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BHAS Field Unit Archive 2008 Page 1


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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 April 2008

* Ovingdean added 4th June 2008

* Peacehaven added 16th June 2008

* Ovingdean added 18th August 2008

* Varley Hall added 6th October 2008

* Alington (Interim Report) added 9th November 2008

* Southwick Dec 08


Excavations at Arlington have carried on throughout the winter, but intermittently due to the bad weather. A new area of interest has revealed a new possible structure dated to the Roman period consisting of a flint floor, several layers thick, and surrounded by an outer section of greensand blocks. A number of Roman cremation burials have also been revealed. A major resistivity and magnetometry survey of the various fields involved in the project has had some success in tracing the Roman road going toward Polegate. A significant number of geophysical anomalies will be the subject of the major excavation to be conducted during the summer season. The team will be led by Greg Chuter Assistant County Archaeologist for East Sussex, who will be assisted by our own Steve Corbett and Bob Washington.




Fieldwork comprising of geophysical survey, fieldwalking and excavation has been carried out between 2003 and 2008 on land at Wilbees Farm, Arlington. This work carried out by volunteers from Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society has established that a large and important roadside settlement existed here in the Roman period. The main site is situated on one of a number of low Weald Clay ridges adjacent to the River Cuckmere Valley and due south of the medieval village of Arlington. To the east lies Arlington Reservoir which was constructed in the late 1960s by diverting the course of the river. Prior to the project, there had been a number of findings in the area, including a rescue excavation of a small area of Romano-British features during the construction of the Arlington reservoir and an unpublished excavation of a Roman masonry building. The local landowner has also collected a vast quantity of Roman artefacts. Ivan Margary's pioneering work on Roman roads in Sussex has also established that a road linking the port and fortress at Pevensey with the Ouse Valley crossed the River Cuckmere at this point.


Following the reporting of the finding of quantities of Romano-British artefacts by metal detectorists, to the Archaeology Team at East Sussex County Council, an investigation project was set up, initially by the Mid Sussex Field Archaeology Team and later expanded to include members of the Eastbourne Natural History and Archaeological Society and The Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society, under the direction of the author.

Fieldwalking and geophysical survey quickly established an area of activity in what has been named 'Field 10'. This work was followed by a series of evaluation excavations over a number of seasons, which identified a wide flint metalled surface with associated side ditches, a number of linear ditches and clusters of post holes.

In 2006 & 2007 larger scale excavation took place, which confirmed that the metalled surface was a Roman road, bounded by wide deep side ditches. Joining these side ditches at right angles were a number of probable property boundaries or enclosure ditches, one of which contained a series of large post holes provisionally interpreted as a wooden building. The finding of the road was a surprise, as Margary had plotted it running a rather erratic course 150 metres south of the site.

Vast quantities of bloomery slag and fired clay, suggests that iron smelting had taken place nearby and in 2007 a trench across the southern road ditch and close to a small circular geophysical anomaly recovered a very large quantity of this material, suggesting that the anomaly is a bloomery furnace. It is planned to excavate this feature this summer.

Excavations have also taken place in a number of other fields on the farm, these have confirmed the 'new' alignment of the road and located one of the cemetery sites associated with the settlement. This cemetery site, 900 metres to the east of the main site and adjacent to the Roman road contains an unusual, well constructed flint structure, or base, 6 metres by 5 metres in area and 0.5 metres thick, currently postulated as a shrine or mausoleum. To the north of this structure 5 badly ploughed Romano-British cremation burials have been excavated and it is likely that the continuing excavation of this field will identify more.


The excavations have recovered a very large quantity of finds, mainly comprising of pottery sherds, but also including Roman coins, Roman glass and iron objects including a spearhead.

Although the pottery is presently being catalogued, an initial assessment shows that c. 60% of the assemblage comprises of locally produced fabrics, predominately grog tempered East Sussex Ware and sand tempered wares. The remainder of the assemblage comprises of imported wares, including British wares such as Nene Valley colour coated wares, New Forest indented beakers and south-east grey wares. Samian, Eastern Gaulish and Trier wares provide evidence of European trade links. The large quantity of drinking vessels recovered is a surprise, possibly suggesting the settlement contained an inn and certainly highlighting the high status nature of the settlement. Although masonry buildings have not yet been identified on the main site, their presence nearby is suggested by a quantity of roof, floor and box flue tiles recovered.


 The initial post excavation assessment suggests that the road was constructed in the early 1st century and that a settlement and industrial areas quickly formed along its sides. Analysis of pre-project finds suggests it formed both sides of the river crossing and contained at least one masonry building. The site is likely to have acted as the main market/administrative centre for the area and its postulated size, c. 35 hectares, places it in the Roman small town category. The settlement appears to have gone into decline, possibly being totally abandoned in the late third century. The Roman fortress of Anderitum at Pevensey was constructed in the late 3rd century and it is likely that this became the main administrative and market centre for the area, thus making the Arlington settlement redundant.

The map shows the site at Arlington in the larger Roman context in Sussex.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the BHAS for the grant towards excavation costs, without which the excavations would have been on a much smaller scale. We must also thank all the volunteers from BHAS who have taken part in this project, sometimes in adverse weather conditions, but without whose support this regionally important site would not have been investigated.

Greg Chuter, Assistant County Archaeologist, East Sussex County Council. April 2008

Bob Washington

Steve Corbett

Arlington Report Available as a PDF file


Rocky Clump

The new season of excavations has already begun at Rocky Clump, Stanmer. The current areas of investigation include the East trench which appears to have an enormous square sided or rectangular pit, which lies immediately east of what was originally believed to have been a Roman Shrine. A large section opened north of the East trench and called the 'Bones' trench is revealing a large section of an early Roman ditch which is producing large quantities of cattle and horse bone, including a number of skulls. The area appears to be dropping down into a possible terraced area, which could possibly be the location of the actual settlement.



We were blessed with good weather on Saturday, 18 on site and many thanks to everyone who came. The turf was quickly removed and after an early and well deserved tea break, digging began in earnest. Linda Wright found our first coin – an Elizabeth 2nd 1962 sixpence However, the “excitement” of such a find was quickly usurped by Bob with a Charles II farthing dating to 1672 or 3!! In total we had six small finds (apparently a record for Ovingdean!), including keys, a thimble, a bead and a beautifully decorated piece found by Nadia which has been taken to Barbican House by Bill for identification.

The unexpected good weather continued on Sunday, with 9 on site and again thank you to everyone. The small finds continued with a further ten, Bob continuing to find exceptional pieces – today an arrowhead (13th century dating) and (from my point of view, anyway!!) a beautiful bone needle, which was possibly used for mending fishing nets – this will be confirmed after further research. Norman (yes he was digging!!) added to the small finds with a flint weight – how someone managed to work a whole straight through we are unsure!! This may be a fishing net weight – again watch this space. Reference to the 1327 and 1332 Subsidy records confirms a John le Fysh living in Ovingdean – maybe these pieces were his. Paul Smith arrived during the day and very quickly found a beautiful piece of rim sherd – the largest of the day. Well done that man. Rivalry for the biggest finds became evident between Paul and John (yes, he was digging too) but I have to announce that Paul did win!!!!

A special thank you to John and Norman for all their help and guidance over the two days, and also to Bill for looking at the small finds.

We will be extending the electric fence and opening up a further trench (or two) – the first over in the area of the known manor house.

Ovingdean May/June 2008

The BHAS Field Unit returned to Hog Croft field at Ovingdean in April and May of 2008. This year the excavations were to investigate the south west section of the medieval manor house and the possible detached kitchen. The investigations were designed as part of a dissertation for Carol White a student at Sussex University, and to a brief designed and presented to Brighton and Hove City Council and the County Archaeologist Casper Johnson.

The excavations were to be a total of 5 trenches cut in various areas to investigate a number of geophysical anomalies noted in earlier resistivity surveys. In the end only two of these trenches were completed. A time restriction had to be imposed, due to other student projects, and this did not allow for three of the trenches to be opened.

The Medieval Manor House

An area measuring 7 metres in length and 5 metres in width had the turf removed, but the focus of activity in the kitchen trench allowed only a partial examination of this open area. Once the turf had been removed the finds appeared immediately below the surface. Large quantities of red roofing tile were revealed, these have been found scattered all over Hog Croft field. Other finds consisted of a mixture of coins, pottery, roofing and floor tile and fairly contemporary items such as cuff-links, glass, and even an early Boy Scout badge.

As the excavation progressed the south section of the trench was excavated to reveal the very substantial medieval walls. The south/west corner corner of the building was revealed and it was found that extensive robbing of the walls had taken place. In the south/west corner of the interior of the manor a pit was found to have been dug, this appears to have been created to assist the systematic robbing of the wall on the inside of the building, a level terrace being created as the large flint nodules were being removed.

The pit proved to be a useful exercise in determining a chronological sequence for the various stages of the manor house. Cutting through the overburden in this corner produced such a confusing mixture of material and artefacts. Among the finds were large quantities of red roofing tile but also medieval floor and roofing tile, including ribbed ridge tile. Pottery consisted of a number of fabrics including green glazed wares. Special finds included a beautiful bone comb. A number of Georgian coins were also recovered, but no medieval finds were found despite a vigorous study of all the features and spoil with metal detecting equipment.

The excavations eventually came down onto an in-situ cobbled floor, using large beach pebbles for a rough floor. This floor is a later feature, as a small section cut in the excavations of 2003 found that the medieval floor level is about a metre below the floor found this season.

A number of phases for the manor house can now be discerned from the sample excavations that have taken place in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2008. A substantial building was created, with a cellar or undercroft. The pottery and building construction tends to suggest a 13th century date for this manor. (Pers. Comm. G.Thomas and C.Butler.) At a later date the building was partially demolished partially robbed of wall material. A later structure was built using much thinner walls. It is possible that the flint cobbled floor was laid at this time. The later building went out of use some time in the 14th or 15th century and was probably robbed, once again, of any useful building material for the building of Ovingdean Grange. The final phase was during the early Georgian period when the interior of the manor was used as a rubbish dump. This process continued during the Victorian era and into recent times when Hog Croft field was used as a workshop when renovating and re-roofing St Wulfran's church.

The Kitchen

In 2003 and 2006 small excavations north of the manor house had revealed an area of large flint nodules and mortar, suggesting the demolition of a structure not shown on the resistivity survey. The area had a very clear delineated south boundary which was a flat bottom ditch, measuring over a metre in width, and believed to be a robbed out kitchen wall foundation ditch. The 2008 excavations and the MA project was a project designed to try and confirm the location and dimensions of a medieval detached kitchen.

The excavations began with a trench measuring 5 metres in length and 3 metres in width. This trench was later extended to the south east quadrant by an additional section measuring 2 metres in width and 4 metres in length. This new area was only partially excavated due to time restrictions.

The new excavations revealed a continuation of the large flat bottomed ditch running east/west, but while a terminus had been found in 2006 on the east side, with a new ditch running northwards, no terminus was found on the west side. The ditch is now confirmed as being over 11 metres in length and continued westwards under the new baulk.

The area north of the ditch produced a linear arrangement of rectangular post holes, one with a post pipe, that indicate the location of a substantial new building. The extension to the trench produced another rectangular post hole to the east that is probably the east side of a building measuring 6 metres in width. The interior of this building produced some very interesting finds including bone, pottery and shell. There were also some exceptional finds of a 13th century arrow head and 12th century sword chape. Among the debris was a coin of Charles II. A small beam slot type post hole was found south of the large ditch.

The final moments of the excavation in this trench produced finds of a medieval floor tile overlain by soot and ash. Another very large, almost complete, cooking pot, was also found in the ditch close to the location of a similar vessel found in 2006.

The season produced no real evidence for a medieval kitchen. However, the post holes do suggest the location of a substantial building. It is possible that that may have been an earlier timber constructed manor house. The width of both structures is the same. It is also possible that the timber framed building was being lived in, while the stone structure was being constructed.


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