Local History Gallery, Hove Museum & Art Gallery
The local history gallery at Hove Museum & Art Gallery explores the growth of Hove from prehistoric times until the present day. Archaeology, buildings and objects have all left clues about early settlement in the area.
Hove as we know it today has developed from lots of smaller communities, which until the nineteenth century had their own separate identities: Aldrington, Benfield, Hangleton, Hove and West Blatchington. Portslade is also made up of the smaller settlements of Portslade Village and Portslade by Sea, once known as Copperas Gap. The local history gallery, laid out chronologically, explores the major settlements of each time period.
For much of its history the village of Hove was overshadowed by the larger and more prosperous communities at Portslade, Hangleton and West Blatchington. From Victorian times however, Hove developed quickly into a new town swallowing up the parishes of Aldrington in 1894 and Hangleton and West Blatchington in 1928. In 1974 Portslade also became part of Hoves administrative area.
Until Victorian times, green fields divided Hove village and Brighton. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Hove residents vigorously tried to keep their independence. Finally in 1997 Brighton and Hoves councils merged to create a new unitary authority. Brighton & Hove became a city in 2001.
‘Prehistory’ means before written history so what we know about our ancestors is through the objects they left behind. Traditionally prehistory is divided into periods defined by advances in technology: the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. Throughout most of prehistory the landscape looked very different to today. About 10,000 years ago the intensely cold conditions of the Ice Age were replaced by a warmer climate leaving whole areas including the Downs heavily forested.
The earliest finds in Hove and Portslade include teeth and bones from a mammoth, a woolly rhinoceros and elephants, which roamed the area at different times during the Ice Age.
The Stone Age is divided into three periods by archaeologists. Palaeolithic, over 9,000 years ago, Mesolithic, 6,500 to 9,000 years ago and Neolithic, 4,400 to 6,500 years ago. The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic inhabitants of the area were nomadic hunter gatherers who left little trace on the landscape. Our Neolithic ancestors were the first to farm. They made a large variety of tools designed to do specific jobs; many examples have been found throughout Hove and Portslade.
About 3,500 years ago bronze replaced flint for most tools. A Bronze Age settlement was discovered at West Blatchington, whilst burials were found in Hove and Tongdean. Most spectacular of all the Hove Amber Cup shows evidence of trade with the Continent.
In the 700 years before the Roman conquest major social and technological changes took place including the minting of the first coins. Evidence of Iron Age field systems and settlements have been found in the Benfield Valley, on Brighton and Hove Golf Course and north of Mile Oak.
Hove Amber Cup
The Hove Amber Cup is considered to be one of Britain’s most important Bronze Age finds. It was discovered in 1856 when a burial mound was excavated to make way for the building of Palmeira Avenue. Inside the mound was an oak coffin carved from a single tree trunk. The coffin contained bone fragments, a dagger, a whetstone and an axe head as well as the precious Amber Cup. The grave goods are over 3,500 years old.
Amber has been treasured for thousands of years because of its colour, texture and translucent qualities. The cup is made from amber from northern Europe. Its burial in Hove suggests early trade links between England and the Baltic.
We do not know who was buried in the coffin or why the Amber Cup was placed there. The presence of this unique and valuable object suggests that the Hove burial mound was the grave of an important chief.
Archaeological evidence shows us that during the Roman period local people were influenced by Roman culture and traded in farm produce. Two Roman roads crossed the area, one followed the same route as the Old Shoreham Road and the other ran from Southwick through Portslade and Hangleton to Hassocks and beyond.
The remains of a Roman villa were found at West Blatchington in the 1940s. The villa was occupied in the second and third centuries. The inhabitants could have been native Britons with a taste for Roman culture or retired soldiers from the Empire. The objects found there include farm tools, pottery, glass and burial urns and suggest the villa was used as a farm.
Eleven ovens were discovered at the site, thought to be for drying or malting grain. This suggests the farm was capable of producing crops for market. Further evidence of trade is supported by the find of Roman coins dating from 265 – 374AD under what is now Woodland Avenue, Hove.