Founded 1906

BHAS Field Unit Archive 2015

Home Page


About Us

Archaeology Reports

Contact Us



Field Unit


Lecture Programme

Picture Gallery

Site Map


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 7th March 2015

* added 10th May 2015

* added 14th August 2015

* added 26th September 2015

* added 23rd November 2015

BHAS Winter Programme 2014/15

BHAS Finds Processing

The excavations at Ovingdean finished later than planned in November and the site was then back filled. In December BHAS were invited into Archaeology South East at Portslade to use their resources for washing the finds from Ovingdean. We managed to complete all of the pottery and the flintwork. Finds processing days were also held in January and February where over 20 people attended each session. All of the pottery and flintwork was marked and catalogued and the fire-cracked flint counted and weighed. The marine shells were examined and detailed, and the nails counted and recorded. The support from the team has been extremely good with good numbers coming along to each session.

During the post Christmas period BHAS organised day schools in the identification of flint work with Dr Matt Pope, and an environmental day school with Dr Mike Allen. Both sessions were fully booked. A third day school on the study of human remains with Paola Ponce from ASE will be taking place on 14th March and a BHAS field training session lead by our Training Officer Pete Tolhurst and illustrator Jane Russell will be held on the 28th March.


Winter Walks

BHAS generally have a series of winter walks but this year one was undertaken just before Christmas. This walk was around the hills and woods of Stanmer. The event was led by Maria Gardiner and Jane Russell. The other planned walk around Standean and Tegdown hill had to be cancelled due to the weather. A series of summer walks is being planned.


Excavations for 2015 - Ovingdean

At a meeting with the Assistant County Archaeologist in January the field work for 2015 was discussed. It had become very clear from the 2014 excavations at Ovingdean that the small test pit type trenches were raising more questions than answering them. It has been decided to return to the north east corner of the medieval enclosure at Ovingdean and open up a much bigger trench, rather than lots of smaller ones. The area will be 15 metres square and will be divided into 4 quarters. Opposite quarters will be opened and if time allows the other two quarters will be opened later in the season. This will hopefully reveal what exactly happens to several of our ditches, and will whether we have walls or floors, plus possibly the shape of our post hole building. Digging will commence on Saturday 11th April and the excavation is planned to continue for 6 months, working on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Other days may be added if required and if the support is there from the field unit.

The new season of excavations in Hog Croft field, Ovingdean commenced on Saturday 11th April. A trench measuring 15 metres is being opened to examine a number of geophysical anomalies noted in previous surveys. Last season a small test trench measuring 3 metres square revealed not one, but two cobbled floor surfaces. The shape of the features will be extremely interesting as it may link a possible entrance to the medieval enclosure, and show some chronological sequence associated with a large barn like feature running westwards.

Some of the turf has been removed and the immediate soil layer below this is gradually being removed. Already a concentration of large flint nodules suggest that more of the floor layers found last season are coming into view. Medieval green glazed pottery is already being found as has a gold finger ring, but this is probably of modern dating.

The area that we are examining is shown in the geophysical survey results of 1991. The excavation is in the area immediately left of the north arrow (Fig 1.) The results of the 1999 survey are also posted which shows the rectangular features a little better. It will be quite a fascinating excavation.

The weather has not been too kind for the start of the season but it can only improve.
Do come along if you would like to join the dig or merely to view. You can apply via the membership section to join the Society.

The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society now have 2 trenches open at Ovingdean, each measuring 6 metres square. The purpose of the excavation is to seek additional post holes to those found in 2014. With any additional post holes we may determine the size and shape of suspected timber framed buildings constructed within the earthen banks of the medieval manorial enclosure.

The south trench has produced numerous finds of medieval pottery, bone and shell and a large concentration of flint nodules. Some of the flint nodules are compressed and in mortar and a rectangular building can be observed, with a gully running through the centre. This feature lies above a lower bed of unmortared flint, which in turn overlies a bed of chalk. Beneath this is a buried land surface which has produced mid to late Saxon pottery. Recent finds have included a double post hole, similar to ones found in 2014.

The north trench has uncovered a wall like feature revealed in excavations in 2002. This feature, and a lighter ephemeral collection of flints, may be the east and north walls linked to the concentration of flints in the other trench. At present it is difficult to determine the exact size or purpose of any of these features, but it should become clear as the lower layers are uncovered. Ovingdean certainly has a complex and layered sequence, which should produce an interesting chronological sequence and dating.

The earthen and chalk bank on the north side of the enclosure terminates within the 'walled' area and so the earth now being removed should be from the buried land surface where the mid to late Saxon pottery was found last year. We have had a number of interesting finds including an armour piercing arrowhead and a spur possibly of 16th century date. Last year the most prestigious find was a bone Saxon gaming piece, which are extremely rare.

There will be opportunities for training in planning and section drawing in August. Basic training is provided for any newcomer to the dig, and no previous experience is required. Either join via the website, or visit the site and join on the day. It is essential, however, that you do have a current tetanus.

The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society have continued with their excavations at Ovingdean throughout the summer, and will probably continue until the end of October or early November.

The excavations have focused on the two trenches opened earlier in the year, with another de-turfed ready for later in the season if required.

The south trench has revealed several layers of what appears to be flint floor, with a later gully running through the centre of a possible building, possibly for drainage. An area of charcoal at the south end of this gully may indicate other uses for this feature. Another gully has been revealed running north/south and this is in line with a gully found in 2014. This gully has had a number of interesting features including a fill of large pieces of flint and a post hole. A build up of chalk is noted on the west side of the gully suggesting that this feature may have been a beam slotted palisade or is even a building, possibly Saxon. There are too few elements to confirm this at present. Other features in the south trench include a number of post holes, some doubled and some flint packed, plus numerous stake holes, which do not have any definition at present. Finds have included medieval pottery, bones, oyster shells and an arrow head, probably armour piercing type.

The North trench has also provided a complex number of features. Lines of flint rubble tend to suggest the ephemeral remains of walls, but with very little mortar. Dumps of chalks in various locations could be some form of buttress. The large chalk mound, which is the north earthworks in this field, terminates within this trench and a ridge and lighter coloured fill may indicate a robbed out beam slotted building. Some pottery has been found in the lower Saxon layers, but at present we are unable to confirm the dating until an expert has examined them. On the north east corner of this trench a sondage revealed what appears to be yet another well defined large ditch. We are currently seeking the north side of this new feature. Finds from this trench have included a nice copper alloy spur which may be late Tudor in date, it was from the upper layers, and pottery, bone and shell.

The society has organised training sessions in planning and section drawing with Jane Russell and archaeological photography with Lisa Fisher. We have also had a drone on site taking aerial pictures, which may, hopefully, be transferred to the website soon.

There will be opportunities for training in archaeological techniques, planning and section drawing. Basic training is provided for any newcomer to the dig, and no previous experience is required. Either join via the website, or visit the site and join on the day. It is essential, however, that you do have a current tetanus.

The BHAS Geophysics Team - Pete Tolhurst has taken on the role of team leader for this very important part of the BHAS programme. During the summer we have conducted resistivity surveys at Gallops Farm with Lisa Fisher, looking for a medieval aisled house and at Hempstead Farm, Uckfield where earlier vestiges of this medieval house may lie beneath the walled garden. The team will be returning there soon. Another project was at the Vicarage Garden in Portslade where large dressed stone blocks have been found in the garden close to the site of the medieval manor house. We also have projects planned for field to the south of Ovingdean church and a major survey at Beacon Hil Rottingdean. If you are interested in joining the BHAS geophysics team then contact Pete Tolhurst at
The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society have continued with their excavations at Ovingdean and finished digging on Saturday 1st November. The site was fully recorded and will now be covered with bubblewrap and tarpaulins to protect it from the winter weather.
The excavations have revealed a complex series of layers including several flint 'floor' layers and possible walls. A large chalk mound is a deposit from a quarry cut into the side of Cattle Hill, to the west of the site. This chalk mound is comprised of numerous large chalk nodules and seals a buried land surface from which both Saxon and Roman pottery has been found. The 2015 excavation consisted of two trenches and in the north trench a section below a wall feature has revealed a very large pit or even a well.

The whole area, in both trenches, is full of post holes and stake holes. Many of these are quite shallow, and they do vary in depth, but a number are substantial with flint packing. Cutting across the site heading south the north is a straight sided gully. There is another similar gully to the north on the same alignment and between them is a double or even treble post hole configuration. These post holes may be a gateway or entrance into a palisade or building. It has not been able to discern any solid structures as yet and the whole excavation will have to extended until some form or shape of structures is noted.

The south flint 'floor' has a gully running through the centre and the lower fills have produced what appears to be Saxon pottery, along with daub and charcoal. The upper layers have produced mainly 12th and 13th century wares including a significant amount of green glazed ware. Sadly no coins have been recovered as yet, but other finds have included plenty of bone and marine molluscs.

From the sections created a number of distinct layers can be observed. The upper 'flint' floor is a solid mortared layer with a loamy soil layer below. Under this layer is yet another flint 'floor' with yet another loamy soil beneath this. Part of the chalk mound appears within these contexts with varying thickness. Below the loamy soil is the natural chalk into which the early post holes have been cut.

Some of the finds have included Roman pottery and some late Neolithic and Early Bronze age flintwork, but of main interest is the very ephemeral Saxon lower layers which has produced mid to late Saxon pottery and some early Saxo-Norman wares.

The Saxon layer is the most important as there are so few finds of Saxon settlement in Sussex. The Assistant County Archaeologist has decided that the Saxon element is so important that the 2016 excavations will carefully remove the later 13th century medieval layers so that more early post holes can be revealed, and hopefully some idea of the number and size of any Saxon structures hidden below those lower layers. It is also possible that elements of Prehistoric and Roman phases may also be uncovered.

 The BHAS Field Unit has now moved inside to commence the post ex activities of sorting, washing and marking the finds.

The BHAS Geophysics Team - The BHAS geophysics team have a number of projects planned for over the winter period. These include a survey at Preston Park Brighton, a survey at Beacon Hill Rottingdean, and an investigation into a possible Roman site at Ovingdean. We may also return to Hempstead Farm looking for more features and buildings. If you are interested in joining the BHAS geophysics team then contact Pete Tolhurst at



About Us



Field Unit






Contact Us


Privacy Policy


Site Map

Terms and Conditions

Field Unit Notebook Archive