Blacklow Hill

Researching and archiving the history of Leek Wootton & Guy’s Cliffe Civil Parish
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Leek Wootton & Guy’s Cliffe History: Blacklow Hill

The construction of the A46 dual-carriageway bypass in the early 1970s afforded unique opportunities for archaeological investigation. The excavations on Blacklow Hill in 1972 revealed evidence to suggest that there had been a possible pagan Saxon ‘grove’ on the site. A series of enigmatic circular pits had been cut into the sandstone bedrock at the east end of the hill, and there were two human burials within the arcs. One grave, that of a male, contained a scramaseaux (single-edged sword) with a blade 30cm long. The same excavation provided the largest assemblage of Mesolithic flint implements ever collected in the Midlands. A heavy scatter of Romano British pottery revealed by the plough on the north slope of Blacklow Hill in 1983, and other earlier Romano British finds, suggest it may also have been a site of Roman occupation. There are indications of a Post Mediaeval glassworks on the south slope of the Hill. There is also a Post Mediaeval inscription to be found (with some difficulty now) recording the beheading of Piers Gaveston on the Hill in 1312 .

Gaveston was a favourite of both Edward I and Edward II. He delighted in annoying the barons and encouraged Edward II in his despotic activities. He nicknamed the Earl of Warwick ‘The Black Dog of Arden’ because of his swarthy appearance, which so incensed the barons that he was first banished to Ireland and then to the Continent. He returned and with Edward II at his side fought a final battle at Scarborough. He was forced to surrender and was taken by the Earl of Pembroke to Deddington Castle, near Banbury. The Earl of Warwick surrounded the castle and he was taken bare headed and bare foot to Warwick Castle. The Earl of Lancaster agreed to take responsibility for his death and he was taken to Blacklow Hill to be executed.

In 1821 on Blacklow Hill Bertie Greatheed completed a project that he had been proposing for some time. He erected a stone cross to mark the execution of Piers Gaveston. His friend Dr Samuel Parr (the ‘Perpetual Curate’ at Hatton) composed the inscription, which reads:

‘In the Hollow of this Rock, Was beheaded, On the 1st Day of July, 1312, By Barons lawless as himself, PIERS GAVESTON, Earl of Cornwall; The Minion of a hateful King: In Life and Death, A memorable Instance of Misrule.’

Extracted from Leek Wootton and its Hamlets

Further reading:

Kenilworth History & Archaeology Society , which was involved in the 1970s dig at Blacklow Hill, has added four articles about it to its website:

KHAS: The Blacklow Dig (Part 1)
KHAS: The Blacklow Dig (Part 2)
KHAS: The Blacklow Dig (Part 3)
KHAS: The Blacklow Dig (Part 4)