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
* 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.
AN INTERIM REPORT ON THE EXCAVATIONS AT
WILBEES FARM, ARLINGTON
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the Arlington reservoir and an unpublished excavation of a Roman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
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.
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.
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
Greg Chuter, Assistant County
Archaeologist, East Sussex County Council. April 2008
Report Available as a PDF file
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.
HOG CROFT, OVINGDEAN 2008 EXCAVATIONS
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.
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.