University of Reading archaeologists claim that Slough’s Montem Mound is an Anglo-Saxon burial mound similar to the famous Sutton Hoo.
The mound, which was thought to be a Norman castle ruin, is likely to mark the resting place of someone of high status and could contain artefacts.
Dr Jim Leary, the University of Reading archaeologist who led the investigation in December 2016, said: “Conventional wisdom placed the Montem Mound 500 years later, in the Norman period. But we have shown that it dates to between the 5th and 7th centuries, not long after the collapse of Roman Empire.
This places Slough slap bang in the middle of the time historians claim is a likely period for the legendary King Arthur. Although the Saxons were the bad-guys in that particular story.
“This is a time of heroic myth and legend where archaeology fills the gaps of the historic record. This discovery will add so much more to our understanding of the people who lived in Britain at this time. It will also extend our knowledge of the history of Slough.”
The mound is already a statutory Scheduled Ancient Monument which protects it from development. The archaeological investigations at the site were agreed with Historic England, and consent was granted by the Secretary of State. It is managed as a historical feature as part of Slough Borough Council’s parks and open spaces services. The Council is already preparing an enhancement scheme with an interpretation board so that everyone can understand the importance and history of this special green mound.
The discovery was made during a Leverhulme Trust-funded project called the Round Mounds project. It is using a novel technique to drill into and date mottes in England for the first time, to learn more about when they were built. This technique enables vital information to be gathered whilse causing minimal harm to these precious archaeological sites.
Dr Jim Leary added: “We tested material from all through the mound, so we are confident that it dates to the Saxon period. Given the dates of the mound, its size and dimensions, and the proximity to the known richly-furnished Saxon barrow at Taplow, it seems most likely that Montem Mound is a prestigious Saxon burial mound.”
Since the 16th century the mound was used for Eton College’s ‘Montem’ ceremony. The ceremony was held annually from the founding of Eton College until the late 18th century, after which time the event was held triennially until it was abolished in 1847. It involved a procession to the mound of school boys in fancy or military dress, and the collection and giving of ‘salt’ and money from visitors and passers-by.
While those interested in King Arthur are likely to make a pilgrimage to Glastonbury, we doubt that Slough, which the poet Sir John Betjeman, CBE wanted bombed and is only famous otherwise as the place where Uranus was discovered, will ever attract the hippies.