Archaeological investigation at Moses Dock

Moses Dock on Pennington Marshes has not only Creek Cottage but two Tudor buildings which may have been sea salt boiling houses.

Now the ground around them is being excavated over two weerks by volunteer archaeologists as part of the Festival of British Archaeology which starts on Monday 19 July.

The New Forest National Park Authority’s Archaeologist Frank Green says: “Salt was often said to be worth its weight in gold and has played a vital role in nearly every civilisation since the beginning of time. It has been used to preserve and improve the taste of food, for tanning hides to make leather and treating wounds. It wouldn’t be over-emphasising it to say that you could judge how sophisticated a society was by the availability of salt.

“The salt industry once dominated the New Forest coast and has shaped the natural and economic landscape which residents, visitors and nature lovers know today.”

At the industry’s peak in around 1730 there were 163 pans in the Lymington area. Between 1724 and 1766 Lymington exported 4,612 tons of salt in 64 ships – 12 cargoes were destined for Newfoundland, 33 to America and others to Norway, Ireland and the Channel Islands.

By the middle of the 19th century the coastal salt production industry died out because of the cost of fuel, because it could only be produced in the summer and because cheaper rock salt became available from Cheshire.

Frank adds: “What we do know from the 1840 tithe map for Lymington is that one of the buildings was much larger and longer than we see today.”

He believes it important that we find out as much as we can before the buildings and ground are lost to climate change.

The old buildings have planning permission for conversion into an office and storage, once the excavation is finished – ensuring they survive for future generations.

The excavation is part of the New Forest National Park Authority’s coastal heritage project which was set up to fully record the archaeology of the coastal area and to share this with as many people as possible.

Tours are available next week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 11am but booking is essential on [email protected]

The week after there is a tour on Sunday 25 July at 2pm and on Tuesday, Wednesday ad Thursday at 11am and 5.30pm. These later ones may offer greater finds as work will be much more advanced.

The site can be reached from near the Chequers Inn where salt was once weighed and sold.

See page 81.

About Leigh Hatts

Leigh Hatts is an experienced walker and has known the local coastline since childhood. He is the author of many successful walking guides.
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