If it hadn't been for Gerald Brodribb's curiosity, we may never have discovered the Roman iron workings at Beauport Park with their impressively preserved bath house. In the 1960s he'd seen on a map the words 'Site of a Roman Bloomery', not far from his home. 'Bloomery' means iron-working, and through some more research Gerald discovered that in 1869 the Rector of Hollington Church had found a huge slag heap on the site. Slag is the residue from iron working. Much of the slag disappeared in the last century, liberated by the local highway surveyor, who treated it as a free source of road-making material. The site was also littered with other evidence of Roman occupation - pottery, tile and the like.
Gerald consulted Dr Henry Cleere, an expert on iron-working, who estimated that it had originally consisted of around 100,000 tonnes of slag. This indicated that the site here had been probably the third largest iron works in the whole empire, and just part of a Roman industrial zone stretching across Sussex and Kent. Dr Cleere thought that such a large site would also have had some large buildings. Gerald was given permission by the landowner to visit the park in search of further evidence of the Romans. One day trying to trace a possible Roman track with divining rods, they crossed and on digging down, he discovered masonry and tile. This proved to be an excellently preserved bath house, which was fully excavated in the early 1970s.
The site is now scheduled as an Ancient Monument, but at present has no public access. The Beauport Park Archaeological Trust was formed in 1996, with the object of finding a way of exhibiting the site to the public. An application made to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a development grant to fund the design of a cover building to conserve the bath-house, study centre, and other facilities was recently turned down. The Friends of Roman East Sussex was also founded to help secure voluntary contributions. If no source of funds becomes available it is likely that the excavated bath house will be covered over again.
Near Battle, East Sussex. No public access at present.