The dig was successfully backfilled almost three months ago now. It was a sad moment to see all our hard work being buried. But I know that it was the right thing to do, to protect the delicate walls and other features from damage in the future.
We made some wonderful discoveries, which have enabled us learn more about the everyday lives of those that lived in the Newmarket Cottage than we could ever have done from just reading dusty documents. Its situation is amazing, on top of the highest hill between the historic county town of Lewes, and Brighton, the largest town in Sussex since at least the 1640’s. The hill, and the downs beyond, were especially famous for visitors during the 19th century, for it had one of the largest areas of unspoilt chalk downland on the iconic South Downs, with magnificent views in all directions. And today, a surviving remnant – Castle Hill NNR – inside which our dig site was located, has European recognition for the special wildlife which lives there.Our dig has shed a lot of light on the lives of those whose actions were – at least in part – responsible for what we see today. However, what struck me most about those who lived there was that, despite living in poverty, they had used lots of nicely decorated ceramics, paste jewellery, and many items belonging to children. We also know that at least 3 of the farmers they worked for took care of their living conditions, maintaining the cottage and outbuildings to a good standard.
Meanwhile, my personal situation has changed. I no longer have the time available to be able to commit myself to another dig this year. My elderly father has had a bad fall and my parents are likely to require a lot more support from me in the foreseeable future. This also means that, at least in the short term, there will be a delay in the production of any reports about last year’s dig.
May I take this opportunity to thank all those who have been involved in our dig over the past year or so. It has been an amazing experience, which I have enjoyed very much. I certainly hope to be able to do a lot more work on the site of Newmarket Farm in the future. However, this year, it is more likely to be ‘gardening’ than archaeological digging. The brambles and nettles which covered the site two years ago will return very quickly unless we manage to keep them in check. I very much wish to give some more guided walks and talks on its amazing history, so it would be nice if the site remains accessible to the general public.
I intend to continue sending these emails, to keep you informed of any progress, as well as of any site visits in the future. I have a lot of work ahead of me which will keep me locked up indoors; writing up our last dig, and processing all our amazing finds. But I certainly hope to get back up on the hill sometime soon – especially now summer is here!