Beacon Hill coursework

Beacon Hill is a mysterious feature that has baffled experts for many years and still no one has found a true answer. In this piece of coursework I am going to investigate why Beacon Hill was built. Beacon Hill is a man made mound which is situated in Wollaston in Northamptonshire. There are 4 different theories for what Beacon Hill could be these are; a Bronze Age barrow, a Roman Specula, a 12th century motte and bailey castle and a signalling station of the time of the Spanish Armada. The Bronze Age barrow is a man made mound of stone, wood or earth piled over the remains of the dead.

Roman Specula were fortresses used to protect themselves and their allies. A 12th century motte and bailey castle was a simple castle made out of earth and wood. The signalling station was the way that England could warn the rest of the country that the Spanish Armada was coming. In this piece of coursework I will analyse a series of sources relating to Beacon Hill and what it could be. After analysing the evidence I will reach a conclusion to what I think Beacon Hill is based on the evidence.

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Bronze Age barrows are man made mounds of stone, wood, or earth piled up over the remains of the dead, especially important people. Often possessions would also be buried. Bronze Age barrows were built between 2000BC and 1000BC. There are 3 sources that support the theory of Beacon Hill being a Bronze Age barrow. Source 1 supports this theory, this is a article in a local newspaper entitled “It’s your village – Wollaston. Also source 2 supports this theory, this is a history book called “Wollaston” written by a local historian.

The last source that supports this theory is source 5, source 5 is a vicars opinion. These sources both have reasons why they are and aren’t reliable. Firstly I am going to discuss why the sources are reliable. Also source 2 shares a similar strength by the fact that it is written by a local historian, so he is likely to evaluate all the evidence and he also knows the area well. Another common factor between source 1 and 2 are that they are local articles, one a history book and the other a newspaper. They are sharing local knowledge, so that they are unlikely to lie.

Source 2 is also very reliable because he cross-references with sources 3 and 7, so this shows that they have researched their information and are more likely to be right. Source 5 is very reliable because vicars are honest, he has an expertise in Bronze Age barrows, so he is likely to recognise a Bronze Age barrow and he is a local resident so he is likely to know the area well. All these sources have weaknesses and one weakness common in all of them is that they have no clear supporting evidence to the theory of Beacon Hill being a Bronze Age barrow.

Source 1 and 5 both just want it to be a Bronze Age barrow to make the village more iconic. Source 1 and 2 also have a weakness in common and that is that the answer is not pointed at the Bronze Age barrow. In source 5 the vicar could be biased towards it being Bronze Age barrow because he is interested in Bronze Age barrows and might just really want one near where he lives. I think it is very unlikely that Beacon Hill is a Bronze Age barrow because there is no clear evidence supporting this theory e. g. no bones. The sources supporting this theory are very weak sources with an extreme lack of evidence.

Roman Specula’s were built between 43AD and 407AD. Roman Specula’s were built as fortresses used to protect the Romans and their allies (friendly native tribes) against those tribes who were their enemies. There are 5 sources that support this theory; source 2 a history book called “Wollaston”, source 6 is a book called “The Natural History of Northamptonshire”, source 7 which is a extract from a book “The Annals of Wollaston” and lastly source 9 which is an inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire Volume 2 – Archaeological sites in Central Northamptonshire

All the sources supporting Beacon Hill being a Roman Specula contain strengths and weaknesses, I am going to start by saying the strengths. A strength of source 6 and 7 is that they are both antiquarians, which is a person fascinated with the remains of ancient people like the Romans, this is very reliable because they are likely to recognise a Roman Specula. A different strength, but a very similar strength to the one I discussed before is that source 2 and 8 are both written by local historians, this is very reliable because they are likely to evaluate all the evidence and they know the area well.

Also source 7 shows that they know a lot about Wollaston, this is also very reliable because it shows that they know that area well. Source 9 has a few lonesome strengths as it is an actual list of historical monuments, so it is fact. Also it has found evidence at an archaeological site, so the evidence is extremely reliable and hasn’t been tampered with. Another of its strength is that it is detailed evidence from Roman times, which means it is primary evidence.

Source 2 is also very reliable because it cross-references between 2 other sources which shows he has researched his information and is more likely to be true if it fits in with the other sources. Source 8 has a strength in the fact that they found physical evidence (probably a Roman knife and spearhead), this is very reliable because it shows that Romans probably were in Wollaston. Source 9 shares a very a similar strength to the one I have just discussed because it has actual evidence that the Romans were living near Wollaston.

The reason this makes source 9 more reliable is that it shows for definite that Romans were living near Wollaston. The three sources 6, 7 and 8 all have a strength common in them, this is that they all have evidence to support the theory of Beacon Hill being a Roman Specula and they explain exactly why the evidence points towards Beacon Hill being a Roman Specula. This makes these 3 sources very reliable because they actually say why Beacon Hill is a Roman Specula.

Source 8 also has some lonesome strengths, these are; it is written by a published author, this is extremely reliable because a published author writing about history is very unlikely to be just making it up. Also source 8 isn’t a written by an antiquarian so he isn’t biased for it being a Roman Specula. Finding out that about the Coritani tribe shows that they have done research, this is very reliable because it shows that they have researched there information so it is more likely to be true.

The language used in source 8 also gives a definite answer, this makes it more reliable because it shows that they believe without a doubt that Beacon Hill was a Roman Specula. Now I have finished discussing the strengths I will now discuss the weaknesses in the sources. A weakness found in sources 2, 8 and 9 is that there is no clear evidence to support the theory of Beacon Hill being a Roman Specula. Source 7 gives evidence why Beacon Hill is a Roman Specula, the reason why this makes it less reliable is that the evidence given doesn’t definitely prove that Beacon Hill was a Roman Specula.

Source 8 has a different weaknesses to the one I have just discussed but very similar, the first one is the evidence of the spearhead and knife being found there, no one knows for sure if these are Roman or they could have just been moved there from somewhere else, the other one is that the Roman nettle found growing there could have spread from somewhere else. A lonesome weakness in source 2 is that the local historian is biased against it being Roman, this makes the source extremely unreliable because he has already decided against it being a Roman Specula before evaluating the evidence.

Also source 9 has a couple of lonesome weaknesses, these are that it doesn’t give actual reference to Beacon Hill and the other weakness is that the Roman road doesn’t go through Wollaston, this shows that the Romans were near Wollaston but there is no proof that they were actually in Wollaston. Source 6 and 7 share a common weakness in that both the sources are written by a antiquarian, this makes the source slightly less reliable because they are biased towards it being a Roman Specula.

Source 8 shares a very similar weakness to the one I have just discussed because the author might have read antiquarian sources, this makes the sources less reliable because the antiquarian sources could have been biased towards Beacon Hill being a Roman Specula. I think there is a good chance that Beacon Hill was a Roman Specula because there is lots of evidence to support this theory. The sources are also reliable because they are from history books and a official inventory.

Motte and bailey castles were built in the 12th century. These were castles made of earth and wood which were relatively quick and easy to build. There are 4 sources that support the theory of Beacon Hill being a 12th century motte and bailey castle. The first source to support this theory is a local newspaper article entitled “It’s your village – Wollaston “. The second source to support this theory is a diagram of a typical motte and bailey castle from a school history text book.

The third theory to support this theory is a report on excavations of Beacon Hill carried out by a local archaeologist. The last source to support the theory of Beacon Hill being a motte and bailey castle is an extract from The Anglo Saxon Chronicle recording events of King Stephen’s reign 1135 – 1154. These 4 sources supporting the theory of Beacon Hill being a 12th century motte and bailey castle all have reasons why they are reliable and why they aren’t reliable. To start off with I am going to say why the sources are reliable.

Source 1 and 12 both have one common factor of why they are reliable and this is because they both say the right time for motte and bailey castles and also they say the right king of the time. This makes the sources very reliable because it shows they know their history. Source 1 also has a couple of lonesome strengths, the first one is that it is in a local newspaper, this makes the source very reliable because it is sharing local knowledge and is unlikely to lie. The second strength is that it is by a life long local resident, this is reliable because they are likely to know the area well.

Source 10 strengths are that it is in a school history text book, this makes the source more reliable because it teachers young people so it is more likely to be true. The other strength is that it is a accurate picture of a motte and bailey castle, this makes the source very reliable because it shows that it’s knowledge of what motte and bailey castles looked like is correct. Source 11 also has some individual strengths, firstly the source is by a local archaeologist, this makes the source more reliable because archaeologists are likely to examine all the evidence and come up with an unbiased answer.

Also this source is reliable because the archaeologist has come up with evidence to support his theory, this being the 12th century pottery thrown down, also that there was a building on top of the hill, the hill was man-made and that the hill was the right height for a motte and bailey castle. Lastly source 12 has some lonesome strengths, firstly is that it is 1st hand experience (a primary source), this makes the source very reliable because it was written at the time of motte and bailey castle were built so they are likely to know what was happening around that time.

Also it was kept by monks so it is reliable because they don’t lie. Also it shows the need for castles at that time, this makes the source more reliable because it proves that castles were needed around that time. Now I have finished discussing why the sources supporting the theory of Beacon Hill being a 12th century motte and bailey castle are reliable, I will now discuss why the sources are unreliable. The sources 10 and 12 both have one common unreliable element in that both of them don’t actually refer to Beacon Hill being a 12th century motte and bailey castle.

Source 1 also has a very similar weakness in that it doesn’t give any evidence towards why Beacon Hill is a 12th century motte and bailey castle. In source 1 the paper might wanting to make the town more iconic, this makes the source less reliable because they could just want it to be a 12th century motte and bailey castle and not actually believe it is. In source 11 the reason this source is less reliable is that just finding some 12th century pottery doesn’t mean the mound was built at the same time.

Also in source 11 the local archaeologist might be biased towards it being a 12th century motte and bailey castle, this makes the source less reliable because he might only see it from one point of view, this being that Beacon Hill is a 12th century motte and bailey castle. The last unreliable element in source 11 is that it says that “masses of rubble thrown down”, this makes the source a little unreliable because rubble would be less likely for a 12th century motte and bailey castle, it would more likely to be wood.

The last unreliability is that in source 12 it is written by monks, this makes the source slightly less reliable because monks don’t travel so they wouldn’t have been able to see where the motte and bailey castles were built. I think it is likely that Beacon Hill was a 12th century motte and bailey castle because there is lots of evidence to support this theory. Three of the sources used to support this theory are reliable because they are from a history book, a local archaeologist’s excavation and a recording of events kept by monks.

The other source isn’t as reliable because it is someone’s opinion. Signalling stations were at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588. When the Spanish Armada (ship) were close to England the signalling stations were ways of sending a warning across the country. A series of large beacons (bonfires) were built on hill tops so that when they were lit the smoke could be seen a long way off. Each beacon was lit in turn as the smoke from its nearest neighbour became visible.

There are two sources that support this theory; source 1 which is article from the Wellingborough Evening Telegraph newspaper entitled “It’s your village – Wollaston” and source 2 which is from a history book “Wollaston” written by a local historian. These two sources both have strengths and weaknesses of why they are reliable. To start of with I am going to talk about there strengths. Source 1 is reliable because it is by a local resident so he is likely to know the area well and also he gives reasons to support his theory of Beacon Hill being a signalling station in that it is high up.

Also source 1 is reliable because it is in a local newspaper so they are sharing local knowledge and are unlikely to lie. The reasons source 2 is reliable is that; it is by a local historian so he is likely to know the area well, also he is likely to evaluate all the evidence, the other strength to the source is that it cross-references with source 3 showing that he has researched his information and if more than one source fit together the more likely they are to be true. To complete this section of the theory of Beacon Hill being a signalling station I will now discuss the reasons why the sources supporting this theory are unreliable.

Both the sources share one common element of unreliability in that the both have no clear supporting evidence for it being a signalling station. Source 2 shares a very similar weakness to the one I have just discussed in that it doesn’t actually give an answer of what Beacon Hill could be, it just discusses the possibilities of what it could be. In source 1 the paper could just want to make the town more iconic, this makes the source unreliable because they could be biased and publish the opinions of what the editor wants Beacon Hill to be.

Lastly source 2 is unreliable because he is biased against it being Roman, this makes the sources less reliable because before he evaluates all the evidence he is already biased against one of the theories. I think the chance that Beacon Hill was a signalling station isn’t that likely because there is hardly any evidence to support this theory, but this could be because all the evidence has been destroyed. The two sources supporting this theory aren’t that reliable as one is just someone’s opinion and the other just mentions it as a possible theory.

For the final part of this piece of coursework I will write a conclusion about what I think Beacon Hill is. The theory of Beacon Hill being a Bronze Age barrow is the weakest theory as the sources I have gained have no reason behind why Beacon Hill could be a Bronze Age barrow. The sources either mention it as a possible theory or it is someone’s opinion without evidence. The second theory of Beacon Hill being a signalling station is more likely but still isn’t that likely.

The sources supporting this theory have no substantial evidence for Beacon Hill being a signalling station, but unlike the Bronze Age barrow theory there is a reason of why Beacon Hill is a signalling station. Also there is a possible explanation of why there is no evidence for Beacon Hill being a signalling station and that is that all the evidence would have been destroyed. The third theory of Beacon Hill being a 12th century motte and bailey castle is the second most likely theory because this theory has evidence and reason why Beacon Hill was this.

The last theory of Beacon Hill being a Roman Specula is the most likely out of the theories because there is lots of evidence of why Beacon Hill was a Roman Specula. Beacon Hill could have been anyone of these theories, but it also could have been used for more than one of these theories or even none of these theories and been something else. However with a lack of sources and bias of some of the sources it makes it impossible to know what Beacon Hill was and until some new evidence is discovered Beacon Hill’s past will remain a mystery.

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Sarah
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