Lockdown Records on the Surrey HER
Five new things added to the Surrey HER in recent months.
Since lockdown measures were introduced by the UK Government on 23 March 2020, much of the normal working life of the country ground to a halt. Not, however, the Surrey Historic Environment Record (HER). As a team, we’ve been working from home to ensure we can continue to provide our services to those who want or need them – as far as possible, at least, under the workplace restrictions that mean we’ve been operating without having access to our paper archive in County Hall or being able to allow visitors. Our customers range from members of the public, archaeological and historical enthusiasts, academics and researchers, to commercial archaeological units, industry professionals and organisations. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – anyone can contact us to ask us about Surrey’s historic environment.
To keep the HER – the county’s most comprehensive archaeological database – up to date, we rely on new information being supplied to us as it is discovered or brought to wider notice through books and reports. And you can play a part in this by reporting things to the HER. We want to know if you’ve noticed some unnatural looking contours in the landscape whilst out on a walk, or if you’ve found an interesting looking feature whilst gardening, or if you’ve done some of your own archaeological/historical research. When added to the HER, this information improves our knowledge and understanding of Surrey’s past and will contribute to subsequent research.
Below, we’ve compiled a snapshot of a few of the records that have been created by the HER team whilst working from home under lockdown restrictions. They show the breadth of Surrey’s historic environment, from tiny prehistoric flints to large 19th century designed landscapes, and the range of sources of information we use to enhance the HER. Hopefully they provide a flavour of what’s out there; we don’t expect anyone has found an unknown Roman road running through Surrey during lockdown, but we are always willing to be pleasantly surprised!
1. Second World War anti-tank pimples, Woodham Lane, Woking
Surrey HER Monument 5594
Record created 13 July 2020
A grouping of 12 small but substantial concrete structures located on wooded land immediately north of Woodham Lane and east of its junction with Martyrs Lane were reported to the Surrey HER in May 2020. Digital photographs provided by the reporter indicate they are all of the same design: square in plan, pyramidal in profile, measuring 3 feet in width at the base, at least 3 feet high, and tapering to a flat top 1 foot wide. Their design is consistent with them being identifiable as anti-tank pimples or “Dragon’s Teeth” set up during the Second World War. They appear to be regularly spaced, indicating they have not been moved, so therefore must have been installed to restrict north-south movement between Woodham Lane and the land covered by the adjacent New Zealand Golf Course, perhaps to funnel enemy movement along Martyrs Lane.
The HER has hundreds of records of wartime defensive structures in Surrey, but this particular grouping was completely unknown prior to being reported and filled in a gap in such sites in the north Woking area. For this reason, it symbolises the value of contributions made by members of the general public to enriching our database, and hopefully will act as an encouragement for others to do the same.
2. Portnall Park formal garden, Wentworth Estate, Virginia Water, Runnymede
Surrey HER Monument 23540
Record created 1 April 2020
The site of the early 19th-century gardens of Portnall Park mansion house were added to the Surrey HER back in April as part of research into the Wentworth Estate by one of our HER Assistants. The property comprised pleasure grounds, a drying yard, flower and kitchen gardens, which in turn formed part of the larger park also named Portnall Park. The grounds around the mansion were extensively landscaped to create a terrace across the east front providing a setting for marble seats and statues, along with two artificial lakes. With the construction of the Wentworth golf course in 1923, as well as the adjacent residential properties with generous curtilages, Portnall Park’s grounds were reduced and the landscaping was lost.
This record is informed by the Egham tithe apportionment and map of 1842 and the archaeological desk-based assessment of The Dormy House (the name for a later iteration of the Portnall Park mansion) produced by Thames Valley Archaeological Services in 2016.
3. Mesolithic flint blades, Horley, Reigate and Banstead
Surrey HER Monument 23551
Record created 7 May 2020
Three Mesolithic (10000 BCE to 4000 BCE) flint blades were recovered during an archaeological excavation carried out by Archaeology South-East at a large development site on the outskirts of Horley in July and August 2018. Two of these blades were recovered from topsoil and one from a shallow pit. Used as knives, blades are flakes of flint struck from a flint ‘core’ and are usually twice as long as they are wide. The production of blades drove flint technology in the Mesolithic period and as a result are commonly-found artefacts on Mesolithic sites.
This record is informed by Archaeology South-East’s “grey literature” report (i.e. one that has not been formally published) detailing the results of the excavations issued in August 2018.
4. Rowhook to Winterfold Heath Roman road
Surrey HER Monument 23558
Record created 15 May 2020
This north-westerly branch of Roman road off Stane Street, the name by which the London to Chichester Roman road that runs through the middle of the county is better known, was added to the HER in May. This was done for two reasons: firstly to provide a better representation of an important archaeological feature previously represented by a couple of points on the map where the road had been found in excavations (Surrey HER Monuments 2269 and 2792); secondly in order for it to appear on a map of Roman Surrey produced by the HER for Surrey Archaeological Society to feature in a new series of period-specific guides to the archaeology of the county.
The road is known to have run from Stane Street at Rowhook just north of the posting station at Alfoldean in West Sussex to Winterfold Heath a mile and a half south of the temple at Farley Heath – a total length of 6 miles. Originally it may have extended much further northwards, possibly even as far as the Bagshot area and a junction with the London to Silchester road. The traceable course of the road was laid out on a single alignment for 5.5 miles to the foot of the escarpment near Winterfold House in Cranleigh parish. Above-ground physical remains of the road have disappeared almost entirely, but its course has been quite accurately established from the abundant remains of metalling in stone-less soil where it crosses ploughed fields. These field observations show the width of the road was 17-18 feet.
This record is informed by Dr David Bird’s book Roman Surrey (2004) and the results of excavations of the sections of the road in the mid-20th century.
5. Early Medieval inhumations, Guildown Avenue, Guildford
Surrey HER Monument 23630
Record created 22 July 2020
The 6th-century and later Early Medieval cemetery site known as Guildown on the edge of modern-day Guildford was found and excavated in 1929-30, and remains one of the most significant archaeological discoveries made in the county area (Surrey HER Monument 1629). Planning consent for a new house immediately to the west of the excavated area was granted in 2016 subject to a condition (recommended by a colleague in the SCC Historic Environment Planning team) that an archaeological recording action be conducted prior to construction. This was undertaken by Thames Valley Archaeological Services in December 2016 and led to the uncovering of seven graves, containing the bones of a minimum of ten individuals.
This excavation and the post-excavation analyses that followed did more than prove burials at Guildown extended further west than the limits of the 1929-30 excavations. The excavated graves represented at least two phases of burials. The earliest belonged to the 6th century CE, and were dated by the traditional method of identifying particular artefacts buried in association with the body. Other burials were later, and this was established by using newer scientific tests. Radiocarbon dating of bone samples from three of skeletons returned results spanning the late 8th to early 11th centuries. A different test, stable isotope analysis of tooth enamel samples from the same three bodies, found that none of the deceased had grown up in the Guildford area, but in western Britain – most likely in Cornwall. The results from the 2016 excavation at Guildown not only show that application of the latest analytical techniques can generate remarkable and sometimes unanticipated new understanding of a long known-about archaeological site, but also demonstrate the vital role that SCC’s development control archaeological officers play in helping to bring this about.
This record is informed by the full report from the 2016 excavation at Guildown Avenue, titled Further Burials in the Guildown Saxon Cemetery at Guildford, Surrey, which was published by Thames Valley Archaeological Services in 2019.
If you have any queries regarding Surrey’s historic environment, or would like to report something you’ve found, please get in touch at [email protected]. The key things to let us know are what you have found and where, but photographs or maps are immensely useful. In other words the more information, the better.