Ancient Roman relics unearthed

First published Monday 10 November 2014 in The Argus

Ancient Roman artefacts dating back to before 100 AD have been discovered in Sussex.

Archaeologists uncovering artefacts during an excavation of the former Angel’s and Hyde Nurseries in Barnham
Archaeologists uncovering artefacts during an excavation of the former Angel’s and Hyde Nurseries in Barnham

The findings at Barnham near Chichester, provide the first real evidence of a Roman settlement in the village.

Archaeologists from West Sussex County Council, Archaeology South-East, and CgMs Consulting uncovered the remains during an excavation of the former Angel’s and Hyde Nurseries in the village.

The remains of the timber buildings which would very probably have existed there, have not survived 2000 years of ploughing and, most recently, nursery gardening.

However rubbish pits full of Roman pottery, and ditches, which would once have had earth banks alongside them can still be seen below topsoil.

The excavation work has been undertaken as a condition of planning permission granted to the county council for development of the land.

Council senior archaeologist John Mills said: “This is the first really good evidence we have for a Roman settlement in Barnham.

“Banks and ditches surrounded a square plot of land – an enclosure – and two smaller rectangular enclosures behind it, where the local Romanised Britons were probably living, and were certainly burying their household rubbish in.

“Fragments of pottery show the inhabitants were obtaining their household pottery vessels from kilns in the Arun Valley, a thriving local industry, and from the Rowlands Castle and New Forest areas.

“But some of the other vessels they were using were much finer, such as the smooth red decorated Samian Ware. This was fine, expensive tableware imported from kilns in central France, usually found in England in well-to-do households.

“Among the finds have been a couple of flue tiles, of a type used in under floor heating in Roman stone buildings and this may be a pointer to there having been a more important Roman building nearby.”

The settlement, which continued until after 200 AD, may have started life even before the Roman Conquest of 43 AD in the Late Iron Age.

Stones used to grind corn have also been found along with charred seed, which show people were growing wheat and barley in fields nearby.

Council cabinet member for residents services, Lionel Barnard, said: “We know this area is rich in history and home already to some really significant historical finds but that doesn’t make discoveries like this any less exciting.”

Archaeology South East director, Richard Meager, said: “The remains are of a Roman farmstead whose main period occupation spans the first to second centuries AD.

“Finds include pottery imported from continental Europe which suggests that the occupants of the site enjoyed a reasonable standard of living by contemporary standards.”