Category Archives: Surrey

Prehistoric Britain (or more precisely: Prehistoric Woking!)

(or even more precisely: Prehistoric Horsell!)

I wrote a blog article a few weeks ago introducing the three prehistoric burial mounds or Barrows in Horsell common. If you are interested in that article please use the link at the bottom of this page. It also described the exact location of the barrows using satellite photography. In that blog I mentioned that I was sure there was a fourth significant prehistoric structure but at that time I did not have suitable photographs to describe it in more detail. Today as well as providing more photographs of the larger mounds I will present a better description of the fourth structure. In addition there are a number of other objects in the common which, because of their close proximity to the larger prehistoric barrows, could also be the remains of other ancient burials.

Horsell Common Archaeological Site Sign
Horsell Common Archaeological Site Sign

Let me start with the sign at the entrance to the archaeological site. This describes the position of the three large mounds together with a summary of their history. If you click on the picture you should be able to increase the size to make it easier to read. Then just click over the left arrow on your search engine to return to this page.

The sign describes two bell barrows (the word bell refers to the typical shape of such prehistoric burial mounds) with a disc barrow between them. The disc barrow is quite hard to distinguish on the ground due to the vegetation which has grown over it. The satellite photo in my earlier blog article more clearly indicated the site of the disc barrow as a circular clearing in the trees adjacent to the larger more obvious bell barrow.

The photograph below is of the large bell barrow.

Largest Prehistoric Burial Mound in Horsell Common
Largest Prehistoric Burial Mound in Horsell Common

At the very top of this article is a picture of this barrow taken when it was covered in snow which helps to emphasize its profile. The photograph without snow was taken from the opposite side at the end of April 2012 and also shows the old path which went over the top of the barrow. This path crosses over the burial mound close to a point where it has clearly been excavated, many years ago, possibly by treasure hunters. I have found no record of any formal archaeological excavation or finds here. There was however a written description of the location of the two bell barrows as early as 1718 by the antiquarian John Aubrey in his ‘History of Surrey’.

The other bell barrow on Horsell Common is more overgrown making it harder to distinguish the exact size and shape. It also appears to have been disturbed in the past. This mound is adjacent to the Monument Road car park, directly behind the sign in the photograph above. The following photographs were taken from three different positions.

Horsell Common Bell Barrow Nr 2 Rear view
Horsell Common Bell Barrow Nr 2 Rear view
Horsell Common Bell Barrow Nr 2 Right or Office side
Horsell Common Bell Barrow Nr 2 Right or Office side
Horsell Common Bell Barrow Nr 2 Front or Road side
Horsell Common Bell Barrow Nr 2 Front or Road side

Moving now to the other structure which I came across a couple of years ago. If you follow the path over the road past the two other barrows and keep going in roughly a straight line you will come across a circular raised ridge where the vegetation is clearly different to that which is growing nearby. This is not as large as the other structures and there is no obvious large mound in the centre. Therefore I would presume it is more likely to be the remains of a disk barrow.

Fourth Prehistoric Burial Barrow in Horsell Common
Fourth Prehistoric Burial Barrow in Horsell Common

The following three photographs are taken from different positions to illustrate its shape and size. Similar burial grounds in Wiltshire can include ten or even more barrows and therefore it would not be unusual to find more than three large barrows here. Since the people who built these structures lived from agriculture it seems unlikely that they would used more fertile land for their burial grounds and the satellite photographs from my earlier blog article highlight that even today there is very little vegetation able to grow in this clearing. Much of the rest of the common nearby has been repopulated by trees: it is presumed the stone age farmers cleared the original forests for agriculture but that with time the poor quality of the soil caused it to revert to heathland. In fact it is probably the very unsuitability of this location for farming that has helped to ensure that we can still identify these structures today, despite being around 4000 years old. In other locations, where the soil is more fertile, agriculture has destroyed the remains of many ancient burial sites.

Horsell Common Barrow Nr 4 Left side
Horsell Common Barrow Nr 4 Left side
Horsell Common Barrow Nr 4 Right side
Horsell Common Barrow Nr 4 Right side
Horsell Common Barrow Nr 4 Rear side
Horsell Common Barrow Nr 4 Rear side

Finally I would like to include some other photographs taken in this area to illustrate other examples of what I believe could be ancient burial sites. These three structures appear to be typical of barrow type mounds and all show signs of disturbance, again possibly by treasure hunters or amateur archaeologists.

Horsell Common Disturbed Mound A
Horsell Common Disturbed Mound A
Horsell Common Disturbed Mound B
Horsell Common Disturbed Mound B
Horsell Common Disturbed Mound C
Horsell Common Disturbed Mound C
Horsell Common Disturbed Mound C rear view
Horsell Common Disturbed Mound C rear view

The last photograph is of another smaller circular structure which may well be disc barrow which has been overgrown by trees. The circular markings in the ground vegetation are still quite distinct.

Horsell Common Smaller Ring Structure Near Large Barrows
Horsell Common Smaller Ring Structure Near Large Barrows

The Horsell Common Preservation Society has recently laid down a 1.2 km circular easy access trail which starts and finishes at a new car park opened on the side of monument road where all except for one of these structures can be found. This means that it is quite easy to stroll through this part of the common (called Woodham Common) and see for yourself the prehistoric burial sites – perhaps you may even find some other archeological treasures that have not yet been documented.

Here is the link to my earlier blog which has satellite photographs and also links to sites with more information about Ancient British burial structures. If you require more help finding any of these structures or have some interesting prehistoric information of your own please contact me via the comments box below.

Chris Duggleby,

6th May 2012

Horsell Common Preservation Society Welcome Sign Near Prehistoric Britain Site
Horsell Common Preservation Society Welcome Sign Near Prehistoric Britain Site

If you like this kind of news there are plenty more exciting articles on my Alpine Press contents page which you can find here. Why not add this site to your browser favourites or subscribe to get regular updates?

Birthdays of Beer, Dragon Slayers, Authors and a Date with a Singing Cow

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This week we had a very important day with regard to beer, dragons, authors and a singing cow called Uddele (not to be confused with Adele). The day was 23rd April. Let me start by explaining its significance for beer.

On 23rd April 1516 the Bier Reinheitsgebot or German Beer Purity Law was passed in the Bavarian town of Ingolstadt (this law was originally proposed in 1487 but they need a bit of time to think about it). The law stipulated that German beer could only be made from water, barley and hops and must be priced between 1-2 Pfennig per Mass (if you have been to the Munich Beer festival you will appreciate that a mass is a rather large glass – and the price has gone up!).

Advertisement for Rosenheim Beer first produced in 1543
Advertisement for Rosenheim Beer first produced in 1543

In those days people didn’t realise that yeast was essential to the fermentation process. We had to wait until 1860 for Louis Pasteur to prove that fermentation was caused by living micro-organisms. Prior to his discovery brewers knew that a successful brew benefited by adding the sediment from a previous fermentation to the new batch. The yeast organisms were transferred in this sediment and quickly reproduced, causing the new batch to ferment. Yeast could find itself into the beer mix even if it wasn’t added through the ‘old’ sediment when the brewer exposed the vats to the surrounding air. This would allow natural yeast and bacteria from the atmosphere to fall into the mix, start replicating and ferment the ingredients.

The Beer Purity Law was introduced in Bavaria to stop brewers competing with bakers for wheat and rye in order to ensure that bread remained affordable for the common folk. When the States which now make up Germany became unified in 1871 the Bavarian State insisted that the Beer Purity Law must be applied throughout the country as a precondition of their membership. This led to the dominance in Germany of Pilsner type beers and some of the more exotic local beers like the northern spiced or cherry beers became extinct (although they flourished over the border in places like  Belgium). Needless to say there were some brewers who refused to be pushed around by the Bavarians. As a result you can still enjoy a Koelner Koelsch or a Duesseldorfer Altbier if you visit Cologne or Duesseldorf. Long live beer diversity!

Alpine View in April
Alpine view in April (Wendelstein mountain overlooking Bad Feilnbach in Bavaria)

The original beer purity law was later succeeded by the Provisional German Beer Law which allowed additional ingredients to be added like yeast, wheat malt and cane sugar (but prohibits the use of unmalted barley). The German Beer Law still applies to all domestically produced beers although under EU legislation it is now possible to import beers made from other ingredients.

So next time you visit the Munich Beer Festival (the Oktoberfest which confusingly starts in September) just remember that the 23rd April 1516 was when the brewing rules where first laid down (and also remember to book your hotel rooms well in advance for the 500th birthday of beer in 2016!).

Alpine House Wall Pictures 1 St George
Alpine House Wall Pictures 1 St George

Today when I came down from taking RISKKO for his afternoon mountain walk I noticed a painting on the wall of one of the houses which reminded me of another reason to celebrate 23rd April. It is St George’s day and the painting was of a soldier on a horse fighting with a dragon. In the year 303 George, an imperial guard of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, was decapitated in the city of Nicomedia for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. His body was then returned to Lydda in the Holy Land, the country of his birthplace where the Christian community honoured him as a martyr.

During the reign of Constantine (AD 306-337 the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity) a church was build in Lydda and was consecrated to a man of the highest distinction. This was almost certainly George (or Georgius – in Latin).  In AD 494 George was canonised as a saint by the Pope (Gelasius 1). The church in Lydda was destroyed in 1010 but was rebuilt and dedicated to St. George by the Crusaders. This was again destroyed in during the 3rd Crusade (1189-1192 – yes the crusade fought by Richard the Lionheart, and perhaps even supported in some small way by Sir Henry Duggleby, our dear ancestor who was born around 1115 in Yorkshire, England: See the Duggleby History page using the link here).

Painting of St George killing (hidden) dragon on a German Wall
Painting of St George killing (hidden) dragon on a German Wall

At the time of the Crusades the Christian martyr St George became famous across Europe. In 1190 the City of London adopted the St. George’s flag (a red cross on a white background) for their ships entering the Mediterranean. This allowed them during the crusades to benefit from the protection of the Genoese fleet (for which the English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa). The English Synod of Oxford declared St. George’s day a feast day in the Kingdom of England in 1222. Although the Reformation in England dramatically reduced the number of saint’s days in the church calendar, the day of St. George, 23rd April, was one that continued to be observed as a holiday.

And what about the dragon I hear you asking? This part of the legend of Saint George, in which he fought with a dragon, was brought back to Europe from the Holy Land by the Crusaders. Although St George was depicted before this time as a soldier the true origins of the dragon legend are unknown. It is thought by some that this was a way of depicting the fight between the Christians and the devil or perhaps the fight against the Roman Empire (or both). Whatever the true origin of the legend, it would appear that George was one of the most courageous early Christians who died painfully for his beliefs at the hands of the Romans.

English Pub and Swans by Surrey Canal
English Pub and Swans by Surrey Canal – April Scene by Chris Duggleby

Now, let me move to the third important reason to celebrate the 23rd April. This is the day when, in 1564, William Shakespeare was born. Interestingly it is also the day when, in 1616, he died. As the research into the Duggleby family tree highlighted it was much easier to be clear about dates of deaths hundreds of years ago than about dates of births. There were no birth records at that time, whereas the dates of deaths were usually written on gravestones and were also included on official documents like those confirming the reading of the last will and testament.

Therefore although 23rd of April was certainly the date when Shakespeare died, his date of birth was deduced in the main from two pieces of evidence. We know he was Baptized in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26th. According to the English Prayer Book at that time a baptism must occur no later than the Sunday, or other Holy day, after the birth. On his tomb it states he died on 23rd April 1616 aged 53. Since he was born in 1564 the presumption was made that he died on his birthday (if he had died before his birthday he should have been 52).

English Canal Scene in April
English Canal Scene to celebrate St. George’s day on 23rd April by Chris Duggleby

Whatever debate exists about his birth date the date of Shakespeare death is unquestionably 23rd April 1616. So get booking your 2016 hotel rooms in Stratford-upon-Avon and near the Globe theatre in London early. You may have noticed that the 500th anniversary of both Shakespeare’s death and the German Beer Purity Law fall on the same day? This will also be St George’s day. Anticipate some pretty ‘fluid’ celebrations.

Moving on now to a less historical subject but one that is nevertheless very important those around me: this week RISKKO, my faithful guard dog, replied to an advertisement in the famous doggy music magazine the ‘Rolling Bone’. Uddele, the famous English singing cow, had placed an advertisement for a Rapper to join her in her next musical adventure. RISKKO is prolific when it comes to wrapping so he asked me to help him to reply. Low and behold within a couple of days Uddele turned up at our Alpine pad in her convertible BMW to interview RISKKO and carry out some sound trials in our music studio. There will be more on this exciting development in RISKKO’s music career next week but for now here is a picture of the two of them having fun in Uddele’s convertible (for once it was sunny!).

I bet you can’t wait until next week!

Uddele the Singing Cow Visits RISKKO in her Convertible
Uddele the Singing Cow (please note not Adele) visits RISKKO in her Silver Convertible Sports Car

If you found this article interesting you might also like to take a look at some of my other recent reviews. Just click on the titles below:

19th April 2014: German Police Catch Hedgehogs Testing Home Made Crash Helmetsin Saarbrücken

17th April 2014: Niche On-line Dating Services (Specialities: HerpesThrush andGenital Warts)

31st March 2014: Women In the Army: Germany – Problems with Sexual Harassment,Scandinavian Solution ….Sleeping Together

18th March 2014: Germany and Finland Joint Investigation: New Case of Sexual Cannibalism Including Self-mutilation (Castration) During Intercourse.

7th March 2014: Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Discovered in France – Potential for European Ecosystem Disaster

4th March 2014: 30,000 Year old giant virus found in the Siberian Permafrost and ‘resurrected’ – it is still infectious!

2nd March 2014: Wolves are better at learning from their ‘pals’ than dogs.Through domestication dogs have lost a capability that is key to success in the wild.

24th February 2014: Ant Wars: Crazy Ants deploy Chemical Warfare against Poisonous Fire Ants and their Amphibious Craft.

9th March 2013: Insects getting hooked on psychoactive drugs – How plants take advantage of bees by giving them a caffeine buzz.

29th December 2012: Spreading diarrhea and vomit through the washing machine – The Norovirus propagator in our kitchen. 

23rd December 2012: Lower Saxony puts naked winter sports event on ice for safety reasons following massive popularity of undressed ladies on sledges and fears of over exposure. 

18th August 2012: How Bavarians and Austrians use their middle finger – Fingerhakeln: a men-only sport (did Arnold Schwarzenegger start training this way?).

If you like this kind of news there are plenty more exciting articles on my Alpine Press contents page which you can find here. Why not add this site to your browser favourites or subscribe to get regular updates?

Searching for Cannibals in Woking, Surrey, England

Some people spend their weekends going shopping, visiting the local park or having a barbecue in the garden. I have rather more exciting hobbies like, for example, searching for cannibals in the woodlands around Surrey.

Bridge Reflections over Surrey Canal
Bridge reflections over a Surrey canal: Woodham Locks on Basingstoke Canal, near Woking in Surrey (not far from the prehistoric burial mounds in Horsell Common).

Now you may ask, where did I get this interest in cannibalism? And what makes me think that I will find evidence of cannibals in the nice, quaint English countryside. Well if you remember from my Duggleby History page (from the menu above) the centre piece of the village of Duggleby in Yorkshire is a Neolithic ‘Barrow’ or 5000 year old prehistoric burial mound. This was surrounded by a man-made circular enclosure which can today only be seen using aerial or satellite imaging (see the Google map image below). It is believed that the positioning of this very large burial mound had something to do with a magical river, the Gypsey Race, which sporadically flowed from a series of springs nearby.


Excavations of the site uncovered the remains of ancient chieftains who were buried thousands of years ago as well as the bones of the animals which were eaten during what appeared to be very elaborate burial ceremonies. Interestingly some of these partly eaten remains were the bones of fellow humans leading to the conclusion that our ancestors, at least those in and around what is now the village of Duggleby, were Cannibals. As a descendant of that village I would like to think that the ancient art of eating ones neighbour was not just restricted to the village of Duggleby: hence my quest for other signs of ancient cannibalism in the UK.

As my UK base is in Surrey this seemed like a good enough place to start. My home overlooks the Basingstoke canal and I often journey along the canal path, past a couple of bridges, until I reach one of the many entrances to Horsell Common. As the ground is very springy in the common I can go jogging there without doing too much damage to my ageing knees. This can be tremendous fun, particularly when the locals are out training their un-tethered Rottweilers how to differentiate between nimble rabbits and old joggers’ legs.

Horsell Common Running Track
My Horsell Common running track not far from where the Martians landed (from H.G.Wells’ book ‘War of the Worlds’)

One of my runs takes me past three Bronze Age barrows (burial mounds) which are believed to be over 4000 years old. They are thought to be the final resting place of Bronze Age nobility. These people had developed the art of making tools and weapons from bronze and had used these skills to reclaim the tree covered land for agricultural use. It is believed their cremated remains were buried underneath these barrows.

Close up of Woking's Prehistoric Burial Mound in Horsell Common
Close up of Woking’s Prehistoric Burial Mound in Horsell Common

The three burial mounds comprise of two bell barrows and one disc barrow. The picture above is of the larger bell barrow on the side of the common which is opposite the Monument Road car park. I took the photograph when there was some snow on the ground to emphasize the profile of the barrow. At the end of this blog entry I have also included a wider view photograph to give a better indication of the large size of this Bronze Age structure. The following photograph is of the sign at the entrance to the car park which shows the location of the three barrows and provides some information about their history. There is evidence they have been disturbed in the past by antiquarians or treasure hunters but there is no record of any remains or artefacts being found.

Sign for Bronze Age Barrows in Horsell Common
Sign for Bronze Age Barrows in Horsell Common

I find it particularly interesting to consider that the Duggleby Barrow and these Barrow’s in Horsell Common are separated by many hundreds of miles and yet clearly such structures appear to have been as common in Bronze age Britain as churches are today. This is all the more amazing when you remember that the population of the UK was considerably smaller then. Bell and Disc barrows are more commonly found in Wiltshire where sometimes they are in groups of 10 or more. They are very rare in Surrey and their presence in Horsell Common could be indicative that nobility migrated here from Wessex to develop the wooded land for agriculture. Unfortunately once the trees were removed the soil quality diminished giving rise to the Surrey Heathland.

Many people are aware that Woking hosted the UK’s first ‘modern’ cremation at the newly built ‘London’ crematorium in 1884. Few however realise that Woking (or Wochinges as it was called in the Domesday Book in 1086) was hosting formal cremation ceremonies 4000 years earlier. Below is a satellite picture which includes the larger bell barrow from my photograph (on the left) and the disc barrow to its right.  The smaller bell barrow (on the other side of Monument road adjacent to the car park) cannot easily be seen from the air because it is now overgrown with trees.


As I rambled through this area (escaping from yet another Rottweiler!), I followed the path past the large Bell barrow in the direction away from the road and came across another interesting circular earth structure. This was also a ditch, albeit smaller than the other barrows but nonetheless quite distinctive. Perhaps there are other barrows in this area still waiting to be discovered? If you look at the wider aerial photograph below you may just be able to make out a circular structure towards the edge of the clearing in trees to the far left of the more pronounced circular ditch of the bell barrow. A large number of the more common round mound type of barrows have already been identified in Chobham common.


If you are interested in finding out more about prehistoric Burial Mounds in the UK there is a free booklet provided by the English heritage society: simply following this link and download the pdf file.

Clearly this exciting search for our prehistoric origins (and the quest to confirm I am not alone in being descended from cannibals) will continue…..

Over 4000 Year Old Burial Mound in Surrey 1
Over 4000 year old burial mound in Horsell Common, near Woking in Surrey

Happy Birthday Estela and Adam (and Herman!)

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This week I am writing the blog from Surrey in the UK because while I am here at mission control there is a triple celebration.

First of all, my beautiful Spanish niece Estela has a birthday. Estela is the eldest daughter of my equally beautiful (and very fit) sister Helen. Helen carefully manages her time between teaching aerobics, having babies, running a home and a private transport service to the local schools. Although she has lots of aerobics customers she does not need any more transportation customers; she has seven of her own. It would be impossible to keep all of these activities going if she was not incredibly organised – in fact she is so organised she managed to make sure that child number seven was born on Estela’s birthday. No more dolls required! Estela has the real thing to play with. So we have a double Duggleby birthday celebration in Spain; Estela and Adam (he is in the photo sitting on Estela’s knee).

 Spanish Football Team (Work in Progress)

While Helen tries single handed (well not quite single) to make sure Spain has its fair share of the Duggleby genome we had another multiple birth celebration at RiskBuster’s mission control in the UK. ‘Herman’, a very tasty creation, was conceived a couple of weeks ago and within 10 days found himself given rise to a further eight offspring! Who is Herman? Well his formal title is ‘Herman the German Friendship Cake’. He was conceived as a batch of sourdough/yeast which was lovingly cared for by his Mummy (in other words he was regularly stirred and had various bits of cooking stuff done to him while he fermented). His ‘Mummy’, Gladys, is a bit shy so I promised no photos of her, just of her ‘masterpiece’.

Herman The German Friendship Cake: Conception
Herman The German Friendship Cake: Conception

Then Herman was split into 8 portions and handed over to teams of RiskBusters who did yet more cooking stuff, and baked their baby Hermans into lots of highly imaginative cakes (by adding various different bits of cooking stuff). At the end of all this the RiskBusters paid lots of dosh to sample them and we had a voting competition to determine the best Herman (with categories like prettiest, cleverest, tastiest, sniffiest and other such artistic stuff). Needless to say all the money went to charity. Here are some picks of Herman’s conception, the arrival of the babies and their christening (just before being eaten – remember the bit in the Duggleby History page about the Brits descending from being cannibals!)

Herman The German Friendship Cake Gives Birth
Herman The German Friendship Cake Gives Birth

You probably haven’t guessed it but I am not very familiar with cooking stuff; after 5 years in my place in England I still need to remove the Polystyrene packaging from the inside of my oven. If you want to find out more ‘technical’ details about making your own Herman I suggest you type “Herman the German Friendship Cake” into your search engine. Not only is it a super way to get people mixing (literally) but it was a good way to get the RiskBusters to part with their dosh for a good cause. In addition to Gladys a big thank you is deserved by Mildred who managed the promotional activities and counted (or better said ‘guarded’) the dosh.

I suspect you can hardly wait for the next blog entry……

Herman The German Friendship Cake Christening Party
Herman The German Friendship Cake Christening Party