The civil parish of Westhampnett, 2.5km northeast of Chichester, encompasses two modern settlements: the village of Westhampnett on the south boundary of the parish adjacent to the A27 and the hamlet of Westerton a kilometre to the northeast. A low, but ‘locally prominent’ hill on the border of Westhampnett and Oving parishes was the focus of ritual and burial activity from the pre-Roman Iron Age to the seventh century.
The early medieval cemetery was initially identified during archaeological mitigation work during the construction of the A27 Westhampnett bypass in 1992 (Fitzpatrick et al., 1997). Two Roman roads, from Chichester and heading northeast to London and east (presumably) to Brighton, cross through the parish. Pieces of Roman brick, box flue and hypocaust tile are built into the walls of the parish church (Hills, 1869, 41 & Fig. 3). These pieces may have been robbed from Chichester, or a yet unknown villa in the vicinity (Hills, 1869, 37-43; Russell, 2006, 291).
Excavations in advance of the A27 Westhampnett Bypass uncovered an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery and pushed the earliest Germanic acculturation of the westernmost coastal plain back to the sixth century (Fitzpatrick et al., 1997). Discovery of early medieval occupational evidence during rescue excavations in the year 2000 and 2001 is suggestive of a settlement contemporary to the cemetery (Chadwick, 2006). Two “apparently isolated” sunken-featured buildings were discovered, but it “cannot be excluded that some of the undated post-holes within the area of the Bronze Age settlement.. are Anglo-Saxon in date” (ibid. 24). A total of 176 sherds of pottery, identified as Early/Middle Saxon on account of their similarity to assemblages from the Apple Down cemetery and places it within the Sixth to Seventh Centuries. Early and Middle Saxon pottery is “notable on account of its scarcity” and the possibility of linking a contemporary settlement with another rarity, an early medieval cemetery on the coastal plain, could potentially be demonstrative of ‘everyday’ expressions of identity within a domestic context.
Chadwick, A. (2006). Bronze Age burials and settlement and an Anglo-Saxon settlement at Claypit Lane, Westhampnett, West Sussex. Sussex Archaeological Collections, 144, 7–50.
Fitzpatrick, A. P., Powell, A., James, S. E., McKinley, J., Mepham, L. N., & Montague, R. (1997). Archaeological Excavations on the Route of the A27 Westhampnett Bypass, West Sussex, 1992. (J. Gardiner, Ed.). Salisbury: Wessex Archaeology.
Hills, G. (1869). The Church of West-Hampnett. Sussex Archaeological Collections, 21, 33–43.
Russell, M. (2006). Roman Sussex. Stroud: Tempus.