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Field Unit Archive 2009


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Excavations at Rocky Clump 2009

The new season of excavations on the Roman site at Rocky Clump began on Saturday 20th April. The new excavations are focused in two areas. The north 'bones' trench and the east trench. The bones trench measures 8 metres from east to west and only 2 metres from north to south, but is a well defined series of archaeological layers readily observed in the south facing baulk in 2008.

The layers have been systematically stripped one layer at a time, and the finds recorded from each context. The finds have included pottery, with quite a few sherds of undecorated samian, being recovered. The name 'bones' is aptly named for this trench, as each successive layer has produced significant quantities of butchered bone including cow and sheep. Oyster shell has also been forthcoming and the metal work has included a number of Roman nails and a bronze pin which may be the latching part of a brooch. Perhaps the most important finds have been several pieces of Roman roofing tile with a large piece of tegula still retained in-situ in the west facing baulk. The various distinct layers are beginning to reveal chronological sequences of activity with a lower layer of deposited chalk being the upcast from the digging of the large north/south ditch, which itself has produced some very large cattle bones and interesting black pottery.

The trench located in this part of the field drops dramatically to over a metre in depth compared to the 50 centimetres over the rest of the field. Close to the bottom of the various layers the excavations have now revealed a flint cobbled surface which could be a wall, floor or sealing layer. But covering what we must now ask? The archaeological evidence so far is that a large feature was carved out of the chalk bedrock and the floor/ sealing layer laid down. During the creation of the north/south ditch the chalk upcast was deposited onto the level area west of the cobbled floor. The final act was the depositing of a series of even deposits laid down during the final phase. Some of these layers were open for some time. A collection of snails in the middle layer will be very useful in providing environmental studies, giving a good indication of what kind of countryside prevailed at this time.

The East trench is now down to chalk bedrock and cutting into this is the known ditch that surrounds the trees at Rocky Clump. It is uncertain when this ditch was created as a coin of both George III and Trajan have both been found in the fills. A very large pit has now been revealed west of the surrounding ditch and east of a possible 'shrine' location. It will be interesting to see what is recovered form this large hole in the ground.

A metal detecting survey around the excavation has produced a number of coins dated to the late 3rd century and called barbarous radiates. Other metal finds have included lead objects and a number of military buttons including one which was issued to the 19th Light Dragoon Regiment, which fought under Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) at the Battle of Assaye, 23rd September 1803. This was one of the bloodiest battles fought by Wellesley in India. Following the battle, each regiment that fought in it was awarded an elephant as its badge. Therefore this button dates post 1803. (Pers. Comm W.Santer).

A geophysical survey around the 'bones' trench has produced a new series of interesting anomalies which will need to investigated in the future. The excavations at Rocky Clump will continue until the bones and east trenches are completed. The team will then assist Assistant County Archaeologist Greg Chuter with his investigations at Arlington for a week, before moving to the 13th century medieval site at Ovingdean. It is expected that the Ovingdean excavations will begin in late May or early June. It is planned to return to Rocky Clump in the autumn.

The new season of excavations began at Rocky Clump, Stanmer in March. This is the first phase of this years programme. At the end of last season the regular plough soil depth had increased from about 50 cms in depth to over a metre. The new south facing baulk had produced a fascinating stratigraphy. The new extension to the 'bones' trench measured only 8 metres in length and 2 metres in width and so it proved quite easy to remove each successive layer in turn. The fills proved to be a mixture of soft chalky loam, unpleasant clay with flint, and lower depths of a soft beige/white silty soil. The finds from the plough soil included a number of coins and brooches, and other coins of late 3rd century barbarous radiates were found by detecting in the soil a few metres further north of the new extension. Each successive layer produced finds of Roman pottery and marine shell. One layer produced quite large quantities of land snails clearly indicating that this surface had remained open for some time before further back filling had taken place. Large pieces of Roman roofing tile were among the new finds and a 3rd century roman disc brooch was recovered from the lower fills.

A new section of the large north/south ditch was also being excavated at the same time, it being located west of the deeper fills section. Both areas began to reveal large quantities of butchered bone, mostly cow. The ditch revealed a large concentration of bone, including the skull that may all prove to be the same animal. The lower fills produced butchered bone in discrete locations, and Samian ware pottery. The excavations finally came down onto a floor of flint cobbles. At the west end of the floor is an extremely large sarsen stone. The floor appears to be circular at the west end and then increases in width as it disappears into the baulk on the east side. The cobbled floor also disappears under the north baulk, so there is still more to investigate.

The investigations show that the flint floor was an earlier feature than the north/south ditch. The floor was being covered by the fine silty soil in the first phase, and then the construction of the large ditch allowed a section of overburden from the upcast of this work to cover the first silty layer. This action was followed by the covering of more silty soil over the floor and upcast material. The better finds from this season were a large piece of a roman glass vessel, and a Roman snake' ring. These items were found close to the sarsen stone and lying on the cobbled floor.

The sections have now been drawn and the floor surface has been planned. The BHAS field unit plan to return to Rocky Clump in the late summer. The new investigations will begin to open up new areas to the east and north of the existing cobbled floor.


Piddingworth Manor

In April members of the BHAS Field Unit conducted a resistivity survey on the platform known as Piddingworth Manor. The medieval manor is well documented and is a well defined platform with a series of trackways leading down in the valley where it is located. The remains of a large barn still have vestiges close by, and possibly associated with the known manor. The central rectangular area is about 60 metres in length and 40 metres in width. During a visit several years ago, in a particularly dry summer, parch marks noted a series of walls in the south section of the enclosure, and crop marks clearly indicated a series of ditches running both north/south and east/west. The survey used a TR systems machine and the images created used 'snuffler' software.

Sadly the survey failed to find the expected walls and ditches, but a number of interesting anomalies have been revealed, and it possible that heavy ground disturbance by a herd of cows in this field has obscured the features believe to be below the surface.


Summer Walks

The BHAS summer walks have once again very successful. Geoff Mead led large numbers around some of the historical locations at Newhaven and Patcham, Dot McBrien took a group around the Iron Age hill fort at Cissbury. This was particular interesting as the evening produced a delightful rainbow, splendid views of the Isle of Wight and a wandering badger in the hill-forts lower embankment. The other walk was to the lovely churches at Alciston and Berwick.


Excavations at Ovingdean 2009

Hog Croft Field , Ovingdean has in the field north of St Wulfran's church was once the location of a 13th century medieval manorial complex. The structures consisted of a church, house, barns, a well and timber framed out buildings. A number of trial excavations in the past few years has found features and finds which have included pottery, bone shell and metalwork as well as large pieces of dressed stone.

The new season of excavations started at Hog Croft Field in June of this year. The new project will remove the turf and top soil and investigate the medieval manor house partially revealed in previous years. The earlier excavations had found distinct differences in the north/east and south/west corners, which tend to suggest quite a complex structure with several phases. Dressed stone and carved chalk block had been found in the past and the building does possess a cellar or 'undercroft' that contained some sheep skeletons.

After the brief of works had been approved by the County Archaeologists and Brighton City Council the excavations began. Already the walls are appearing and as previously noted have a variety of variations in widths and methods of construction. The north/east corner is of a completely different type and style to the rest of the building and is an obvious addition or renovation. The early walls are 1.4 metres thick while the later phase walls are only 80cms thick. It has been noted in the south/west corner that there are in fact two or three walls built one on top of the other, in varying directions. The east wall varies in width with the more substantial wall to the south/east. The middle of the east wall has a clear break and some form of intervening ditch, which appears to contain a large metal object, possible associated with a later phase of construction, this has stained the large flint nodules lying below.

The north/west corner has its own complexity where the width of the wall drops dramatically from 1.4 metres in width to only a metre. Later tiles and mortar can be seen adhering to the wall surface, showing some sign of re-use. A well preserved floor constructed of large beach pebbles has been revealed over much of the inner house surface, but this is a later floor and not the bottom of the medieval cellar which is much deeper.

The finds from this season have included several nice pieces of medieval pottery, some bone; marine shell and lots of tile much of it modern, but with a number of medieval pieces in the collection. The cellar was later used as a rubbish tip during the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. This year we have already found coins from Charles II and George III. The Young Archaeologist Club (YAC's) has visited the site twice this year, joining the BHAS Field Unit in their excavations is something they always enjoy doing.

The excavations will continue until September. Once the walls have all been revealed and planned we will then move onto the next stage. The second phase of this seasons dig will investigate the lower depths of the manor house cellar. The site is located close to the road and visitors are welcome.

The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society Field Unit returned to Ovingdean in June. The focus of this year's endeavours was to be the medieval manor house. Excavations in the past had uncovered both the north/east and south/west corners of the house, and the trenches had revealed a distinct difference in wall thickness and style of construction. The new season would uncover all of the walls and investigate the sheep skeletons found in a sondage cut in 2003 into the cellar.

It proved to be a very busy season with many new faces joining the team. The walls were revealed and did vary in width from wall to wall. The thickest part of the building was on the north side, where a door cill indicates the entrance. The additional thickness may indicate a more elaborate north frontage. The thickness of the walls does tend to suggest that the building had an upper floor. The number of medieval roofing tiles show clearly show how the house was covered, and several pieces of carved chalk show that this material was used as part of the construction, some still in-situ, showing that the soft material was even used for corner stones.

The interior of the cellar proved to be filled with building debris consisting of grit, mortar and large flints. The absence of large flints in the upper levels may suggest that the flint nodules were being stripped of their surrounding mortar and re-used, effectively making the interior a work shop. The outer chalk surface surrounding the house was cut by a number of sondages and proved to be a fill rather than natural. The fill of the sondages produced finds of bone, shell and pottery and in one location a medieval plumb bob.

The cellar floor was eventually revealed and proved to be of compacted chalk. The sheep skeletons proved to be two of a number of creatures and a large pile of bones was uncovered nestling against the north wall of the cellar. The animals buried included sheep and goat, some with very large horns, several dogs and a ferret, perhaps an indicator of hunting. The bones are currently being examined. A medieval dripping pan was found on the cellar floor, and a large pit inexplicably cut into the floor produced some very large pieces of medieval pottery.

The house, despite being very large, was built on very unstable ground and it is possible that a layer of large flint nodules above the animal burials was the action of the house collapsing on that side. Another floor, built above the building rubble, was constructed using large beach pebbles from the sea shore, and later bricks clearly show some renovation activity. The original walls were later used for the foundation of a lower status farm building or animal enclosure. Its final use during the Georgian and Victorian periods was as a rubbish pit.

The excavations will close at the end of September and the site will be back filled. The finds from the excavation will be part of the BHAS finds processing days during the winter months.


Excavation at Hove Lawns

In September of 2009 the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society were asked by the Brighton Regency House Society to participate in their Heritage events. Brunswick Town was constructed from around 1820 and the imposing buildings were home to some very eminent people. A number of years ago Southern Water while cutting a trench across the west section of Hove Lawns uncovered a very large Georgian/Victorian rubbish pit. Nick Tyson from the Regency House asked if the society could conduct a resistivity survey of Hove lawns and seek the location of any other rubbish pits close to Brunswick Square. If the survey proved successful a small excavation was planned to investigate any possible rubbish pit and hopefully recover artefacts that could be associated with a house in the square, of particular interest would have been wine seals which had the name of the householder stamped on them.

In early September David Staveley and a team of volunteers conducted a survey which consisted of 7 grids measuring 20 metres square. The survey was conducted using a magnetometer. The results of the survey were quite stunning (Fig 1.). The following week a small group of diggers, J.Funnell, Bill Santer, Stephie Freiling and Beth Clements excavated a 1 metre square trench in Hove Lawns immediately south of Brunswick Square. One of a number of anomalies was picked out by David Staveley as having the potential for being a rubbish pit.

The turf was carefully removed and the excavation started. Finds from immediately below the turf included glass, bone, oyster shells, a piece of clay pipe and a piece of Willow Pattern plate. The layer below this proved to be a solid layer of chalk. The surface of Hove Lawns had been landscaped after Brunswick town had been completed and the chalk is believed to be as a part of this process.

The final hour saw the break through the chalk layer and a small section came down, not as expected into a Georgian rubbish pit, but into something more important. The excavation had uncovered a layer of burning, dust, slate and debris associated with the phase before Brunswick Town. Before the houses had been built the land between the town of Brighton and the small village of Hove was used in the brick making industry.

The day was extremely busy with lots of interest from passersby, day trippers and other locals and tourists. We were delighted to have the assistance of Elaine Evans who constantly informed the interested public of what we were up to and what we were hoping to find. A report will be published and passed to interested parties.




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