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 Location: Near Nev's Place, Luton, Bedfordshire.  Grid Reference: 51 54' 37" N, 0 27'  30" W.

 

      Waulud's Bank: (Henge).

The site has generally been regarded as a Neolithic Henge-type enclosure (3) It lies less than a mile from the prehistoric Icknield Way as well as sitting on the St. Michael's Leyline.

It is on the site  of five springs that form the source of the river Lea. It is reputed in legend to be the place where Lugh, the Celtic god drank from and which gave him his powers (2). Hence speculation on the origin of the name (i.e. Lugh-town or Lea-town).

(O/S Map of Waulud's Bank 1889)

 

 

   Waulud's Bank:
 

The Waulud's Bank Henge lies on the western edge of the Marsh Farm Estate in Leagrave, Luton (near to Nev's place). As well as sitting alongside the prehistoric Icknield Way, and on the St. Michael's Ley, five springs issue from a basin ten feet deep and a hundred feet wide at the northern end of the enclosure and these springs form the River Lea (1)

Archaeological excavations in 1954 and 1970/71 date the site to around 3,000 B.C. in the Neolithic period (2), although there was evidence of earlier Mesolithic hunter/fisher activity in the immediate area. Grooved ware pottery shards were recovered from the ditch fill and at ground level under the bank (3)

The western side of the enclosure south of the Lea is now occupied by Marsh Farm, obliterating the ancient features. Interestingly, William Austin in his 1928 History of Luton records another bank outside the ditch at this point.

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.  The enclosure consisted of a bank and external ditch of around 7 hectares with a chalk and gravel bank surrounding the source of the river Lea. No entrances have been identified, although in 1953 it was hypothesized that it may have been at the northern end where a track enters the site (1)

The Council for British Archaeology's Group 9 Newsletter Number 2 (page 5) of 1972 has a short piece on a recent excavation of Waulud's Bank prior to construction of a dual carriageway. The article, again written by James Dyer, states: "The 1971 excavation confirmed that the whole earthwork was Neolithic in date. Its ditch, 6 feet deep and 30 feet wide was flat-bottomed. The material excavated from it had been piled up to form a bank, the front of which was revetted with turves. There were no indications of retaining posts (though one hole was found in 1953). Sealed below the bank were pieces of Windmill Hill pottery, including a lug, other decorated Neolithic sherds, a selection of flint work (including a leaf-shaped arrowhead), and many domestic and wild animal bones". (1)

Most external features have been destroyed by medieval ploughing  a 19th century gravel quarry on the south, the building of the Marsh Farm Estate itself ( including dumping tons of chalk and top-soil along the eastern side during building construction in the 1970s) (2). Geophysical surveys in June 1970 and January 2009 failed to reveal any very positive indications of internal features.

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 of which are on display at Stockwood Heritage Centre, Luton Museum).

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. '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 therefore Luton could mean 'the town on the river of Lugus', although this is open to 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.

(More about Wayland's Smithy)

(Other Henges)

(The St. Michael's Leyline)

(Other Prehistoric English Sites)

 

 

 

References:

1). http://www.bedfordshire.gov.uk/CommunityAndLiving/ArchivesAndRecordOffice/CommunityArchives/Luton/WauludsBank.aspx
2). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waulud's_Bank
3). http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=359652
 

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