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AN ANGLIAN CEMETERY AT HOB HILL, NEAR
By WILLIAM HORNSBY.
A LITTLE more than one hundred years ago, William Hutton, the Birmingham antiquary, visited Saltburn, which then contained "about sixteen houses situated upon the sea and under a mountain.” “I remarked to the inhabitants,” he tells us, “that if they could but keep peace within themselves, they would keep it with all the world, for nobody could come and quarrel with them ; nor could a more abstracted spot be found if a man chose to hide himself from men."
It is interesting to note that Hutton's "abstracted spot is not without its historical associations, its link with the remote past. About one mile east of Saltburn, at Huntcliff Point, quite near the edge of the cliff, there stood a small Roman camp, a sort of “Castra Speculatoria,” designed doubtless as a protection to the district against the raids of Teutonic or other invaders. This was "inspected ” by Canon Greenwell in the sixties. Within the past two years, at Hob Hill (the word, like so many of the Cleveland place-names, is Danish, and means “the hill haunted by an elf or spirit ”), an Anglian cemetery has been located. The newly-discovered grave-yard (on the site of which were found numerous flint chips, indicative of earlier occupation) is one mile south-south-west of Saltburn,
a small plateau some 300 feet above the sea level. Like many a spot in Cleveland, Hob Hill was “beautiful for situation." Away to the north at a distance of a mile and a quarter lay the sea, across which from their vantage ground the spirits of the departed looked for the coming of Woden and his ship.
To-day, at this point, Messrs. Pease & Co. are engaged in surface mining. From time to time, in laying bare the ironstone, the workmen have come across burial deposits at a depth of two to three feet below the present surface. Unfortunately, there is no record of the earlier finds. At the outset much that was valuable was cast aside without concern and without any particular observation. However, up to the close of 1909, during the months of October, November, and December, sixteen
interments were noted. In four cases there was merely a layer of charred bones and black ashes, without any trace of pottery. Below one of these a bead necklace was found. At intervals beads have been secured in large numbers. In size they vary from the minute to half an inch in length. In shape some are round and others cylindrical. They consist of amber (this, the charm against witchcraft, greatly preponderating), glass (some coloured; others in triplets with gilt inside), crystal, jet (three), and coloured pastes. Speaking generally, the beads are inferior to many found in Yorkshire further south. This, as one factor, may indicate that the Angles round Saltburn were comparatively poor. The site of their settlement-unless the cemetery served a still wider area-may have been half a mile away at Tofts Farm. According to tradition this was the original seat of ancient Marske. Skelton, another likely centre, afterwards associated with the family of De Brus, and still later the abode of “Eugenius,” that dearest friend of Cousin Shandy,” is barely two miles distant.
In the remaining interments noted in 1909, the burnt bones had been enclosed in dark-coloured urns. The latter when uncovered, were always defective and more or less fragmentary. Often the lower part of the vessel was fairly intact, and the upper half shattered and imperfect. In two cases the pottery was finely ornamented with lines and impressed patterns. Unfortunately, it was impossible to make a connection from top to bottom so as to allow the profile to be determined. The reader will gather some idea of the ornamentation from the accompanying photographs of typical specimens (fig. 1). Below five of the urns head necklaces were noted. The beads were similar to those already mentioned, except that in one case the necklace was entirely of amber.
At an early stage in the investigations on one of the "tips," mingled with the debris from near the burials, there was picked up a finely-flaked arrow-head of chert. This, after a while, was identified as American, and its presence there could not be easily accounted for. A feasible explanation was supplied by Canon Greenwell, who points out that more than once a sometime friend or relation of the farmer migrating to the States, has sent back as a curio an American arrow-head. This, after being a nine days' wonder, is cast aside, reaching first the dustbin, next the manure heap. It is then carted on the land and ploughed in, reappearing at a later stage, to the bewilder
ment of the plain man. A further alien survival, found just before reaching one of the urns, was the handle and sundry pieces of a glazed pot, identified as mediæval. Similar conjunctions are noted by others, particularly by T. Bateman and J. R. Mortimer, both of whom advance theories accounting for the fact. In this connection, it may not be entirely out of place to mention that there was at Saltburn in the Middle Ages a small religious house on the Hob Hill side of Holebeck. A deed, dated 1216, recites, “Meum heremitorium de Salteburne super ripam de holebec.”
In 1910, up to the month of April, twenty-four interments were noted. It was found that the graves ran north to south, in two fairly parallel lines, the parallels being some six yards apart. In many cases the burial had a more or less imperfect urn associated with it, but in one instance there was merely a layer of burnt bones, and on ten occasions the burials were of unburnt bodies. Along a length of fifty yards the graves had been placed at varying distances, some at an interval of one yard, some two yards, some three, whilst others were still more widely separated. Between these last an intervening deposit or deposits may have disappeared through decay. The urns were much more numerous at the south end, and the unburnt burials at the north end of the lines.
On 2nd February, at a depth of three feet, the incomplete fragments of an ornamented urn were secured. Below this shattered vessel, in which there was no trace of burnt bones, were found the teeth of a young child. These crumbled on exposure. Except the teeth, the entire skeleton had decayed. With this interment were associated a necklace of beads, smaller but similar to those already mentioned, and the end of a bronze brooch. Two yards away, at the same depth of three feet, a complete and well-made bronze brooch-once gilt-perchance the property of one of the more wealthy members of the community-was uncovered. On each side of the square panel in the head there had been a band of silver. A good idea of the ornament in its original form will be gained from Plate XX, fig. 2, in Akerman's Pagan Saxondom. In the accompanying photograph of the brooch (fig. 2), attention is directed to the crude representation of the human face, and also to the "animal” design characteristic of Anglo-Saxon art in the Pagan period. The work is probably early seventh century. The remains with which the ornament was associated had entirely