Hassing Gallows Hill is a group of hills with eight preserved burial mounds from the Bronze Age. The burial mounds are listed and privately owned, but there is public access by foot.
A WIDE VIEW
The Gallows Hill is located on a ridge and is about 58 m above sea level. From the hills there are wide views over most of southern Thy - from the sea and the dunes with Lodbjerg lighthouse in the west, across Ove Lake to the fjord and the island Mors in the east. The landscape is hilly and lush, and you can see medieval churches and many burial mounds.
THE BURIAL MOUNDS OF THE BRONZE AGE
The burial mounds on the Gallows Hill are from the Bronze Age and dated to the period 1500-1000 BC. At that time, the dead were buried in coffins - in this region built of stone. A hill of grass turf was built over the stone coffin, and along the foot of the hill a circle of stones was placed. The dead were given personal items with them to the grave. Men were often buried with a sword and sometimes a gold ring; women were buried with jewelry made of bronze and sometimes gold.
Later generations continued to use the mound. More stone coffins were added and the hill gradually grew. Later in the Bronze Age the burnt bones were laid in an urn that was put down at the edge of the burial mound. Consequently, a burial mound may have been in use as a burial ground for hundreds of years and thus accommodated many funerals.
THY IN THE BRONZE AGE
The burial mounds were usually placed on a ridge, so they were visible from far away. They were a sign that a wealthy family had buried their deceased in the family's land.
Pollen studies from Thy show that the landscape of the Bronze Age had very few trees. The open landscape was primarily used for livestock grazing but also for agriculture. The peasants lived from cattle breeding and agriculture, and their wealth and power and the family's position was e.g. manifested in the size of the burial mounds and the gifts that were given to the deceased when they were buried.
Traces of Bronze Age settlements have been unearthed many places in Thy, and they show that the area was relatively densely populated and the countryside cultivated. This is confirmed by the numerous burial mounds, which are still visible in the landscape. Originally there have been about three times as many burial mounds - over 3000 in Thy alone.
FINDINGS FROM BURIAL MOUNDS
The burial mounds on the Gallows Hill are relatively well preserved, but in the immediate surroundings there are several burial mounds, which at some point have been demolished and ploughed over. A ploughed-over burial mound can be spotted as a slight elevation in the field. This may also contain preserved stone coffins.
In the late 1800s the farmer Niels Panum found a two-meter long coffin just south of the Gallows Hill. This was made out of four stones along each side and with four flat capstones serving as a lid. Part of the buried man’s bones were still preserved inside the coffin, and on his right side was a bronze sword. Around the sword lay the remains of a wooden scabbard with bronze fittings on the tip. Today the sword is at the Danish National Museum.
In 1873 a farmer found an arm-ring of gold from the late Bronze Age just south of the Gallows Hill. Today the ring is at the Danish National Museum, but a copy is on display at Thisted Museum.
Drawing: The sword found just south of Gallows Hill.
PUNISHMENT AND EXECUTION ON THE GALLOWS HILL
The Gallows Hill was used for punishment and execution - probably from the early Middle Ages (1100s) and up until the 1800s.
When a verdict was delivered by the local Thing court, the sentence was executed on the nearby Gallows Hill. Here stood the gallows for hanging the convicted. If the penalty was decapitation the severed head was placed on a pole. Thanks to the visible location of the hill, this served as a deterrent to others.
CRIMINAL CASES FROM HASSING SHIRE
In this part of Thy, the Thing of Hassing Shire was responsible for litigation and the Gallows Hill was the scene of the execution of the sentences.
The Thing book of Hassing Shire elucidates the legal system in the 1600 - and 1700s. It contains examples of harsh penalties for crimes, which we today would not consider severe. E.g. in 1630 Las Michelsen from Villerslev stole four cheeses and three bushels of corn. He was hanged on Hassing Gallows Hill. In 1648 Peder Jensen Riber was accused of stealing a horse. The prosecutors demanded to have him sentenced to the "gallows and branch" (hanging), but the end of the matter was that he was sent to the jail Bremerholm in Copenhagen.
THE UNFORTUNATE STORY OF MAREN JENSDATTER FROM 1713
Sources also tell about the following story from 1713: The unmarried Maren Jensdatter from Hassing was pregnant. One day when she was on the heath to cut heather, she suddenly started giving birth and bore a son. It is not known if the baby was dead at birth, but Maren left it there and went home. After a few days it was discovered and Maren Jensdatter was summoned and brought to face eight local lay judges and some witnesses at the shire’s Thing. Despite the fact that there was no visible damage to be seen on the child, Maren was convicted of murder. The punishment was decapitation and that her head should subsequently be put on a pole.
The case was brought to the Lands-Thing in Viborg, where Maren explained that she gave birth nine weeks too early and she swore that the child had been stillborn. Nevertheless, the original sentence was confirmed and on 4 April 1713 Maren Jensdatter was executed on Hassing Gallows Hill.