Bronze Age burial site at Fiddler's Hill transferred to Norfolk Archaeological Trust
The future of an ancient north Norfolk burial mound steeped in local folklore has been assured after the county council handed it over to a heritage trust.
The distinctive Bronze Age landmark at Fiddler’s Hill has been transferred to the ownership of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust (NAT) for a token value of £1.
The agreement will mean improvements to public access and historic interpretations at the 4,000-year-old site, which lies next to a crossroads on Binham Road, between Binham and Warham.
Prehistoric human remains, burnt flints and evidence of possible cremations have previously been recorded at the mound, but the focus will be on preservation rather than excavation.
The NAT has assumed responsibility for keeping the site clear of scrub and putting up public information boards, for which funding has been agreed by English Heritage.
Trust chairman Matthew Martin welcomed the new addition to a portfolio of prehistoric sites which includes Caistor Roman town outside Norwich, Burgh Castle near Great Yarmouth and St Benet’s Abbey on the Broads.
“Our aims are to protect important archaeological sites and landscapes, and make them more accessible,” he said. “This is a place that will have had deep significance for local people for millennia and our plans include raising funds to help people understand its relevance to our ancestors and above all make Fiddler’s Hill a wonderful place for people to experience today”.
There are about 1,200 Bronze Age burial mounds recorded in Norfolk. The majority have been eroded over thousands of years and are barely visible, which is what makes the distinctive Fiddler’s Hill landmark so special.
Bill Borrett, cabinet member for environment and waste at Norfolk County Council said the change of ownership would save the cash-strapped authority on its maintenance costs.
“I’m delighted that the NAT is to take over caring for this precious part of Norfolk’s heritage and landscape,” he said.
“This change of ownership is a great example of the Big Society in action. It will help the county council’s work to protect vital front line services and at the same time it will ensure that Fiddler’s Hill will continue to be properly managed by experts and I hope that local people and visitors will continue to enjoy it for many years to come.”
Dr Marie Strong, county councillor for the Wells division including Binham and Warham, added that the site could help contribute to the local economy.
“It’s close to the famous sites at Binham Priory and the Iron Age fort at Warham Camp which are incredibly popular,” she said. “So it could provide another link in a heritage trail in the area to encourage tourism and support local businesses.”
The legend of Fiddler’s Hill tells the story of an ill-fated violinist who decided to investigate stories about the ghost of a “black monk” who would emerge each night from a tunnel running between Binham and Walsingham.
As the brave musician walked into the tunnel with his dog, he played his fiddle so that the villagers could hear his progress. But, so the story goes, when he reached the mound, his music stopped.
Although the dog emerged from the tunnel shivering and whining, the fiddler was never seen again.
In a final twist to the story, while part of the mound was removed during road-improvement works in 1933, three skeletons were found – one of which was a dog’s.
Peter Wade-Martins, director of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, said: “The find was rather interesting in terms of the legend, although much other important evidence was probably destroyed by the workmen.
“An archaeologist called Rainbird Clarke visited soon after and noted the works had cut through a thick layer of charcoal and burning near the base of the mound. This might have been the debris from a human cremation, although we cannot be certain.
“Otherwise, the mound has not been disturbed, which is important to us, because it means the rest of it is complete.” Mr Wade-Martins said there were no immediate plans to allow excavations of the site.
“Our primary purpose is conservation, public access and public interpretation,” he said. “It will be open all the time, and it will be there for the public’s benefit.”