EXCAVATIONS AT OVINGDEAN
The BHAS Field Unit returned to Ovingdean in March of 2006. The small
excavation was designed to seek out evidence for a possible dove-cote
and detached kitchen. The geophysics had produced a number of areas
of high resistance indicating the location of structures and
buildings. Ovingdean is a medieval manorial complex and excavations
by BHAS in 2002 and 2003 produced evidence for both walls and
buildings, including the actual medieval manor house located just
north of the church of St Wulfrans.
The excavations in 2006 found no evidence for a dove-cote, but
revealed a series of ditches running at an irregular angle away from
the medieval enclosure. The ditches had been packed with flint
nodules. The detached kitchen area was investigated in 2003 by a
single 1 metre square trench that had produced finds of pottery,
numerous whelk shells and pieces of medieval tile. The new larger
trench revealed an area of roofing tile concentrated in an area
delineated by a large robbed out ditch, possibly a boundary wall
foundation trench. The ditch contained finds of large medieval pots
and these are being examined by our pottery expert Keith Edgar, who
has already reconstructed several Roman pots from the Rocky Clump
excavations. A small additional trench showed that after a short
break the ditch turned from an east/west direction and continued
going in a northerly direction.
A trench designed to examine the wall surrounding the medieval
complex found that it also had been partially robbed away, but the 1
metre wide trench also found another flint cobbled floor and at a
deeper level another wall possibly abutting the surrounding wall. It
is obvious that Ovingdean is a fascinating and very complex site and
that key hole excavations are providing more questions that answers.
It is possible that BHAS may make one final visit to Ovingdean in
2007 to cut a section through the very substantial earthwork boundary
to seek evidence for the earliest construction of this very
interesting location. The archaeology of Ovingdean will only really
be understood by the undertaking of a major investigation. The site
has no major threat at present and will be left for future
archaeologists to investigate.
ROCKY CLUMP 2006
The BHAS Field Unit returned to Rocky Clump in May of 2006. The new
series of excavations began, and continue, to investigate the area of
the 'Shrine' structure, the cemetery and an area north of the copse
that is Rocky Clump.
The Rocky Clump 'shrine' was never fully investigated by the team of
Walter Gorton and Charlie Yeates as a large beech tree was located in
the centre. This tree has subsequently died and only the stump
remained. David Larkin one of Brighton and Hove countryside rangers
managed to have the stump removed and this allowed access to the
ritual centre of this very intriguing structure. The building
consists of a series of 7 very large post holes measuring over a
metre in diameter. The excavation began by examining lands further to
the east of the building and a lack of further large post holes
confirmed the building was contained within the copse of trees.
However, the east trench produced numerous other features including a
ditch, post hole and pits. The interior of the shrine has shown that
the area has been badly damaged by tree root action and rabbit
burrowing. The floor surface is a layer of chalk and there have been
very few finds of anything, including pottery or bone. A few finds of
dressed chalk blocks and worked ironstone do suggest something
significant may have existed at one time.
The cemetery had a small section that had not be examined in the past
and it was hoped that this might produce a new untouched burial, with
possible grave goods. The date of the burials at Rocky Clump has
never been confirmed through either Radio Carbon or artefact remains.
The new trench did reveal one of the previously investigated grave
cuts but only geological features were found in the new area. A
section of the possible 'medieval' ditch running through Rocky Clump
has also been uncovered and will be sectioned during the current season.
A new trench was opened north of the trees to seek the continuance of
a line of post holes running eastwards found during previous seasons.
The question to be answered is are the post holes evidence for
another structure or are they a possible Roman fence line? The trench
has so far revealed two ditches running east/west. The ditches are
known from the previous seasons but have changed width dramatically
over the last 8 metres. It will now require the trench to be extended
eastwards towards the old excavations and observe where the changes
in width occur. There is no evidence for any new post holes in the
new trench and the extension will need to investigate where the old
line ceases or again changes direction.
The excavations have been well attended with lots of new people
joining the BHAS Field Unit. David Staveley has been conducting a new
resistivity survey in the south field in preparation for the new
season of excavation in 2007.
This year will be the final season of the second phase of
investigations at Rocky Clump started in 1991.
Members of the BHAS Field Unit have been assisting County
Archaeologist, Greg Chuter over a two week period with excavations at
Firle. The site is below the South Downs, close to the Charleston
farmhouse and located about 2 kilometres east of the Beddingham Roman
villa, excavated in the 1990s, and is in a similar location close to
a stream. The site first came to the attention of Greg after numerous
metal detector finds. Geophysics results showed what at first glance
looked like the outline of buildings. An evaluation trench last year
seemed to confirm this, so in June a series of trenches were opened.
The excavation consisted of a number of trenches cut into the one
field. It was not long before "walls" and features started
to appear. One feature, carefully excavated, seemed to be a beam slot
with a post hole in it. This puzzled everyone on site as it was
isolated and did not appear to join any other feature. The mystery
was solved when the farmer visited the site and explained that this
part of the field got a little waterlogged at times causing his
Landover to get bogged down.
What had been found was a tyre track and the "post hole"
was made by a wheel spinning. What had initially looked like an
internal corridor wall turned out to be a land drain. When part of
this was removed a ditch was revealed crossing it at right angles,
finds from this were late Iron Age and early Romano - British. A
small 1 x 1 meter trench revealed what was possibly a cobbled floor surface.
The site produced some very interesting pieces including East Sussex
Ware pottery, Roman grey wares and decorated Samian also animal bone
and shell. The most significant find was an Iron Age coin.
The excavations were visited by the landowner Lord Gage who, after a
site tour, was very enthusiastic about further excavations being
carried out next year to the extent of offering a machine to strip a
The BHAS team had a really interesting time at Firle and despite not
finding Roman buildings this time hope that further geophysics may
locate the settlement site or villa that must lie close by. BHAS are
looking forward to returning to the site some time in the not too