Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery, 57m north-west of the Coach House.
Reasons for Designation
Beginning in the fifth century AD, there is evidence from distinctive burials and cemeteries, new settlements, and new forms of pottery and metalwork, of the immigration into Britain of settlers from northern Europe, bringing with them new religious beliefs. The Roman towns appear to have gone into rapid decline and the old rural settlement pattern to have been disrupted. Although some Roman settlements and cemeteries continued in use, the native Britons rapidly adopted many of the cultural practices of the new settlers and it soon becomes difficult to distinguish them in the archaeological record. So-called Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are dated to the early Anglo-Saxon period, from the fifth to the seventh centuries AD. With the conversion to Christianity during the late sixth and seventh centuries AD, these pagan cemeteries appear to have been abandoned in favour of new sites, some of which have continued in use up to the present day. Burial practices included both inhumation and cremation.
Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemeteries consist predominantly of inhumation burials which were placed in rectangular pits in the ground, occasionally within coffins. The bodies were normally accompanied by a range of grave goods, including jewellery and weaponry. The cemeteries vary in size, the largest containing several hundred burials. Around 1000 inhumation cemeteries have been recorded in England. They represent one of our principal sources of archaeological evidence about the Early Anglo-Saxon period, providing information on population, social structure and ideology. All surviving examples, other than those which have been heavily disturbed, are considered worthy of protection.
Although it has been partially disturbed by 19th century construction work, the Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery, 57m north-west of the Coach House, survives well, and has been shown by partial excavation to contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the cemetery and the landscape in which it was used.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 4 September 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes an Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery surviving as buried archaeological remains. It is situated on gently sloping land either side of Saxonbury House in Southover, on the south side of Lewes.
The cemetery was uncovered during the building of Saxonbury, and in the grounds adjoining, in 1891. It was partially excavated and a total of 32 skeletons were recovered in an area of about 40m by 15m. Most of the burials were found lying east-west. These burials were accompanied by a rich assemblage of grave goods including iron knives, swords, spearheads, remains of shields, as well as ornaments such as brooches and beads. A few of the graves were found empty, the bones having perished, and some did not include grave goods.
The cemetery has been dated to the 6th century AD but may have continued in use until the 7th century. In 1975, an excavation on the site of a road to the south did not uncover any further burials but the exact limits of the cemetery have not been identified.