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Ivinghoe Beacon



Mystery mine of Ivinghoe where ancient Britons worked flints. Amazing finds.

For 3,000 years travellers on the ancient Icknield Way threw anything they did not want into an old flint mine by the roadside. Long centuries of rubbish gradually filled it up, the top caved in, and eventually all trace of the mine was lost. Recent work in laying a waterpipe has revealed this storehouse of the centuries, and the discoveries made there bid fair to cause acute controversy amongst archaeologists.

Sheltered beneath the bluff face of Ivinghoe Beacon - the gaunt spur of the Chilterns overlooking the vale of Aylesbury - runs the ancient Icknield Way, and into its stones is knit the history of Southern England. Today a reporter followed again the road which once resounded to the martial tramp of Roman legions. Since the dawn of Britain's history travellers have stopped at this point. Today they still do so, and but a stone's throw away is the old mine.

To Mr W. Cobell, the one-armed garage man, these remarkable discoveries are due. Badly wounded in the War, an open-air job was necessary to keep him fit, and he now contrives to combine making a living with his hobby of archaeology. Mr Cobell led the way to the old shaft, half-hidden between a hawthorn hedge. Forty feet down into the solid chalk this old mine sinks into what was once a rich seam of fine flints. Four feet across, it is just wide enough for a man to straddle his legs. That revealed how the ancient miners ascended and descended probably 3,000 years ago. A series of footholds had been cut on either side of the shaft, and today young Sam, the enthusiastic excavator and purveyor, clambered down in the same old way, disdaining the modern rope and tackle. With an electric torch he illuminated its gloomy depths - the bottom is not yet reached - and showed where another tunnel leads away into the heart of the hill.

At the bottom of the shaft a magnificent flint axe with a giant left-handed grip has been found. There were also other rude weapons and arrow heads of flint, flakes and chippings, spear points, bones of animals, and similar traces of the ancient British village which once occupied the site. "These were the people who dug the mine and worked it until the flints ran out," Mr Cobell said. "Then it was just left open and became the rubbish pit for anyone passing by on the road." Above the prehistoric debris came traces of the Roman occupation of Britain. A roof tile of unmistakeable Roman make and a chimney tile bear the footprints of a dog that walked over them while they were wet and drying in the sun. Its footmarks can still be seen. A bronze coin of the Roman period has also been found, but its exact date has yet to be determined. Vast quantities of pottery of the early Iron Age were mixed in indescribable confusion with Roman wares, Anglo-Saxon wares, and pottery of successive peoples down to the fine medieval glazes. Fragments of 16th and 17th century glazes lying on top of all this accumulation have definitely been identified.

A few yards away is another curious hole made by these prehistoric miners. It may have been the floor where the flints were worked. The tremendous number of flakes found suggest that it was, but it was also the scene of a great fire, for which there is no explanation at present. Charred bones, burnt wood, and scores of flints scorched and split by intense heat are still there. Mr Edward Holis, curator of the Buckinghamshire County Museum at Aylesbury, said: "I know of nothing in England like this mine, if mine it be. The variety of the debris from so many periods of history is amazing, and until the site has been fully examined by experts it is impossible to say what is the real solution."
In the 'Gloucester Citizen', 25th August 1932.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
11th June 2023ce

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