Please see below for a selection of Speaker Abstracts, we'll keep updating this page so keep checking back for further details.
Reflections on Herbert S. Toms: Archaeologist and Curator
Richard is the grandson of Herbert Toms (HST), the colourful archaeologist and curator whose time at Brighton Museum has left a major record of pioneering work and a huge commitment to making archaeology better known and more accessible.
Richard was very young when HST was alive and his view of HST comes from the Family and from material handed down. This combines, nonetheless, into a strong understanding of HST’s achievements and of the need to tell his story.
The talk starts with HST’s origins in Dorset and his hugely significant recruitment into Pitt Rivers’ team at Rushmore. The move was prophetic in that Pitt Rivers had earlier carried out digs at sites in Sussex – later to be re-visited and built on by HST.
Having inherited the Dorset Estates and Title Pitt Rivers (formerly Lane Fox) had resolved to leave the army and to devote himself to archaeology. He brought rigour and innovation to the task and was certainly helped in this by HST.
By the time of his move to Sussex HST had accumulated strong experience in the supervision of digs and the cataloguing of finds. He had also taken on some of the warm but military character of Pitt Rivers. This was evident in Ralph Merrifield’s account of his interview for a post with HST – from which he would move on to the London Museum.
HST’s time at the Brighton Museum was hugely productive, locally very visible and highly documented. The earlier years were particularly happy whilst Christine, his wife, was alive. In Brighton his spirit lives on. More widely, his contribution to his field is increasingly recognised.
The excavations at Butts Brow on the eastern edge of the South Downs above Eastbourne in 2016 & 2017 have given us a tantalising glimpse of a previously unknown Neolithic ditched enclosure. Post excavation analysis of the pottery has shown this site to be slightly earlier or contemporary with the Causewayed Enclosure at Combe Hill just 800m to the north-east, leaving us with interesting questions regarding functionality and interpretation.
However, the story of Butts Brow and indeed the archaeology encountered has been further complicated by later activity telling a fascinating tale of dodgy land deals, covert military training and decades of picnics. The project has also become a great local community event in itself and has shown how archaeology, landscape and contemporary experience can be used to help provide sustainability for an important archaeological monument.
Steve Patton and Jo Seaman will discuss these stories and hint of greater things to come.
Jo Seaman is Heritage Manager for Eastbourne Borough Council and has been directing the excavations at Butts Brow since 2016.
The finds analysis has provided some initial information as to what people were doing at the site in the Early Neolithic, but more importantly Butts Brow is beginning to add evidence to the way that causewayed enclosures could be interpreted in Sussex; is it a contemporary twin monument with Coombe Hill, or is it East Sussex's single ring enclosure twin to Bury Hill near Arundel in West Sussex? Additionally the site is adding more information to our understanding of prehistoric life on The Downs as both Butts Brow and Coombe Hill, which are still visible earthworks today, appear to have been part of a landscape that held significance during the subsequent millennia after they fell out of use.
Steve Patton works for Archaeology South East, and is a field archaeologist and finds specialist who has been involved with Heritage Eastbourne's community excavations and outreach for the past ten years.
From Neolithic Monument to a loaded picnic - the evolving story of Butts Brow, Eastbourne
Going Loopy: replicating Bronze Age Sussex loops
Sussex loops are enigmatic and beautiful objects of the Southern Bronze Age. Around 35 are known to exist, with the majority coming from Sussex, in the vicinity of Brighton - although there are a couple of finds from further afield in Surrey.
Evidencing many different styles and decorative elements, they are all linked by their related form: a folded and looped metal bar, bent into a circle and then fixed by overlapping the two ends around the loop. The most obvious suggestion for their use is as an armlet/bracelet and most fit an arm, but many have an aperture too small for such a use, and therefore their precise function remains unknown.
However, our replication work has not only allowed the method of manufacture to be better understood, but has also offered the opportunity to examine how these artefacts might have functioned in life. This paper will look at the manufacture of loops and the insights given by the replication of these beguiling symbols of the Sussex Bronze Age.
Dr Tess Machling, Independent Researcher, St Albans.
Roland Williamson, Museum replica maker, Bodgit & Bendit, Cheltenham.
Minepits, mud and mayhem: evidence of the Wealden Iron Industry at Horam
Archaeology South-East (ASE) was commissioned by Bovis Homes to undertake archaeological work on a development site at Horebeech Lane, Horam. Mechanical excavation of trial trenches in December 2018 proved that archaeological features survived at the site. Full-scale excavations began the following March, and continued until July 2019, by which time an area of 3.3 hectares (approximately 8 acres) had been examined by the archaeological team.
The earliest material consisted of a thin scatter of prehistoric flintwork, but the first sustained activity at the site came with the establishment of a small ditched enclosure occupied during the Romano-British period. Pottery and waste materials from a bloomery furnace had been dumped into a group of pits within the enclosure and into the enclosure ditch itself. Unfortunately, the actual furnace (or furnaces) lay outside of the boundaries of the site..
However, the vast majority of the archaeological features found at the site were minepits, deep shafts dug for the extraction of iron ore from the underlying geological deposits. More than a thousand of these features were encountered and recorded, and those fully excavated were as much as 5m in diameter and 4m in depth.
The use of such minepits usually dates from the medieval and post-medieval period. The Horam workings seem to relate to the extraction of ore to supply a local blast furnace complex known as the Heathfield Furnace, which began operation in 1693, and continued in operation until 1793, primarily as a gun foundry.
Senior Field Officer, Archaeology South East
The Rise and Fall of Airships in Sussex
During the Great War
Stewart Angell is a military researcher specialising in underground structures, better known for his revealing book The Secret Sussex Resistance (1996) which highlights the British Resistance in place across Sussex in WW2 to counter any German invasion.
His talk will focus on another passionate area of his research into airship use during the Great War, particularly in relation to Sussex.
It aims to cover their background, where they were based and how their role developed and evolved as the demands of war progressed.
He will present his findings of what remains in the landscape and where archaeology could help fill the gaps in our knowledge relating to a lesser known aspect of the Great War.
Stewart currently works in archaeology for Chris Butler Archaeological Services Limited and Sussex Military Research, along with acting as a specialist advisor contributing to websites, books and magazines with supporting images, and delivering a variety of military related talks.
Archaeologist and Independent Researcher