The search begins for archaeological evidence of the Battle of Lewes

A major archaeological search began on Tuesday to find evidence from the Battle of Lewes.

The dig got under way in driving rain at Landport Bottom on the anniversary of the battle 749 years earlier.

Battle of Lewes site survey

Battle of Lewes site survey

Tantalisingly, it achieved immediate results. Luke Barber, Research Officer for the Sussex Archaeological Society, said the first day uncovered a number of finds – but not from the 13th century.

The most interest was generated by a small oval buckle, possibly part of a horse harness and dating from the early post-medieval period.

Stephanie Smith, the region’s Finds Liaison Officer, said searches with metal detectors had begun on the upper slopes of Landport Bottom. As the team worked downward towards Lewes it was hoped material linked with the battle would be found because it is believed this is where fighting would have been particularly ferocious.

The rebel army of Simon de Montfort charged down the slope in 1264 to clash with their opponents, the soldiers of King Henry III.

While Landport Bottom is the official battlefield site, much of the fighting took place close to what is now The Black Horse pub in Western Road and near St Anne’s Church. After the battle, hundreds of corpses were thrown into mass graves near Lewes Prison.

Among those attending the start of the search was the Mayor of Lewes and new Chair of Lewes District Council, Cllr Michael Chartier, a keen local historian.

It will resume today (Friday) and continue through to Monday. A large team of volunteers is involved in the project and they will be bagging and recording any significant finds.

The battle, which resulted in the king’s defeat and the summoning of England’s first representative parliament, has been described as an “early struggle for democracy”.

More than 300 volunteers have been involved in the Battle of Lewes Project, a community scheme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, that culminates in a special celebration to mark the 750th anniversary next year.

Meanwhile, Lewes Castle is hosting a day of medieval fun for all the family on Sunday (11am-4pm).

Battle of Lewes Day will feature archaeology, underwater robots, bone identification, falconry, medieval technology and armour.