Group of salterns north of St Peter's Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Group of salterns north of St Peter's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Sussex
Horsham (District Authority)
Upper Beeding
National Grid Reference:
TQ 19184 11485, TQ 19299 11651, TQ 19319 11425, TQ 19359 11376, TQ 19379 11533, TQ 19385 11634, TQ 19410 11481

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 about 30 middens, now survive, one on the western bank of the river in Bramber, the other to the east of the river in Upper Beeding. These represent the only surviving medieval salterns in Sussex.

This group of salterns north of St Peter's Church form the northernmost part of the Upper Beeding saltern group. They survive well, despite some damage caused by modern agricultural operations, and will contain well-preserved archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the salt making process.


The monument, which falls into seven separate areas of protection, includes a group of medieval salterns situated on low-lying ground on the eastern 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 salterns are represented by at least 23 unevenly shaped middens, or artificial heaps of waste silt and clay discarded after brine extraction. These survive to heights of up to around 0.8m.

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, water channels, evaporation kilns, lead boiling pans and the foundations of temporary wooden buildings. Several of the middens have been partly damaged by past agricultural operations and the construction of drainage channels and a farm track.

Documentary sources suggest that the salterns were originally operating on land owned by Sele Priory, situated approximately 350m to the south.

The modern fences which cross the monument 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.

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Books and journals
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, , Vol. 119, (1981), 117-148
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, , Vol. 119, (1981), 117-148
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, , Vol. 119, (1981), 117-148


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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