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Regular aggregate field system with prehistoric and Romano-British farmsteads and a Bronze Age bowl barrow on Park Brow

A Scheduled Monument in Sompting, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.867 / 50°52'1"N

Longitude: -0.3622 / 0°21'43"W

OS Eastings: 515346.676843

OS Northings: 108774.037001

OS Grid: TQ153087

Mapcode National: GBR HLX.K7L

Mapcode Global: FRA B64T.0QR

Entry Name: Regular aggregate field system with prehistoric and Romano-British farmsteads and a Bronze Age bowl barrow on Park Brow

Scheduled Date: 23 February 1933

Last Amended: 18 October 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014946

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27068

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Sompting

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Sompting St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes a regular aggregate field system which encompasses at
least three associated farmsteads dating to the Bronze Age, Iron Age and
Romano-British period, and a Bronze Age bowl barrow, situated on a southward-
sloping spur of the Sussex Downs, c.1.6km to the north east of Cissbury Ring
hillfort. The monument survives in the form of earthworks, crop and soil marks
visible on aerial photographs and from the surrounding downland, and buried
remains over an area of c.32ha.
Part excavation of the three farmsteads during the 1920s showed the field
system to have been in use for many centuries, from a least c.1400 BC-AD 300,
and the form and extent of the monument will reflect the patterns of reuse and
modification adopted by successive generations of farmers. The roughly
rectangular field system lies on either side of a contemporary north-south
aligned trackway which transects the spur. Originally providing access to the
field system and settlements from the surrounding downland, the trackway has
been mostly levelled by modern ploughing, but survives for a c.70m stretch
towards the top of the spur as a slight hollow way c.3m wide, bounded on each
side by a bank up to 0.5m high and c.5m wide. Individual field boundaries are
visible within the southern part of the monument in the form of positive
lynchets up to 0.3m high, and elsewhere as cropmarks. These show that each
field was a small, square or rectangular unit measuring from c.2ha to c.6ha.
The farmsteads have been levelled by modern ploughing and survive in buried
form. Although traces of even earlier human use of the spur have been found in
the form of Neolithic worked flints and Beaker pottery sherds, the earliest
known habitation site dates to the Middle Bronze Age and is situated to the
west of the track on the relatively sheltered southern slope of the spur.
Part excavation revealed traces of a south west-north east aligned linear
group of eight circular wooden buildings up to 6.7m in diameter, each
surrounded by a small banked enclosure. These have been dated, by analysis of
the sherds of pottery found during the excavation, to the years between
c.1400-1000 BC. Other finds included traces of wattle and daub, fragments of
saddle querns used for grinding grain, spindle whorls and loom weights,
indicating a mixed farming regime. On the summit of the spur just to the east
of the trackway is a broadly contemporary bowl barrow. This has been levelled
by modern ploughing but earthwork surveys carried out in the 1920s indicate
that it had a circular mound c.12m in diameter, surrounded by a ditch from
which material used to construct the barrow was excavated. The ditch will
survive as a buried feature c.2m wide.
The later Early Iron Age (c.700-300BC) farmstead lies around 90m to the north
east at the top of the southern slope of the spur to the east of the track. A
roughly rectangular palisade was found to enclose an area of c.2ha, containing
a group of at least five buildings represented by rectangular rammed chalk
floors and associated post holes. Alongside these was a rectangular structure
measuring 10m by 3m indicated by two parallel rows of post holes and
interpreted as a granary. A human cremation burial in a pottery urn was also
discovered. Beyond the palisade to the north west were found a group of large,
bell-shaped storage pits. Also associated with this period is a roughly
circular pit c.8m in diameter surrounded by a bank up to 3m wide and c.2m
high, which adjoins the eastern side of the track to the north west of the
farmstead. Known as The Circus, this feature was partly excavated in 1922,
when it was established that it had been remodelled during the Iron Age and
used as a pond or stock-watering hole.
The latest farmstead indentified by the excavations lies in the south western
corner of the monument and dates from the Late Iron Age to the Roman period
(c.300 BC-AD 300). A group of five rectangular house sites were discovered,
representing several successive phases of habitation. These were roughly
north-south or west-east aligned, and the largest measured 9.8m by 7.9m. The
buildings were associated with traces of three roughly north-south aligned,
flat bottomed linear boundary ditches c.1m deep and c.1m wide. Finds
associated with the Roman period included wall plaster, window glass, clay
roof tiles and a door lock. Extensive charring of the remains indicated that
the farmstead had been burnt to the ground some time after AD 270.
All modern fences which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the
end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and
comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction,
with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one
another. Individual fields generally fall within the 0.1ha-3.2ha range and can
be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The
field boundaries can take various forms (including drystone walls or reaves,
orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and
lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to
most systems include entrances and trackways, and the settlements or
farmsteads from which people utilised the fields over the years have been
identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the
field system.
The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for
land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought
to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common
occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation
may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. Regular aggregate
field systems occur widely and have been recorded in south western and south
eastern England, East Anglia, Cheshire, Cumbria, Nottinghamshire, North and
South Yorkshire and Durham. They represent a coherent economic unit often
utilised for long periods of time and can thus provide important information
about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and
broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several
centuries. Those which survive well and/or which can be positively linked to
associated settlements are considered to merit protection.

Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments
dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most
examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as
earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple
burials, and occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries. There are
over 10,000 surviving examples recorded nationally (many more have already
been destroyed), and they occur across most of lowland Britain, often
occupying prominent locations. Their considerable variation of form and
longevity as a monument type provide important information about early
prehistoric communities. Bowl barrrows are particularly representative of
their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered
worthy of protection.
Although partly levelled by modern ploughing, the regular aggregate field
system incorporating prehistoric and Romano-British farmsteads on Park Brow
survives comparatively well in the form of earthworks and buried remains. Part
excavation has shown the monument to contain important information about over
one thousand years of life in an area of chalk downland which has been
intensively farmed for at least two millennia. The bowl barrow on Park Brow
survives in buried form after levelling by modern ploughing. Its close
association with the broadly contemporary Bronze Age farmstead and the field
system within which it lies will provide evidence for the relationship between
burial practices, agriculture and settlement during the period of its
construction and use.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Black, E W, 'British Archaeological Reports' in The Roman Villas of South East England, , Vol. 171, (1987), 96-97
Pullen-Burry, H T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in The Circus on Park Brow, Sompting, , Vol. 65, (1924), 242-250
Wolseley, G R et al, 'Archaeologia' in Prehistoric and Roman Settlements on Park Brow, , Vol. 7, (1926), 1-40
Wolseley, G R et al, 'Archaeologia' in Prehistoric and Roman Settlements on Park Brow, , Vol. 7, (1926), 1-40
Wolseley, G R et al, 'Archaeologia' in Prehistoric and Roman Settlements on Park Brow, , Vol. 7, (1926), 1-40
Wolseley, G R, Smith, R A, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Discoveries near Cissbury, , Vol. 4, (1924), 347-359

Source: Historic England

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