Chichester Harbour Conservancy Photography Festival

A weekend packed with photography activities and events.Join our local experts to learn how to get the best from your camera and learn lots of hints and tricks on photographing Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Book now for one or more of the events over the weekend. All participants will be asked to donate photographs to an online gallery to celebrate the Festival.

All sessions must be booked in advance on 01243 513275.

I am personally excited for this as an (extremely!) amateur photographer and plan to take part for extremely selfish reasons. It gives folks who may not have had a chance, or are unable to do so on their own, the possibilitye to explore the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. What a beauty it is! What I also appreciate about this festival is providing an environment where a photographic record of the AONB can be produced for future generations. As an archaeologist and an individual concerned with the conservation of environments at risk, this is truly a good thing and I wish the CHC the best in this endeavour. I will certainly post my shots this coming April!

More information regarding photography and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy can be found here. Also, follow the Conservancy on twitter @chichesterharbo.


Case Study #1: Church Norton, Selsey.

Church Norton is the name given to an isolated cluster of buildings outside of the hamlet of Norton in the northwest corner of Selsey parish, at the mouth of Pagham Harbour  Selsey parish occupies the entirety of Selsey island, which was a true island until the early 20th century (Ballard, 1910). The village of Selsey represents the majority of settlement in the parish, though the parish is dotted by farms and a caravan park occupies a spot of high ground on the western shore of the Selsey Bill. Although the majority of the parish is arable farmland, the land around Church Norton is simply unimproved grassland. The implication of this is that archaeological features surrounding the impressive earthwork atop which the Chapel of St. Wilfrid sits, may lie undisturbed. The Chapel itself is in fact the 13th century nave of the Norman church. The building was moved completely to serve as the Parish church of Selsey in 1865. Four fragments of Anglo-Saxon carved stone may also have been reincorporated from the Saxon church into the parish church of Selsey when it was moved from the site and may attest to the antiquity of the structure at Church Norton (Aldsworth, 1979, 104-105).

The exact location of Wilfrid’s monastery of Selsey at Church Norton is equivocal. The land on which Saint Wilfrid is though to have built his monastery/cathedral is thought to be at Church Norton at the mouth of Pagham Harbour. Excavations were undertaken at “the Mound” in 1911 by Claude Bishop and Edward Heron-Allen (Salzmann, 1912, 57)[Fig. 5]. The excavations found little pottery that was suggested to be pre-Roman Iron Age. Other pieces of antiquarian interest have been found in the vicinity of the mound, including a piece each of “scroll” and “basket” style stone carving, possibly from the seventh century cross of the cathedral (Heron-Allen, 1911, 102). Two Romanesque friezes depicting the miracle of Lazarus are also said to have been moved from Selsey to Chichester when it was translated in 1075 (ibid.).

The 1911 excavations found substantial foundations, including those of what is thought to be a free-standing tower of unknown age or function. Salzmann interprets it as an armada beacon built in 1587 (ibid., 67), though Roman tile, the Saxon pottery and belt tab, potential architectural pieces of dressed Caen stone, and proximity to the Norman church and priory make such a dismissive interpretation unlikely. Indeed, Aldsworth (1979) suggests other interpretations such as the foundation not being a beacon but a gatehouse of late Saxon or early Norman date (104). Pieces of dressed stone architectural fittings uncovered from the 1911 trenches are probably residual material not from the Saxon cathedral but from the Norman church that was translated to the village of Selsey from Church Norton (Heron-Allen, 1911, 106). Locating and elucidating the site of Wilfrid’s monastery and the cathedral of the South Saxon bishops would both be of immense local importance but also situate Pagham harbour and the surrounding area into a wider context as well as allow for exploration of a focus where varying levels of social identities would have been negotiated.

Wilfrid was a man with earthly concerns and would not have located himself too far from either peoples of influence, or a means of communication (Sawyer, 1883). He was a Northumbrian noble and and exile of the See of that kingdom. He also had several contacts on the continent, not least in Rome- it is doubtful that Wilfrid would have resolved to a hermits life (ibid.). To that end it would make sense to locate the fountainhead of his Sussex mission near a port of some capacity. It would not make sense, however, to establish a monastery that would be immediately under threat from erosion. The 1911 excavations had established that “The Mound” at Church Norton was natural shingle. With such a site, above the tide but in view of harbour traffic, would have been ideal. That the 1911 excavations did not locate any [i]in situ[/i] early medieval remains is unsurprising, considering the advancement of scientific excavation methods even within the last 50 years. Either the excavation was located incorrectly to discover the structure, or the evidence was of such a type that eluded the previous investigators.

Evidence of a Roman station guarding the mouth to Pagham harbour, was argued as the source for building material of Wilfrid’s monastery. Indeed, It has not been suggested anywhere in the literature the possibility of the structure to be a Roman lighthouse – the proximity of church to such a feature being not unprecedented, as at Dover. Further work is necessary to determine the nature and relationship of this structure to the church, and subsurface survey of the churchyard itself would be well situated to determining early medieval antecedents to the Norman structure. The lack of any definitive structure on the mound has led archaeologists of the early 20th century to assume that the sea had claimed the original site of the monastery. Modern survey and excavation methods may well change that verdict.

Aldsworth, F. (1979). “The Mound” at Church Norton, Selsey, and the site of St. Wilfrid’s Church.
Sussex Archaeological Collections, 117, 103–107.

Aldsworth, F., & Freke, D. (1976). Historic Towns in Sussex: An Archaeological Survey . Portslade: Sussex Archaeological Unit.

Ballard, A. (1910). The Sussex Coastline. Sussex Archaeological Collections, 53, 7–25.

Colgrave, B. (1927). The Life of St. Wilfrid. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heron-Allen, E. (1911). Selsey Bill: Historic and Prehistoric. London: Duckworth.

Salzmann, L. F. (1912). Excavations at Selsey, 1911. Sussex Archaeological Collections, 57, 56–62.

Sawyer, F. E. (1883). St. Wilfrith’s Life in Sussex. Sussex Archaeological Collections, 33, 101–128.

GoogleEarth image showing hamlet of Norton in Selsey parish. Church Norton is the name given to the 'mound', or curvilinear earthwork adjacent to Pagham Harbour.

GoogleEarth image showing hamlet of Norton in Selsey parish. Church Norton is the name given to the ‘mound’, or curvilinear earthwork adjacent to Pagham Harbour.

Site Selection and Case Study Sites

In order to increase my discipline regarding updates to this site, I will begin putting short passages illustrating the case studies I am intending to investigate for the original research portion of this thesis. For the next five Mondays I will introduce each case study with a brief topographical and archaeological background, followed by the rationale for choosing the site. For the first update, however, I will simply discuss the broad reasoning behind the case study selections.

The amount of detail varies site-by-site. Some, such as Bosham and Church Norton have been the subject of significant antiquarian attention. Others, such as Dell Quay and Sidlesham, were chosen due to their assumed importance, but lack much little practical work. Westhampnett, is the only site that has been extensively excavated and under a very different set of circumstances, as a mitigation project. The extent of the cemetery has been near-fully excavated. The goal for this is to survey the surrounds for a contemporary settlement so that material traces of social identities can be examined from a domestic, ‘living’ context as opposed to the ritual context of death. Each of the case-study sites were chosen for their ability to elucidate an aspect of early medieval social identities.

Detail map showing the intensive case-study site locations mentioned in the text. Romanroads after Aldsworth & Freke (1976) are shown radiating from Roman Chichester. © Crown Copyright/database right 2013. An Ordnance Survey / EDINA supplied service.

Detail map showing the intensive case-study site locations mentioned in the text. Roman
roads after Aldsworth & Freke (1976) are shown radiating from Roman Chichester. © Crown
Copyright/database right 2013. An Ordnance Survey / EDINA supplied service.

The sites were chosen amongst many, both temporally representative of the broad changes in social identities during the longue durée but also smaller changes reflected on the local level between the generally agreed sub-period divisions. but also representative of different activity areas, such as settlements and cemeteries, as well as differing macro-identities, such as secular and ecclesiastical agents or communities. As all these sites are coastal, they present a comparative set of data for examining the extent or limit of inter-regional exchange via maritime transport, with a particular focus on overseas (e.g. continental) contact.

Updated Abstract: What this thesis is all about.

I have spent so much time agonising about having an interpretive framework, or theoretical ‘hook’ upon which I can base my fieldwork. I want to look at the maritime of western Sussex. The voice inside asks: “So what? You dig some stuff up. There’s a ditch there. How are you going to bring that into context?” My work, while it was interesting to me, lacked a way that this research could participate in national discussions. I knew I wanted to look at the waterscapes of this particular county, and looking at how the environment, proximity to the sea and overseas communication influenced the development of identities there. This allows for the inter-comparison of equivalent sub-regions elsewhere in Europe, simultaneously providing analogies as well as opportunities for further research. The abstract of my proposal:

This thesis explores the nature and extent of maritime contact between southern Britain and other North Sea societies during the early medieval period, c.450 to 1100 AD. Case studies within a sub-region, the coastal plain and tidal rivers of West Sussex, will be analysed to construct a systematic narrative of cross-channel contact and its impact on the development of social identities in the North Sea zone. The archaeological evidence for analysis is mainly composed of recovered portable cultural material, combined with surveyed and excavated evidence of sites within the landscape. Multidisciplinary analysis and use of multiple sources of evidence will be used to explore and illustrate the role of overseas contact in developing social complexity and change in this period and to challenge existing models.

At the core of this thesis are two related questions: to what extent was interregional contact affecting the creation and reproduction of social affiliations and identities? How did this play out in the maritime environment of West Sussex? This research is situated to construct an interpretive framework to address these issues as well as conduct original fieldwork to gather more data.

The full research proposal, with references, is available under the “About this Research” tab.

Thesis update and re-committing to this blogging thing

My world has changed since my last post, over six months ago. Not in any alarming, earth-shattering way, but as far as the thesis is concerned I felt a new direction was necessary. I am still getting used to the pace and demands of being a full-time PhD student and having spent most of my summer assisting on projects with outside institutions such as Project Eliseg and large-scale geophysical survey around Aldborough, in North Yorkshire, I have let my own work slip.

My previous post was based on the fact that I was granted permission to conduct a ground penetrating radar survey in the yard of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Burpham, West Sussex. This plan is still in the works, but hiring the necessary geophysical equipment is expensive. The instrument alone costs £500 for a week. I have tried to source funding through the University to no avail and Sussex Archaeological Society meets once a year to determine recipients of their fieldwork grants. Perhaps I will be successful in the Spring and this aspect of my project can move ahead.

The waterscapes project will move ahead, with alterations. My experience with the Aldborough survey has opened my eyes to the utility of large-scale geophysical surveys and the greater opportunity to make meaningful interpretations of the data. I have therefore decided to consolidate my fieldwork into discrete areas around Chichester and Pagham Harbours. There is an urgency, too, in making this change. The environment is constantly in flux- that is known. In my background reading for this project, it is estimated that over a mile of the Selsey Bill shoreline has been lost since the Roman period through coastal erosion and with it priceless information regarding the archaeological record of Sussex.

With the recent concern over rising sea levels and other environmental phenomena, I feel duty-bound to preserve the record in any way I can. Therefore I am proposing to use geophysical survey to record and map sites from all periods located within the areas assessed to be most under threat. To do this I am hoping to join forces with the Chichester Harbour Conservancy and work closely with the Chichester and District Archaeological Society to complete a large-scale survey in these sensitive environments.

The interpretive angle of my thesis will, however, remain unchanged. I am still seeking to elucidate the apprehension and exploitation of waterscapes in the early medieval period of western Sussex. Though fieldwork will be conducted primarily in the Chichester and Pagham Harbour areas, there will be opportunities (Burpham, for one!) elsewhere, and the maritime history of western Sussex is open to interpretation and will serve to contextualise my results.

A Great Step Forward

I received in the mail the other day the means by which this project can take a great step forward. I approached the Vicar of Burpham, the Rev. Roy Kilford a few weeks ago asking for permission to conduct a non-invasive geophysical survey surrounding the parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin of Burpham near Arundel, West Sussex.  He replied that not only was he keenly interested  and so were the churchwardens, but that I should organise through him a talk to the villagers considering the archaeological importance of their village. Having surveyed the Anglo-Saxon fort within which their village hall and cricket pitch lie, I am naturally very keen to communicate my results and gain their perspective on the heritage of the area in order to put those results into a local context.

The church site is important to me for a number of reasons: It is the subject of what seems to be an authentic land grant narrowly dated to 770-772AD. In this charter King Oswald of the South Saxons buys land at Piperinges from his follower (comes) Erra and grants it to a woman named Tidburh; presumably by the language to establish a Christian religous community there. Piperinges is interesting in that it survives to the modern day as Peppering Farm, not a kilometer from the modern village of Burpham. Place name Evidence itself suggests that when it enters history in the Burghal Hidage of King Alfred’s time, there was already a burh in existence, as it was referred in that document by this name. This could mean that there was some sort of defensive structure already in place and it simply means the “fort by the bend in the river”. Alternatively, OE burh can mean a walled monastic community. Perhaps, in fear of Viking raids that preyed upon minster sites which often had treasures undefended, the land was abandoned by the monks and as ownership then reverted to the Kings of Wessex, it was redistributed to a military follower and the still extant fortification was constructed.

There is a report from the 1930’s that state that while digging graves, there was encountered a “Roman pavement” on the East side of the North Transept of the church. Now this could mean there is a previously unknown Roman building on the site, but there is nothing to say that it is not a high status Anglo-Saxon building; perhaps a floor adorning a previous church or building in a minster complex.

Obviously, there are sensitivities to be acknowledged in dealing with this type of site. Firstly there is consideration of the existing burials and ensuring that no investigation will damage or offend. However, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is perfect as there is no need for anything to be inserted into the ground, nor any digging need be done. The nature of the method as well ensures that the burials and the burial monuments will not interfere with the survey. The GPR data can be presented as a series of “time slices” that reflect the travel of the radar signal into the ground. The resultant data shows a 2d plan of the results at varying depths, allowing interpretation of features to occur with quite a high level of confidence.

Needless to say, I am over the moon about the opportunity. I hope to update this site with more good news in the near future.

Sussex University Short Course: Archaeological Investigation of a Church

The University of Sussex Centre for Community Engagement is offering a course that will “enable you to accurately record and analyse structure, fittings and landscape context.” The subject of this course is the parish church of Climping (or Clymping) near Littlehampton, West Sussex (BN17 5RB). The course tutor is David Hutchinson and will be taught between 11:00-17:00 across four Saturdays : 12 May, 26 May, 9 June, and 23 June, 2012.

The course costs £90. To enrol, cite Course Code X9360:

By Phone: 01273 678527

By E-mail:

Personally, I am quite excited for this. Climping Church lies within my study area. So, in addition to gaining the skill of church survey, I will be collecting data in support of this thesis project. The Arun river valley has been the focus of élite Christianity from an early period (at least by 770 AD). Churches are important foci for social activities as well as understanding ideologies and interaction between local and regional spheres of community.