A Dazzling Relic of Luton’s Prehistoric Past
Wauluds Bank: Early Enclosure and ritual Henge Monument
Wauluds Bank is an ancient enclosure that possibly has Mesolithic origins and later became a ritual Henge Monument before becoming a settlement during the Iron Age and during the Romano British period. With some use during the Medieval Period. It is a “D” shaped enclosure with the River Lea making the straight side of the “D” shape. In the past Leagrave Marsh the area to the west of the river would have been largely impenetratable and the fact our ancestors built the enclosure around the source of the Lea probably means that it was a significantly important feature. The name “Lea” may be derived from the name of the Celtic god of light, Lugus.
There are further features within the Landscape in the Sundon Park playing field to the north as well as a ploughed out Neolithic Long Barrow. The linear features that are seen in the lidar images could be a continuation of the heritage recorded linear features, or they could be something like a Cursus feature.
Wauluds Bank is the very beginnings of the town of Luton with the earliest activity perhaps pushing back to 8 to 10 thousand years before present to a time when Britain was still joined to the continent of Europe via Doggerland. The nearby Icknield Way is possibly one of the oldest routeways there is crossing Britain from deep within East Anglia to the heart of Wessex an ancient trading route where our ancestors lived on the higher grounds of the Chiltern and Chalk escarpments. Just two miles to the North West at Linmere 8000 year old Mesolithic Pits have been recently discovered which are nationally significant. There is so much more within the surrounding landscape nearby to Wauluds Bank. There certainly is plenty of Roman evidence with a Pottery Kiln nearby to the Nissen Hut and possibly a large Roman House or Villa situated in front and to the south of the monument.
The Marsh Farm House (ex Marsh Farm) is now a Youth Hub containing offices for community groups, Marsh House Recording Studio and Fidel Gastro Social Club. For the last 40 odd years it has been used for youth oriented activities. The Nissen Hut from WW2 was used as rehearsal rooms for bands and as a venue for live punk rock gigs, famously in 1979 Crass, Poison Girls and Luton’s UK Decay performed there to a packed crowd. But was has happened to it today? It seems to be fenced off. Note: the council fenced it off to prevent the danger of vandalism. There is ongoing efforts to get this space back up and running as an education facility. Apparently it was set for funding, the covid lockdowns kicked in and funding was then withdrawn. But work to get this back ontrack is ongoing (thanks Jane G) Music by Nostramus “Rise Up Wauluds” a remix of sorts with samples taken from Nostramus’s 1990s album Earthlights. Samples are from local musicians Curtis, MC 13, and Federal (Prince Malachite) all local to the area.
Wauluds Bank is a fascinating and important archaeological site with a rich history dating back thousands of years. It is clear that the area was inhabited and used by people for a variety of purposes throughout the prehistoric, Roman, and medieval periods. There is still much to learn about Wauluds Bank and its surrounding landscape. Further research and excavation would undoubtedly reveal more about the people who lived and worked in the area, and the role that Wauluds Bank played in their lives.
Finally, Why Dazzling?
Lugh, the Celtic god of light, is often referred to as the “Shining One” because he is associated with the sun and its light. The name “Lea” is thought to be derived from his name, which means that the River Lea is also associated with light. Another possible explanation for the name “Dazzling” is that the monument itself is very impressive and beautiful. It is a large, earthwork enclosure that is surrounded by a ditch and bank. The monument is also located on a hill, which gives it a commanding view of the surrounding landscape. Overall, the name “Dazzling” is a fitting description for Wauluds Bank. It is a monument that is associated with light, both in terms of its location and its potential purpose. It is also a monument that is very impressive and beautiful in its own right.
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