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Anglo-Saxon cemetery, parish church of St Giles and associated remains immediately east of Sarre Mill

A Scheduled Monument in Sarre, Kent

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Latitude: 51.3397 / 51°20'22"N

Longitude: 1.2454 / 1°14'43"E

OS Eastings: 626134.657657

OS Northings: 165068.09545

OS Grid: TR261650

Mapcode National: GBR VYV.XB0

Mapcode Global: VHLGB.JLQB

Entry Name: Anglo-Saxon cemetery, parish church of St Giles and associated remains immediately east of Sarre Mill

Scheduled Date: 2 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018879

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31408

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Sarre

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument includes an Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery, part of an earlier
Iron Age settlement and a later, disused medieval parish church and postmill
situated on a low chalk ridge just to the east of the village of Sarre, on the
Isle of Thanet. These features survive in the form of below ground
archaeological remains, some visible as crop marks on aerial photographs.
Until around the 14th century, Sarre lay on the eastern shore of the Wantsum
Channel, a now silted-up estuarine waterway which separated Thanet from the
Kent mainland. This was an important crossing and control point, one of only
two places where the Wantsum was fordable.

Investigations carried out during 1863-64 identified 274 east-west aligned
Anglo-Saxon graves, although it has since been estimated that the cemetery
contains up to 400 burials, extending over the monument. Around 184 burials
were fully investigated, and many of these were found to have been accompanied
by a particularly rich assemblage of grave goods, or artefacts deliberately
buried with the bodies. The grave goods included bronze bowls, jewellery,
coins, iron weapons and glassware, some originating in continental Europe.
Analysis of these items suggests that the cemetery was in use during the late
fifth to late seventh centuries AD. Subsequent small-scale investigations in
1982 and 1991 revealed, along with further Anglo-Saxon graves, a contemporary,
shallow, east-west aligned ditch running along the southern edge of the
monument, just to the north of the modern A253 road. The modern road follows
the course of Dunstrete, an important ancient routeway across Thanet. The
ditch has been interpreted as the southern boundary of the cemetery. Traces of
an Anglo-Saxon sunken-floored building discovered in the south eastern corner
of the monument may provide evidence for an associated settlement.

A now disused post-medieval chalk pit has destroyed part of the southern
sector of the cemetery, and some of the westernmost graves in the Sarre
Windmill area have been heavily disturbed by 19th and 20th century
development. These areas are therefore not included in the scheduling. The
laying of a modern sewage pipeline along the southern edge of the monument in
1991 will have partly disturbed the archaeological remains.

The earlier Iron Age settlement, which partly underlies the Anglo-Saxon
cemetery and the later medieval features, is represented by below ground
traces of pits and enclosure ditches revealed during the 20th century
investigations. A complex group of roughly rectangular enclosure ditches
visible as crop marks on aerial photographs in the north eastern part of the
monument may also date to this period. The settlement, which extends beyond
the monument along the ridge to the east, has been dated by the analysis of
pottery sherds found in the pit fills to the Late Iron Age (around 300-150

Situated in the north eastern part of the monument, the medieval parish church
and its surrounding graveyard partly overlie the earlier Anglo-Saxon cemetery
and Iron Age settlement. The 1982 investigations revealed the flint footings
of part of a north east-south west aligned, rectangular medieval building,
possibly a chantry chapel attached to the northern side of the chancel, or an
associated secular building. Historical records suggest that the church,
dedicated to St Giles, was in existence by the 11th century. During the
medieval period Sarre was a member of the Cinque Port of Sandwich, and in the
late 11th century the manor belonged to the important Norman family of
Crevequer. As a result of the Black Death and the gradual silting up of the
Wantsum Channel during the 14th century, the village became depopulated. By
the early 16th century the church was becoming derelict and the parish was
eventually amalgamated with nearby St Nicholas-at-Wade. All above ground
traces of the church had disappeared by the early 18th century. The southern
part of the churchyard may have been destroyed by the excavation of the
post-medieval chalk pit.

Lying around 180m west of the church, the medieval postmill is represented by
a small, roughly circular ditch enclosing a central cross-tree trench.
Analysis of pottery fragments found in the ditch suggest that the postmill was
in use during the 13th-14th centuries.

Further, associated below ground remains will survive in the areas between and
around the known archaeological features. Modern ploughing has caused some
disturbance to the monument.

The modern building adjacent to Sarre Mill, all fences, telegraph poles and
the surface of the Sarre Mill access track and car park are all 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

Beginning in the fifth century AD, there is evidence from distinctive burials
and cemeteries, new settlements, and new forms of pottery and metalwork, of
the immigration into Britain of settlers from northern Europe, bringing with
them new religious beliefs. The Roman towns appear to have gone into rapid
decline and the old rural settlement pattern to have been disrupted. Although
some Roman settlements and cemeteries continued in use, the native Britons
rapidly adopted many of the cultural practices of the new settlers and it soon
becomes difficult to distinguish them in the archaeological record. So-called
Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are dated to the early Anglo-Saxon period, from the
fifth to the seventh centuries AD. With the conversion to Christianity during
the late sixth and seventh centuries AD, these pagan cemeteries appear to have
been abandoned in favour of new sites, some of which have continued in use up
to the present day. Burial practices included both inhumation and cremation.
Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries consist predominantly of inhumation burials
which were placed in rectangular pits in the ground, occasionally within
coffins. The bodies were normally accompanied by a range of grave goods,
including jewellery and weaponry. The cemeteries vary in size, the largest
containing several hundred burials. Around 1000 inhumation cemeteries have
been recorded in England. They represent one of our principal sources of
archaeological evidence about the Early Anglo-Saxon period, providing
information on population, social structure and ideology. All surviving
examples, other than those which have been heavily disturbed, are considered
worthy of protection.

The Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery at Sarre survives well, despite some
subsequent disturbance, in close association with earlier prehistoric and
later medieval features. Part excavation has shown that it contains important
archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the original use of the
monument. The Sarre cemetery belongs to a group of similar, broadly
contemporary Anglo-Saxon cemeteries which cluster in eastern Kent,
distinguished by their rich grave goods with continental, Jutish associations.
This clustering illustrates the dense Early Anglo-Saxon settlement of the
area. The close association of the pagan cemetery with the medieval parish
church of St Giles will provide evidence for the as yet little understood
relationship between early and later medieval settlement and burial practices.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Perkins, D, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in The Jutish Cemetery at Sarre Revisited: A Rescue Evaluation, , Vol. 109, (1991), 139-166
Perkins, D, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in The Site of the Church of St Giles, Sarre, , Vol. 105, (1987), 291-297
Tatton-Brown, T, Aerial View of Cropmarks at Sarre, Kent Archaeological Society Newsletter, (1984)

Source: Historic England

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