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Montem Mound, Upton-cum-Chalvey

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Salt Hill; Salts Hill; Sol's Hill

In the civil parish of Slough.
In the historic county of Buckinghamshire.
Modern Authority of Slough.
1974 county of Berkshire.
Medieval County of Buckinghamshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU96668004
Latitude 51.51112° Longitude -0.60851°

Montem Mound, Upton-cum-Chalvey has been described as a Timber Castle although is doubtful that it was such.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

Despite some later modification, the probable motte at Salt Hill retains archaeological potential and survives well as a landscape feature with interesting historical associations with the Eton festival of Montem.
The monument includes the remains of a substantial mound situated alongside Montem Lane, on the edge of a valley terrace overlooking a small stream. Though the original form of the mound is somewhat obscured by later modification, it has the appearance of a small motte, possibly constructed to control a fording point. It is roughly circular in shape with a diameter of 28m and remains up to 6m high around the best preserved north-western half. The south-eastern part of the mound is less well preserved, having the appearance of being unfinished. In this area it rises as a series of three low scarps to a total height of 3.7m. The flat summit of the mound has dimensions of 7m north to south by 4m east to west. The site has historical associations with Eton College as the focus of the Montem celebration, which was observed triennially between the years 1561 and 1846. This ceremony, peculiar to Eton, is reported to date from the foundation of the college. It consisted of a procession of scholars, dressed either in military or fancy costume, to a small mound at Salt Hill, on the south side of the Bath road. Here they extracted money for salt from those present and from passers by. The festival was abolished in 1846 by Dr Hawtrey. (Scheduling Report)

Mound at Salt Hill, Upton-cum-Chalvey, possibly a tumulus; scene of the celebration of the old Eton custom of "Montem". (RCHME)
A time-honoured custom of Eton College attached to this mound. First mentioned in 1561 (Malim), the festival was abolished in 1846 by Dr Hawtrey. (Cust; Lyte)
The mound known as the Montem, situated at SU 96668005, was quite possibly a barrow but it has been built up to its present size in later years. (F1 RLBW 06-MAY-1953)
"The Montem" - a ceremony peculiar to Eton and said to have been co-eval with the foundation of the college. - was observed triennially to the year 1844 when it was abolished. It was a procession of the scholars, dressed in either military or fancy costume, to a small mound (supposed to be a British or Saxon barrow) at Salt Hill, on the south side of the Bath Road, where they extracted money for salt from those present and from passers by. (Sheanan)
No change. Isolated in a built up area this grass and scrub-covered mound has been confused by dumping, scarping and superficial mutilation, so that no visual interpretation of original form or dimensions is possible. The overall height on the S side is c 6.0m. (F2 JRL 04-JUL-1974) (PastScape)

The small mound on the south side of Montem Lane, close to its junction with the Bath Road, was for centuries the scene of the picturesque ceremony of the Eton Montem. It is this fact, rather than its ancient but obscure origin, which has caused it to be scheduled as an Ancient Monument. Among other theories, it has been conjectured Montem Mound is a Saxon tumulus. None of the theories can be proved without excavation, and permission for this is unlikely, as it is not considered to be 'in danger'. Difficulties are arising, however, over its inclusion in the proposed development of the Montem Pleasure Ground as a Sports Centre. (Fraser)

Montem Mound was examined by the Round Mounds Project during the 2016 field season. Two core samples were extracted from the mound in order to examine the makeup of the monument, and to extract material suitable for radiocarbon dating. The mound was found to consist of a 3.5m high artificial mound of sand and gravel. Charred plant remains extracted from near the buried former ground surface and from midway in the mound makeup indicate that the mound was constructed some time after the mid-5th century, probably in the 6th or 7th century AD. This places the origin of Montem mound firmly in the early part of the Anglo-Saxon period
Although its discovery is a surprise, the newly-discovered Anglo-Saxon monument at Montem Mound, Salt Hill, is not entirely without parallels - in the old churchyard at Taplow, just 3 miles (5.7km) northwest from Montem is another very similar monument, also known to date to the early Anglo-Saxon period. Given their similarity in form, date and landscape situation, it is likely that, like Taplow, Montem Mound started out as the burial mound of an important local figure. (Stastney 2017)
Comments

Despite, or possibly because of, a considerably fame as a local feature this mound seems little noticed by archaeologists. Although the scheduling report calls it a motte it is scheduled for it historic interest as the site for Eton Montem. In June 2012 the PastScape record made no mention of the possibility of a motte and recorded it as a 'possible' barrow. Regardless of the scheduling report this mound is recorded in Gatehouse as doubtful as this is not a manorial centre, there is no bailey and there is nothing about the form of the mound to suggest a motte.
Identified as a C6-C7 Anglo-Saxon burial mound by the Round Mounds Project.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
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This record last updated 08/06/2017 07:31:55

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