Next to a road junction in the middle of a South London housing estate can be found a Bronze-Age era burial mound.
Other than a sign announcing the fact, and that it’s fenced off, this would otherwise look like an ordinary municipal park, albeit with a big mound in it, but this is ancient heritage.
Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus of burials in later periods.
This part of London is known to have had a cluster of six burial mounds.
Three of them were known to have formed a linear group, with the remaining two possibly forming or contributing to a second group. The barrows would have been located at the ‘false horizon’ position where they could be seen silhouetted against the sky from the foot of the hill. Maps show that in the mid C19 the barrow stood within the grounds of the mid-C19 Tower House, and it is illustrated with a ring of trees – only some of which remain.
Before the area was filled with houses, it was the estate of the Earls of Shrewsbury, whose 18th-century mansion, Shrewsbury House, was replaced in 1923 by a new house of the same name, now a library and community centre.
The grounds of Shrewsbury House were leased for an LCC Open Air School from 1908 and in 1928 the LCC purchased part of the grounds for public open space, which became Shrewsbury Park. In the 1930s remaining areas of the former grounds were developed for housing, notably John Laing and Son’s Shrewsbury Park Estate, designed on Garden City principles.
Just the one burial mound survived, now called Shrewsbury Tumulus after the nearby mansion house.
There is a gate to get onto the tumulus, with two padlocks that are not attached to anything. However, the gate also appears to have rusted shut, so there’s no need for the padlocks anymore.
The interpretation panel at the site of this surviving burial mound notes that the barrow has at some stage been partially excavated, but this activity was not documented.
The site was possibly occupied back in March, as there’s a barely readable legal notice of a court case ordering “persons unknown” to leave the site.
The dead deserve to be left in peace.
Location map and local interesting places
- 8] Greenwich Heritage Centre
- 9] Eltham Palace
- 10] Red House
- 11] Ranger's House (Wernher Collection)
- 12] Royal Observatory Greenwich
- 13] Queen's House
- 14] National Maritime Museum
- 20] Lesnes Abbey