Mystery Photos

(click on photos for a larger view)

Mystery Building 1

Who can identify this little building and the water gushing out beside it? Where is it? What was it for?


Mystery Building 2

Chris was walking with his brother, Jonathan, on the Downs this week and came across this building. Chris can think of no other building on the downs that looks like this one. What was it for? When was it built, and why is there a ‘double wall’ on the south side? We would really welcome your ideas and suggestions.

Slindon Mystery photo
Who can identify this building and its history? To help our amateur history detectives, we can tell you it is in the village of Slindon. Perhaps the children at our partner schools might like to go with their families to search for it? That’s the first challenge – locating it! Once found, ask yourself: what is it, how did it get here and what is it for? Pupils might like to write us a short essay or story? Imagine who might have lived in it and for what reason?


I came across this curious structure in woods west of Houghton near Bury Hill. Can anyone suggest the purpose of this plinth and steps? It is too small to have been a barn and too large to be a riding block. Please get in touch if you have any ideas!


This mystery photograph was of a dewpond near Cissbury. Dewponds, despite their name, collected rain water more than dew. They were created by ‘puddling’ clay and straw into a depression cut into the chalk. In the days when the South Downs were covered by great flocks of sheep, water was essential, but no ponds naturally occur on these porous chalk hills, so these man-made ponds were the only answer. No one is quite sure when the first dewponds were created, but the earliest references appear to be from the 17th century.

During hot summers, the water in the dewponds could evaporate and then the clay lining would crack and any subsequent rain water would seep through the cracks into the chalk. In recent decades several dewponds on the South Downs have been restored, but instead of clay and straw, plastic linings are used as these do not have the susceptibility to heat and sun of the clay-lined originals.


This mystery photo showed a saw pit in Angmering Park Woods. In the era before chainsaws, men with great, two-handled saws, would cut through great tree trunks, with one man in the pit, and the other on the rim, pulling and pushing the saw between them. There are many dozens, probably, hundreds of such pits to be found in the woodlands on the South Down