ditch was 9.2 m wide and 2.1 m deep. Finds included neolithic pottery, animal bones and flint arrow heads (some are on display at Stockwood Heritage Centre,Luton Museum).

Pottery Craft of making objects from clay

Pottery is the process of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired to give them a hard, durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made by a potter is also called a pottery. The definition of pottery used by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), is "all fired ceramic wares that contain clay when formed, except technical, structural, and refractory products." In archaeology, especially of ancient and prehistoric periods, "pottery" often means vessels only, and figures etc. of the same material are called "terracottas". Clay as a part of the materials used is required by some definitions of pottery, but this is dubious.

The building at the edge of Waulud's Bank was a one time farmhouse called Marsh Farm House, the occupants of which owned the area that later became Marsh Farm.

Map showing Wauluds Bank and Leagrave from 1889 Leagrave1889.jpg
Map showing Wauluds Bank and Leagrave from 1889

Myths and legends

The source of the River Lea is known as the 'Five-Springs' and lies in the north-west corner of Wauluds Bank. According to legend, the Celtic god Lug (or Lud or Lyg) presided over the springs.

River Lea River in southern England

The River Lea originates in the Chiltern Hills, England, and flows southeast through east London where it meets the River Thames, the last looping section being known as Bow Creek. It is one of the largest rivers in London and the easternmost major tributary of the Thames. Its valley creates a long chain of marshy ground along its lower length, much of which has been used for gravel and mineral extraction, reservoirs and industry. Much of the river has been canalised to provide a navigable route for boats into eastern Hertfordshire, known as the Lee Navigation. While the lower Lea remains somewhat polluted, its upper stretch and tributaries, classified as chalk streams, are a major source of drinking water for London. A diversion known as the New River, opened in 1613, abstracts clean water away from the lower stretch of the river for drinking. Its origins in the Chilterns contribute to the extreme hardness of London tap water.

Celtic mythology collective term for all the fabulous profane and religious narratives of the Celts

Celtic mythology is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure. For Celts in close contact with Ancient Rome, such as the Gauls and Celtiberians, their mythology did not survive the Roman Empire, their subsequent conversion to Christianity and the loss of their Celtic languages. It is mostly through contemporary Roman and Christian sources that their mythology has been preserved. The Celtic peoples who maintained either political or linguistic identities left vestigial remnants of their ancestral mythologies that were put into written form during the Middle Ages.

Lugh Irish god

Lugh or Lug is one of the most prominent gods in Irish mythology. A member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Lugh is portrayed as a warrior, a king, and a master craftsman. He is associated with high levels of skill and mastery in multiple disciplines, including the arts, the law, and therefore with rightful kingship. Lugh is associated with the harvest festival of Lughnasadh, which bears his name. He corresponds to the pan-Celtic god Lugus, and his Welsh counterpart is Lleu Llaw Gyffes. He is associated with lightning and summer storms. and, less often today, as a sun god. Lugh is known by the epithets Lámfada, Ildánach, Samildánach, Lonnbéimnech, Macnia and Conmac ("hound-son").

Lug is the Celtic god of light, and the name 'Lea' may be derived from this name. The town now known as Luton is named after this river which may mean the river of the god Lugus. Ton is an Anglo-Saxon name for a town or large settlement. So Luton could mean "the town on the river of Lugus", although this is speculation.

The English Heritage record claims that Waulud may be a corruption of the name Wayland (the smith) who was a Norse god, also known as Wolund, Weyland or Weland (see also Wayland's Smithy).

The record also mentions that "some early writers" believed Waulud's Bank to be a place called Lygeanburgh (the similarly sounding Limbury meaning a fortified place on the river Lea is nearby). This was one of four settlements mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle captured by Cuthwulf, (Prince of Wessex) in 571. Lygeanburgh and Limbury were almost certainly the same place, but so far there has been no excavated evidence to link them directly with Waulud's Bank.

There are no foundations for rumours that a substantial Roman villa once existed in Bramingham Road which borders Waulud's Bank. As mentioned above the site is close to the point where the prehistoric Icknield Way fords the river Lea, and about 5 miles (8 km) in distance from Watling Street in Dunstable - also connected with Roman history.

Related Research Articles

A causewayed enclosure is a type of large prehistoric earthwork common to the early Neolithic in Europe. More than 100 examples are recorded in France and 70 in England, while further sites are known in Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Slovakia.

Windmill Hill, Avebury Archaeological type site in England

Windmill Hill is a Neolithic causewayed enclosure in the English county of Wiltshire, part of the Avebury World Heritage Site, about 1 mile (2 km) northwest of Avebury. Enclosing an area of 21 acres (8.5 ha), it is the largest known causewayed enclosure in Britain. The site was first occupied around 3800 BC, although the only evidence is a series of pits apparently dug by an agrarian society using Hembury pottery.

Durrington Walls Neolithic henge monument; stone circle

Durrington Walls is the site of a large Neolithic settlement and later henge enclosure located in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. It lies 2 miles (3.2 km) north-east of Stonehenge in the parish of Durrington, just north of Amesbury.

Maumbury Rings Neolithic henge monument

Maumbury Rings is a Neolithic henge in the south of Dorchester town in Dorset, England. It is a large circular earthwork, 85 metres in diameter, with a single bank and an entrance to the north east. It was modified during the Roman period when it was adapted for use as an amphitheatre, and the site was remodelled again during the English Civil War when it was used as an artillery fort guarding the southern approach to Dorchester. The monument is now a public open space, and used for open-air concerts, festivals and re-enactments.

Mount Pleasant henge Neolithic henge monument

Mount Pleasant henge is a Neolithic henge enclosure in the English county of Dorset. It lies southeast of Dorchester in the civil parish of West Stafford. It still partially survives as an earthwork.


Limbury is a suburb of Luton, and was formerly a village in Bedfordshire before Luton expanded around it. The area is roughly bounded by Bramingham Road to the north, Marsh Road to the south, Bramingham Road to the west, and Catsbrook Road, Runfold Avenue, Grosvenor Road, Bancroft Road and Blundell Road to the east.

Figsbury Ring hillfort in Wiltshire

Figsbury Ring is an 11.2 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Wiltshire, notified in 1975. It is owned and managed by the National Trust.

The Bull Ring Neolithic henge monument

The Bull Ring is a Class II henge that was built in the late Neolithic period near Dove Holes in Derbyshire, England.

History of Luton History of Luton, in Bedfordshire, England

This article is about the History of Luton, a large town located in the south of Bedfordshire, England.

Earthworks (archaeology) General term to describe artificial changes in land level

In archaeology, earthworks are artificial changes in land level, typically made from piles of artificially placed or sculpted rocks and soil. Earthworks can themselves be archaeological features, or they can show features beneath the surface.

Black Ditches, Cavenham

Black Ditches is an earthwork close to the village of Cavenham of Suffolk, and part of it is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The earthwork is 4.5 miles long between the River Lark at Lackford and the Icknield Way. It is described by Historic England as probably of post-Roman date, and "a typical Dark Ages boundary earthwork placed astride the Icknield Way". Two sections of ditch remain visible, one to the north-east of the village and one to the south-east, covering a total of 4.5 miles (7.2 km). An 730 yards (670 m) stretch south of Cavenham is designated as an SSSI.

Marden Henge Neolithic henge monument

Marden Henge is the largest Neolithic henge enclosure discovered to date in the United Kingdom. The monument is northeast of the village of Marden, Wiltshire, within the Vale of Pewsey and between the World Heritage sites of Avebury and Stonehenge.

Devils Quoits Neolithic henge monument; stone circle

The Devil's Quoits is a henge and stone circle to the south of the village of Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire, England. The site is believed to be from the Neolithic Period, between 4000 and 5000 years old, and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The Quoits were restored between 2002 and 2008, with stones which had been knocked over or had fallen over being re-uprighted, and the surrounding earthworks re-built.

Drove Cottage Henge Neolithic henge monument

Drove Cottage Henge is a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the Priddy parish of Somerset, England. It is located 370 metres (1,210 ft) north of Drove Cottage. The site is a ceremonial Neolithic location. Since this henge is one of only around 80 henges throughout England, it is considered to be nationally important.

Knowlton Circles Neolithic henge monument

Knowlton Circles are a complex of henges and earthworks in Knowlton, Dorset, England. The henge enclosing Knowlton Church is the best known and best preserved, but there are at least two other henges in the vicinity as well as numerous round barrows.