Group of salterns and a possible moat 250m east of Bramber Castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015718

Date first listed: 21-Aug-1973

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Group of salterns and a possible moat 250m east of Bramber Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: West Sussex

District: Horsham (District Authority)

Parish: Bramber

County: West Sussex

District: Horsham (District Authority)

Parish: Steyning

National Grid Reference: TQ 18705 10961, TQ 18735 10885, TQ 18800 10736, TQ 18832 10846


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

Reasons for Designation

Salt has been produced from sea water or, in inland areas, from brine springs since before Roman times, and the technology used in the medieval period displays a marked continuity with earlier production methods. Brine, from which the water was evaporated to produce the salt, was collected in one of two ways, either by its filtration from coastal sand, soil or pebbles impregnated with salt water during high tides and periodic inundation, or by its collection in pools or pits filled at high tide or by inland springs, sometimes by way of a system of channels, dams and sluices. Medieval salterns include a range of features connected with the collection and evaporation processes, of which the most visually distinctive are the oval or kidney-shaped middens of waste material which may cover areas of 2ha or more. Other features usually survive in buried form beneath and around the middens, illustrating the fact that salterns were often in use for periods of at least a century, during which time they were occupied seasonally, their component structures being rebuilt at the beginning of each summer or as required. Evaporation was often aided by an evaporation kiln fuelled by peat or wood products, of which several different types are known, and the remains of temporary wooden buildings, wooden or wicker troughs and clay-lined pits have also been found during excavation. Salt was an expensive commodity during the medieval period, particularly in demand for food preservation and curing. Salterns are known from documentary sources and place name evidence to have been widely distributed around the English coast and the inland brine springs of Cheshire from at least the end of the 11th century. The industry had declined by the beginning of the 16th century and competition with the superior and cheaper rock salt, mined from the beginning of the 17th century, led to its demise during the early post- medieval period.

Historical sources indicate that salt production was a part-time occupation for small farmers and townsmen in the Adur estuary from later Anglo-Saxon times. The Domesday Book of AD 1086 records 309 salterns in Sussex, the largest number for any English county, and many of these were situated within the Adur estuary. Most salt in the Adur valley was produced to meet local needs. Originally clustered in eight large groups, some of the Adur valley salterns have become buried under accumulated layers of river-deposited silt. Around 133 middens were recorded as surviving as earthworks until the 1960s. Since then, many have been levelled by agricultural operations, with the result that only two main groups of salterns, consisting of c.30 middens, now survive, one on the eastern bank of the river in Upper Beeding, and this monument, to the west of the river in Bramber. Moated sites were built throughout the medieval period, although most were constructed between about 1250-1350. Concentrated mainly in central and eastern parts of England, most served as prestigious residences, with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical defence. They form a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Despite some modern disturbance, the salterns and moat 250m east of Bramber Castle survive well, and will contain well preserved archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed.


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


The monument, which falls into four separate areas, includes a group of medieval salterns and an area of associated earthworks which have been interpreted as a contemporary moat, situated on the western bank of the River Adur. Before the river was embanked during the post-medieval period, the salterns lay within the floodplain of the tidal estuary on land periodically inundated by salt water. The saltern is represented by nine unevenly-shaped middens, or artifical heaps of waste silt and clay discarded after brine extraction. These survive to heights of up to c.1m. Investigations of similar middens elsewhere indicate that they will partly overlie, and be surrounded by, industrial structures surviving in buried form. These may include wicker or clay-lined pits, evaporation kilns, lead boiling pans and the foundations of temporary wooden buildings. Documentary sources suggest that the monument originally formed part of a larger group of salterns granted by William de Braose, the founder of Bramber Castle, to Durford Abbey on its foundation in c.1160. The other salterns of the group are believed to have been destroyed by the construction of the buildings along The Street, which lies to the south of the monument, and by agricultural operations. The possible moated site lies within the south eastern sector of the monument and is represented by a roughly square artificial island with sides measuring c.61m. Operations associated with the dredging of adjacent field drains during 1973-74 indicated that traces of medieval buildings may survive on the island. The island is surrounded by a narrow, shallow, now mainly dry ditch. Regular dredging of the modern field drain immediately to the south and west of the southern part of the monument has resulted in a linear dump of dredged material along its northern bank. This has partly obscured the profile of the south western edge of the monument. The pumping station situated in the south eastern sector of the monument and all modern fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 29253

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Holden, E, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in A Possible Moated Site and Medieval Salterns at Bramber, , Vol. 113, (1975), 191
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, , Vol. 119, (1981), 117-148

End of official listing