Archaeology South-East
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Lewes House Residential


Remains of town wall adjacent to Rookery Field, on the east of the town. Photograph taken following cleaning in 2002. Extant remains of one of the surviving turrets are visible projecting from the wall in the right of the photograph.

Project type: Excavation

Recent Excavations in Lewes

Archaeology South- East have excavated a number of sites within historic Lewes over the last few years. In 2004 excavations took place prior to the construction of the new Lewes Library. Then in 2006 investigations began on the Old Baxter's Printworks site. Currently two sites are under excavation adjacent to Walwers Lane and to the rear of the new library. These sites will enable us to obtain a comprehensive picture of Lewes' past in this important location within the town.

Current Excavations to the Rear of Lewes Library

Between May and September of this year, two archaeological excavations have been taking place at the rear of Library, in the heart of Lewes.

Already, extensive remains of medieval and post medieval date have been uncovered, as well as rare evidence of the earlier occupation of the town. By the time the excavations are complete at the end of September many new insights into Lewes' past will have been revealed.

Area 1 Summary


A large test pit was excavated through the bases of a series of intercutting pits revealed a good north/south transect through the underlying drift geology. The test pit was excavated in the easternmost part of Area 1 and measured c. 4-5m, EW x c.5m deep.

The test pit revealed buried fluvial deposits beneath the “head” deposits. River deposits are believed to have been found under the library site, so it is anticipated that these fluvial deposits represent the edge of a prehistoric course of the River Ouse. The overlying “head” deposits had been subject to solifluction and there was also evidence of solution processes. (M. Pope pers comm.)


This appears to be largely late 11th to mid 13th in date and typified by pitting. There are also a few later medieval and post-medieval features. The pits were filled by what appears to be domestic refuse as well as a possible late Saxon “background” of residual material with moderate amounts of pottery and animal bone and occasional small finds etc. Many of these appear to be refuse pits, but a large number were exceptionally deep (2.2-3.8m) and straight sided but quite small in plan. These deeper pits may have been excavated to quarry the aforementioned fluvial deposits (which ranged from very fine silts to course sand) and/or the weathered chalk and flint present in the “head” deposit. The deposits may have been used in some process such as fulling the chalk to marl local fields (to reduce the acidity of the topsoil).

Two pits were exceptionally deep (over 5m) and not bottomed. One was lined with a rough chalk lining and these are both probably wells, the other may have had a removed or collapsed timber lining, although this is pure conjecture.

There was also one very large quarry pit in the centre of Area 1.

The only possible prehistoric feature was a small ditch aligned NW-SE. The ditch terminated somewhere near the middle of the large central quarry pit.


Area 2 Summary

Inspection via several deep (up to 5m) interventions did not reveal the fluvially deposited stratum identified in Area I but rather solid chalk at varying depths below the head deposits.

No features suspected of being Iron Age were encountered in Area II.

Numerous late medieval/early post medieval pits were excavated. Some of these were very deep and are probably backfilled wells. Theswe were machine excavated to depth where possible, although several were not bottomed. Numerous postholes of a similar or earlier date were also recorded.

There was also some good structural evidence in the form of a shallow basemented structure as well as very nice chalk-lined small cellar or pit. The basemented structure may form part of a millhouse or bakery. Other structural evidence such as beam slots were also identified.

Excavation continues to the west in the area previously used for archaeological spoil, this part of site is referred to as Area 11a.

Excavation continues in Area III on the main site.


Area 3 Summary

Excavations have revealed an interesting sequence of features possibly beginning with a mid to late Iron Age drove way and animal stock enclosure.  The drove way and enclosure are defined by two reasonably large ditches. The south-westerly continuance of the drove way ditches may continue across Area 4 at the Walwer's Lane site.

Numerous medieval pits and wells cut these Iron Age ditches.  Many of these have not been bottomed by hand-digging and will be excavated further by machine for finds retrieval and final depth.  The pits appear to date from the 11th to 14th centuries.  During excavation of the pits to depth a geoarchaeological test pit will be recorded in the Southern part of Area 3.

Along the western limit of Area 3 a small chalk-built cellar is undergoing excavation.  This is of probable late-medieval/early post-medieval date.  The structure is truncated by a 19th century brick culvert which runs roughly north to south across the area.

In the northern most part of Area 3 the robbed-out continuance of an earlier twitten wall is currently being excavated.  Additionally, a parallel feature – probably a drainage ditch is to be investigated.


Walwer Lane Area 4 Summary.

This part of the site has been subject to extensive modern truncation.  The earliest features (yet to be investigated) are the two probable Iron Age ditches seen in Area 3 to the north east.

Additionally numerous pits and wells have been excavated.  These appear to be slightly later in date than those on Area 3.  Again many of these are not bottomed and will require further machining.  At this point a geoarchaeological trench will also be excavated.


Project Officer:
Dan Swift
English Heritage
Project type: Excavation



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