Ancient maltings found in Norfolk suggest early Britons liked their beer

PUBLISHED: 09:00 13 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:35 15 July 2019

Archaeologists at work at the Sedgeford dig  Picture: Casey Cooper-Fisk

Archaeologists at work at the Sedgeford dig Picture: Casey Cooper-Fisk


Our ancestors liked a drop or two, it would seem. For archeologists excavating an ancient village have found the remains of four malthouses.

The Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research project (SHARP) has returned to the village for its annual summer dig.

Previous seasons at the west Norfolk site have seen Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano-British remains uncovered.

This year's focus is on the Anglo Saxons who once lived on the hillside across the Heacham River Valley from the village - and their fondness for a tipple.

Among the footprints of buildings dating back to between the 8th and 11th centuries, archaeologists have found the remains of four structures used to malt grain for brewing.

So far, the team has uncovered two malthouses. A third is currently being dug out and a fourth is yet to be excavated.

Dr Ellie Blakelock said the number of malthouses close together suggested "significant work" was being carried out at the site, possibly under the watchful eye of a lord.

One of the main aims of the team this year is to look at the phasing of the malthouses, seeing which was built first and whether the build dates overlap.

Dr Blakelock's theory is that the complexes are built and then they are worked until a fire happens or they are no longer usable, when another is then built.

"You can actually start to imagine the pain of the people to watch as these things collapsed," said Dr Blakelock.

"It's an interesting period of change politically and also in religion so it's an interesting phase of that side of archeology and the Anglo-Saxon period, so it's nice that we've got this site."

An elaborate system of waterways were constructed along the valley, which would have carried barges to and from the then-navigable Heacham River, powered mills and provided fishponds.

In previous years SHARP has found an animal bone stuffed with gold coins and the incopmplete Sedgeford Torc, which was discovered in the 1960s. Recently one of the team found its end terminal and reconstructed the complete relic.

The dig is set to continue until August 8, with an open day on July 29.

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