Fieldwork - Priory Park 2024

Archaeologists working in Chichester's Priory Park have uncovered the remains of a military causeway or bridge that would have led to the city's Norman castle. The team from Chichester and District Archaeology Society, led by Chichester District Council's archaeologist, James Kenny, made the discovery during a current excavation in the park, which will finish on Monday 3 June.

This is the seventh dig that James has led to help uncover the secrets that lie beneath this fascinating site. "We have been continuing the work that we did last year, focusing on the park's Norman history, and we've been fortunate enough to uncover the structure of a bridge that would have spanned the ditch surrounding the central mound, or 'motte'," explains James. "This is an exciting discovery because this is the first time since the Middle Ages that people have been able to view what would have been a very impressive military defensive system."

"As part of the excavation, we have found key architecture that would have formed the structure of the bridge, including a robust corner block — or 'quoin' — made of limestone, which would have been imported for the purpose. We have also discovered putlog holes, which are holes that oak beams would have been inserted into to help form a scaffolding system that would have been used while building the structure. The level of the putlog holes indicate that the ground level at the time would have been at least six feet lower, but could have been much deeper.

"The structure is extremely impressive and solidly constructed. Norman soldiers would have used this bridge as a means of protecting the city's castle. They would have crossed the bridge on wooden beams over the masonry — on foot, by horse, or with carts — and then removed the beams after use so that invaders wouldn't be able to cross to the motte. Our finds indicate that the bridge may have been constructed in phases as the Normans settled and the castle was used on a more permanent basis.

"Our work has been informed by a series of geophysics and ground-penetrating radar scans that were carried out in 2022, which indicated a large structure and helped us to pinpoint where we should be digging. It's very rewarding to be able to include the wider community in what we are doing and help people understand the amazing history under their feet."

Taken from Chichester District Council press release dated 31/5/2024

An early version of a 3D trench model from this year's excavation can be seen below, full annotations and descriptions of features will follow in due course.

As with the other 3D models featured on our website the controls are as follows:

Press the 'play' symbol, then when the model has loaded 'left mouse click and hold' to rotate, 'right mouse click and hold' to pan sideways, use mouse scroll wheel (or hold Ctrl + mouse drag) to zoom. Click on any numbered annotations for more information on the features identified.

The Priory Park Archaeology Project is collaboration between Chichester District Council (CDC) and Chichester and District Archaeology Society (CDAS). James Kenny, Archaeological Officer for CDC directs the excavations; CDAS provides the volunteers and CDC provides the funding.