Tag Archives: Wigber Low

Wigber Low

The area this farm sits on is particularly rich in traces of the past — with two mounds here, and Wigber Low just across the road. It’s a fascinating site, and unlike the mounds here (descriptions upcoming), was excavated in the early 70s and a monograph published/edited by John Collis.

I got the story of how this happened — an amateur (and now accredited) archeologist and son of the farmer down the village took his metal detector up there and found some precious metals — the dagger perhaps? I can’t remember all of the story, I apologise I was too tired to blog this right away. He let local archeologists know of his finds, and that there was more to be found — did they come look and find some gold perhaps? How can I not remember? But I don’t. Still, the upshot is that a Derby paper got hold of it and printed a small story about gold found on Wigber Low, and the next weekend there were carloads of treasure hunters coming up from the city…thus this emergency excavation took place lead by the University of Sheffield to rescue it, and it was so rich it was continued for several seasons.

A picture from the excavation:


Pictures from my own visit — approaching it from the other side of the wall you see in this photo:

Wigber Low

And now facing in this same direction. The nicer direction. The view they gave their dead, with another burial sight in the distance — the largest in the area — Minning Low. This is the best place to really feel sure you have found it:

Wigber Low

And the full view from atop what I do believe was one of the mounds, but there isn’t honestly too much to see:

Wigber Low

It really is stunning.

wigber lowIt’s very technical this book, and represents the collective analysis of many different people looking at the evidence collected here — often in the pouring rain and high wind. It is highly descriptive — both in terms of methodological jargon and findings. I did very much love how much reflection was included — problems in the evidence, places where human error was introduced, things that could have been done better. How better to make use of very early computing and data systems. I feel for them, some things are easier now.

But the meaning of this site and the glimpses of the lives of those buried here remain almost as buried in these pages as the objects among the stones for a slightly voyeuristic enthusiast such as myself. They come through briefly, like a bit of sun. The small spear, perhaps belonging to a child. The amber bead. The fact that light spears were probably carried by women, and they were buried with them, as well as knives. A male and female buried along with a side of beef…

It is clear this site had meaning to the people living in this area for a very long time — there are layers of ceremony and human activity. Found here was a flat-topped stone platform — the first place identified where the dead were left exposed in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age. There are a scattering of teeth and phalanges — and likely that larger bones were removed to be reburied (collections of such mingled bones of the ancestors have been found in barrows), though it was not discovered where they were interred. The cairn was made larger at some point, but they could not be sure when. Possibly the bronze age. The bones of at least 30 individuals were found here.

It was used in the iron age and Roman period as well, possibly some folks lived up here, but just as likely it was just some poor dude sat on the hill watching sheep.  I feel for him too.

But most interesting, is that seven Anglo-Saxon burials were also found here, cut into the cairn. Probably a family group. They were partially excavated in the 19th century — like the ones here on the farm — with just a shaft sunk down, disturbing lots and dragging forth some treasure that now sits in the British Museum.

These are, of course, the graves that yield the most information about the people within them. But still, it is so little…but they felt some connection to this mound created by much earlier peoples to desire burial here, and they were not alone in this as other Anglo Saxon burials have been found cut into neolithic cairns.

This was also a site of medieval lead working, with numerous pits dug into the hill, and smelting happening on its top. Slag thus mingles with the other remains.

I felt I didn’t quite know enough to glean much from the expert discussions, but it was interesting to see how many people contributed to elucidating what the excavations produced, as well as the main sections examined: human remains; environment and subsistence; pottery; stone objects; metal, bone and glass; coins; lead working.

One last note, the earliest mention of the name Wigber Low is from a manuscript found in Belvoir Castle, dated about 1230 — it is named Wygebericlow. -ber perhaps relates to a barrow, low to hlaw or mound, and Wig from personal name Wicga.

One last look — the view behind me of Wigber Low’s sharp profile as I carried on my way:

Wigber Low







Walk: Wigber Low – Tissington – Fenny Bentley – Ashbourne – Kniveton

This was longer again than it was supposed to be, I missed the bus in Ashbourne by five minutes, and on a Sunday that is no joke.

Wigber Low was amazing and I’ll write more about it — neolithic grave platform and two tumuli, Roman remains and Anglo-Saxon burials and lead smelting, amazing.

Down to Bradbourne Mill, which was beautiful, over to Tissington, a planned estate village and very twee  — much like that of Chatsworth House though not quite as grand. But it is also full of wells and traditions of dressing the wells, which was cool. Lots of Brexit signs. I am still regretting not getting pasties or a pie from the butchers. I did, however, visit the sweet shop.

Down to Fenny Bentley past a much more humble tumulus, a wonderful old hall that is all patchworked and complete with tower and farmhouse and looks small and I quite wanted it. It even had a moat once.

To the Tissington trail, an old railway line and paved and not quite what I wanted but still alright — especially the amazing tunnel and the graffiti warning to Dr Who — to Ashbourne, with its racist wooden sign across the main street announcing the Black’s Head. I’m not sure I want such things taken down or left to stand as a critique to remind us of how things used to be but only if I’m sure they remind of us of how things used to be. I’m not sure. Also, an inn in which Boswell stayed for a night. He’d love the plaque. There were no obvious pie or pasty shops there, and I am not sure I forgive them.

And then back to Kniveton, a lot of main road and some overgrown footpaths which was rather terrible, though there was one awesome squeeze stile with its two old stones made more secure by a white cabinet door. Then I was chased by mother cows with calves from a field (did they want food or to kill me? I just don’t know). I mean, the one cow starting going on furiously and running at me, not ambling, and the others followed her so I ran back because the holly hedge was impassable. They stared back at me when I reached safety. They did not continue in friendly fashion to inquire about food. They were probably alright because I had no dog, but on that tractor ride I heard of a man recently killed by cows ‘defending’ their calves, they’re not always alright. I got home and everyone was out checking livestock on far flung fields belonging to friends and a brother-in-law, so I made myself a sandwich of St Agur and chorizo and snagged a banana.

Sunday. I am tired and it’s work tomorrow.

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