Saltern in Saltings Field, 220m north of Beeding Bridge


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017660

Date first listed: 10-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Saltern in Saltings Field, 220m north of Beeding Bridge
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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: Upper Beeding

National Grid Reference: TQ 19211 10824


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 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. The saltern in Saltings Field forms the southernmost part of the Upper Beeding saltern group. It survives well, and part excavation has shown that it contains well preserved archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the salt-making process.


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


The monument includes a medieval saltern situated on the eastern bank of the River Adur. Before the river was embanked during the post-medieval period, the saltern lay within the floodplain of the tidal estuary on land periodically inundated by salt water. The saltern has four unevenly shaped middens, or artificial heaps of waste silt and clay discarded after brine extraction. These survive to heights of up to c.1m. Sherds of medieval pottery dating from the period between 1250-1450 were discovered during part excavation of two of the middens in 1995. 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 saltern originally operated on land owned by Sele Priory, situated c.350m to the NNE. By 1733, Saltings Field was glebe land belonging to the Parish Church of St Peter's. The modern wooden electricity poles, concrete drain heads, the modern surface of the track which crosses the eastern side of the monument and all modern fences 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. It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 29251

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Gardiner, M, An Archaeological Investigation at Saltings Field, Upper Beeding, (1995)
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, (1981), 117-148
Holden, E, Hudson, T, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Salt Making in the Adur Valley, Sussex, (1981), 117-148

End of official listing