Anglo-Saxon cemetery, parish church of St Giles and associated remains immediately east of Sarre Mill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Anglo-Saxon cemetery, parish church of St Giles and associated remains immediately east of Sarre Mill
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Thanet (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TR 26128 65075

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.

The Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery at Sarre survives well, despite some subsequent disturbance, in close association with earlier prehistoric and later medieval features. Part excavation has shown that it contains important archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the original use of the monument. The Sarre cemetery belongs to a group of similar, broadly contemporary Anglo-Saxon cemeteries which cluster in eastern Kent, distinguished by their rich grave goods with continental, Jutish associations. This clustering illustrates the dense Early Anglo-Saxon settlement of the area. The close association of the pagan cemetery with the medieval parish church of St Giles will provide evidence for the as yet little understood relationship between early and later medieval settlement and burial practices.


The monument includes an Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery, part of an earlier Iron Age settlement and a later, disused medieval parish church and postmill situated on a low chalk ridge just to the east of the village of Sarre, on the Isle of Thanet. These features survive in the form of below ground archaeological remains, some visible as crop marks on aerial photographs. Until around the 14th century, Sarre lay on the eastern shore of the Wantsum Channel, a now silted-up estuarine waterway which separated Thanet from the Kent mainland. This was an important crossing and control point, one of only two places where the Wantsum was fordable.

Investigations carried out during 1863-64 identified 274 east-west aligned Anglo-Saxon graves, although it has since been estimated that the cemetery contains up to 400 burials, extending over the monument. Around 184 burials were fully investigated, and many of these were found to have been accompanied by a particularly rich assemblage of grave goods, or artefacts deliberately buried with the bodies. The grave goods included bronze bowls, jewellery, coins, iron weapons and glassware, some originating in continental Europe. Analysis of these items suggests that the cemetery was in use during the late fifth to late seventh centuries AD. Subsequent small-scale investigations in 1982 and 1991 revealed, along with further Anglo-Saxon graves, a contemporary, shallow, east-west aligned ditch running along the southern edge of the monument, just to the north of the modern A253 road. The modern road follows the course of Dunstrete, an important ancient routeway across Thanet. The ditch has been interpreted as the southern boundary of the cemetery. Traces of an Anglo-Saxon sunken-floored building discovered in the south eastern corner of the monument may provide evidence for an associated settlement.

A now disused post-medieval chalk pit has destroyed part of the southern sector of the cemetery, and some of the westernmost graves in the Sarre Windmill area have been heavily disturbed by 19th and 20th century development. These areas are therefore not included in the scheduling. The laying of a modern sewage pipeline along the southern edge of the monument in 1991 will have partly disturbed the archaeological remains.

The earlier Iron Age settlement, which partly underlies the Anglo-Saxon cemetery and the later medieval features, is represented by below ground traces of pits and enclosure ditches revealed during the 20th century investigations. A complex group of roughly rectangular enclosure ditches visible as crop marks on aerial photographs in the north eastern part of the monument may also date to this period. The settlement, which extends beyond the monument along the ridge to the east, has been dated by the analysis of pottery sherds found in the pit fills to the Late Iron Age (around 300-150 BC).

Situated in the north eastern part of the monument, the medieval parish church and its surrounding graveyard partly overlie the earlier Anglo-Saxon cemetery and Iron Age settlement. The 1982 investigations revealed the flint footings of part of a north east-south west aligned, rectangular medieval building, possibly a chantry chapel attached to the northern side of the chancel, or an associated secular building. Historical records suggest that the church, dedicated to St Giles, was in existence by the 11th century. During the medieval period Sarre was a member of the Cinque Port of Sandwich, and in the late 11th century the manor belonged to the important Norman family of Crevequer. As a result of the Black Death and the gradual silting up of the Wantsum Channel during the 14th century, the village became depopulated. By the early 16th century the church was becoming derelict and the parish was eventually amalgamated with nearby St Nicholas-at-Wade. All above ground traces of the church had disappeared by the early 18th century. The southern part of the churchyard may have been destroyed by the excavation of the post-medieval chalk pit.

Lying around 180m west of the church, the medieval postmill is represented by a small, roughly circular ditch enclosing a central cross-tree trench. Analysis of pottery fragments found in the ditch suggest that the postmill was in use during the 13th-14th centuries.

Further, associated below ground remains will survive in the areas between and around the known archaeological features. Modern ploughing has caused some disturbance to the monument.

The modern building adjacent to Sarre Mill, all fences, telegraph poles and the surface of the Sarre Mill access track and car park are all 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
Perkins, D, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in The Jutish Cemetery at Sarre Revisited: A Rescue Evaluation, , Vol. 109, (1991), 139-166
Perkins, D, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in The Site of the Church of St Giles, Sarre, , Vol. 105, (1987), 291-297
Tatton-Brown, T, Aerial View of Cropmarks at Sarre, Kent Archaeological Society Newsletter, (1984)


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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