Today, Brede High Woods are a quiet and tranquil place in which to relax and enjoy the trees and wildlife. However, they have a very different past.

In 2007, the Woods were purchased by the Woodland Trust and some local residents contributed towards the purchase. For the following two years, an in-depth on-site survey and histrocial literature study of Brede High Woods were carried out which have uncovered a varied and complex history.

Full details can be seen on the Woodland Trust website.

At the end of January 2013, Viviene Blandford, the Community Archaeology Co-ordinator for Brede High Woods Big Dig sent the following report about recent work at Brede High Woods. MORE INFORMATION IS NEEDED - SEE END OF THE ARTICLE.

The Brede High Woods Big Dig
We have successfully completed our first year of archaeological investigations in the Woodland Trust’s Brede High Woods and it has been a rewarding year uncovering the hidden archaeology in the Woods. We have attracted over 100 volunteers to sign up for the project but, inevitably, it is the faithful few who regularly turned up in what was truly appalling weather conditions at times.

The year started fine and dry when we surveyed a gill stream in Thorp’s wood to investigate a potential early iron working site. Various lumps of the waste product of iron making (slag) and the baked clay remains of the furnace lining were found. We shall return to this site in April for a three week period of excavation and surveying in the immediate area.

Brede High Farm

Reproduced by kind permission of East Sussex Record Office

Our first dig of the year was on the site of Brede High Farm, where over a period of three weeks over 25 volunteers worked on the site carrying out a range of activities including excavation, recording and finds processing. Together with a combination of geophysical surveys, looking at old maps and excavation some foundations of the farmhouse were found but it was the farm buildings that were easier to locate. These included pigsties and the foundations of an oasthouse. A large amount of building material, pottery, glass and metal were recovered during the excavation which were cleaned up and are in the hands of specialists for analysis. Most of the finds dated to the late 19th and early 20th century but some maybe earlier than this. The site was backfilled, although some of the walls have been left exposed. Further work will be carried out here this year and this will hopefully make it easier for the casual visitor to understand what now remains. The house was first recorded on a map in 1767 and probably dates to the late 17th century. It was comprehensively demolished in the 1930’s when the Powdermill reservoir was being built.

Baby's bottle
Baby's bottle found at the site of the farmhouse.

We then moved to the site of Austford House and its coach house. Initially the walls of the coach house were stabilised as they were in danger of collapsing. In October the floors of the coach house were cleared of metres of mud and debris, revealing some interesting features which included a deep, render lined waterproof tank, which under the wet conditions soon filled up with water. The yard between the coach house and the foundations of the house was exposed. A large, well built cellar with a complete flight of steps was uncovered and, on the south facing front of the house, a substantial bay window and porch were revealed. This site was later backfilled in November.

We also are carrying out oral, documentary and historical research. We were lucky enough to interview a local man who had lived at Brede High Farmhouse just prior to its demolition and he was able to fill in some valuable details about the scullery, water pump and locations of the toilets in a shed at the bottom of the garden. He was also able to provide us with a picture of the farmhouse.

More information needed-or join the project
If anyone else knows any one who might have lived at Brede High Farm, Austford House or Austford Farm we would be delighted to talk to them. We would also like to hear of any memories about activities in the area during the Second World Warm be it regular army, Homeguard or anyone who may have been involved in constructions of the defences around Cripps Corner.

We have an exciting programme in the woods coming up this year and you are always welcome to join the project or just come and visit us when we are working in the woods. We will be having an Open Day in June when you can find out more about what has been going on. If anyone would like to be involved this coming year please send an email to the address below: