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Old Erringham Ringwork, Shoreham By Sea

In the civil parish of Shoreham By Sea.
In the historic county of Sussex.
Modern Authority of West Sussex.
1974 county of West Sussex.
Medieval County of Sussex (Rape of Bramber).

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ205077
Latitude 50.85627° Longitude -0.28937°

Old Erringham Ringwork, Shoreham By Sea has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Excavations on the site of Old Erringham DMV in 1957 by EW. Holden, west of the chapel (TQ 20 NW 54) in expectation of finding a church, of which the chapel was thought to be the chancel, revealed the robbed flint wall foundations of a building 51 x 17 ft internally, also some pottery fragments, the earliest of them possibly C12. There was no floor except for the well trodden solid chalk. The building was ecclesiastical in origins, with both general pre- and post-Conquest features, and was reused as a farm building, probably stables, up to the late C17. It had disappeared by 1787. South of the Chapel a 'V' ditch, 6' deep, fronting a chalk bank (which contained post holes) was sectioned. This earthwork appears to be a defence which surrounded the Chapel. Pottery in the bank and ditch was C12: but 2 pennies of Aethelred II, minted 992-8, were sealed below the bank. Holden's excavations revealed a number of features of Early Medieval, Medieval and late Medieval date. The most important are on apparently incomplete circular enclosure (or 'ringwork') surrounding the Chapel/Church (see also TQ 20 NW 54). Other features include a salt mound and a lime kiln. Pottery and other finds were predominantly Medieval and later, although EM pottery and a possible late Saxon burial were found, as well as RB potsherds and two EM coins of Aethelred II. A later manor house sits astride the ringwork bank. (PastScape)

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. (Scheduling Report)

Guy describes this as a motte and bailey - there is no motte. Overlooks River Adur and road from coast to Bramber, would have been accessible by sea going vessels. This seems to be a clear Saxon thegnal manorial site with associated chapel (burhgeat and belltower). Unusually the Norman reuse of the site does not seem to have involved strengthening of the Saxon defences, indeed they seem to have been filled in. This may be because the site became mainly ecclesiastical post-Conquest. The suggestion that this was a Norman castle site seems to come from the erroneous idea that the Saxons did not build fortifications. This site is important because it clearly shows this idea to be wrong.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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