Burpham and Wepham

A South Downs Community

Burpham & Wepham: Our Landscape and Environment

Burpham and Wepham are two small interlinked hamlets in the Downland Arun Valley within the South Downs  Population (voters) about 120. ​​

Our landscape is characterised by 
● Wide flat bottomed valley.
● Small lush pastures subject to seasonal flooding divided by ditches.
● Steep undulating chalk valley sides with branching dry valleys within the downland.
● Some hedgerows towards the edge of the floodplain.
● Meandering river but confined within embankments close to valley sides.
● Curving linear strips of woodland on lower valley sides, with open chalkland slopes on
higher valley sides.
● Lack of settlement apart from small historic hamlet of North Stoke elevated above the
river on a projecting spur.
● Building materials of mainly flint with brick detailing.
● Open cross valley views including dramatic views of Arundel (castle, Roman Catholic
cathedral, parish church, clustered hillside housing).

The Arun Valley itself has special conservation significance:

The historic assessment of the area shows:

Burpham lies on the east side of the River Arun NE of Arundel. Chalk dominates the parish with tidal
alluvium in the valley of the River Arun and undifferentiated Head deposits in the main dry valleys
stretching NE. Fluvial flood areas are confined to the River Arun. The land reaches a height of 138m
at Barpham Hill from 1m in the valley of the River Arun.

The settlements comprise the hamlets of Burpham and Wepham and the shrunken farmstead of
Peppering. Peppering is mentioned in a charter when meadow land was granted by Nunna, king of
Sussex to Beorhtfrith. The settlements are located on the edge of the floodplain on tributary streams running into the Arun.Extensive meadows or brook inning s lie to the SW of Wepham and to the NW of Peppering; the
course of the river sweeps in close to the edge of the chalk hills. South of Burpham and west of
Wepham is the earthwork enclosure or 'burgh' from which the place takes its name. This AngloSaxon
fortified settlement is recorded in the Burghal hidage of AD 91997 and probably defended this
part of the Arun before Arundel was built. High up on Perry Hill and the Burgh beyond are Anglo-Saxon cemeteries
Numerous burial mounds and cremations are recorded on the high ground of the downs indicating
that much of this area was settled and farmed from the Bronze Age and into the Roman period.
Extensive field systems survive as crop marks. There are also prehistoric trackways and several
cross dykes. The downs were extensively in use in the prehistoric period.

By the 18th century over half the parish was unenclosed downland and pasture which by 1867 was
reverting to scrub. The extent of the downland can be seen by the location of dew ponds high up on
Burgh and Wepham Down. Between 1867 and 1947 large areas were ploughed up and after 1947 Today two strips of unimproved downland survive; a strip bordering the west side of Upper and Lower Wepham Woods and Tenantry
Copse and another in the deep coombe running on the west side of Perry Hill. The woodland in the
south east corner is broadleaved and is present in 1767. Tenantry Copse was planted to conifers,
half of which have since been felled. During the period of high farming in the late 18th century the
three high barns of Peppering, Home and Burpham were probably built; Barns with enclosed yards
were where stock were overwintered. Peppering and Home are now farms whilst Burpham remains
as residential. 

In the north east of the parish is Thornwick Plain a plateau high up in the chalk hills. Coombe Farm
was located here set within its own fields (where there was also formerly and medieval and a Roman
settlement). Coombe was reputed to be the site of a former leper settlement in the medieval period.
The greatest change in the landscape in recent times has been the conversion of downland to arable
across much of the parish and the enlargement of existing fields. Within the villages themselves, there
has been almost no infill or expansion in the modern period with the settlements retaining much of
their medieval and early post-medieval character.