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Aerial View of the site of Whitehawk Camp

The Earliest Settlements

The earliest evidence of human settlement is to be found at Whitehawk Camp, a Neolithic settlement dating back some 4,500 years. This aerial photograph dates back to the 1920s and looks west. The race course buildings are in the top right corner of the photograph. Also in the photograph you can see concentric rings which indicate the defensive ditches that may have protected the inhabitants of the camp or may have been used as cattle enclosures. There are actually four ditches, and the outermost ditch is about 7 ft deep.

The site was excavated in the inter-war years and a good many artefacts were recovered. These are now in the possession of Brighton Museum.

Among the findings were dark grey clay pots, flint tools, and both animal and human remains. Because charred bones, both human and cattle, were found together, there is the possibility that these people were cannibals.

This camp is one of many similar Neolithic camps or enclosures found in Britain and across Europe.

The camp is about 400 ft above sea level.

Hollingbury Hill Fort & A Roman Villa

At the back of Brighton out on the Downs between the Lewes Road and Ditchling Road, and bordering on the municipal golf course is Hollingbury Hill Fort or Castle. This is an Iron Age construction thought to be from around 600 BC, though there are four barrows or burial mounds which are much older. The ramparts surround an area of about nine acres and there are two gateways into the site.

At around 600 ft above sea level the fort is a good place to enjoy panoramic views out to the English Channel.

Just south-east of Preston Park at Springfield Road where the Endeavours Garage used to be (now a block of flats) is the site of a Roman Villa, which was excavated in 1877 and again in 1962.

It's quite probable that the area was farmed during the Romano-British period.

What's in a Name?

Various early names of BrightonBrighton enters history in an entry in the Domesday Book of 1086, but under the variation of Bristelmestune. (On the web you'll find some claims that Brighton is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle but I don't think this claim can be substantiated. If you know different, I'd like to hear from you: editor@thisbrighton.co.uk)

The Domesday record shows that Bristelmestune was a long settled fishing community with a population of around 400. An annual tribute of 4,000 herring was set.

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