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Six Hills

From Academic Kids

The Six Hills, April 2004
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The Six Hills, April 2004
The Six Hills are a collection of Roman barrows situated alongside the Great North Road in Stevenage, Hertfordshire UK. They are classed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are protected by law. Beside their historical significance, they lend their name to an important thoroughfare in the town (Six Hills Way) and are something of a local landmark.

A brief history of the Hills

For almost two thousand years travellers along the Roman road that eventually became the Great North Road, have passed these six large mounds. Their origin and purpose has been the subject of much speculation.

Local legend holds that they were the work of the Devil, who, sitting one day looking down on the Great North Road, began to amuse himself by heaving clods of earth at the passers-by. He missed six times and in a temper threw a seventh clod over his shoulder, hitting the spire of Graveley church and knocking it askew. The spire is crooked to this day. The holes in Whomerley Wood show where the Devil dug out his missiles, and the six failed shots lie in a line alongside the road and form the six hills.

In fact, the Six Hills are almost certainly Roman burial mounds, dating from about 100 A.D., and probably mark the cremated remains of a wealthy local family. The ashes would have been placed in a container along with objects for use in the next world.

No recent scientific archaeological excavation has been carried out on the Hills but they have all been dug into in the past. These early investigations found only "...a few pieces of wood and a piece of iron...", which were dismissed at the times, but probably were the remains of the original burials. Other reports of damage include the farmer who was carting soil away from the Hills in 1750, and an attempted widening of the Great North Road in about 1820. Over the years, the Hills have all lost over four feet in height.
The Six Hills, April 2004
Enlarge
The Six Hills, April 2004

The site's significance

The grass around the burial mounds is of considerable age. It includes species such as bird's-foot trefoil, mouse-ear hawkweed, harebells, whitlow grass, and slender clover, which are not found in the more modern grasslands nearby.

The Six Hills are of the greatest importance. They form the most complete Roman barrow group in the country, and stand in the very front rank of England's archaeological heritage. This is reflected in their designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which means they are protected by law. It is an offence to damage them and metal detecting is also prohibited.

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