Pineapples grown near Newhaven sea

Rouser 2012
Rouser 2012

IT’S amazing what you can discover on an archaeological dig.

Excavators were hard at work at the Tidemills, near Newhaven, when they came across a brick structure that turned out to be a heated horticultural building of some description.

According to the publication, Sussex Past and Present: ‘Two methods of heating were in evidence – the earlier using manure packed around the central growing chamber. This had been replaced by a hot air flue system, though this never appears to have been used.’

Which begs the question; how was the manure used for heating? Either it was useful for insulating the chamber, or it was fresh dung that heated the chamber as it decomposed.

Rouser would like to know.

Another interesting detail from the dig.

‘A virtually exact match for the structure can be found at the Tidemills pineapple pit.’ Pineapples growing on the beach by the sea at Newhaven?

Again, according to Sussex Past and Present: ‘Pineapple growing was an esteemed goal of horticulturalists of the later 18th and early 19th centuries. William Catt [who ran Tidemills] was well known for his horticultural prowess and the pineapple pit was almost certainly built by him prior to his extension of the village.

‘The realisation that if he wished to benefit from the fruits of his endeavours, he ought to grow his pineapples where he could keep an eye on them, probably led to the abandonment of this structure in favour of new, much larger, greenhouses directly opposite the millhouse. The latter are firmly on the maps.’

So, dung heating and pineapples at a tide mill!

Pictured, by Luke Barber, the ‘pineapple’ pit after excavation.