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This section contains the latest news from the Field Unit, as and when it occurs. New sections are added as and when to show the progress the Field Unit are making during the year.

* Original Information 15th March 2017

* Added 22nd May 2017

* Added 21st August 2017

* Added 19th November 2017


BHAS Post Excavation 2016/2017

There have been a number of finds processing days over the winter period. The pottery and flintwork has all been washed leaving only the bone to be completed. The finds were sorted into catagories and after washing were marked and catalogued. There is and interesting collection of pottery with a number of different rims styles, but the fabrics are quite limited. Other finds including marine shells and metal work will be inspected and recorded in a post ex. Day at Patcham Community Centre on March 11th

Winter Walks

There have been a number of winter walks to places of archaeological interest. The walks included visits to the hill fort at Caburn. A wander around the archaeological sites of Stanmer visited the Bronze Age sites at Pudding Bag Wood and Stanmer Great Wood, the Roman site at Rocky Clump and the medieval site at Patchway. A visit was also made to a number of locations around Ovingdean, where BHAS have been digging, field walking and conducting geophysics for over a decade. Planned visits to Wolstenbury Hill and Alciston had to be cancelled due to bad weather. These walks will be rescheduled for the summer.


BHAS Field Work

The BHAS field unit have been very busy during the winter months. In December the team, led by Pete Tolhurst, visited Rottingdean Grange and conducted a resistivity survey of the gardens to the west of the house. Rottingdean is considered to have numerous underground tunnels linked to 18th century smuggling activities. Sadly the survey failed to reveal any such features at the Grange.

The team also visited a farm at Burwash in November, where a farmer had observed a peculiar circular feature in one of his fields. The field around the farm has produced numerous finds of coins and bottles and other artefacts. The team conducted a small survey around a very visible feature but sadly failed to find any anomalies which could indicate archaeological features. It is possible that it is a fungal 'fairy' ring. The farmer is keen for the team to return and conduct some small scale excavations.

BHAS have been asked to conduct some surveying and geophysics at the site of Old Erringham Farm. The fields around the farm are full of earthworks and Heritage England has asked BHAS to conduct some investigations. This is being planned for the spring of 2017.

In February the team conducted some field walking on a small field immediately north of Hog Croft field, Ovingdean, where the Society is conducting its excavation. The weather was particularly wet and the going heavy, but a good number of finds were produced. Among the finds were medieval pottery, marine shells, flintwork, some whetstones and a nice, but broken, Neolithic rough out axe. The finds are being washed and will be studied soon.


Watching Brief

Members of the BHAS Field Unit conducted a watching brief while a large trench was being dug in Palace Place, close to the Royal Pavilion. The trench revealed a number of arches and walls probably dated to the Regency and Victorian periods. There were quite a lot of features in one small area. The only find were a spoon and some glazed ceramics which have been dated to about 1820.


Excavations at Hog Croft Field, Ovingdean 2017

A new season of excavations is planned to commence at Ovingdean in April. The long term weather forest is being studied as an early start to the digging last season coincided with a period of extremely wet and cold weather. The start of the 2017 digging may be pushed out till a little later if similar weather is on the horizon.

The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society field unit returned to Hog croft field on April 8th. The tarpaulins were removed and work commenced in a number of areas. The south east trench has produced an area of flint nodules and tile which could be viewed as a possible floor surface. The layer above the flint surface has produced numerous finds of medieval pottery, fire-cracked flint, oyster shells and bone fragments. It is possible that this is the location of the manor kitchen. There are no associated post holes so it can only be assumed that it was timber beam building construction.

The north east trench has also produced finds of fire-cracked flint and bone, including a complete cow leg bone and half a cow jaw bone. starting to appear are large flint nodules which may hopefully confirm that the 'kitchen' also continues in this direction. The same area should reveal a ditch running north/south which has produced Saxon pottery in the past. The direction of the ditch is close to the west side of the kitchen and could prove to be some form of drainage feature.

Th north trench contains the north boundary ditch running east/west and the lead down into this wide feature is becoming larger as the ditch is revealed further east.

The well has been uncovered and the winter covering has proved successful, with very little frost damage to this incredible feature. The north wall of the well has been cleaned back and has found to be constructed of a collection of very large chalk blocks. The blocks are very crudely made. The well section itself has been cleaned and the various sections now drawn. It has an upper feature consisting of large mortared chunks with a solid mortar base below. Under this layer the fill consists mainly of large flint nodules and a clay loam. The central area is surrounded by a chalky loam fill, and there are suggestions that there may have been some shuttering.

The well is now being excavated down to the legal depth before shuttering is required. The north end chalk block wall has been partially excavated and is located within a shallow pit with the chalk blocks constructed inside. It is possible that this is a feature from the well construction. It was hoped to find a post hole indicating that it could have been part of a Saxon grubenhause, but sadly no post holes was found.

New areas are being opened with the removal of the various baulks, now that they have bee drawn ad recorded. A number of important features lie beneath the various baulks including a gully terminus and a large pit which could be for charcoal burning. The new areas may also reveal more post holes which could comfirm the shape and size of Saxon building known to be hidden below the later medieval layers.

The BHAS field unit have worked throughout the summer on their site at Ovngdean. The excavations have focused on two trenches in the north/east and south/east sections of the site, with continuing excavations in the well in the north west section. The soil depth is not very deep but there are several distinct layers, each producing dateable finds. The upper top soil level has produced numerous Victorian ceramics, bone and clay pipe stems. The lower level is rich in medieval pottery, bone, oyster shell and fire-cracked flint. The lowest level consists of a light chalky loam, which is relatively sparse on finds, but this soil covers the natural chalk bedrock into which is cut numerous features.

The north east/trench was partially excavated in 2016 and appeared to be devoid of any features except two ditches, one running east/west and the other north/south. The north/south ditch, which has vertical sides, has produced Saxon pottery. This season cleaning back the natural surface revealed a very large elliptical pit into which a gully is running from the east. The large north boundary ditch has now been found to have a linear arrangement of post holes running east/west, located immediately south of the larger ditch. The north/south ditch appears to terminate just before the central baulk or it may turn eastwards. The removal of the chalk rubble above the natural has revealed a number of post holes which are still under investigation.

The south/east trench had the baulk removed between it and the west trench, effectively extending the first trench eastwards. In the north east corner of this trench there have been numerous finds of pottery, bone, oyster shell and fire-cracked flint. There is also a raised area of compact clay which could be the base of an oven. The significant number of finds from this area would suggest food preparation, and may be the location of the medieval kitchen. Below this deposit the natural chalk has been cut in numerous places with both pits and post holes. A new gully has been revealed running north/south with a well defined west edge. This features may be parallel to another gully found in 2016 located to the west. It is possible that this is a beam slot structure or dwelling.

Excavations continued in the well, in the north/west trench. The removal of some of the large chalk blocks at the north end of the well area failed to reveal a post hole that could have indicated the possible location of a Saxon grubenhause. The reason for the construction of the chalk wall, in and above a large pit, is still being investigated. The well itself has now been excavated down to about 1.4 metres in depth. The upper medieval wall covering the well has been totally removed and the lower fills found to consist of a light, chalky loam containing numerous very large oyster shells. The well will be excavated down to the legal safety limit, and some possible boring to seek the well depth may be undertaken.

Two trial test pits have been cut into the field north of the medieval enclosure, and both have produced a post hole, and some finds. This tends to indicate that archaeology appears to be located all over the field at Hog Croft.

Some training is being planned in geophysical surveying and plane tabling, and an introduction to the use of the Society's total station. This will commence later in the season.

The excavations at Ovingdean are drawing to a close now. The site has been constantly busy throughout the summer and early autumn. The excavations have revealed a huge number of features including numerous post holes, of various shapes and sizes, large pits and a number of linear gullies. The east side of the south trench has also revealed a very disturbed area with large quantities of stake holes. The south trench has had a concentration of finds in the north east corner with large numbers of finds most notably pottery, oyster and whelk shells, fire-cracked flint and bone. There is large dump of clay/daub in the same location. Beneath this layer digging has revealed a large pit and a huge stone which could be possibly a 'hearth' stone. The numerous finds from this area suggest a possible food processing location and may be a 'detached' kitchen area. Sadly lacking though is evidence for an oven. In the north/west corner of the trench there is another concentration of post holes, and charcoal laden pit. These features are linked by yet another gully.

In the north trench the charcoal laden pit found earlier in the season was the subject of further investigation. The baulk was partially removed so that more of the pit could be revealed. It is quite large pit with a flat bottom and sloping sides. It was filled to the brim with charcoal and this has now been removed for further study. The charcoal was covered by daub and heavy clay and large chunks of daub may prove to be kiln furniture. The upper surface consisted of a layer of very large, blackened flints.

The north east trench has already been completed and contains numerous post holes and gullies possibly associated with timber beam slot buildings. All of the post holes have been drawn, along with the baulk sections which show various gullies or ditches going in various directions. One feature proved to be a very large, odd shaped pit.

In the north trench the excavation focus has been on the well. This is a very vertical sided feature cut thought virgin chalk into the bedrock. It has produced numerous large oyster shells and some interesting pottery. At various phases there was evidence for a timber lined well, but as digging progressed downwards the fills consisted more of a heavy chalk rubble.

It is now obvious that Ovingdean was a very busy place during the pre and post conquest period. There are numerous post holes going in all directions. The site will be planned and the post hole orientations studied to try and determine how many timber framed structures there are in this area, and with several structures any possible phasing.

During the winter months the finds will be sorted, washed and marked/ This function will be part of the BHAS field unit post


Surveying at Old Erringham Farm, near Shoreham.


Over the past few weeks members of the BHAS field unit have been undertaking surveying at Old Erringham Farm. The site is scheduled and some areas were excavated by te late Eric Holden in the 1970's producing finds and burials from both the Saxon and medieval periods. The scheduled area is very large and Heritage England asked BHAS if they would conduct a survey of the area using resistivity and magnetometry equipment. The Society also conducted a topographical survey of the numerous earthworks in some of the fields. The results are now being examined and a report compiled. BHAS are planning more surveys during the autumn months.



BHAS have a full winter programme with lectures, finds processing, day schools and walks or visits to places of interest.

The BHAS field unit is open to anyone with an interest in archaeology, no previous experience is required, all training will be given. For further details apply to the membership section or contact either John Skelon at or John Funnell at for more details

If you are interested in any of these projects contact John Funnell at or call 0844 5888 277 (Evenings)



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