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Luton Area Post Punk. Article 2


Number two in a series of selected articles taken from the popular UK Decay Community forums from 2004 to present.
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City of the Ravens

If Los Angeles means 'City of the Angels' then Ravensburgh means 'City of the Ravens'.
Situated on the Beds/Herts UK, borderlands some 5 miles North East of Luton above Hexton on the Chiltern hill Escarpment lays Eastern Britains largest Hillfort.
Hexton stands north east of Luton in well-wooded and hilly country adjacent to the Bedfordshire border. The church is mediaeval with heavy 19th century restoration. Far older is the Iron Age camp of Ravensburgh Castle that straddles the hilltop. Built about 400BC and refortified in IBC, it has two entrances, covers 22 acres, and is surrounded by a ditch.
Following the article, 'return to Clophill Church' and with a 'thirsty' appetite for
more intrigue into the mystical landscapes and 'Occult' village pubs, the
'Barton Warlocks' set out on an expedition to find this 'mythical' City of the Ravens.

After meeting outside the Church in Hexton ,the 'Warlocks' gathered their divining staffs and offerings and got ready to embark on the journey into forbidden territory. Looking at the Medieval Church (of St. Faith) they noticed that one whole side of the Church Tower had collapsed recently although the Church was still in use!

Could this church begoing the same way as Clophill Church , approximately 5 miles to the north?

One barton warlock told us about the 'Witch of Hexton'..'Old Meg'..who got burnt at the stake and now a spring is named after her nearby.
One things for sure, even though there is a busy road going through the village, you could easily imagine that you have been 'transported' back in time. With the church and some of its cottages, small village school and incredibly high walls that surround the Manor House {who are they trying to keep out..or in!)
Hexton has a very unusual 'vibe' about it.very charming on a nice sunny day. However there are some very odd things about there too!

There were 2 'sentinel' Ravens guarding the gates of the vicarage looking menacing, further up the road they passed the old Police station which has now been turned into a very desirable dwelling.

The ancient 'Icknield way' Britain if not Europe’s oldest road travels on top of the hills surrounding Hexton which are also smothered in ancient Barrows, dykes and other evidence of Iron Age civilisation.

Nearby is a hill called 'Wayting hill' of which local Folklore tells of a 'sleeping warrior' Whom one-day will re-awaken and claim his kingdom.
At the crossroads in the middle of the village the 'Warlocks' noticed that the village Signpost doubled as a water pump!
Could this pump be fed from the 'Faery Hole' spring?

Deep inside the Ravensburg Castle area there is a wooded-valley with a spring in its lower reaches. The valley is known as 'Faery Hole' and the spring is known as 'Burwell spring' .
This spring was the castles water source and feeds a stream which runs further down the valley towards Hexton. From there it was pumped up by the now de-funct Water pump.

The village pub would have to wait the mission was Ravensburg.
So the 'Warlocks' made their accent up the hills towards the lonely castle.
The whole area of the castle is privately owned and the general public is 'prohibited' from enjoying its enlightenment.
The plan was to follow the old 'Green Road' known as the 'Hexton Highway' which led to Luton, now a footpath that led through part of the Castle hinterland.
At a suitable point they headed of into the wooded-hills and valleys complex . The further they got into the forest the quieter and darker it got!

Eventually after climbing up steep hills through at times deep undergrowth, they reached the ramparts of the Castle!
After 2 and a half thousand years all that was left to see was an a grassed embankment on the north-west corner, which is on the highest part of the hill. This corner led to a large plateau which descended at 'Barton hills' on the other side On this corner was said to have been the
main entrance.

The ramparts of the castle follow a roughly rounded rectangular shape, north to south and apart from the North west corner the ground falls steeply down to the valley floor.

It would have been a formidable obstacle to have tried to overcome if you were to try and take the castle by force in the Iron Age. Now its difficult enough to try and get through the undergrowth!

After a brief rest the party continued around the castle on the top of the ramparts towards the south east corner where the second entrance led to the spring.

Here they would descend the steep sides of the hill deep
into the valley below towards 'Faery hole' and the 'Burgh well' spring.
Eventually after a few slides and tumbles and breaking through some
extremely thick undergrowth, the warlocks entered the deep
flat-bottomed valley floor which turned out to be a grassed meadow.
Following the valley floor round a bend gave one a sense of what
the castle must have looked like in its hey-day. There would be no trees!
(the current forest, is a plantation that was started in the 1920's!)
The whole area would have been grassed hills and a maze of dry river
valleys that encircled a central hill that was once crowned by the massive
palisade ’s. Now they are just worn away earthen banks stradled
by trees and shrubs.
The actual slopes of the castle hill itself were 'lynches' which if you can
imagine, are like steps carved out into the side of the hill, for growing
crops. This place must have been teeming with activity and must have
acted like a major seat of power in its dominating position on the
'Icknield Way'
In fact there is very strong evidence to suggest that Ravensburgh may
have been the site of the oppidum where Caesar defeated the British
warlord Cassivellaunus in 54BC. Having done this he was satisfied
that he held the British nation under his manners and returned to Rome.
The party now made its way toward the burr well spring at the foot of
'Faery hole' along the flat-bottomed valley floor. They reached a copse of
trees and then descended into a deep wooded pit at the bottom of which
there was a
pool of water.
They had reached the spring, the water source for the ravensburgh
Knights. Right away there was a realisation this was no ordinary spring
the water that was bubbling up from the chalk below had a special quality.
After bathing and 'taking of the waters' the warlocks blessed the 'Holy
spring' with offerings of flowers, said goodbye and departed.
It was a struggle climbing back up the sides of the pit but when they got
back out to the meadow, the silence was broken by a cacophony of Crows
flying above! Quite fitting they were heading back towards the castle
The party then ascended another valley and found a nice site to eat their curry!

Hexton Church
As mentioned earlier, the Church of st.Faiths in Hexton's Tower had collapsed!

After trawling for a possible reason for this we came across an interesting article on which told of a story about the 'Holy well' of st.Faiths.

"There is a small parcel of ground adjoining the churchyard called "St. Faith's Wick Court," about a pole in measurement, anciently divided from Malewick by a ditch in the same place where now a large moat is made. The greatest part of this Wick lying upon a bed of springs, and undrained, was very boggy towards the churchyard; but the west side being higher, the ground was well planted with oaks, willows, and bushes, near adjoining unto [80] which, writeth a narrow-minded Pharisee, the crafty priests had made a well about a yard deep, and very clear at the bottom, and curbed about, which they called St. Faith's Well. Now over this well they built a house, and in the house they placed the image and statue of St. Faith, and a causy they had mad (which I found when I digged and levelled the ground) for the people to pass who resorted thither from far and Hear to visit our Lady, and to perform their devotions reverently, kissing a fine-coloured stone placed in her toe. This Lady was trimly apparelled, and I find in an old book of churchwarden's accounts, in the reign of Henry VIII., that they had delivered unto the St. Faith a cote and a velvet tippet. The Lady had no land to maintain her, that I know of, more than 1 acre lying in Mill Field, called at this day St. Faith's ½ acre, which, as being given to superstitious uses, came to the King's hands at the dissolution, and is now parcel of the demesnes. The house being pulled down, and the idol cast away, the well was filled up, yet an apparent mention of the place remained till my time, and St. Faith's Well continued as a waste and unprofitable and neglected piece of land till such time as the footpath was turned through the midst of it to the outside on the south by the highway, and their clearing and levelling the ground, having been drained, and sunk the spring, I converted the same, in the year of our Lord 1624, into a little orchard.
The Lady Faith was a Virgin and Martyr of Agenne, in France, A.D. 1290. --MS. account of Hexton, by Francis Taverner. Her feast-day in the Calendar of Saints is October 6."

Judging from this we must presume the Tower collapsed because it was near to the original well, which is now a moat ( only 10 metres to the west) Obviously the whole area is riddled with underground waterways and although the Church had been built in the 12th century and had survived intact for 8 hundred years, the unstable ground had eventually given way causing the Tower to collapse.

Now, with the 'Holy' springs of 'Burwell', 'Meg' and Barton nearby and bearing in mind the odd waterpump at the crossroads of the village,this leads us to think of the ancient origins of the area and its associations with Holy Wells, Springs and underground waterways.

The fact that the Icknield way runs along the Chiltern escarpment and is never far away from the series of springs that errupt out of the foot of the hills fits in with the ancient Celtic Watercult theories.
Check out this article for further information

Its interesting to note that some 5 miles south west at a place now called
'5-Springs' at Wauluds Bank{a Henge- Monument}, the Celtic god 'Lug'
or 'Lud' or 'Lyg', presided over the springs that are the source of the River Lea.
'Lud' is the Celtic God of light, and indeed the name 'Lea' or 'Lee' is a corruption of this
name...the town now known as Luton is named after this river which
in itself is named after the god of light! 'Ton' is an Anglo Saxon name for
a town or large settlement. So therefore Luton means " the town of Lud' -the Celtic God of Light'!

Does this sound like the Luton you know?

Wayting Hill
(Scanned from a book called 'Gothick Hertfordshire' by Jennifer WestwoodShire Publications isbn 0 7478 0041 3 )

~Fascinating reading this book, Gothic tales from one of the deepest Shires - Hertfordshire, UK. complete with many echoes of the Pagan past.~

The sleeping warrior legend is synonymous of course with the King Arthur
legends of the once and future king who one day will rise again and claim
the throne. These legends can be found at various places in the British Isles
and had an effect of the minds of the medieval kings of this land!

Henry V111 would never had happened, had his older brother 'Arthur'
not had the misfortune of dying. 'Arthur' was to be king in his fathers
(Henry V11) eyes. Henry V11 believed that he was decended from the original
King Arthur. So after bashing up the last of the 'Norman' king bloodline
at the battle of Bosworth in the 'war of the roses' Henry married
Elizabeth of York and had a son.
Such was Henry's beleif that one day Arthur would arrise and retake the
throne, he would make sure of it by naming his son, heir to the English
throne Arthur. That would make sure the legend would come true!
Sadly that was not to be, 'Arthur' died barely a teenager leaving the
throne to his next brother who would become Henry V111.

The Danish connection
Also mentioned in the Wayting hill peice above is that the locals believed
that the Hillfort was a Danish (Viking) castle.
This may have some basis of truth for in William Austins seminal 'The
History of Luton and its Hamlets', it is mentioned that in the time of
'Danelaw' AD800/900 when this whole area was a frontier, there was a
terrific battle between the 'brave and worthy men of Luton' and the
vikings who perhaps were based at Ravensburgh castle. The Battle took
place somewhere behind Warden Hills (now north Luton) and was won by
the Saxon Lutonians.
So was Ravensburgh a Viking fort?
Maybe, because of its great strategic position stradling one of the 4 great
roads of England according to Edward the Confesser, the Icknield Way.
Also the 'Danelaw Frontier' followed the river Lea from the Thames to
its source at Leagrave, then north to Bedford. Yes it doesnt take any
'nerd' with a map to work out what a good forward position to the
vikings this position would be! Furthermore, the Iron age Fort would
have been in a much less deteriated condition and easilly adaptable
to their needs of a camp.
Their is no doubt that Ravensburgh is of Iron Age origin,(see James
Dyers 'Hillforts of England and Wales'). But it is now becoming
widely accepted that 'Ravensburgh' was indeed the Opidium where
Julius Caeser defeated the British warlord Cassivellaunus in 54BC!
So if the Danes (vikings) used Ravensburgh they did so because it
was already a set up in a well established strategically important location.
Having walked the whole northern Chiltern area particularly the Barton
hill range, it is patently obvious that although now arguably a backwater,
that this area must have been a lot more important in the past. The
hilltops in the whole area are absolutely moulded and shaped by past
peoples fortifications and sacred burial sites.
All that is left off the past great civilisations that carved out these hills,
is the impressions in the ground and the distant echoes of Folklore,
there is little written. But as you walk over the rounded and sometimes
forested chalk hills, its not dificult to gain a feeling of 'connectedness'
with the past.

Book castle...'The Ravens'

Although for Kids,, this book is a must read if you want more on Ravensburgh castle. Written by James Dyer who is one of the areas leading archaeologists although fiction and aimed at kids, provides the reader with some profound insights into the life and times of Ravensburgh and Caesers attack!


Hocktide:: more on Ravensburgh

The five or so square miles of the Hexton and the Hexton Hills range
includes place names such as
Wayting Hill, Bonfire Knolls, Ravensburgh Castle (Hillfort),
Fairy Hole, Burr Well, Butts Hill, Deacon Hil, Knocking Knoll Barrow,
St. Faith's Well, The Meg, Lion hill, Noone Hill, and Hexton

The very names of these places give clues to this areas ancient
legacy! They are positively dripping in history and mystery.
In earlier articles we discussed the possible historical
connections with Julius Caeser and the Romans, Cassivelaunus, the
ancient British King, the Celtic Water Cults, St. Faith's Well and the
holy pilgrimage's, the Viking connection, the Ickneild way etc

I might also take this oppurtunity to mention that another fact has
recently come to point. Although established in Saxon times Hexton the
village as seen today, was designed as a 'Model' village in the 1920/30's
along the same lines as the nearby larger Welwyn Garden City and
Letchworth Garden Cities were.

'The Hocking'
But we were really fascinated to learn more about the celebrated
‘Hocktide’ Festivals that took place there. We had gained a colourful
insight in James Dyers Kids book ‘The Ravens’ where after drinking
of the ‘Hock’ ale the young men and women marched up the hill and
played tug of war with a large pole, usually ending in a romp of laughter
and merriment. (‘The Hocking’)
Although the account states the origin of this festival in Hexton could
be attributed to the Danes it is known that the Hocktide festival (a week
or so after Easter) probably go back to at least Celtic times.

Please note:
The following account’s source was found on the internet but
unfortunately we have lost the link, the link will be forwarded when
it is found.


"A Mr Frances Tavener, of the neighbouring village of Hexton, lying almost
at the foot of the Danish fort ‘Ravensboro,’ says of the Hocktide festivities
about the year 1649 :

‘I am certain that in this place the Danish yoke lay heavy upon the
people, and in the memory of persons living in the year 1600 the Hocktide
feast was yearly solemnised by the best inhabitants, both men and
women, in the fields and streets of Hexton with curious pastimes and

Before every Hock-day the people elected two officers called the hockers,
a man and a woman, whose office it was to provide the hock-ale and to
provide and order the feast for that year. These hockers had each a large
birchen broom, and on Hock-Monday many of the most substantial of the
people – boys and girls were not admitted to participation in either the
sports or the feast – went together to the top of Wayting Hill, the highest
hill in the parish.

On the top of Wayting Hill was a barrow or ancient grave, and upon the
top of the barrow was fixed a strong ash-pole. The pole was attacked by
the women and defended by the men. The women would be allowed to
seize the pole, and then the struggle commenced, the women striving to
bring the pole down the hill while the men strove to retain it, but, by
reason of the steepness of the hill, the women would always succeed in
hauling the pole to the foot of the hill.

Sometimes the men most ungallantly would let the pole go so suddenly
that the women fell over and over, to the great amusement of every one.
When the women had succeeded in bringing the pole to the level ground
the hockers laid lustily about them with their brooms, and the women
would thrust the men into ditches and into the brook. Thus they strove
and laboured incessantly for two or three hours, not ceasing until they had
brought the pole into the town and set it up at the Cross by the Town
House door.

The people then sat down to a great feast in the Town House, and after
they had feasted the hockers gathered money of every one, part of which
was appropriated for the poor and the rest for the repair of the church.
The accounts of the Churchwardens showed that the sum given to the
Churchwardens was about twenty shillings sometimes more, sometimes

In the afternoon the people adjourned to the play-close, where, among
other sports, the women played baseball against the men, and if they took
any man prisoner ‘they would use him unhappily enough.’ The writer, Mr
Tavener, remarks, ‘I think these nicer times of ours would not only
despise these sports but account them immodest, but those plain and
well-meaning people did solace themselves in this manner, and that
without offence or scandal.’

The generally accepted theory of the origin of the Hocktide festivities is

that it was designed to commemorate the conquest of England by the
Danes. It is difficult to find any connection between the struggle of the
sexes for the possession of a definite object and any triumph over the
Danes or over the Saxons. What did the pole symbolise – for a symbol it
surely was – and its erection upon the highest point in the district?

It would seem to typify power or sovereignty, and its uprooting,
deposition. But why should its downfall be caused by the weaker sex? The
whole performance is perplexing, but that it had reference to some
historic or prehistoric occurrence one cannot well doubt."

Further reading on 'Hocktide'

Hertfordshire by Herbert Winckworth Tompkins

Found on Project Gutenberg
There are 18,000 free books in the Project Gutenberg Online
Book Catalog. Including
"Hertfordshire, by Herbert Winckworth Tompkins!"
(What a fine name!)
In the book which can be downloaded here is an interesting
perspective of Hexton and Ravensburgh Castle!

"Hexton (about 6 miles N.W. from Hitchin Station, G.N.R.) lies on
a tongue of the county surrounded W., N. and E. by Bedfordshire.
The Church of St. Faith, W. from the village, was rebuilt, with the
exception of the embattled tower, in 1824, as a Perp. edifice. The
St. Nicholas Chapel, N. side of chancel, takes the place of the chapel
bearing the same name in the former church. There is a memorial to
Peter Taverner (d. 1601), who was, I suppose, father to that Francis
Taverner, Esq., who compiled a record of the antiquities of Hexton
and [Pg 122]set it in the chapel. Little space can be spared for excerpts
in this volume, but the details which Taverner brought together are so

interesting that I transcribe a part of them from a copy in my

“Near unto the Roman military Way called Icknild or Ikenild-Street,
which passeth by this Parish upon a very high Hill is to be seen a
warlike Fort of great Strength, and ancient Works, which seemeth
to have been a Summer standing Camp of the Romans: And near i
t on the Top of another Hill called Wayting-Hill, a Hillock was raised
up, such as the Romans were wont to rear for Souldiers slain, wherein
many Bones have been found. The Saxons call’d this Fort Ravensburgh,
from a City in Germany, whereof the Duke of Saxony beareth the Title
of Lord at this Day. And this Town, which the Britains perhaps call’d Hesk
of Reed, which doth abound much in this Place; the Sazons call’d
Heckstanes-Tune, that is the Town of Reed and Stones, if not rather
Hockstanes-Tune, that is, the Town of Mire and Stones, for old
Englishmen, call deep Mire, Hocks: Or may be from Grates set in
Rivers or Waters before Floodgates, which are call’d Hecks; neither
is it unlikely but that the Danes made some Use of this Fort, for a
Parcel of Ground near thereunto is called Dane-Furlong to this Day.
Some of these Conjectures may be true, but this is certain, that Offa,
a Saxon King, of the Mertians about 795, founded the Monastery of
St. Albans, in [Pg 123]Memory of St. Alban, and that Sexi an honourable
and devout Dane (as it is in the Chartulary of the Abby) about Anno Dom.
1030, gave to the said Monastery the Town of Heckstane-Tune and the
Abbot of St. Albans held this Mannor in the time of King William the

“This Vill at that time did lie in the Half-hundred of Hiz, and from that
time during the Space of 510 Years, the Abbots of St. Albans were
Lords of the Mannors now call’d Hexton. They were also Patrons of
this Church (dedicated to St. Faith, which Saint had her Statue erected
over a Fountain near this Church Yard, call’d St. Faith’s Well) for
John de Hertford, the 23d Abbot, did appropriate this Church of
Hexstoneston to the said Monastery. The Cellarers of which Monastery
kept the Court Leet and the Court Baron, and received the Rents of the
Demeasnes and Customary Tenants of this Mannor; and the Sacrists
had the disposing of the Profits of the Rectory.

“The said Fort, which the common People call Ravensborough Castle,
is cast up in the Form of an Oval, and containeth sixteen Acres, one
Rood, and fifteen Poles of Ground, and is naturally strengthened with
mighty deep and very steep Combs, which the inhabitants call Lyn.

“The Town of Hexton is seated at the Foot of the Mountains, whence
issue many Springs of Water; the Mountains are a continued Rock of

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