Romano British excavation at Barcombe Mills reveals more secrets

Eye in the sky: A micro-copter view of the site at Barcombe and below one of the mysterious pierced pot bases
Eye in the sky: A micro-copter view of the site at Barcombe and below one of the mysterious pierced pot bases

This year’s excavations at the Romano-British settlement at Bridge Farm, near Barcombe Mills, are due to be completed this week and the site can be visited on Sunday (August 10) when tours will be given at 11am, noon and 1pm.

The excavations targeted the site of a large post built building and have also uncovered adjacent boundary ditches, a possible bread oven and a forging hearth, as well as two wells.

The larger of the wells contained waterlogged timber and animal bones over a base of chalk blocks.

Large quantities of varied Roman-period pottery shards have been recovered which when fully analysed should give dating evidence for the various features.

A Roman coin has also been unearthed – possibly dating from the 4th century though this has still to be confirmed.

Among the pottery is an unusual assemblage of pierced pottery bases which are causing much discussion amongst the archaeologists and finds specialists.

While one is obviously a small strainer the others are more enigmatic with many possible uses being suggested, including incense burners or vented cooking pot lids, but no definite purpose has as yet been resolved.

The site has also yielded a good deal of iron slag, possibly secondary forging slag, which indicates at least a small scale of metal working on the site which lies at the end of a road from the Roman iron working of the High Weald.

The 12 large postholes indicate a building of 18m long by 6m wide and was probably some form of storage building. Being quite close to the river, it may indicate trade to and from the coast as well as down the east/west and north/south road networks which cross at the settlement.

These large postholes were clear on the geophysics results earlier in the year but a series of smaller postholes on the same site and alignment but indicating a probably later building, were only found during the excavation.

The excavations form part of the Culver Archaeological Project’s (CAP) long-term investigations into the Romano-British landscape of the Ouse Valley in the Barcombe and Ringmer area and follow on from the highly successful community dig of 2013.

CAP has always aimed to include the local community in its investigations into the area’s heritage and looks forward to the open day at this year’s site when features and finds will be revealed even if the full purpose of the ancient settlement still remains a fascinating mystery to be further investigated.


Bridge Farm lies just across the road from the Barcombe Mills car park. Access to the site involves a walk through two fields southwards along the eastern bank of the River Ouse (to National Grid Reference TQ429146).


A plan of the route and site location plus articles on the CAP’s previous discoveries and excavation blog can be viewed on the project’s website


Once the summer dig is completed, the site will be backfilled and returned to pasture.