by Jane Peters
As one stands on Mansfield Road and looks across the waters of the reservoir a strange, elongated large mound can be observed. It is quite an alien feature, rising to a considerable height above the rest of the flat terrain. Many people have pondered about this oddity in the landscape and many theories have been postulated about it, but most people still have no idea what it is.
Some say that it was a mound of earth created by the spoil dug from the Forest Dam when it was greatly enlarged by the Duke of Devonshire in the 1830’s.* This was done in order to create more water for his new irrigation system called the Flood Dykes. Others think that it was built as an ancient look-out post or perhaps a beacon station where a bonfire could be lit to warn of imminent danger or to celebrate a joyful occasion.
In fact it is none of these, for it is likely to be Sutton’s most ancient and important relic and is undoubtedly some thousands of years old. According to its shape and dimensions it is almost certainly a Neolithic (New Stone Age) burial mound called a long barrow. Earthen long barrows were in use in Britain by 3,500BC although somewhat slightly later in some areas such as Yorkshire, south-west Scotland and Wessex. The tombs are remarkably uniform in shape, being trapezoidal mounds that usually measure some 100ft to 400ft in length. The Hamilton Hill mound conforms to this plan. In excavated tombs found in our country traces of structures beneath the mound have been found, built of turf stones or timber. Burials are usually found grouped in the eastern end which is usually slightly larger in width.
It is a pity that proper archaeological excavation has never been conducted on the site although it is listed as a Scheduled Monument in the English Heritage Sites & Monuments Records.
The existence of Neolithic people in the Sutton area can be verified by the discovery of Stone Age axes found in gardens. One was found near Sutton Junction station, not far from Hamilton Hill. We know that flint, stone axes and pottery were all trade goods by about 3000BC and it is likely that the burial mound dates from this period. Flint scrapers have also been found in various parts of the Sutton area.
Clay for pottery manufacture was already available in the vicinity of Hamilton Hill for Sutton records confirm that, for centuries there had been two large earthenware pottery manufacturers (on Eastfield Side) not far from Hamilton Hill.
An interesting account taken from the Vestry Books (records of Sutton’s earliest form of local government) was recorded by Sutton’s late author and historian G. G. Bonser. In his book called “A History of Sutton in Ashfield” he describes a misdemeanour that took place in the vicinity of Hamilton Hill in May 1793.
“At a public meeting held at the house of William Godber, the White Swan Inn, agreed by the Free and Copy holders that Joseph Milnes, Butcher of Mansfield, has broken his Agreement by breaking up and getting clay in a piece of ground near Hamilton Hill, commonly called Godber’s Croft, that we the said Free and Copy holders do mutually agree to meet on Wednesday on the 22nd of this month of May by ten-o-clock in the Market Place and go and fill up the Clay holes and pull down the fence belonging to the said Croft and we also do agree to support each other in any expenses”. It was signed by 15 members of the Committee.
In 2008, having raised the awareness of the possible national importance of this site, a meeting took place between the present land owners, the Heritage Officer for Ashfield District Council, members of the Nottinghamshire County Council Heritage team, a representative from English Heritage and myself as Secretary of Sutton Heritage Society. Much interest was shown by the experts and it was hoped that archaeological investigations would be undertaken on the site. Unfortunately, these hopes have yet to come to fruition.
- Editor’s note . The hill appears on Chapman’s map of 1774.