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Medieval saltern adjacent to Hawbush Creek

A Scheduled Monument in Hullbridge, Essex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.6359 / 51°38'9"N

Longitude: 0.6335 / 0°38'0"E

OS Eastings: 582338.0113

OS Northings: 196297.468502

OS Grid: TQ823962

Mapcode National: GBR QN7.BZP

Mapcode Global: VHJKQ.X4RQ

Entry Name: Medieval saltern adjacent to Hawbush Creek

Scheduled Date: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020491

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32449

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Hullbridge

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: South Woodham Ferrers Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

Details

The monument is situated adjacent to Hawbush Creek, a tributary of the
River Crouch. It includes the remains of a medieval salt manufacturing
area (saltern) visible as a group of earthworks with associated buried
remains. The principal features of the medieval saltern are the remains
of a series of low platforms, pits or tanks dug into the marsh clay and
adjacent mounds. The earthworks cover an area approximately 250m
north-south by 450m east-west. The medieval features, which survive as low
banks, mounds, cut tanks (originally rectangular but now somewhat eroded)
and platforms, are interspersed with much higher modern banks and mounds,
some partly overlying the monument. Small scale excavations in 1913 by the
Morant Club investigated major components of the monument and showed the
low platforms and rectangular tanks to be salt production areas with the
adjacent mounds (some standing up to 2m in height) formed by the piling
up of the spoil. During the period of operation sea water would have been
introduced at high tides from the creek into the shallow tanks, where
solar evaporation reduced it to a strong brine. This brine was then boiled
and further reduced in salt houses, the remains of which (hearths and
flues) are believed to survive as buried features.

In between these structures lie working platforms with associated middens
containing bone and ceramic artefacts. Finds from the excavated areas
included medieval pottery of 13th to 14th century date, burnt clay (which
may have formed the sides or coverings of hearth flues), tile, wood ashes
and charcoal; the latter is still visible on parts of the monument.

All modern fencelines, timber causeways and bird hides are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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 and Droitwich from
at least the end of the 10th 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.

Once common in coastal and estuarine localities, surviving salterns are
now extremely rare and most survive only as soilmarks. In particular,
salterns of medieval date are rare survivals. In Essex out of over 300
salterns recorded only ten are considered to be of medieval date, and of
these the Hawbush Creek saltern is the only one to retain significant
extant earthworks.

Structures and artefacts preserved within the stratigraphy of the saltern
adjacent to Hawbush Creek will provide valuable information about
saltmaking in this area; its study will greatly enhance our understanding
of the processes involved and the technology utilised in the production of
salt during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Barford, P M, 'Colchester Archaeol. Group Annual Bulletin' in After the Red Hills:Saltmaking in Late Roman,Saxon&Medieval Essx, , Vol. 31, (1988), 3-8
Christy, R M, Dalton, W H, 'Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society' in On Two Large Groups Of Marsh-Mounds On The Essex Coast, , Vol. 18 Pt.1, (1925), 27-53
Christy, R M, 'Essex Naturalist' in A History of Salt-Making in Essex, , Vol. 14, (1906), 193-204
Fawn, J, 'Colchester Archaeol. Group Annual Bulletin' in Losing Savour: the Decline of Essex Salt, , Vol. 39, (1996), 3-17
Other
Conversation relating spoil dumping, Brown, N, Conversation with Senior Archaeologist, (2001)
Conversation relating spoil dumping, Mason, D, Conversation with Farm Manager, (2001)
Conversation relating spoil dumping, Peet, C, Conversation with Country Parks Manager, (2001)
Essex SMR, Strachan, D, BW/99/24/10, 11, 12, 13, 14, (1999)
Frames 1 to 16, Tyler, S, MPP Film 29, (2001)

Source: Historic England

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