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Monument details

HER Number:TR 16 SE 12
Type of record:Monument
Name:Early Medieval cemetery, Westbere, Canterbury


An early 6th-7th century Anglo Saxon cemetery was discovered in 1931 during gravel digging at Westbere. About 60-70 burials comprising cremations and inhumations, were recorded. Grave goods included a range of glass and pottery vessels, personal ornaments and weapons. A Roman bottle was also recovered. The cemetery appears to have been of three phases, early 6th century phase of Northern Europeans, perhaps Frisians, later 6th century Frankish influence, and a 7th century phase. Some of the finds are in Canterbury MuseuM.

The cemetery was situated on the top and brow of a gentle south-east facing slope of a ridge, overlooking the River Stour. OD approx 33m. The Canterbury-Thanet roman road passes 150m to the north. The gravel pit is disused.

Grid Reference:TR 1993 6155
Map Sheet:TR16SE

Monument Types

  • CEMETERY (CEMETERY, Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 500 AD to 650 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BEAD (Undated)
  • BROOCH (Undated)
  • BOTTLE (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • URN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • BEAKER (Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 500 AD to 650 AD)
  • BOWL (Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 500 AD to 650 AD)
  • BRACELET (Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 500 AD to 650 AD)
  • BUCKET (Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 500 AD to 650 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 500 AD to 650 AD)
  • PENDANT (Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 500 AD to 650 AD)
  • RING (Early Medieval or Anglo-Saxon - 500 AD to 650 AD)

Full description

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[TR 1993 6155] Anglo-Saxon Burial Ground. [NR] (1) [Sited on map, fig 1]
An early C6th to C7th Anglo-Saxon cemetery (cremation and inhumation) was found by the late Dr A.G. Ince in 1931 in a gravel pit at Westbere, south of the Sturry-Ramsgate road and on the north side Bushy Close Wood. Jessup catalogues the finds, some of which are in Canterbury Museum. (2)
On exhibition in Canterbury Museum Acc No RM 6427, are a number of urns and pots from this cemetery, also a claw-beaker, a bell-beaker and a blue glass bottle. Also on loan to the Museum, and on exhibition, is a small AS glass bowl and some beads found with an urn by Mr E.A. Brenchley, 4 Church Lane, Sturry, who stated that they werefound by him while the cemetery was being exposed by the gravel diggers, and also confirmed the siting given by the OS. The gravel pit is long disused and now rough pasture. (3)
TR 199 615 Anglo-Saxon Cemetery. 1931 An Anglo-Saxon cemetery was found during gravel workings on the N bank of the river Stour on the 100 foot contour, on a gravelly hill above the marshes. The gravel was acid, and agricultural operations had damaged the finds to such an extent that no skeletons were recovered. In an area 160 feet by 130 feet, 60-70 burials were counted, placed with some precision in fairlyregular lines, sometimes in threes, but with no constant spacing. There was no sign of mounds. The average depth of the cremation burials was 1 foot 6 inches, of the inhumations 3 feet 6 inches. The graves were c7 feet long where ascertainable. No information was available about orientation or method of burial, but the skeletons andgrave goods were not protected in any way. There are no reliable figures of the proportion of cremations to inhumations; the cremationswere carelessly buried, but it is said that they were always placed with due regard to the other burials. Dr Ince, the local antiquary who recorded the site, considered that both rites were in use at the same time, and does not note any instance of a burial by one rite disturbing one of the other. It was impossible to associate all the objects found in the grave groups, since the pit was worked in strips 3 feet wide. The finds are described by Jessup in 'Arch J sic' Ant J and consist of 3 brooches (an early one in the shape of a fish from Frisia, a small round brooch of silver with keystone garnets and the head plate of a cruiform brooch, both VI), a scrap of a silver-gilt brooch with running scroll design, a gilt-bronze buckle with a rectangular plate, 3 strings of beads, another necklace with 5 amethyst beads, 2 gold pendants and 3 bracelets (all from the same grave), 2 bronze rings, now lost, a bucket and a bronze bowl also lost, and 3 conical glass beakers, a claw beaker, 3 glass bowls, a carinated tumbler and a spherical Roman bottle and 8 pots of various shapes still extant. Several other fragments and complete urns were noted by Dr Ince, including 3 window urns, plain globular pots and biconoid pots with incipient bosses. One window urn at least had beenused for a cremation burial. There were also a shield-boss, 2 spearheads, an axe head and a sword blade. The cemetery seems to have had 3 phases : an early VI settlement of a band of northerners perhapsfrom Frisia or the mouth of the Ems; a later VI phase showing extension of Frankish influence, and a VII phase with gold pendants etc. Canterbury Museum later received a small accessory vessel, a little bowl and a few small beads from the workmen. (4)
A glass bell beaker was also found in the cemetery. (5)
Brief note on the discovery of the Westbere cemetery. (6)

Andrew Richardson, 2000, Gazetteer of Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries and Burial-Sites in Kent (Unpublished document). SKE29253.

<1> OS 6" 1961 (OS Card Reference). SKE48369.

<2> Ant J 26 1946 11-12 illust (R F Jessup) (OS Card Reference). SKE33161.

<3> F1 CFW 28-NOV-63 (OS Card Reference). SKE42799.

<4> Gaz of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites 1964 140 (A L S Meaney) (OS Card Reference). SKE43511.

<5> Dark Age Britain 1956 161 Grp B III V a ii 2 (D B Harden) (OS Card Reference). SKE39590.

<6> Arch Cant 45 1933 xliii (Cook) (OS Card Reference). SKE35166.

<7> Field report for monument TR 16 SE 12 - November, 1963 (Bibliographic reference). SKE5561.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
---Unpublished document: Andrew Richardson. 2000. Gazetteer of Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries and Burial-Sites in Kent.
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1961.
<2>OS Card Reference: Ant J 26 1946 11-12 illust (R F Jessup).
<3>OS Card Reference: F1 CFW 28-NOV-63.
<4>OS Card Reference: Gaz of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites 1964 140 (A L S Meaney).
<5>OS Card Reference: Dark Age Britain 1956 161 Grp B III V a ii 2 (D B Harden).
<6>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 45 1933 xliii (Cook).
<7>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TR 16 SE 12 - November, 1963.