Hidden East Anglia:
Landscape Legends of Eastern England
From at least the 10th century - and perhaps even earlier - East Anglia (like many other areas) was divided into Hundreds, areas of land possibly based on a hundred 'hides' or family holdings. In medieval times, the Hundred was the basis of all public administration, and its courts, known as 'moots' or 'things', and which were second only to the county, were often held at local landmarks such as fords, lakes, prominent boulders and trees - or in these cases, at artificial mounds or earthworks. Moots were also held for other local assemblies such as sheriff's courts, and possibly also for trading or religious gatherings:
Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk: The Court for the Hundred of Thingoe met at a mound known as the Thing-Howe, Dinghowe, Thinghill or Thingo on Shirehouse Heath, just outside Bury's Northgate, where Northgate Avenue is today. The Thinghowe (TL849655) was also the meeting place for the Liberty of St.Edmunds, a group of eight ½ Hundreds under the jurisdiction of the abbot of St. Edmund's.
The hill was obtained by the local convent in the early 11th century, and the Court transferred to a tumulus called Catteshill (TL884653, now Catteshall) at Great Barton, where the Tyburn Barn now stands. In 1305 it moved again to a tumulus called Henhowe (TL845657), one of four mounds on the boundary of Bury, on Shire-house Heath, where the Black Cross also stood. The Shire Hall itself stood on Henhowe till about 1573, to be superseded by Henhowe Mill. This mound too has gone.
After the Court was moved from the Thinghowe, the hill was a place of execution till the 18th century. Forty witches were hanged there during Matthew Hopkins' persecutions in 1644, and Lowestoft's two famous witches in 1662. The last execution was on April 4th 1766, when Elizabeth Burroughs was hanged for the 'wilful murder' of Mary Booty, and the site became known locally as Betty Burroughs' Hill.
Castle Hedingham, Essex: At the junction of Nunnery Street and Yeldham Road is Crouch Green (TL775355), formerly a more raised area that may have once been a mound. It was once called Musloe or Mustoe Green, perhaps a corruption of (ge)mot-stow, Saxon for ‘assembly place’. Close to the ford that gave ‘Hinckford’ its name, it was the site of the gallows, and the court leet for the Hinckford Hundred. (See also Thunderlow, below.)
Flitcham-with-Appleton, Norfolk: Freebridge-Lynn Hundred Court met at a lost mound surrounded by a square ditch called Flitcham Burgh by the roadside a little north of Flitcham. Beloe in 1893 said it was in the wooded and ditched Paston's Clump, at the crossroads at TF718282. In the 3rd year of Elizabeth 1st, the court met under an oak at Gaywood near King's Lynn, and after that, till about 1710, at the Fitton Oak at Wiggenhall St. Germans.
Frettenham, Norfolk: A number of Bronze Age barrows used to exist in the wooded area at Chisel Hill, with only one now remaining, at TG241175. One of the destroyed mounds was called Court Hill, after which a nearby road is named, and which has been suggested as the site of the Hundred Court or sheriff's court for Taverham Hundred.
Gisleham, Suffolk: An Anglo-Saxon burial mound used to stand here on Bloodmoor Hill, an area marked as 'Mootway Common' on the 1799 enclosure map. Three parishes once met here, and it has been suggested as a possible moot site of the Mutford Hundred. Another possibility is Mutford Bridge, a mile or so to the north in Oulton Broad.
Great Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire: Mutlow Hill (TL547544) is the name of both a Bronze Age burial mound, and the small hill upon which it stands, next to the Anglo Saxon defensive earthwork called the Fleam Dyke. The edge of the hill is where three parishes and three Hundreds meet, and the name itself suggests a meeting-place.
Harlow, Essex: A probable Bronze Age bowl barrow stands at TL478112, near Old Harlow. Known variously as Mulberry Hill and Old Moat Bury, this may well account for the ‘hlaew’ part of the parish name, and was probably the moot place for the Harlow Hundred.
Kimberley, Norfolk: The moot of Forehoe Hundred was held at the Four Hills barrows, within a wood near the hamlet of Carleton Forehoe. Two of the mounds survive (TG080054).
Lexden, Essex: The tumulus at TL975247 in Fitzwalter Road seems likely to have been the moot mound for Lexden Hundred at one time.
Little Sampford, Essex: A circular moated site (TL647336), shrouded in trees just west of the village, has been suggested as the moot place for Freshwell Hundred. Now flattened, it was also possibly a mill mound at one time.
Long Melford, Suffolk: The Court for Babergh Hundred met at a mound on Babergh Heath near Long Melford, but this was removed during the making of an airfield.
Longham, Norfolk: Launditch Hundred met at the earthen dyke called Launditch or Devil's Dyke (TF923170 area), where a Roman road and the parish boundary between Longham and Beeston crossed it.
Meldreth, Cambridgeshire: The Kneesworth Road runs out of Meldreth across a slope called Mettle Hill (TL364457), where Roman remains were found in the 19th century. In 1319 it is recorded as 'Motloweyhil', and was probably the meeting place for Armingford Hundred.
New Buckenham, Norfolk: There is now no trace of Haugh Head, a ditched enclosure once to be found at TM094900, in fields south-east of the village. It has been claimed as the site of a Hundred Court, and pre-dating the 12th century.
Snettisham, Norfolk: It has been suggested that Smethdon Hundred met at the former site of a Bronze Age mound at approx. TF733340, some way east of the village. It was recorded as Smithdon Hill on a map of 1626.
Swaffham, Norfolk: The assembly for Greenhoe Hundred was held at the tumuli called the Green Hills just south of Swaffham. One still survives, at TF828056.
Thorpe St. Andrew, Norfolk: Walter Rye in 1920 suggested that Gargytt Hill, on the outskirts of Norwich, may have been the meeting-place for Blofield Hundred. A group of burial mounds that used to stand there, at TG274094, have been described as both Bronze Age and Neolithic.
Thunderlow, Essex: Now a lost name, the little half-hundred of Thunderlow in the north of the county was long ago absorbed into Hinckford Hundred. The name itself suggests a specific spot, a meeting-place called ‘Thunor’s hlaew’, or ‘Thor’s mound/hill’. ‘Hinckford’ actually refers to a ford at Castle Hedingham (see above).
Thurston, Suffolk: Thedwastre hundred is thought to have met at the top of Thedwastre Hill (TL921649) in Thurston - possibly under a specific oak tree, as the name translates as 'Theodward's tree', an idea which the village sign commemorates. A mound outside the village at TL911647 has also been suggested as the moot site, but this is now reckoned to be a more modern object.
Tilney All Saints, Norfolk: Known as 'Knights Seats' on the enclosure map, a Bronze Age burial mound used to exist at about TF561200, in Spellow Fields close to the boundary with Terrington St. Clement. This is believed to have been the medieval moot site for the 'lost' hundred of Spelhoge ('speech hill').
Walpole St. Peter, Norfolk: Called "a very pronounced moot hill", a mound used to stand at TF501165, next to Walnut Road. It could also have been the site of a beacon fire, and was known as Mill Hill in the early 17th century.
Weeting, Norfolk: At the southern edge of the clearing in which the hollows of Grime's Graves can be seen is an artificial mound (possibly a spoil heap from the mines) known as Grimshoe (TL819898), where the assembly for Grimshoe Hundred was probably convened.
Wendens Ambo, Essex: Uttlesford Hundred met at Mutlow Hill (known in 1316 as Motelawe), a now-destroyed burial mound probably in the area of Mutlow Hall.
Witham, Essex: The moot for the Witham Hundred, at least in the later Saxon period, was probably held at Chipping Hill Camp (TL819151) in the town, a possible Iron Age settlement earthwork that is now mostly gone. An alternative suggested site was a mound that used to stand in the vicarage grounds, next to the church.