The Friends of Thynghowe
The most prominent feature in Birklands is Thynghowe, now known as Hanger Hill. This site has still to reveal many of its mysteries but it has been an important meeting place for well over a thousand years. It is located on the boundary between three parishes and may once have been an important location on the border of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia.
In 2008, following our research, Thynghowe was listed by English Heritage. Their description of the site follows
Possible Norse 'thing', or moot mound, represented by a mutilated mound, approximately 0.7m high and 8m in diameter, on locally high ground at the intersection of three parish boundaries. Three parish boundary stones are still present on the mound, of which two are marked but now recumbent; historic Ordnance Survey map editions also show a triangulation pillar, presumably on the summit. This, and a plantation boundary ditch that cuts through the mound, have mutilated the original earthwork, and at the time of the English Heritage field observation the area was too densely covered in bracken to make secure interpretations. The place was known in 1334 and 1609 as Thynghowe, suggesting a mid-10th century origin under the Danelaw, although the 'howe' element could refer to a prehistoric burial mound. The locality may also have the site of a Saxon Hundred meeting place. The mound is not in itself diagnostic. In 1615, it was called Thinghough and in 1629 Finger Stand, this eventually corrupting, apparently, to the present name of Hanger Hill.
Thynghowe in an international context
In Old English, Old Norse and Icelandic languages Ting or Thing means a governing assembly. A hierarchy of these assemblies covered a whole country, the provinces and the hundreds. At an assembly the free people of the area would make decisions and resolve disputes. These structures survived into medieval times in some areas of northern Europe and the governments of Iceland and Isle of Man still use names derived from Thing.
The inclusion of the term howe in Thynghowe implies a burial mound and the use of ancient burial mounds as Things is well documented in early medieval Scandinavia. The custom of a king sitting on a howe as expression of his power is referred to in old Nordic sagas. Hanger Hill, the modern name of the hill, may be derived from Haugr the Old Norse term for a burial mound although Hangra the Old English name for a wood on a slope is another possible source.
Thing sites exist throughout northern Europe but few have survived undamaged. In the UK, Tingwall in Scotland is a car park and Thingwall on the Wirral is now agricultural land. However, most of the Ting mound at Fell Foot Farm at Little Langdale in Cumbria can still be seen from an adjoining field.
Thynghowe’s survival is probably due to the fact that it was within the boundaries of the royal hunting Forest of Sherwood Forest. The land then passed to the estate of the Dukes of Newcastle and Portland and in recent times it has been managed by the Forestry Commission. It is over a mile from any road or habitation.
A public footpath (waymarked as the Thynghowe Trail) passes nearby. Although it is possible to approach the mound, access is not encouraged as such a sensitive site could easily be damaged. A forestry road passes near to the summit of the hill and this gives a fine impression of the significance and atmosphere of the site.
Image published with the consent of the Public Information Research Organisation