27th July 2012: Harrow Hill Neolithic Flint Mine


Harrow Hill (near the village of Patching in West Sussex) rises 168m above sea level and is a triangular shape. On top of the mound is a Neolithic flint mine worked between 4,000 and 2,200 BC and a small Bronze age settlement. The Harrow Hill flint mines are at the end of a chain of mines between the rivers Arun and Adur - the mines are at Blackpatch, Church Hill, Long Down, Stoke Down and Cissbury.

Parking at the end of Chantry Lane (Storrington) meant a long walk to the top of the hill.

View from the top of Harrow Hill, facing towards Storrington

The Worthing Archaeological Society excavated some of the mine the 200 shafts on Harrow Hill in 1924. The work was directed by Dr Elliot and Dr Elliot Cecil Curwen. Work at Harrow Hill was restarted by George Holleyman in 1936. The excavators found soot from the miners’ lamps on the walls and roofs, and scratch marks which may have been records of the amounts of flint they had removed. The first systematic survey of all the Sussex Neolithic mine sites was performed by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) between 1994 and 1997.

No burial sites have been found on Harrow Hill itself, but a couple of burial barrows are to be found less than a mile to the west on Barpham Hill and an even nearer one on New Barn Down.

The Enclosure and Flint Mines (Curwen & Curwen 1926 p.104)

 

Although around 70 possible neolithic flint mines have been identified in UK, only 14 are thought to be confirmed. These include:

  • Harrow Hill, Blackpatch, Church Hill, Cissbury, Long Down and Stoke Down in West Sussex
  • Durrington and Easton Down in Wiltshire
  • Martin’s Clump in Hampshire
  • Grimes Graves in Norfolk - the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors
  • Den of Boddam and Skelmuir Hill in Grampian

When Manchester born composer John Ireland (1879-1962) lived in sight of Chanctonbury Ring, it was at Harrow Hill that he found the inspiration for 'Legend for Piano and Orchestra'.

On one occasion John Ireland arose early, cut some sandwiches and chose Harrow Hill as the place for his picnic. Just as he was about to start eating, he noticed some children dancing around him in archaic clothing -very quiet, very silent, He was a little put out about having his peace invaded by children; he looked away for a moment, when he looked back they had disappeared. The incident made such an impression on him that he wrote about his experience to Arnold Machen whose books had greatly influenced much of his music. The reply he received was a postcard with the laconic message "So, you've seen them too!"

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