Monthly Archives: October 2013

ENHA confirm site of national archaeological importance at Wilting

Despite being shrouded in secrecy information is starting to leak. The enclosed report was published in the most recent issue of the newsletter of Eastbourne Natural History and Archaeological Society. Please read and I will comment after:

“Oxford Archaeology have been awarded the contract to run the survey prior to building the Hastings/Bexhill Link Road, and are making full use of HAARG’ (Hastings Area Archaeological Group)’s volunteers. To scotch any speculation, there is no Norman boat, nor pre-battle Norman camp, nor hint of a battle at Crowhurst, but masses of other finds. There are health and safety issues with a very large site and associated use of big machinery, but it is obvious that there is evidence of a large industrial site associated with iron working, plus some Iron Age pottery, a host of linear and rectangular features, and pits. There is a massive charcoal and slag bank running into the valley, with a series of bloomeries, at least seven, along its edge. This has been surveyed, but Lynn was not allowed to show any results. Suffice it to say that it is of national significance. Most unexpectedly, around the edge of the edge of an ancient marsh there have been found masses of Mesolithic flint scatters, plus some burnt mounds, proving the sites popularity and use from deep history. Many of the flint finds are circular and indicate a single knapping episode. (We visited the site with HAARG a couple of weeks ago and the O.A. archaeologist said that they were hoping to re-assemble the chippings as had been done at Boxgrove, to reveal the original cores). No flint is native to the site, someone took the trouble to go and fetch the raw material from a distance of many miles. It seems that the site may have been semi industrial, preparing flint items to be traded. It is projected that at least 100,000 individual pieces of flint will be recovered! All finds on the extensive site are GPS registered and mapped. We were told the report is unlikely to be ready in less than five years.”

Let us start by discounting the statement that there are no Norman boats or the hint of a battle at Crowhurst. This statement cannot be justified because the road route does not encroach upon the evidence in the Crowhurst valley confirming the battlefield or go into the area where we believe the boats will be found. This statement appears to indicate some wishful thinking on behalf of someone keen to promote their own agenda.

What we know is nothing Norman has been found at Wilting yet but most interesting neither has anything Roman and what we are seeing here is the report of what appears to be the center of the Iron Age production of the Crowhurst valley area – which includes four major Roman bloomeries (Beauport Park, Forewood, Crowhurst Park and Bynes Farm). All the network of tracks from those bloomeries end at Wilting by Redgeland Wood at the port and all were controlled by the Romans.

I would suggest that we hold the front page on the issue of the top field at Wilting because we haven’t found Roman evidence on the North side of the field on the opposite side from the manor house where the Normans built the manor house. Should the pottery materialise we will then know the Romans took it over and I would be amazed if they did not.

Casper at the talk he gave in Crowhurst last week told us there is pre-invasion Saxon pottery on this site at Upper Wilting and provided a picture of a lot of pottery in a seam. It would need to be explained why this settlement is so big, why there is a massive earthworks trapezoidal eartyhworks there and how it fitted into the known archaeology of the valley and the existence of the Roman shore fort in Sandri=cock filed (clearly forgotten about by the archaeologists).

Mr Johnson was kind enough to tell us that archaeology was a science, but it is up to others to interpret what is found. What we can see is the center of industrialisation of the valley area (this is confirmed by Smyth and Jennings multitude of reports and is a surprise that it was not taken seriously earlier). It is also known that this area was occupied by the Hastingas pre Saxon times – a tribe of unknown location. Everything we are seeing tells us this valley (and port where the Romans shipped their iron ore) was occupied by the Hastingas and the port of Hastings was where the town of Hastings developed pre-invasion – hence the burnt house on the Bayeux Tapestry and no reference in Domesday.

If it were somewhere else then where was it. Not in Hastings – no pottery, no buildings pre invasion and no castle or mound or earthworks (according to Dawson who did the science of the archaeology at the castle – fewpeople seem to have read this properly). The only evidence we have is now coming out of the ground and the science of the archaeology tells us by virtue of the dated pottery. It simply is not good enough to say well we found some pre-invasion pottery and it doesn’t mean anything because there might have been a few people there who caused a big mess and left a lot of pottery. History tells us that occupation of sites that develop into towns have ancient roots and those roots are now being uncovered. That is what the pottery at Wilting is telling us.

As detailed in my book Secrets of the Norman Invasion I make the claim that the top field at Wilting was the site of the pre-invasion town of Hastings and the port was at the foot of that hill at Redgeland Wood, as detailed in an authentic document from the time called the Chronicle of Battle Abbey. There is nothing that anyone has seen or reported from Oxford Archaeology that indicates any other conclusion. The report from ENHA concludes independently that this is a site of national importance – I agree.

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ESCC LIDAR evidence distorted

Please compare the LIDAR evidence provided by ESCC, with that provided in the evidence in the article below in the previous but one article, and you can see how road builders have effectively erase historical evidence of ditches and eartworks from plans being presented as evidence to the Inspector at the public inquiry. In particular look at the top field at Wilting where the Burgh is now believed to be – these images are both taken from the same source.

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Hastings Burgh will not be protected YET!!!

Both Martin White and I received rejections to our applications to list the Burgh at Hastings today, but clearly from the documentation both cases (for different reasons) have merit far beyond any credit given by any of the authorities who work for East Sussex County Council. When I have some time I will post the documents together with Martin’s comments. There is a clear case for more information and its premature, but it would not surprise me if we won this war. I don’t think it will be long before the evidence will be accepted by the academic community. The road will by then have been built and there will be a clear case that shows the organisation who should be protecting our heritage is in the hands of road builders. It will then be time to change the system I suspect as its not working and will be shown to be not working. The implications of the Burgh are not lost on the road builders and will cost the country dear in the long term because it defines where Hastings was pre-1066 and that is recorded as where the Normans landed and camped – which has immense implications for my work.

Incidentally I know you all like gossip and I heard today that when the original survey was started the plans showed rock 8 meters below the surface of the Combe haven. It is apparently 48 meters and this week one of the platform being used to drive in the piles started to capsize. So dont be surprised if the whole shooting match hits an unrecoverable snag in the middle of the Combe Haven marsh soon.

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LIDAR confirms defensive structure of The Burgh at Hastings

Work continues at the site we believe was the Hastings Burgh and Caesars first landing site:

I’m pleased to say the recent publicity has brought me some expertise on board which is helping us track down the really important issue of exactly where Hastings was pre 1066. I’m pretty sure the evidence in the written documents near the time will lead us to the right site.

As we home in on the location we have now spent some time looking at the LIDAR and am very surprised how much it can reveal if you spend a little time on it. ┬áThis LIDAR has been produced by independent processing and shows a lot of information which poses the question why wasn’t the LIDAR produced by East Sussex County Council showing this information when the information was made available to the Inquiry (I leave that for you to judge).

This is the clean imagelidar Wilting Farm East Sussex

This is one marked with things that need to be noted:

wilting farm and redgeland wood LIDAR1
(start page 94).

A number of things appear to be clear and need to be addressed in relation to the archaeological dig on the top field. Cow Lane has been a mystery that is slowly unravelling. We know the hedgerow there is at least 1000 years old dating it from the Conquest on Cow Lane but there is no┬áreason for it to be there. I have marked the current route in light blue. It goes from the corner of the marsh to the top of the field but does not seem to serve a purpose – unless it was part of the port of Hastings in that corner of the Bulverhythe/Combe Haven at the south end of the line. If it was, then this was the main access route from the inland waterway, to where the Burgh of Hastings stood (if the top field was the Burgh). All the indications appear to confirm it was so far.

There is a wide junction about half way down the hill where the hedge rows cross north of Cow Lane but if you look carefully you can see there are two tell tale streaks of the earlier road route going directly north from this junction which I have marked dark blue. These dark streaks are similar in style to that produced by the 1740 coach road, which is easily seen, even through ploughed fields. You will also notice that I have marked another major ditch within the boundary of the upper field at Wilting (the Burgh) in red which appears to be an internal ditch of fairly large proportions cutting the top field, where I believe the Burgh is found, in two with the main farm buildings in the eastern side of the same field.

The LIDAR reveals that the outline of the top field was well defined by a rampart at least six feet high all round as can be seen on the image. To the south of the Burgh are three parallel ditches and many other ditches located inside the site marked yellow. These are not of course on the road route so this is not an issue connected to the road but one of understanding the history of this site.

As I see it the LIDAR appears to clearly indicate Cow Lane was a significant roadway built to deliver goods from the waterway in the Combe Haven into the Burgh (at the top of Wilting). The earthworks and depth of the road in relation to the fields at either side appear to confirm major usage over a long period of time and it seem to me that it is reasonable to hypothesise that this was probably connected to the Roman occupation of the site and even before that as Oxford Archaeology have now found Roman evidence at the west end of that field.

It looks to me that the road infrastructure that I uncovered in my book (Secrets of the Norman Invasion pages 124 and 126) is now confirmed by the LIDAR. This Roman road infrastructure led back to the largest Roman bloomery in southern England and was connected to at least two other bloomeries requiring at least 30,000 tons of iron ore to be shipped. The evidence is stacking up that the port for the ore must have been Wilting where the tracks terminated (Secrets of the Norman Invasion Chapter 32 Roman Development).

However Cow Lane is not in the immediate area of the track network which terminates at Redgeland, where it is hypothesised the port of Hastings was found in Norman times (shown on the same LIDAR). The fact that the track from Cow Lane shows an earlier route suggests to me that this earlier route predated the Romans, because it passes through the area that was later built into an earthworks, but was outside what was probably the main earlier defense. This indicates to me that the earlier port may well have been at the foot of the lane where Cow Lane terminates, at what is now the marsh in Iron Age and Bronze Age period of the development of the Combe Haven community.

There is good reason to hypothesise that the fork in the road half way up Cow Lane to the right would have come into existence later, at the time Hastings developed inside the top field, after the Romans had levelled it. The Roman development would have covered the earlier route, because it must have been the Romans who built the earthworks in the field. The major ditch that bisects the top field (Chapel Field, where I believe the Burgh is found) having been built earlier than the Roman occupation, with the road originally arriving at the top of the field outside of the protected earlier defensive area.

Later when Alfred ordered the Burgh to be built (940AD appx) the top field was already flat and the entrance to the top field well developed since Roman times entering the peninsular top field to the east of the old road, and pretty much dead centre of the south facing field, which overlooked the port. It was effectively a ready made defensive structure located where Hastings had developed over the 500 years since Roman occupation.

There are many ditches in the fort and the parallel ones at the edge suggest defensive construction, confirming that the earthworks was defensive and further fortified. It was not the normal shape for a Roman fort because the Romans used the natural structure of the peninsular shape of the field, but was an excellent defense none the less.

Lastly the outline of the Roman shore fort which I believe was built when the Romans first arrived in the Combe Haven can also be seen on the LIDAR. It was the practice of the day to construct these upon landing and the topography of this area exactly fits Caesars description of the first landing in Britain in 55BC.” target=”_blank”>This was hypothesised by RC Hussey FSA. In order to understand exactly how this all fits together it is necessary to read Hussey and his analysis of Caesars own words.

It looks to me like Hussey was probably right in his conclusions, but he made one error of judgement. Like those who had gone before him he assumed that the port of Hastings would be found on the coast. He therefore looked at Bulverhythe as the landing site because of the establish documentary evidence for that site as the port of Hastings and the high ground he identified as the area immediately adjacent to the coast where he believed the port must have been. He did not know what Margaret Gelling (the place name expert) had told me – that all Hythes (in Olde English were inland ports). If he had known this he would have looked inland, inside the Combe Haven valley, and then he would have have identified the earthworks on the highest ground there overlooking the site as the Roman fort site, because this is where he believed the Roman fort described by Caesar as a “peninsular fort” would be found. The failure to find that fort by the coast undermined the veracity of his work. However the facts in his assessment cannot be denied and now that peninsular fort is known to be further inland on the highest ground on the Wilting Farm peninsular. If we had this LIDAR twenty years ago the story may have been completely different but I have to say despite the road setback the end result will be the same and the truth will now come out.

This information is relevant to two listing applications made to English Heritage numbers 480200 and 480509 for the protection of the Burgh. This information has been sent to the team responsible for the assessment.

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