(Part 1, Chapter 2, Section 6) ( Bk. Index )

Archaeology on the Angmering By-Pass Route

  Prior to the commencement of earth moving in preparation for the new Angmering-By-Pass, the West Sussex County Council (WSCC) commissioned the Oxford Archaeological Unit, a private company, to carry out investigations to establish if the land along the route showed any evidence of previous inhabitation. The digs began in February 2001 and were finished late that September.

By-Pass routeEarly in September 2001, The Angmering Society was invited to send two representatives on an Archaeological "Walk and Talk" given jointly by John Mills, Deputy County Archaeologist from the WSCC, and Andy Norton from the Oxford Archaeological Unit, to hear of their findings. Others to be invited were principally local, district, and county councillors plus officers from the WSCC.

Trial investigations were initially made in February 2001 by digging trenches along the by-pass route. Almost all of these trenches showed negative findings but two areas in particular looked more positive, one being approx. 80 yards from Water Lane, and the other being located between The Spotted Cow and Ecclesden Manor. About two feet of topsoil was therefore removed in each vicinity to assist in pursuing the investigations. Soil shadings showed outlines where ditches had been dug in earlier times and also revealed where post holes may have been sited. These ditches were probably the boundaries of the settlements or specific enclosures which may well have had earth banks and wooden palisades for defensive purposes.

The Water Lane site showed evidence of a Middle Bronze Age settlement (C. 1700 BC) and finds included ditches, post holes, pottery fragments, burned flints, and an indication of a cremation. The burned flints were of particular interest as it was explained that these were heated and then thrown into small clay-lined pits of water which reached near boiling point, the water being used for cooking. Pottery of the time placed directly onto a fire would have shattered with the extreme heat. Seed material was also found and this is currently being analysed; when identified, it will give an indication of what the inhabitants probably ate.

The Ecclesden site showed evidence of settlements in the Mid-to-Late Bronze Age (C.1500 BC), Iron Age (C. 750 BC to 0 BC), and a Saxon inhabitation (C. 450 AD to 800AD). Similar items were found on this site but part of a copper alloy broach, possibly Late Bronze Age, was also discovered. In one of the excavation trenches, there was clear evidence of a small fire pit with its bed of flint and adjacent black charcoal deposits and a reddish layer of burned earth. Some abraded pottery fragments were discovered in small Iron Age gullies (which could have served as boundaries or drainage ditches) together with other unidentified Iron Age objects. Part of a jaw bone from a Saxon sheep was also found. Additionally, countless dozens of flint tools and flint chippings from both sites were unearthed from much earlier Neolithic and Mesolithic times.

These Angmering settlements from the Bronze Age appear to be of considerable interest to archaeologists as they may be the first to have been discovered along the Sussex coastal plain. For us current day inhabitants, the finds are also quite exciting. Could this Saxon settlement be the site of the original Angmering village? Could this have been the home of the people named after a Saxon by the name of Angenmaer (or similar)? Fanciful? Not really; the Saxon site is in the direct line of Cow Lane, the ancient and original southern route into Angmering. Alternatively, the site could have been inhabited by another Saxon - Eccles - which might have led to the origins of Ecclesden, one suggested meaning being Eccles's Hill.

The boundary ditches on each of the sites extend beyond the route of the by-pass into adjoining fields so any digs in the future may well reveal more secrets from the past. In addition, another archaeological unit has been investigating finds on a site within the new Roundstone Lane housing development which could well ultimately point to links with our Saxon site a few hundred yards to its north.

Neil Rogers-Davis

Last updated 1 June 2002