The Hidden Heritage of High Lodge

The Flint Mines of High Lodge

By the Neolithic period, c3 500 to 2 100BC, flint began to be used extensively and sourced from mines, including the known site at Grimes Graves only five miles from High Lodge. There are flint pits around High Lodge which may be Neolithic. Certainly, Neolithic people were working with flints at High Lodge, leaving as evidence waste flakes and pot-boiler pebbles.

By around 1600 flints were being used to create sparks to set off charges within flintlock guns and the best gunflints were made from the black flint found up to twelve metres below the surface in the area around Brandon (the same black flint layer extracted at Grimes Graves by Neolithic flint miners four thousand years earlier).

Flintmaster Philip Haywood and then other flintmasters in Brandon secured the government contract to supply the British Army with its gunflints throughout the Napoleonic Wars, from 1799 to 1815.

Flint Miners usually worked alone and rented an area of land on which to dig the pits to reach the black flint. Evidence of their work survives in the Forest as horseshoe shaped depressions, often surrounded by chalk and flint debris.

Lingheath Flintmines
Lingheath Flintmines

There could be as many as five hundred flint mines in one location, worked by different miners. Adjacent to the trail was one such flint-mining site, at Lingheath. After it was brought to the surface, the flint was taken by cart to Brandon where skilled flintknappers made it into the gunflints.

Flint Knapping
Flint Knapping

A major survey of flint mines was undertaken as part of the Flint in the Brecks project, part of the Breaking New Ground scheme. The results of this survey may be read on the Breckland Society website.