Grimsby Serpent Mound, Lincolnshire, UK

A map of pre-Victorian Grimsby helps us understand why mystery and mimic plays were suppressed. Sat 05 February 2022

Holm Hill, Ket Bank, Abbey Hill. Grimsby, UK. Source: The Monumental Antiquities of Grimsby, Rev George Oliver, 1825

The above image is from Rev George Oliver's 1825 book The Monumental Antiquities of Grimsby. It was clipped from Rev W Smith's plan of Grimsby - the only known depiction of Grimsby's Ket Bank serpent mound complex:

Smith's pre-1825 plan of Grimsby serpent mound. Source: The Monumental Antiquities of Grimsby

It's drawn as if approaching Grimsby from the north-east. From the sea.

Re-oriented with north at the top, it looks like this:

For an idea of how that intersection between Ket Bank and Abbey Hill looked, see the Construction Techniques section of Twists in the Tale of the Serpent Mound. The construction technique shown in Durham University's image of a motte and bailey mound on that page resembles Rev George Oliver's description of Grimsby's Ket Bank complex. Though Grimsby's mounds may have used more stone than timber.

Where was the Ket Bank and Holm Hill complex? Sprawled over the south eastern side of Grimsby. East of today's Bargate:

Ket Bank serpent mound superimposed on Grimsby's modern street plan.

The southern end of Ket Bank's Holm Hill are still called Holme Hill. The remains of Ket Bank's extreme north eastern end are visible as raised ground beneath St Mary's Church:

Elevated ground level beneath St Mary's church. Source: Google Maps

The next map attempts to identify the locations of all the hills Smith plotted:

Ket Bank serpent mound complex, Grimsby, Lincolnshire


  • Red marker: Named hill or mound
  • Grey marker: Unnamed hill or mound

There are few obvious clues about who built Grimsby's serpent mound complex. Nor when, nor why.

We're given one clue about why it was destroyed.

From the early 19th century onwards, Grimsby's mounds were dismantled. Their materials - mostly sand and stone - were used for building. But there is also evidence of a destructive aerial event over Grimsby in the 16th or 17th century. That event was probably centered on west Grimsby, with ground zero just south west of Cun Hu Hill on Smith's plan.

'Ket Bank' brings to mind the cattle 'rest places' called 'Coldharbours'. Just like serpent mounds, 'Coldharbours' are always near rivers and estuaries. They are usually sited near a village or hamlet called 'Little London' 1. There is a hamlet called Little London on Stallingthorpe Road halfway between Grimsby and neighbouring Immingham.

'Little Londons' tend to be associated with pottery making. Which means kilns and access to the consumables of pottery making:

  • clay
  • wood
  • bone, and wind or watermills to grind bone.

If bone-milling seems a speculative stretch, bear in mind Rev George Oliver wrote that the high Lincolnshire Wolds were 'marled' to make them fertile. 'Marl' being roasted bone-meal.

Rod Collins' Grimsby hills research linked the 'Ellyl Hills' on Smith's plan to the Welsh word for demon or fiend: 'ellyl'.

Oliver gave us a similar clue when he described Grimsby's three 'Ellyl Hills' and their residents.

From The Monumental Antiquities of Grimsby, p58:

The principal hill... is called El hill, Hell-hill, or Ellyll.

And on p59:

... the appellation of Hell-Hill, as applied to a British place of residence, may be accounted for on very rational principles. It is a remarkable fact, that many places in this country have the name of the prince of darkness attached to them

Another British name for 'the prince of darkness' is 'Grim'.

But none of this explains the engineered intricacy of the Holm Hill section of Grimsby serpent mound:

Holm Hill close up. Source: The Monumental Antiquities of Grimsby

Rev George Oliver gave us a possible explanation for Holm Hill.

From The Monumental Antiquities of Grimsby, p21:

at the time of the Roman invasion, the tides in this country forced their way amidst hills and mountains, so as absolutely to form bays and islands for several miles in land. To no place can this observation of the Roman historian Tacitus apply with more propriety than to Grymsby. It is well known that the influx of waters brought by the tide into the two havens, which were situated on the east and west of modern Grymsby, overflowed the adjacent low lands, and, passing by Holm and Abbey Hills, covered the east marshes on the one side, and the west marshes, Saltings, and part of the common fields on the other

Oliver says the notches in Holm Hill were bays for loading and unloading boats. Given their shape and small size - they look to have been just a few metres across - this seems unlikely. At least for conventional boats. But Oliver also says ceremonies around the mounds included launching 'aspirants' into the estuary in small boats:

...the aspirant, at the conclusion of the ceremony of initiation, was placed in a small boat, to represent the confinement of Noah in the ark... and committed to the waves, with directions to gain a proposed point of land, which to him was a shore, not only of safety, but of triumph. ...the candidate, at the highest time of the tide was committed to the mercy of the waves, from the point now known by the name of Wellow Mill (between Abbey Hill and Sand Hill); and he had to struggle against the declining tide, until he was cast, at the foot of Holm Hill, upon the bank of Ket, the presiding Deity, under whose especial protection he was ever after placed.

If he survived.

We may be able to uncover what Oliver is brushing over:

Chained sinners being led to Hell in the Doom painting at St Thomas and St Edmund church, Salisbury. Source 2

New to Doom paintings?

The orthodox explanation of Doom paintings. Source: What is a Doom Painting?

The lefthand sides of doom paintings often show souls rising from under-sized boxes. The orthodox narrative is that the dead are rising from their coffins on the day of judgement. Sometimes they are shown discarding a winding sheet, their death shroud.

Why don't we see ecstatic souls lifting coffin lids? Why do the dead rise from small boxes rather than graves? Why are the 'coffins' painted to appear half in the ground and not at the bottom of graves?

Perhaps because Doom paintings are being mis-described.

Some of England's few surviving Doom paintings depict:

Mouth of Hell from St Thomas' Church, Salisbury. Source

So we have Oliver's description of boat-shaped coffins and baskets, Holm Hill's odd shape and the claim it was a launching point for 'aspirants'... We have doom paintings showing boat-coffins, giant serpent-fish, anchors and anchor-stones, and a candidate selection process...

All this suggests something more earthy than divine: living people being cast adrift in tiny boats, all watched over by approving spectactors, some becoming food for sea or estuarine animals.

We should also note, from Great Coates:

Also granted in 1313 (to Lord of the Manor, the Bishop of Winchester, John Sandale) was the right to the manor's 'wreckage of the sea and all animals called waifs, found within the said manor'

In some cases doom paintings appear to have been have been tweaked to help maintain the coffin narrative. Let's look more closely at the St Thomas doom painting for connections with activities at Grimsby.

Below the fish's mouth at St Thomas we see a demon - an 'ellyl' in Grimsby's original language - with an 'alewife'.

Bizarrely, the alewife holding the pitcher is sometimes described as brewer who served half-measures and therefore a sinner being taken to her doom.

The ale-wife from St Thomas' Church, Salisbury. Source

A better fit is that this scene portrays an Ellyl who has sold his human stock for cash. And drunk his earnings. 'Money' having the same root as 'monastery', 'manor' and 'man'. She's not an ale-wife; she's an ellyl-wife. Historically, she shows up as the innkeeper or innkeeper's wife. For example, in a trial from Old Hatfield, Hertfordshire, luridly detailed in The most cruell and bloody murther committed by an Inkeepers Wife, called Annis Dell, and her Sonne George Dell and - until she was censored - in Chester's Mystery Plays.

Analogously, George Orwell opened Animal Farm with a portrayal of drunken Farmer Jones of Manor Farm and his wife.

From The Monumental Antiquities of Grimsby, Grimsby Ellyl Hills chapter, p64:

Notwithstanding their poverty, they are recorded as having been kind and hospitable to strangers (just like 'monks', who were remembered for their ovens); but addicted to excessive drunkenness (just like Lincolnshire's 'monks', according to Oliver), which produced violent quarrels, that frequently ended in bloodshed and death.

It was reckoned a piece of manhood to drink until they were drunk; and there were two men with a barrow attending punctually on such occasions. They stood at the door until some became drunk, and they carried them upon the barrow to bed, and returned again to their post as long as any continued fresh; and so carried off the whole company one by one, as they became drunk.

Wheelbarrow scene from Taymouth Hours, Yates Thompson MS 13, f139v Image source

From Doom (painting):

In yet other cases the Damned are brought into Hell while being forced to ride in wheelbarrows or carried in baskets

As at Bacton, Chesterton, and Yaxley.

We can also see evidence that at St Thomas, the doom painting itself has been modified during the Victorian church restoration era. The right side of the painting may have been modified to look more like land. Compare today's painting with what purports to be a copy of it from around 1800:

The Hell-side of St Thomas's originally had no trees. Source

And, apparently, the trees on the left side have been downgraded to match:

Zealots grabbed all the pruning jobs in God's Garden. Source

Regardless of whether the St Thomas doom painting has been modfified or not, you can medieval watersports were what Rev George Oliver described them as: dangerous watersports enjoyed by spectators.

Just possibly, someone built Grimsby's mounds as a dock - a Cold Harbour - and occasionally used them to celebrate Mystery Plays. One of several town-sized venues for watching enactments of the Day of Judgement.

Whatever they were for, something intervened, practices changed, and things are looking up for Grimsby now:

Source: The Brothers Grimsby (2016)

Coincidentally, two brothers feature in the founding story of Rome. Describing Grimsby's mound complex in Monumental Antiquities of Grimsby, Chapter III, p25, Oliver says:

These seven hills form a beautiful amphitheatre, on which the town was situated, like the original of the imperial city of Rome, which consisted but of a few scattered huts, erected on the same number of insulated hills; a species of habitation common to those early times, in all parts of the world.

Oliver was sponsored by the Tennyson family of nearby Tealby, who were also associated with various creator-managers of human culture.


Is the Smith serpent plan faked?

  • In an allegedly 'antient' 3 town in an allegedly long-time Christian country, why does the oldest description of Grimsby's mound complex date only from 1825? De la Pryme mentions seeing them 130 years earlier - in 1695. On page 153, footnote 2, he says:

    The numerous artificial hills in the marshes adjoining the present town proclaim the spot to have been a station of consequence amongst the ancient Britons ; and to these, more probably, the origin of the name may be attributed. Works of this character are pretty generally ascribed to a power that is superhuman, and by some have been not unfrequently regarded as the works of the devil. This shews their extreme antiquity.

  • Why is Smith's plan drawn as if viewed from the north east? Like the Skelmorlie serpent mound plan.

Toote Hill lies between Little Coates (formerly Parva Cotes) and Great Coates (formerly Magna Cotes).

'Coates' seems to spring from a word pronounced something like 'ket'. (Phonetically: 'kat', 'ket', 'kit', 'kot' or 'kut'. And occasionally: 'kad', 'ked', and 'kid').

Ket also shows up as 'cat', 'cad', 'gat' and 'gad'. They show up across England in clusters because they reflect pre-Civil War use of these sites for 'ket' farming.

A good example a few miles south of Grimsby is Cadwell Park (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images). Which is next to Keetley's Wood.

Cadwell Park is best known for motorbike races. It sits halfway between two clusters of Lincolnshire locations known for serpent conflict folklore, deserted villages and large 'burial' mounds. Including another mound called Toot Hill:

Toot Hill and serpent conflict clusters south of Grimsby, Lincolnshire


  • Red marker: Serpent conflict folklore location
  • Grey marker: Deserted medieval village with possible 'serpent' or 'witch' link
  • Green marker: Motte, mound or known serpent mound
  • Black markers: Cadwell Park/Keetley's Wood, Ketsby Beck

Lot of deserted villages near 'fighting in the sky' legends in Lincolnshire. Grimsby's fire from the sky story is included with descriptions of odd Civil War events.

The 'kid' sound shows up near former bone storage, execution, gaol/jail, and market sites. Like this:

Similar place names:

Place names ending with 'cote':

  • Wollescote, Dudley. Map. Near Thorns Road, Thorns Avenue and Hagley. Also note the 'Agnes' entity. British folklore associates Agnes with witches wearing children's skin.
  • Hurcott - a berewick (farm holding) of Kidderminster above.
  • The many placenames containing 'cot' and 'cote' around Oxford - a major buyer of parchment and vellum.

Specific building names:


  • Village
  • Villein - commoner resident of a village
  • Cottage
  • Cot
  • Kid


'Cote' identifies the site of a former holding pound or fold for 'ket' (kid) - humans that were being reared for their hides.

From Parchment and Glove Making in Havent, Ralph Cousins, 2017, p6:

In a county within the bounds of which was situated a large and ever-increasing university, it is only natural to expect, and to find, in early days parchment makers and in later times several paper-works. The earliest year that can be given for a studium generale in Oxford is, too, the first year in which a parchment-maker is mentioned. In or about 1180, Reginald, a parchment maker, occurs in a deed of Elias Bradforth now preserved in the Oxford University Archives. During the reign of Richard I, Roger pergamenarius, or parchment-maker, had his dwelling within the parish of St Mary the Virgin. It would appear, from the few records that exist, that in early times the parchment makers, like the bookbinders, dwelt for the most part in or about Cat Street.

It's akin to our use of 'head' to mean 'cattle'. The phrase:

I'm farming 200 head.

is equivalent to:

I'm farming 200 coat.

Note the owner of the deed was called Elias. Not a lot of sounds away from 'Ellyl'.

At Grimsby's Little Coates and Great Coates, the hide ('hythe') had been protected from damage. Little Coates presumably held children and Great Coates ('Magna Cotes') presumably held (young) adults. Both would have been shipped to the abbetoir and tanning facility at Thornton Abbey.

Similarly, Smallhythe, Kent, was a downstream holding pen for human hides ('hythe') being shipped up the River Rother to Tenterden.

  • Thornton Abbey and Tenterden were 'wool towns'. But the English word 'wool' comes from 'Volle'. Pronounced similarly to 'veal' and the first syllable of 'vellum'.
  • 'Thorn' and 'Tenter' placenames indicate medieval tanneries.
  • Coastlines around Grimsby and Smallhythe changed drastically shortly before 1800. Flow volumes of Grimsby's Freshney and Skitterbeck rivers, and Kent's River Rother, became smaller and sea-water levels fell in bays and harbours, stranding Grimsby's 'Coates' and Kent's Smallhythe beyond the reach of freight ships.
  • See also Stain Hill Anglo-Saxon Marsh.
  • History of Thornton Abbey mentions falling sea levels, the careful production of Thornton Abbey's history and the rise and fall of its last, apparently despised owner, whom it quotes as the 'hubristic tradesman' Vincent Skinner.


  • Coate = hide
  • Thornton and 'Tenter' = tannery
  • Wool = vellum
  • Village = vellum camp/warehouse. That is 'vil' + 'lage'
  • Ket = kid (as in fine leather)

Bear in mind the phonetic similarity between 'hythe' and 'tithe'. Understanding 'tithe' as offering up a skin demystifies British folklore about:

  • leaving 'rag' offerings at springs
  • leaving babies and young children at springs.

More on Grimsby serpent mound complex:

Rod Collins' research:

Caitlin Green's research:

© All rights reserved. The original author retains ownership and rights.

  1. The Antiquaries Journal, 2 (1922), pp240–254, republished in Journal of Geomancy, Vol II, No. 4 

  2. That link also hints at the real identities of 'monks'. 

  3. The Monumental Antiquities of Great Grimsby, Rev George Oliver, 1825 

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