Geography, Earth and environment at Brighton

Geophysical survey reveals hidden Preston Park feature

Brighton Museum, the University of Brighton and Brighton & Hove Archaeological Society have completed a geophysical survey of Brighton’s Preston Park – and discovered a Second World War secret.

The survey, supported by the Friends of Preston Park, looked beneath the surface of the park to find signs of archaeological activity.

Brighton and Hove has a rich and complicated history that goes back thousands of years, into the Stone Age. Preston Park is situated in a valley bottom which has long been a natural communication route (the modern London Road follows the same route), and the surrounding area has links back to the medieval village and manor of Preston. Before that there are signs of occupation during the Romano-British period, with the foundations of a Roman villa uncovered in the Springfield Road area as early as 1876.

The Brighton team completed an initial survey in November 2015, with positive findings in the area close to the tennis courts. In March this year the University of Brighton’s geophysics team therefore returned to do a higher resolution survey of this area using a magnetometer, which measures changes of magnetism in the soil and is particularly good at locating metal and burnt/fired objects (such as bricks and other building materials).

Having processed the data from this new survey the team was due to share its findings with the public at Preston Manor, as part of the Preston Village Community Heritage Open Day last Saturday.

Jaime Kaminski

Jaime Kaminski

Dr Jaime Kaminski, from the university’s College of Life, Health and Physical Sciences, said: “The results are really encouraging. They show that, despite the extensive landscaping which has taken place in the park, some archaeological features seem to have survived.”

Andy Maxted, Curator of Archaeology at Brighton Museum, who helped lead the overall project, said: “We have identified a large rectangular feature, 18 metres by 40 metres, to the south of the Park’s Chalet Café and north of the tennis courts. Nothing is certain yet but we’re pretty sure that the feature is what remains of a Second World War water tank – built to test military vehicles.

Andy Maxted said: “These findings demonstrate technology’s potential for discovering hidden archaeology beneath Brighton & Hove’s green spaces. We would really like the opportunity to extend this project to other suitable areas within Brighton & Hove, as there is no doubt there is further archaeology to be found.”

Preston Park clock tower

Preston Park clock tower

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Laura Ruby • May 31, 2016

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