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Group of salterns and a possible moat 250m east of Bramber Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Bramber, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8842 / 50°53'3"N

Longitude: -0.3126 / 0°18'45"W

OS Eastings: 518793.510336

OS Northings: 110770.828793

OS Grid: TQ187107

Mapcode National: GBR HLS.KRL

Mapcode Global: FRA B67R.VCP

Entry Name: Group of salterns and a possible moat 250m east of Bramber Castle

Scheduled Date: 21 August 1973

Last Amended: 10 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015718

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29253

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Bramber

Built-Up Area: Upper Beeding

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Beeding St Peter and Bramber St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument, which falls into four separate areas, includes a group of
medieval salterns and an area of associated earthworks which have been
interpreted as a contemporary moat, situated on the western bank of the River
Adur. Before the river was embanked during the post-medieval period, the
salterns lay within the floodplain of the tidal estuary on land periodically
inundated by salt water. The saltern is represented by nine unevenly-shaped
middens, or artifical heaps of waste silt and clay discarded after brine
extraction. These survive to heights of up to c.1m. Investigations of similar
middens elsewhere indicate that they will partly overlie, and be surrounded
by, industrial structures surviving in buried form. These may include wicker
or clay-lined pits, evaporation kilns, lead boiling pans and the foundations
of temporary wooden buildings.
Documentary sources suggest that the monument originally formed part of a
larger group of salterns granted by William de Braose, the founder of Bramber
Castle, to Durford Abbey on its foundation in c.1160. The other salterns of
the group are believed to have been destroyed by the construction of the
buildings along The Street, which lies to the south of the monument, and by
agricultural operations.
The possible moated site lies within the south eastern sector of the monument
and is represented by a roughly square artificial island with sides measuring
c.61m. Operations associated with the dredging of adjacent field drains during
1973-74 indicated that traces of medieval buildings may survive on the island.
The island is surrounded by a narrow, shallow, now mainly dry ditch. Regular
dredging of the modern field drain immediately to the south and west of the
southern part of the monument has resulted in a linear dump of dredged
material along its northern bank. This has partly obscured the profile of the
south western edge of the monument.
The pumping station situated in the south eastern sector of the monument and
all modern fences 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

Salt has been produced from sea water or, in inland areas, from brine springs
since before Roman times, and the technology used in the medieval period
displays a marked continuity with earlier production methods. Brine, from
which the water was evaporated to produce the salt, was collected in one of
two ways, either by its filtration from coastal sand, soil or pebbles
impregnated with salt water during high tides and periodic inundation, or by
its collection in pools or pits filled at high tide or by inland springs,
sometimes by way of a system of channels, dams and sluices.
Medieval salterns include a range of features connected with the collection
and evaporation processes, of which the most visually distinctive are the oval
or kidney-shaped middens of waste material which may cover areas of 2ha or
more. Other features usually survive in buried form beneath and around the
middens, illustrating the fact that salterns were often in use for periods of
at least a century, during which time they were occupied seasonally, their
component structures being rebuilt at the beginning of each summer or as
required. Evaporation was often aided by an evaporation kiln fuelled by peat
or wood products, of which several different types are known, and the remains
of temporary wooden buildings, wooden or wicker troughs and clay-lined pits
have also been found during excavation.
Salt was an expensive commodity during the medieval period, particularly in
demand for food preservation and curing. Salterns are known from documentary
sources and place name evidence to have been widely distributed around the
English coast and the inland brine springs of Cheshire from at least the end
of the 11th century. The industry had declined by the beginning of the 16th
century and competition with the superior and cheaper rock salt, mined from
the beginning of the 17th century, led to its demise during the early post-
medieval period.

Historical sources indicate that salt production was a part-time occupation
for small farmers and townsmen in the Adur estuary from later Anglo-Saxon
times. The Domesday Book of AD 1086 records 309 salterns in Sussex, the
largest number for any English county, and many of these were situated within
the Adur estuary. Most salt in the Adur valley was produced to meet local
needs. Originally clustered in eight large groups, some of the Adur valley
salterns have become buried under accumulated layers of river-deposited silt.
Around 133 middens were recorded as surviving as earthworks until the 1960s.
Since then, many have been levelled by agricultural operations, with the
result that only two main groups of salterns, consisting of c.30 middens, now
survive, one on the eastern bank of the river in Upper Beeding, and this
monument, to the west of the river in Bramber.
Moated sites were built throughout the medieval period, although most were
constructed between about 1250-1350. Concentrated mainly in central and
eastern parts of England, most served as prestigious residences, with the
provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical
defence. They form a significant class of medieval monument and are important
for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the
Despite some modern disturbance, the salterns and moat 250m east of
Bramber Castle survive well, and will contain well preserved archaeological
remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape
in which it was constructed.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Holden, E, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in A Possible Moated Site and Medieval Salterns at Bramber, , Vol. 113, (1975), 191
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, , Vol. 119, (1981), 117-148

Source: Historic England

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