New discoveries at Sherwood Forest’s ancient Viking meeting point

The Thynghowe Viking site, Sherwood Forest.

A team of archaeologists have made ‘nationally significant’ new discoveries at an ancient monument which acted as a Viking meeting point in Sherwood Forest.

The site, known as Thynghowe, is at the top of Hanger Hill, on the boundary of the Budby, Warsop and Edwinstowe parishes, and on the edge of Birklands wood.

The wood is the home of the famous Major Oak tree which, according to local folklore, was used by Robin Hood and his merry men for shelter.

Thynghowe, meaning ‘thing site’ where vikings held meetings, was discovered by a group of local volunteers called Friends of Thynghowe Group and a team of archaeologists.

Its location was re-discovered a decade ago but new research has just been completed, uncovering new evidence that the area was hugely important in Viking history.

Andy Gaunt, of Mercian Archaeological Services, which led the study, said: “It’s where they [Vikings] signed laws, settled disputes and all sorts of things like that.”

A host of monuments believed to date back to the Viking era have been discovered such as a ‘thing mound’, a Viking ‘court circle’ – which research has shown could date back to Medieval or Saxon times – and pot-boiler stones which Vikings used to boil water.

“The ‘thing site’ is definitely where they’d meet and where they would hold assemblies,” Andy said.

“And, if we’re correct, they would’ve stood within the circle and discussed laws and the question of the day, and then they’d pronounce the verdict from the top of the hill from the ‘thing mound’. That’s how it might have worked.

“The ‘thing sites’ are something you see all over the Viking world – in Dublin, the Isle of Man and the Shetland Islands, the Faroe Islands and Iceland – but we’ve got one in Sherwood Forest, which is amazing.

“The level of preservation makes it a pristine site; it’s a very exciting time.”

Research also suggests the village of Budby could have been a ‘booth farm’ where Viking delegates may have stayed.

New monuments discovered at Thynghowe:

  • A ‘thing mound’
  • A circular enclosure 75.0m-77.5m in diameter which has been shown to be Medieval or Saxon in date – which could represent a possible Viking ‘court circle’
  • Holloways including ‘Nether Warsop Gate’
  • A spread of pot-boiler stones
  • Two possible hearths
  • Boundary stones for Warsop and Edwinstowe
  • The ‘Birklands Forest Stone’
  • The ditch and bank of the boundary of Warsop and Edwinstowe Parish
  • The possible identification as the village of Budby as meaning the ‘booth farm’ where delegates attending the assembly may have stayed in ‘booths’

And many more unidentified features could be found later, added Andy.

Stuart Reddish and Lynda Mallett, who used to live in Nottinghamshire, but have since moved to Canada, formed the Friends of Thynghowe Group in 2004 after initially being told by archaeologists that there was nothing at the site.

Thynghowe site in Sherwood Forest.

They began working alongside archaeological and other experts in 2009-10, who have helped to save and understand the area.

Andy said it is down to Stuart and Lynda’s dedication, knowledge and hard work, along with the other volunteers of Friends of Thynghowe and the Forestry Commission, which have preserved the site.

He added: “Its hugely important archaeological remains could have been lost forever and have remained unknown and unrecorded.”

A survey of the site can be found on the Mercian Archaeology website.

The Vikings, otherwise known as Scandinavian Norsemen, explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, raids and colonisation between the Eighth and Mid-11th Century.

During this period, the Norsemen settled in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Scotland, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey.

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