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Saltern in Saltings Field, 220m north of Beeding Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Upper Beeding, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8846 / 50°53'4"N

Longitude: -0.3067 / 0°18'24"W

OS Eastings: 519205.881608

OS Northings: 110825.650235

OS Grid: TQ192108

Mapcode National: GBR HLT.F95

Mapcode Global: FRA B67R.QBW

Entry Name: Saltern in Saltings Field, 220m north of Beeding Bridge

Scheduled Date: 10 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017660

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29251

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Upper Beeding

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 includes a medieval saltern situated on the eastern bank of the
River Adur. Before the river was embanked during the post-medieval period, the
saltern lay within the floodplain of the tidal estuary on land periodically
inundated by salt water. The saltern has four unevenly shaped middens, or
artificial heaps of waste silt and clay discarded after brine extraction.
These survive to heights of up to c.1m. Sherds of medieval pottery dating from
the period between 1250-1450 were discovered during part excavation of two of
the middens in 1995. 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
Documentary sources suggest that the saltern originally operated on land owned
by Sele Priory, situated c.350m to the NNE. By 1733, Saltings Field was glebe
land belonging to the Parish Church of St Peter's.
The modern wooden electricity poles, concrete drain heads, the modern surface
of the track which crosses the eastern side of the monument and all modern
fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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 western bank of the river in Bramber, the other to the
east of the river in Upper Beeding. These represent the only surviving
medieval salterns in Sussex.
The saltern in Saltings Field forms the southernmost part of the Upper Beeding
saltern group. It survives well, and part excavation has shown that it
contains well preserved archaeological remains and environmental evidence
relating to the salt-making process.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Gardiner, M, An Archaeological Investigation at Saltings Field, Upper Beeding, (1995)
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, (1981), 117-148
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, (1981), 117-148

Source: Historic England

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