It all started with my mother pointing out that a pile of demolition rubble over the Downs beyond Woodingdean, hidden by nettles and brambles, was her birth place. So I asked her uncle, Dougie Holland – an artist who had distant memories of the farm – to paint a picture of what it might have looked like. His memory was not clear, and nor is that of everyone else we have spoken to with their distant memories of when they lived or visited, over 60 years ago.
Was the well on the south or the north side of the house, and how big was it? Was the outside toilet by the front garden gate or next to the house by the front door? And indoors, what was the fireplace like – how big was it, and was it in the centre of the house against the wall which divided the downstairs into two? And where was the pantry? Was there a backdoor?
Amongst the brambles and nettles I discovered a patch of spearmint, to the south of the house site, which coincides with the approximate location of a water tank shown on a plan of the farm drawn in about 1920. However, no-one who lived there seems to be able to recall such a tank. Perhaps it was really a well? Such plans have often been found to be incorrect – the plan may have shown a proposed tank which was never constructed. But then again, memories are also known to be fallable.
These are some of the reasons why I started to consider the possibility of an archaeological excavation. Those who used to live there have memeories of the place. An archaeological dig would provide material substance to their precious memories. In turn, their distant memories would help give meaning to the objects which may be found.