Pitt-Rivers in Surrey

Carlotta and Judy, from the Excavating Pitt-Rivers project team, working on the ceramic urns from Whitmore Common, Surrey.

The work on the material that General Pitt-Rivers acquired from Surrey has been completed.  We originally believed there to be 245 objects from this county but whilst working through the collections we came across many more and the total now stands at 487!

Surrey has been an interesting county to work on.  Not only because General Pitt-Rivers resided in Guildford between 1873 to 1877 whilst commanding the West Surrey Brigade Depot (Thompson 1977: 37), but also for revealing some of the diversity of his methods for obtaining objects.

Pitt-Rivers acquired some of this material from barrow-digging: he conducted excavations of a number of tumuli in Surrey. During his excavations of tumuli at Whitmore Common, he recovered five Bronze Age urns [PRM Accession Numbers 1884.35.33-37], while artefacts recovered during excavations at Merrow Down included an Anglo-Saxon knife [1884.121.11].  

Whilst these excavations were planned, others were purely accidental, and closer to an early form of rescue archaeology.  For example, the discovery of an assemblage of Iron Age pottery from St. Marthas Hill, as indicated by the label below.

The label, probably in the General's hand, found with the urn sherds from St Martha's Hill, indicating their accidental discovery during tree planting.

However, the General's field-walking accounted for the majority of finds.  Around 300 worked flints, labelled 'surface' ('S'), derive from find-spots within walking distance of the Generals residence at Uplands in Guildford, where he lived between 1874 and 1878.

Other items from the country were not excavated by the General himself. These include the hinge of an iron flail [1884.12.30] 'dug up at Reigate' and obtained by Pitt-Rivers in 1877 from the collection of Ambrose Glover, and a Romano-British bronze figurine [1884.67.72], reportedly discovered in the River Thames at Chertsey, which is recorded as purchased from 'Williamson'.

This work on Surrey will result in the production of a report, which will be available in the next few weeks.  Next countyKent!


Thompson, M.W. 1977. General Pitt-Rivers: Evolution and archaeology in the nineteenth century. Bradford-on-Avon: Moonraker Press.

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