Early Years

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic – The Old and Middle Stone Age

Almost half a million years ago the shoreline of this part of Sussex came right up to Slindon. Here a cliff existed between Slindon and Goodwood which had a storm beach at the bottom. Evidence of this has been left in the form of a raised beach in the areas of Slindon Bottom and Park. Several flint hand axes have been found from this period around this area. Little else has been found from this period at Slindon. 2 miles west of Slindon, at Boxgrove, a shin bone was found of the earliest found man in Britain below this former cliff line.Pit from archaeological dig in spring 2009, which reveals the raised beach. Note the rounded beach pebbles. Photo: Bob Epsom

The Mesolithic period is that from the retreat of the ice sheet through to arrival of the first farmers. At Slindon the area would have been thickly covered with trees with only a sparse population of few gatherers. A few finds of Mesolithic tools have been found scattered around a central area of the estate.

Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age – The First Farmers

The Neolithic age has been identified as the period of time in Britain where land was first cultivated after much woodland clearance. Near Bignor Hill there is a Neolithic causewayed enclosure, believed to be a ceremonial or gathering place. It consists of an oval bank and a surrounding ditch. Today the bank is no more than 0.5 metres in height so is not strikingly obvious to pick up at first. It can be seen descending the South Downs Way westwards from Bignor Hill in low lying sun where the shadows show the bank and ditch well. There are also two bronze age burial mounds adjacent.

A few flint artefacts from the period have been found on the estate through field walking. It is also believed that a long barrow existed up on Great Down but little evidence remains of this today.

Around the area of Bignor Hill, Glatting Beacon and Gumber Farm are located many bronze age round barrows. Also near Glatting Beacon there are two linear earth features known as cross ridge dykes. There is some uncertainty on their exact purpose but the one at Lamb Hanger is likely to be marking a division of land parcels.

Evidence of prehistoric farm systems can be seen today in many of the fields and woodlands of the estate. In the past the farmers used smaller fields for growing crops. The action of ploughing over a period of time creates banking on the downslope of the fields and these banks are known today as lynchets. This photo shows two lynchets clearly on the east side of Nore Hill. Lynchets can be seen inside Nore woods which shows that these woods were once cultivated. Early morning, late afternoon or winter time is best to see these old field systems as the sun is low and creates shadows.Iron Age Lynchets seen on the eastern side of Nore Hill. Photo Bob Epsom

Roman

Roman Chichester (Noviomagus) and London (Londinium) were linked by the 56 mile roman road Stane Street. Its exact date of construction is not known but from artefacts found it was known to have been in use by AD 70. About 3 and a half miles of the road crosses the Slindon Estate and we have some of the best preserved sections of the road. Above Gumber the straightness of the road can be seen as it heads directly towards the eastern side of Chichester where the old Eastgate would have been located. The bank known as the agger where the road sat on can still be seen clearly today and in some places the ditches either side can also be seen.
Stane Street above Gumber Farm heading towards Chichester. Photo: Bob Epsom

Several known villas and settlements are located within the Slindon Estate including one within the old medieval deer park. Many of these settlements would have been built on existing iron age settlements. Just outside of Bignor village is the Bignor roman Villa which has some of the finest mosaic flooring in the country.

Saxon – The birth of an estate

In the 5th Century AD the Saxons arrived in the British Isles, which from this point to the arrival of the Normans in 1066 gave the name of this period of time. In this period the Saxons settled in Slindon and it was known as a manor by the 7th century. In AD 686 King Caedwalla of the West Saxons gave the manor to the Archbishops of Canterbury.

This best remaining monument from the Saxon period on the estate is a Moot mound, which has been modified from a Bronze Age burial mound. Moot mounds are designated meeting places used between the 7th and 9th centuries to discuss land administration issues. This Moot mound located at Barkhale Wood is on the estate boundary and the parish boundary of Bignor and Bury. Little else survives from this period of time on the estate.

Saxon Moot Mound in Barkhal Wood. Photo: Bob Epsom