Burrow Hill - a Saxon island
Burrow Hill is just a long, green bump in the flat marshland landscape of the Butley River valley. It is only
15 metres above sea level - but definitely a hill dominating the landscape, which is why it was once an
island. With the imagination in overdrive, you can see how the place would have appealed to Saxon
villagers between the 6th and 8th centuries. Safely surrounded by mudflats, marshes and saltwater, and
with the Butley, Ore, Alde and Deben rivers handy for communicating with neighbouring groups, the island
would have seemed secure, and big enough for people to live on and farm for generations.
Burrow Hill was home to people for a long time. Archaeological work in the 1980's revealed coins,
postholes for dwellings, food remains, window glass, writing implements and evidence that these people
could produce fine textiles. A cemetery was excavated in 1980 that held hundreds of graves: wooden
coffins were carbon-dated to a period around AD780. The bulk of the hill consists of sand and gravel,
and when it was quarried to make local roads some two hundred skeletons were uncovered. Most were
male, which inevitably gave rise to a legend that they all died in a great last battle between King
Edmund's army and the invading Vikings.
There is an aura about Burrow Hill. The wind whispers through the dry winter grasses that cover the
ancient graves, and marsh harriers sweep across cattle-grazed pastures that once were covered by the
tides. I wouldn't be surprised if local folklore in the embraced the ghost of a Saxon warrior or two.