Guildford: Guildown Anglo-Saxon Cemetery

Guildown Anglo-Saxon cemetery was discovered in 1929 during landscaping works in the garden of Chalk Hill, Guildown Avenue.  In total, 223 burials were excavated by Colonel O H North and A W G Lowther, of which less than thirty contained finds, mostly dating to the late 6th century.

The early Anglo-Saxon (c. 6th & 7th century) pagan cemetery was distinguished by burials including grave goods.  Cinerary urns containing calcined bones were also discovered, indicating the early medieval cemetery was of mixed rite, that is containing both inhumation and cremation burials.  In total, 36 6th century burials were uncovered, a large proportion of which were women and children.  Grave goods were varied, with the most common artefacts being weaponry and personal accessories (such as brooches and buckles).  Most of the burials were supine, however, two graves had large flints arranged around the body and two were partially flexed and on their side.

The later Anglo-Saxon cemetery (post 7th century) at the site may represent several phases of burials, including a late Anglo-Saxon execution cemetery.  That a considerable number of these later burials met with a violent end is apparent from the frequency of prone burials and those displaying evidence of decapitation, mutilation and random orientation within shallow and cramped multiple grave.

It is apparent that the later cemetery was used over a substantial period of time, as some burials have disturbed earlier inhumations, indicating the location of previous burials had gone out of memory.  However, a combination of events and burial rites may have created this cemetery, as the apparently organised continuous row of triple burials lying west-east in one section of the site seems to be at odds with the otherwise random spatial interment of the other substantial number of mutilated and careless burials.

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