The later Anglo-Saxon settlement at Bishopstone

A downland manor in the making

by Gabor Thomas

Bishopstone cover Well known for the Early Anglo-Saxon settlement previously excavated on Rookery Hill and its impressive pre-Conquest church, Bishopstone has entered archaeological orthodoxy as a classic example of a ‘Middle Saxon Shift’.

Sculpture Sundial This volume reports on the excavations from 2002 to 2005 designed to investigate this transition, with the focus on the origins of Bishopstone village. Excavations adjacent to St Andrew’s churchyard revealed a dense swathe of later Anglo-Saxon (8th- to late 10th-/early 11th-century) habitation, including a planned complex of ‘timber halls’, and a unique cellared tower. The occupation encroached upon a pre-Conquest cemetery of 43 inhumations.

The report provides a comprehensive analysis, interpretation and academic contextualisation of the archaeological discoveries brought to light by these excavations, the first to sample a later Anglo-Saxon rural settlement in East Sussex on an extensive scale. The inter-disciplinary approach appraises the historical and topographical evidence alongside that recovered during the excavations.

The result is a uniquely informative picture of the emergence and operation of an estate-centre complex in the later Anglo-Saxon landscape, an embodiment of the growth of an increasingly stable and hierarchical settlement pattern which laid the foundations for the English countryside.

Key Points

  1. Large-scale excavation of a settlement of later Anglo-Saxon date
  2. Includes a wide repertoire of timber structures shedding light on contemporary construction techniques and rare architectural forms including a unique cellared ‘tower’
  3. Integrates analysis of human burials from a portion of a contemporary cemetery
  4. Radiocarbon dates allow reassessment of local pottery sequences
  5. Detailed analysis of artefacts and environmental remains
  6. Discusses evidence for domestic rituals on later Anglo-Saxon settlements
  7. Provides a case-study in the challenges of characterising later Anglo-Saxon settlements through a comparison of historical as well as archaeological evidence
  8. Detailed consideration of the operation of Anglo-Saxon estate centres
  9. Has extensive bibliography

About the Author

Gabor Thomas is a lecturer in Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Reading. His research spans the archaeology of Early Medieval settlements and later Anglo-Saxon and Viking-age metalwork for which he gained his doctorate at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. This report brings to conclusion his first large-scale research excavation and he is currently engaged in directing a successor project on the site of an Anglo-Saxon monastic settlement at Lyminge, Kent. He is a Fellow of the Society of the Antiquaries and currently sits on the committee of the Medieval Settlements Research Group.


This book will be valuable reading for specialists and students working on early medieval settlements from a variety of archaeological and historical perspectives. It will also be of interest to general readers with an interest in the evolution of southern chalklands of England during the post-Roman era.

Info: ISBN: 978-1-902771-83-0; 280pp, 189 illus including colour, December 2010
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Gabor Thomas

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