Just Who Were The First People To Settle In South Willingham?

Photograph taken in 1952 showing L-R John Lawler, David Jobson and Peter Lawler. The house shown in the background is Pump Hill Cottage

Photograph taken in 1952 showing L-R John Lawler, David Jobson and Peter Lawler. The house shown in the background is Pump Hill Cottage

This article is in memory of our cousin David who passed away in 2010 aged 63. The photograph was taken in 1952 when he was 5 and I was 11, whilst my brother was 13. The photo was taken in the rear garden of his parent’s house (Freda and Henry Jobson) that is now known as Pump Hill Cottage. We had recently seen a film by John Ford called ‘The Quiet Man’ starring John Wayne and we dressed to mimic the characters. The film was located in Ireland, involved lots of fist fighting, and the main male characters wore an Irish version of tam o’ shanters. During our regular summer breaks to South Willingham, from the industrial suburbs of Lancashire, the three of us acted out a variety of fantasy games that were so typical of this age. One place we frequently visited was the woods, which can be accessed at the end of Moors Lane, but our usual route was down Fred Bett’s field, at the side of our house, and up through two more fields to the edge of the woods. At the end of the Moors Lane access point, and in the open glade in the woods, was a sandpit that was full of sand martin nests that we reveled in watching. Opposite this sandpit was a large tall “sausage shaped” hill covered in bracken that became a battlefield for our games.

As our lives moved into the early 60’s, my brother and I became consumed by further education and our visits to South Willingham were much less frequent. Meanwhile David continued to play with his South Willingham friends and it was during the 1960’s that David was once again playing in the sandpit by the woods, when he found what appeared to be two clay beakers and he carried them carefully home. It was very apparent that the two objects were very old and that he should take them to the museum in Lincoln for assessment. This article relates to the efforts of my brother in contacting the Lincoln museum by e-mails that are reproduced here and interspersed with our own observations and comments that are our personal views.


John Lawler  to …. Collections Officer
The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire

Dear Sir or Madam,
I am trying to find out some information about 2 ‘Beaker’ pots that my cousin David Jobson, (now sadly deceased), found in South Willingham on the Heneage estate many years ago and which he took to the museum. I wonder if you still have them and if you might have a photograph, (we have never seen them). They were found in a sandpit near a large earth mound that we jokingly said was a burial mound from a battle. It was densely overgrown with bracken and we used to fight our own battles there. Were you able at the time to carry out any other excavations, or find any other artifacts in the area? I would be very grateful for any information you might be able to provide me with.


John Lawler


Dear Mr. Lawler,

Thank you for your email regarding the beakers from South Willingham, discovered in the 1960s by your cousin David Jobson. The complete Bronze Age handled beaker was discovered along with shards from an ordinary beaker, which was restored. I am pleased to be able to tell you that both are still in the museum collections, and are on display in The Collection museum in Lincoln. There is no one at the museum now that would have visited the site, but I have found some information from the Historic Environment Record about the original find of the two beakers, and attach it to this email. Apparently no other artifacts were found in relation to these beakers, but other Bronze Age and Neolithic finds have been discovered in the surrounding area, see excel list attached [shown below the photographs]. I have attached two photographs, one of each of the beakers. If you are ever able to visit the museum, you will be able to see them on display. I hope this information is of interest to you.

Best wishes

…Collections Officer

Beaker Pottery found in South Willingham and on show at The Collection in Lincoln

Beaker Pottery found in South Willingham and on show at The Collection in Lincoln

Beaker Pottery found in South Willingham and on show at The Collection in Lincoln

Beaker Pottery found in South Willingham and on show at The Collection in Lincoln


The 2 beakers found by David Jobson. The one on the left with a handle was complete, whilst the one on the right was re-constructed from the broken pieces alongside.


Bronze Age and Neolithic Finds in South Willingham Area


Lincolnshire HER Monument Report

HER Number Site Name Record Type 40554 – MLI40554

Shards of an ordinary beaker and all of a handled beaker were found in old sandpit at South Willingham

Monument Types and Dates

FINDSPOT (Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age – 3000 BC to 1501 BC)

Description and Sources

Shards of an ordinary beaker and all of a handled beaker except for its handle were found in old sandpit when the face collapsed after heavy rain. The writer K. Wood and A. Page visited the site, with the finder and further shards and the handle of the beaker were found. Apparently, the two beakers had originally been about two feet below the ground surface. There were no traces, however, of a structure, burial or other archaeological material. The ordinary beaker was restored by the Institute of Archaeology, London, and D. Clark, Peterhouse College, Cambridge, reported on the two beakers as follows: ‘the handled beaker from South Willingham displays a shape, zonal style and motif assemblage matched only in the southern British beaker assemblage (roughly Abercromby’s group A). This southern British beaker assemblage is an indigenous development apparently first becoming a coherent tradition around the fen margins of East Anglia, integrating the new feature of the intrusive northern British/Dutch beaker groups (Abercromby group C) and the residual local beaker settlers of the earlier phases (Abercromby group B). The southern British beaker assemblage first appears in the fen margin region around 1700-1600BC and expands vigorously throughout England, developing a changing motif, style and shape tradition that can usefully be divided into four successive and continuous phases – primary, developed, late and final southern beaker groups (S1, S2, S3, S4). The late and final southern beakers postdate the developing Wessex sub-culture to the south-east and consequently survive late in the eastern counties along the North Sea coast, finally integrating in the biconical urn traditions around 1450-1400BC handled beakers appear to have been an ordinary everyday part of the domestic assemblage of the southern British beaker group. However, they are unknown from the primary phase as indeed they are from the whole of the complementary northern British beaker assemblage found from Yorkshire to Scotland (N1, N2, N3, N4). About 86 handled beakers survive, the majority in sherds, all from the southern British beaker group and most densely clustered in the eastern counties – particularly Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. These handled southern British beakers (SH) fall roughly into three main classes; cylindrical/barrel-shaped, funnel-neck shape with the handle applied, and finally the biconical/collared shape. A close study of the motif assemblage, styling and shape correlations, together with association and stratigraphic evidence, agree in showing the funnel-neck type as most frequent in developed southern beaker contexts and settlements (S2) and the collared/ biconical form most commonly in late and final southern beaker assemblages (S3, S4). Significantly enough, the most wooden looking type – the cylindrical/barrel handled beakers, occur throughout the whole sequence from developed to final southern phases. Taken together with the total absence of primary southern British handled beakers one might usefully surmise that the handled beaker tradition was stimulated by and ran contemporarily with a similar series of wooden drinking mugs. The South Willingham handled beaker is clearly of the cylindrical/barrel ‘wooden’ group and shares its decorated base with at least four more vessels of this class from Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, Fordham, Sible Hedingham, Essex, and Aldro, Yorkshire, the closest parallel being the Fordham vessel. The ‘all-over’ vertical chevrons suggest a late date in the series – perhaps in a late or final southern beaker assemblage of about 1150-1400BC.

Sources: (1) Article in serial: Whitwell, J.B 1966. Lincolnshire History and Archaeology Volume 1 Number 1 pages 34 to 35 (2) Index SMR File. South Willingham. TF28SW:G,1964, Whitwell, J.B. (3) Artefact: 1964. City and County Museum Collection 1964. LCNCC 1964.38 and 38a. National Grid Reference: TF 2013 8439  map sheet TF28SW. Administrative Areas: Civil Parish South Willingham, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire. Other Statuses and Cross-References: Sites and Monument Record – 40554, Active Site Number – 40554 Active. Associated Finds: FLI2881 Beaker (2) (Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age – 3000 BC to 1501 BC). Protected Status: SHINE.


OS map showing several tumulus in the area

OS map showing several tumulus in the area

The map is marked in red as “beakers found here” and shows in red several tumulus (burial chambers) and numbers, presumably references to other finds in the South Willingham area. To the left of the red triangle marking “beakers found here” is a T-junction roadway, which I believe is the end section of Moors Lane that leads out to the Willingham/Hainton Road just above the Parish Hall. I think the horizontal road below the woods, with a farm entrance off it is Donnington Road. We would normally go to the woods across the fields above the farm shown above and enter them into area 84. There was a pathway through the woods to the left that followed the adjoining field fence and this led into the narrower strip of woods that ended close to the Moors lane junction and the red triangle. The sausage shaped contour line between the woods and the red triangle is the mound that we played on with our battle games. My brother and I have long debated the possibility of this sausage shaped mound being a burial chamber (barrow). The image below has been extracted from Google Maps and clearly shows the sausage shaped hill and the outline of the sandpit (in the upper LH corner).

A Google Earth map showing the sandpit and mound where the Beaker Pottery was found

A Google Earth map showing the sandpit and mound where the Beaker Pottery was found

The historic and environment record of the pottery examination shows that the motif Decoration, and their size and shape, classifies them as being made by members of one of the Beaker tribes that were roaming around Europe in the 1150-1400 BC period. The absence of other finds or archaeological features in the area suggest that the Beaker person or people who were the owners of the pottery were probably there for a specific reason. They perhaps hid the beakers in the sand pit with a view to return at a later date. Suspicion must fall on the sausage shaped hill seen in the photo, that this perhaps is a burial mound of some type. In further e-mail inquiries about the hill, my brother received the following information.

On 2 November 2011 12:28, the Senior Historic Environment Record Officer wrote:

Dear Mr Lawler,

[I have been asked]… whether we have any information on the mound in South Willingham parish, which you asked her about. I have had a look in our files and have found the following information. This mound is an interesting feature in the landscape and has been referred to by walkers over many years. It is mentioned in the book “Rambles in Lincolnshire” by Bernard Reeves published in 1936, a guide book by the London and North Eastern Railway.

The book contains a number of rambles between railway stations. In this book it is described as a huge earth mound. It has been suggested that it is man-made and is a Neolithic long barrow but recent research on long barrows has established that it is very unlikely to be a long barrow. Rather it is now thought to be a natural hill. It is similar to several other such geological features found in the general area of the Lymn valley. The top has a hard protective capping of younger rock that has preserved the hill shape and below this capping the main slope of the hill is formed of softer stone. If it is a natural hill there is, of course, no reason why prehistoric peoples could not have used it and even adapted it for their own purposes. It has been a prominent ridge for many generations and will have been climbed and played upon by children through the ages just as you did yourself.
I hope this information is of interest to you.

Yours sincerely
…Senior Historic Environment Record Officer

This response perhaps errs on the side of disbelief but my brother and I prefer to stick to our childhood memories. Given the large amount of Tumuli in the area, the unusual geological content and the specific shape of the mound, together with the lack of other isolated natural hillocks, it suggests that the Environmental authorities do not want to give any hint of what may be reality, in the hope that this will deter any un-authorised random excavations by illegal treasure seekers. Information about Early Bronze Age Britain, in approximately 2,300 BC to 1,200 BC, and the Beaker people, provides an insight into the people who, it seems were some of the first people to live in South Willingham. It is believed that the beginning of the Bronze Age in Britain was brought about by the arrival of a new immigrant culture from central Europe. These tribes are known as the Beaker People, being identified by their unique pottery and are an important link between the evolution of the Stone Age people and the more technically able people who developed the use of the metal industries. It has been shown that many members of the Beaker tribes took part in the construction of Stonehenge. It was these Beaker People who were responsible for the proliferation in the landscape of round Barrows in which many examples of their domestic pottery, tools and weapons have been found including pottery jars, brooches and buckles made from gold, bronze daggers, cups, necklaces, and personal adornments made from various stones and precious materials. The placing of grave goods, including human bones (incomplete skeletons), seems to confirm they maintained a belief in the afterlife and, as burial sites are also grouped around henges and stone circles, there was also present a complex system of belief/religion. Stone monuments existed long before the arrival of these people but it was during the Bronze Age that they reached their zenith. The relationship between the 2 beakers and the sausage shaped earth mound needs a closer examination. It is unlikely that the 2 beakers were lost or left behind and forgotten by two visitors to the area. If they were visiting the mound, what was the significance of their visit and that of the mound? The sausage shaped configuration might suggest that it was an early barrow and that the beakers were intended to be placed inside the barrow, probably amongst other grave goods. The fact that the mound points in a NE by SW alignment, rather than a “Christian” E by W alignment is probably irrelevant, given that Christ had not been born. However the Beaker tribe people did have a strong belief in the afterlife and the placing of valued items and even parts of skeletons as gifts to a revered god into barrow mounds is well documented. My brother and I believe that the beakers are associated with the features of the mound as described above and that the Lincolnshire Council’s response is intended to avoid the interests of amateur archaeologists and metal detector aficionados from damaging the site. What we do however know is that Beaker people were roaming the land around South Willingham, in an area where evidence of ancient tribes is abundant. So what would have attracted them to South Willingham. Well we must instantly forget about the peaceful village that we all know so well, it just did not exist 2,500 years ago. My own vision would be a wooded valley with a river or stream that flowed down the area now occupied by Station Road. The rising land on both sides of Station Road suggests that the Station Road levels would have been river banks which attracted water flows from around the area down to the Railway Bridge by the old station. The area would have been well wooded and the soil richly fertilised in this area. Hence it would have supported a lot of wildlife including, deer, boar and even wolves. It was therefore a richly stocked wildlife supermarket that would have encouraged people to settle. With this vision in mind perhaps you can conjure up your own vision of who most probably wandered through that area of land that is now your own garden.

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