The article is strongly entitled 'British Archaeology and Philistinism'. He's very cross and frustrated.
At the end of the second week in July two contracted skeletons were found in a nurseryman's grounds near the famous British camp at Leagrave, Luton. Both were greatly contracted; one, on its right side, had both arms straight down, one under the body the other above; the other skeleton lay upon its left side, with the left hand under the face and the right arm straight down. Both were probably female, and upon the breast of one was a fine bronze pin seven inches long with three pendant ornaments, and three discs of bronze, one plated with gold. Other bronzes of great interest were found with the second skeleton.
I do not write to describe the bones and ornament, but to make public the conduct of the Luton authority. A most intelligent workman lives close to the site of the discovery - one Thomas Cumberland - a man who has studied the antiquities of the district for many years, and to whom antiquaries are indebted for great and freely given assistance. This man was on the spot at once, and clearly and correctly stated the age of the bones and ornaments as British or late Celtic.
Notwithstanding this information, the local police insisted on an inquest, although the bones were broken to pieces and in the highest degree friable. I went ot the nursery and confirmed Mr. Cumberland's determination, made drawings of the bronzes, and such an examination of the bones as circumstances would permit.
The coroner refused to hold an inquest, and so had no authority to make any order, but he wrote and "suggested" that the bones should be buried in the parish churchyard. Armed with this "suggestion," the relieving officer ordered an undertaker to carry off the bones, which he did, in spite of the protest of the nurseryman, who informed him that they had been given to me and were my property. He was ordered to put the bones in coffins and bury them in the churchyard of Biscot. The undertaker took the bones to his shop at Luton. I at once applied to the relieving officer for permission to examine adn measure some of the bones. I clearly explained to him the nature and importance of the discovery, and the trifling nature of the favour asked. This official replied in a curt and rude manner, and simply said, "I have no authority; you must apply to the coroner."
I repeatedly wrote to the undertaker to delay the funeral for a few days. I twice wrote to the coroner in an urgent but most respectful manner, and pointed out the importance of the discovery, which, indeed, is quite unique in this district, but all to no purpose. He said he had not given the "order" for burial, and he refused to interfere, but he wrote to the undertaker and said, "I can give no consent or authority in any way, but must leave you to carry out the arrangement which has been come to with you." I wrote letters for six days to the different persons concerned, but to no effect; they would have a funeral, and the police now actually demanded the bronzes from the owner. The property is free-hold.
Well, on Wednesday last the two coffins were screwed up at Luton and taken in a hearse to Biscot churchyard, where the vicar, in the presence of a policeman, officiated. Shining breastplates were screwed on to the coffins inscribed, "Bones found at Leagrave, July 1905." Amongst the bones in the coffins were several non-human examples, a rib bone of a sheep, a piece of a rib of beef, a bone of a rabbit, and another of roebuck.
Set a little to the north-west of the fine 'Five Knolls' barrow cemetery, near Dunstable, first impressions upon arriving at this large, univallate enclosure are not good. To put it mildly. Yeah, sadly sections of the local yoof would appear to enjoy nothing better than to drive (presumably stolen) cars within the ramparts and torch them. Or else consume plastic bags full of 'super strength' and duly dump the empty cans in piles around the perimeter. I've heard the former referred to as 'joy riding'.... but, honestly, can any occupation better betray such an intrinsic sense of self loathing than this? Or such a sense of benign resignation from the locals walking their dogs amongst THIS, as if saying 'hey, but what can you do?' Sure, it makes the traveller think... but unless you share a (in my opinion) warped Damien Hirst worldview, I'd be surprised if the instinctive visitor reaction isn't to 'get the hell outta here!' To be honest that was mine. Too far out of my comfort zone, I readily admit. Soft, middle class Essex boy that I am. However I'd recommend perseverance. For Maiden Bower is a fine hillfort. No, really. It is.
For the most part the single rampart is cloaked with a (very painful) mantle of hawthorn. Now ordinarily this would be a veritable pain in the arse - not to mention numerous other parts of the anatomy - but not here. For I am in no doubt that, without this natural 'armour', the ancient defences would be in a far worse state of preservation than they currently are. OK, rabbits are clearly a major menace, the majority of the northern-western arc having also crumbled away into a quarry... but nonetheless Maiden Bower is upstanding. And duly begins to cast its spell, sunlight breaking through the early morning cloud mantle beginning to work its magic, the unfathomably complex relationship between highlight and shade now interacting upon the rampart. Perhaps it is the knowledge that this enclosure really is the 'real deal'... people died here, horribly, too (by all accounts)... that the current destruction seems so utterly ridiculous. So meaningless, so damn pointless. Yeah, how I wish I had been endowed with some metaphysical 'ability' to somehow convince those super strength swilling youths that nihilism is a one way trip. Jesus, now I'm wishing I was... well... Jesus. Time to stop.
Yeah, there is a lot more to Maiden Bower than initially greets the eye. Such as the fact that the Iron Age enclosure apparently overlays an earlier causewayed camp. So yes. I'd recommend you do come to the Bower. And if you happen to be a local reading this... ask yourself... are you happy to put up with what is happening to your youth and local hillfort? Guess it's up to you.
TMA-ers wishing to make the trip are advised to drive to Chalk Farm on the A5 and take the 'dead end' minor Sewell road (near the White Lion pub) to park before an old railway bridge. Go through the arch, turn left and.... well.
This wonderful promontory fort couldn't be more unlike the not too distant Maiden Bowers - from whence I've just come - if it tried.... occupying the northern tip of a wondrous chalk spur of The Chilterns, set beneath glorious beech.
To be honest there does not appear a lot of archaeology here, the cross bank, isolating the enclosure from the southern hinterland, apparently substantially amended in medieval times to serve as a rabbit warren (hence, perhaps, the name), the defences of the remainder of the perimeter probably never that upstanding in the first place. Yeah, there really was no need, not when the location posessed such natural strength, nothing more than a little scarping of the existing promontory edge deemed necessary, perhaps?
Despite the steady procession of visitors, the vibe here is excellent, the sun, streaming through the thin Spring canopy, sending shadows streaking across the landscape - like the Clappers - to contrast with the brilliant, white chalk in the most striking manner possible. Yeah, the 'Daz doorstep challenge' has nothing on this, I can tell you. Roots, twisting this way and that in a do or die effort to secure a grip, envoke images of the ancient forest in my mind, the gnarled, twisted trees they support the very epitomy of Nature, the lungs of the Earth, in turn supporting the creatures that live upon it. Including me. Ha! QED.
By far the majority of visitors arrive from the south, a car park accessible from Sharpenhoe Road. This would appear the route if you'd rather not - or perhaps physically can not - make the very steep ascent from Barton Road to the north. Needless to say I wasn't aware of the alternative at the time... but, hey, guess I probably need the exercise. Wonderful.