From this position it is clear that the round barrow, Gib Hill, is a very prominent feature in this landscape. It certainly didn’t escape the attention of Thomas Bateman, a local antiquarian who excavated a great many barrows in and around the Peak District during the 1800s.
Archaeologist, John Barnatt, describes the unusual way in which Thomas Bateman tackled Gib Hill:
Alternatively, you can read the transcription below:
Gib Hill is unusual in how high it is. The well known antiquarian Thomas Bateman dug here, he wasn’t the first, other people had had a go, but because it was so high he actually dug a tunnel in from the side, and the stone box, after he dug his tunnel, fell out of the roof much to his surprise. Normally he just dug straight in from the top of a mound, this was different.
The stone box (also known as a ‘cist’) contained pottery and cremated human bone. The style of the pottery dates the bowl barrow to around 3,500 to 4,000 years ago in the early bronze age. For a time this cist was displayed in the grounds on Bateman’s home at Lomberdale House, but it was restored to the site in 1938 and the top is visible on the summit of the barrow.
Bateman’s excavation was the last recorded excavation at the site – Bateman’s diary of the dig left us a good record of their activities.
10th January: a trench was cut about half-way up the mound; finds consisted of a few splinters of animal bone and a burnt flint flake.
11th January: the trench was extended beyond the centre of the site; finds included more animal bones, a dog tooth, numerous burnt flint flakes and a “neatly formed arrowhead” of flint.
12th January: The trench was widened upon either side, this indicated that the centre of the barrow was formed of loose stones, whilst the outer parts were of tempered earth/hard clay. Finds consisted of an ornamented potsherd, a circular flint (possibly a scraper) an “arrowpoint” and numerous flint chippings.
13th January: the trench was deepened, cutting through layers of clay “varied by layers of decomposed wood and charcoal”, Bateman discovered animal bones and flints.
14th January: the trench was deepened further, laying bare a space 25 by 18 feet (7.6 by 5.5 metres) to natural. This indicated that the main barrow had been raised over four smaller mounds, each of “indurated clay intermixed with wood and charcoal”. On the natural soil beneath the mounds were flints, and the “large disconnected bones of oxen very much decayed”.
15th January: a tunnel was driven at a right angle from the west side of the trench. After sometime the tunnel was considered unsafe. It was abandoned and the supports knocked away, causing it to collapse. This collapse exposed a stone cist, consisting of four massive limestone slabs forming a rectangular structure measuring 0.75 by 0.6 metres. A fifth slab around 1.2 metres square and 10 inches thick, formed the capstone, and was originally positioned around half a metre below the surface. The cist contained a food vessel and a human cremation.
17th January: Bateman examined the fill which had fallen from the cist. This included a molar tooth and lower jaw of a horse, in addition to a white flint.
There may have been an excavation at Gib Hill in the 18th century by Mr W. Normanshaw which recovered human remains. However, there is uncertainty about this account it may refer instead to the Arbor Low round barrow.
Another excavation is recorded as early as 1812 under the direction of the then landowner, Mr B. Thornhill of Stanton. Finds included human hand bones and silver coins, the latter are undated but have been speculatively classed as Roman. However, early investigations were poorly recorded and do not necessarily relate to Gib Hill. Both the excavation and suggested finds were refuted by the Rev. Mr Thornhill, who could only speculate they might have been conducted by his late brother.
Samuel Mitchell linked the finds discovered by Mr Thornhill and Mr Normanshaw and suggested “there must have been a subsequent interment, most probably Roman.” Both the association and date are considered speculative.
Gib Hill was the subject of an excavation by Samuel Mitchell and William Bateman (father of Thomas) on 1st to 2nd June 1824. A trench was cut from the south-east side to the centre. During the excavation, a smaller mound of stiff clay was found on the old land surface beneath the oval barrow, measuring three to four yards across by one and half yards high. It contained layers of charcoal and cremated human bone together with a garment of polished stone axe and a flint implement, variously described as an “arrowhead”, “dart or javelin point”.
Nearer the surface were a small iron fibula and an amorphous piece of iron, whilst through the trench were “numerous pieces of burnt white flint”. It has been suggested the flints may have been residual, part of the constriction material of the mound. The brooch, however, may indicate later re-use of the barrow, possibly in the Romano-British or ‘Anglian’ (Saxon) periods.
Arbor Low and Gib Hill are managed by Historic England
Much of the background information and record of excavations at has come from Derbyshire’s Historic Environment Record