Shrunken medieval settlement at Old Erringham


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015126

Date first listed: 29-Nov-1965

Date of most recent amendment: 30-Aug-1996


Ordnance survey map of Shrunken medieval settlement at Old Erringham
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: West Sussex

District: Adur (District Authority)

National Park: SOUTH DOWNS

National Grid Reference: TQ 20637 07663


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Medieval rural settlement in England is marked by considerable regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of archaeological remains of such settlements needs to take that diversity into account. In order to do this, England has been divided into three broad provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive combination of nucleated and dispersed settlements. The provinces have been further divided into sub-provinces and small local regions. This monument lies within the East Wessex sub-province of the eastern province which is characterised by nucleated settlements, both surviving and deserted, in an area of chalk downland with smoothly contoured valleys and winter streamflow. The settlements typically appear in chains along the valleys where water supply was assured. It is also an area in which moated sites and settlements with greens are uncommon, the latter contrasting markedly with sub-provinces to the east and north east. Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo- Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprise a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded, or partly surrounded, by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade, or rarely, a stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples, and less than 60 with baileys. As such, and as one of one of a limited number and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period, and all examples with surviving remains are considered to merit protection. The shrunken settlement at Old Erringham represents the predominant, nucleated form of medieval rural settlement within the eastern Wessex region. It survives well, despite some later disturbance by modern development, and contains both standing buildings and substantial earthworks. Erringham exhibits a good range of component features, and part excavation has shown that it contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence, some of which relates to the rarely represented early medieval phase of its development, illustrating the continuity between later Anglo-Saxon and post- Conquest settlement in this area of Sussex.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a shrunken medieval settlement, incorporating a ringwork, manorial settlement, chapel-of-ease and earthworks representing the tofts and crofts of homesteads. It is situated on the western slope of a chalk spur which forms part of the Sussex Downs, c.3km north of the Channel coast at Shoreham. The settlement enjoys extensive views over the River Adur to the west and the coastal plain. The western edge of the spur, c.95m to the west of the monument, is formed by a natural river cliff, representing the original, eastern extent of the tidal estuary before the river was embanked in the early post-medieval period. The focus of the village is indicated by a ringwork constructed during the 11th century AD near the edge of the river cliff, strategically placed to overlook the then navigable river estuary. The ringwork is represented by an artificially raised platform defined by a low, curving edge up to c.1m high, which survives for a length of c.20m around 35m to the SSW of Old Erringham Hall. Part excavation between 1963-66 revealed that the ringwork defences were formed originally by a bank, which has since slumped over a surrounding, now buried, v-shaped ditch c.3m wide and up to c.2m deep. These were augmented by a timber palisade, and a possible entrance through this was identified towards the south west. Contemporary remains associated with the ringwork in the areas to the east and north have been masked by later landscaping connected with the gardens of Old Erringham Hall, and partly disturbed by the construction of later medieval and post-medieval structures, including a limekiln dating to the late 15th century. The south western part of the ringwork was damaged by the erection of Fairview Cottages during the 1960s, and the lowered and levelled area which contains the modern cottages and their gardens is therefore not included in the scheduling. The 1960s excavations suggested that the first buildings at Erringham date to the middle-late Anglo-Saxon period. Traces of a weaving hut dating to the years between c.AD 750-950 were found around 180m to the south west of the later ringwork. The hut was largely destroyed during improvements to the adjacent A283 road by quarrying and the construction of a farm track, and although further remains dating to this period will survive in buried form, these are not sufficiently understood at present to merit inclusion in the scheduling. Situated within the ringwork is a small, roughly west-east aligned, rectangular building interpreted as the chancel of a now disused chapel-of- ease. The mainly flint rubble-built chancel, which is Listed Grade II, measures c.6m by c.4.5m. It is lit by two small Caen stone dressed, single- light windows set in the northern and southern walls. These have semicircular heads internally and are unglazed, with external rebates and deep internal splays. The windows have been dated to the late Anglo-Saxon-early Norman period (c.AD 1025-1125), and represent the earliest phase of the building. The inserted eastern lancet dates from the late 12th-early 13th century and has two lights partly blocked at a later date with bricks and flint rubble. The north eastern and south eastern corners of the building are reinforced with Caen stone quoins, and a scratch dial has been etched onto one of the south eastern blocks. The roof trusses are of crown post construction and date mainly to the 13th century, indicating that the original roof was replaced at this time. The chancel, which was thatched until the 1930s, is now roofed with asbestos, shows signs of modern repair and has an inserted floor of modern concrete. The western wall has been rebuilt and a modern door inserted into the southern wall near the south western corner. Excavations of the area immediately to the west of the chancel in 1957 revealed traces of an adjoining rectangular structure interpreted as the nave of the chapel. The excavations suggested that the chapel had ceased to fulfil a religious function by the later medieval period, and by the 17th and 18th centuries was in use as an agricultural building. The ground containing the nave was disturbed during the construction of Fairview Cottages, and this area is therefore not included in the scheduling. Associated with the chapel is a graveyard indicated by two adjacent, shallow, east-west aligned inhumation burials discovered within the southern sector of the ringwork. The best preserved of these measured c.2m by c.0.7m, and the body had been laid directly in the grave with the head to the west. The head and neck were supported by flat chalk blocks and smaller blocks were found at the feet. Accompanying the burial was a glass linen smoother dating to the late Anglo-Saxon period. The graveyard can be dated to the years before the Norman Conquest of AD 1066, after which time ecclesiastical law required the inhabitants to be buried at the parish church at Old Shoreham c.1.5km to the south. Further buried remains relating to the early phases and later development of the focus of the shrunken settlement will lie within the area to the north east of the chapel, occupied by the buildings and landscaped garden of Old Erringham Hall. The Hall, which is Listed at Grade II, represents the original manor house and dates to the medieval period, although the building was substantially altered and extended during the later 16th century. Further homesteads, tracks, cultivation plots and associated features survive in the form of a group of earthworks up to c.1m high in the areas to the south east of the manor and chapel. These have been partly disturbed by the construction of a flint barn during the 19th century, by several modern access tracks and the excavation of a silage clamp in 1957. Place name evidence confirms that the village at Old Erringham was founded during the Anglo-Saxon period; Erringham means `land in a river bend' in Old English. Originally lying in Old Shoreham parish within the Rape of Bramber, the earliest written record of the settlement is an entry in the Domesday Book of 1086, when the manor was held by William de Braiose. Further documentary evidence suggests that the tithes were paid to Sele Priory at Beeding, and that part of the village was sold to William de Harcourt during the 12th century. The settlement survived the Black Death of 1348-9 in reduced form, and became largely depopulated as a result of the social and economic changes of the 15th century. Much of manor was bought by the Colville Bridger Estate in 1776. Old Erringham Hall (Listed Grade II), all outbuildings, including the 19th century flint barn, all garden walls and structures, all modern fences and the modern surfaces of all hardstanding, tracks, paths and patios are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 29233

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Holden, E, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations at Old Erringham, Shoreham, West Sussex. Part I, , Vol. 114, (1976), 306-322
Holden, E, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excavations at Old Erringham, Shoreham, West Sussex. Part II, , Vol. 118, (1980), 257-297

End of official listing