An alignment through Sawley Earthwork

Scheduled monument number LE118 at grid reference SK 4063 2348.

A moated site, south east of Sawley locks.

© 2014

Eric J. Sargeant BSc(Hons), BA(Open), CITP MBCS, FIED.

This small rectangular, 34 x 29 x 0.5m earthwork [1] is situated on the south bank of the river Trent (named as Trisantona in Roman times: 'through path' or 'great thoroughfare') in an area known as Lockington Grounds. If it had been a tower, it would command views both up and down river.

The nearest farm is Grounds Farm, and there are the sites of a Roman villa LE126, a Dunster barn LE140, and a prehistoric settlement nearby. The settlement is referred to in “Later Roman Britain”, Stephen Johnson, 1980, along with an aerial photograph. It is also in “The Scheduled Ancient Monuments of Leicestershire and Rutland”, Leonard Cantor, 2003.

Lockington village is 3km distant, whereas Sawley is only 1km to the north across the river, where there is the site of a Roman Camp DR228, and where the [red] line of a Roman road, from Chester Green Camp in Derby, runs to the river [2]. On that portion of the north river bank there are seven small wharfs with large sandstone steps up from the water level [3]. This portion of R. Trent, between the confluences of  R. Derwent coming down from Derby, and R. Soar coming up from Leicester, must be the inland port of the route from the Derbyshire Peak District's Mam Tor axe factory as given in Stephen Bailey's “The Derbyshire Portway”. Ref.(i). A polished stone axe-head, seen in Derby museum, had been dredged up at Trent Lock wharf. Another, in Erewash museum, was found by the Golden Brook on West Park.

Across OS Landranger map sheet 129

On my local area map sheet I'd drawn many lines connecting churches, finding the village of Wysall to be some sort of hub, but there were hardly any prehistoric sites. Just The Bulwarks Fort LE38 [4], at Breedon on the Hill together with it's Saxon St. Mary & St. Hardulph church; aka Breedon Priory. It might be the Mount Badon of Arthurian legend.

It was with swinging my straight edge around that point that the earthwork was found on the map. A line drawn right across the map, through these two sites, was found to to be more interesting. It passed through features, named on the map: The Wash Bridge near Epperstone; Round Hill at Lambley; Nottingham Castle [5]; The remains of the enclosure castle SM17096, at Castle Donington (Dunitune) [6]. The last tall portion of the castle wall was pulled down in 1908; Ref. (ii).

Breedon Hill and Nottingham Castle Rock are two natural landmarks which must have always been significant. From scanning the satellite imagery along the alignment and visiting places, more has come to light.

There's a hilltop mound 48 x 17 x 1.5m high at the eastern end. Looks like a long-barrow but it isn't registered by the county archaeologist. It is near to the Download Music Festival Camp Site and the western runway lights of East Midlands Airport. Nearby, an Iron Age field system was excavated in preparation for Airport buildings.

The line in Castle Donington runs through the town's square, in front of the two churches and up to the castle remains where the outer wall has been built onto. There is evidence of a moat. At the back there is an area strangely named 'The Barroon'. A similar word 'Barracoon (Spanish)' means 'slave enclosure'. It's said that the ancient Britons came from the Iberian peninsula. Some of the Roman legionaries certainly did so.
After crossing the river, the Erewash canal and a complex of railway embankments, it picks up a footpath to Attenborough along the northern margin of the flood plain. Much of the area near to the church where R. Erewash had flowed is now a wild-life sanctuary. Gravel extraction started there in 1929 and local historian, Frank Earp, tells me that he's seen records from that time, of large stones, thought to have formed a cromlech circle, having been removed. A slide taken from his Cat Stones book shows this [20].

Crossing the city of Nottingham (old name; Tigguocobauc – place of caves) from Castle Rock, by St. Peter's, over The Lace Market - known as an iron-age site and St, Mary's plague burial ground, up Beacon Hill near to St. Anns Wells, Billberry Walk and Bluebell Hill Road where an ancient turf labyrinth [7], 16.5m sq., had been ploughed out in 1794. Ref.(iii).

Then to Lambley's 'Round Hill' [8]. Locally thought to be the base of a windmill, but known as 'The Castle'. It is half way up a long sloping field. Elliptical 21 x 17.5 x 1m high, with a tangential foot path.

Further afield

From projections onto the next two Landranger map-sheets to the south west, 128 & 139, the alignment crosses the Staunton Harold estate [9] from the entrance on B587, cutting the southern end of the lake causeway, the church (of 1653), and a remote stable built over a spring. Then near Smisby, on the south side of A511 at it's junction with B6006, both sides, unexplained earthworks [10] are crossed. Next there are moated mounds at Chilcot [11] and the Manor of Thorpe Constentine [12], before a most important part of the alignment: The regional centre of Mercia, Tamworth, the seat of Ethelfleada, the daughter of Alfred the Great, and of King Offa. The line [13] goes through the church of St. Eadgyth, daughter of Ethelred the Unready, and through the Castle which is on a man-made mound [14] commanding the crossing at the confluence of R. Anker and R. Tame – a tributary of the Trent.
A series of still existing pathways have been found to align closely. [15 - 19].


With the September 2019 moot in Abergavenny, after seeing Beaded Torc clumps extending into South Wales, it was found that this alignment passes through that town, crossing River Usk by the Roman Fort of Gobannivm. It goes over Ysgyryd Fawr on part of the Beacons Way to the north east and by the cairns on the Blorenge on the south west.

If extended further it would be on a list of OS Landranger map-sheets:

Some possible sites yet to be visited would be; to the north east, OS 113 Grimsby – Hackthorn Cliff, a mound near Claxby church, Grimsby Docks and Skeffling Church. In the other direction. Down through Birmingham, South Wales and along the coast of North Cornwall:

OS Landranger 139 West Midlands

Bone Hill

Moated mound near Mile Oak

High Heath

Whitehouse Common

Sutton Coldfield St. Peter's Church

Witton Lakes

Rotton Park

Lozells St. Frances'

Gib Heath

Bell Hall, Bell End

Broom Hill

OS Landranger 149 Hereford

Knightwick Manor

Stanford Bishop Church Hill

Bromtree Hall

The Dove Hills

Windmill Hill, Newton

Hampton Meadow, R. Lugg, Hampton Bishop

Dinedor Church

Dinedor Camp, Dinedor Cross

King's Pits

Aconbury Hill

Much Dewchurch

OS Landranger 200 Newquay

Tintagel Hill Fort, Monastery

St. Enodoc Church

Brea Tumuli

Redcliffe Castle

Bedruthan Steps

Kelsey Head Settlement

OS Landranger 203 Land's End

Longstone, Carbis Bay

Trencrom Hill Fort, Polpeor

Castle Horneck and Lesinger Round

Tresvenneck Standing Stones


Hella Point Landmarks

Online references:

          (i) The Derbyshire Portway

          (ii) Castle Donington

          (iii) Turf labyrinth

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