Record Details

NHER Number:6773
Type of record:Find Spot
Name:Unprovenanced Palaeolithic flint handaxes and flake, Sidestrand foreshore/cliffs (Sidestrand, poorly located)


A number of Palaeoliothic worked flints were recovered from on or near the foreshore at Sidestrand during the early 20th century. Although a grid reference is recorded for one (NHER 6777) the majority are poorly provenanced. These unlocated finds include at least three handaxes and at least one unmodified flake.

Images - none



Full description

Various Palaeolithic worked flints known to have been recovered from the cliffs and foreshore at Sidestrand during the early 20th century, but with no additional information regarding provenance.


1922-1923. Stray Find.
Found by J. E. Sainty on the foreshore at Sidestrand:
1 Palaeolithic flint handaxe. This handaxe is figured in (S1), in which it is described as having been found "…lying upon its flat under-surface and firmly embedded in Boulder Clay at the foot of the cliff, which passed directly into, and was apparently part of, the underlying mass". The significance of this find, recognised by Reid Moir, was that if it had indeed been recovered from a undisturbed Boulder Clay then it must have originally lain on a land surface that predated this derived glacial Till. It was by far the most convincing of the many flints that had previously been claimed to be of such an age. The handaxe was donated to the Ipswich Museum and subsequently transferred to the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1963.16), which also holds a cast of the object (NWHCM : 1977.124.4).

Reid Moir regarded this implement as "Early Chellean" and he published it again in (S2), although apparently it did not receive universal acceptance. S. H. Warren - a long-standing critic of Reid Moir's claims for 'sub-crag' implements - wrote a scathing review of (S2) in which he argued that the Sidestrand implement was Neolithic and had descended from a higher level in a "mixed sludge stream" (S3). This review prompted an exchange of letters between Warren and Sainty (the finder), which was also published (S4). Although Sainty argued that he had indeed recovered the handaxe from undisturbed till, he contradicted Reid Moir's account somewhat by claiming that it had been found at a height of "…five feet above beach level". In (S5) Boswell notes that he examined the Till at this location and found it to be "…a slipped mass at the bottom of the cliff"…which "... did not appear to have been mixed with any more recent deposit".

This handaxe was subsequently noted in (S6), (S7), (S8) and (S9).
Information from (S10).

Wymer (S11) regarded this object (which he had been shown in 1961) as a genuine Palaeolithic implement, which he described as a "bifacial…small, stone-struck tool with an efficient tranchet cleaver edge". He did however concur with Warren's doubts regarding its provenance, suggesting it was most likely "…from some superficial deposit that had, as Warren put it, sludged down the cliff" (S11).

This handaxe is almost certainly one of the three poorly provenanced handaxes from Sidestrand listed in (S12). It is also noted on (S22) and in (S13), (S14) and (S15), although no additional information is given.

There is clearly still some doubt regarding the exact nature of this object as it appears that R. Jacobi identified it as a Mesolithic implement. Both the object's accession number and a reference relating to Sainty's discovery are listed in (S16), in which it is described as an adze/axe in black glossy flint, round cortex-covered butt, moderately straight, battered side and evidence for two tranchet blows.

A note added to (S17) suggests that the NCM also holds a flint flake found by Jacobi in the same location as the first possible handaxe, although no record of such an object could be located.

Pre 1927. Stray Find.
In 1927 J. Reid Moir published a description of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe that had been found upon the top of the cliffs at Sidestrand…" by W. G. Sandford (S18). It had been acquired by A. C. Savin after Sandford's death, at a sale of his effects. This object is probably a handaxe that was donated to the Ipswich Museum by Savin in 1942 and subsequently transferred to the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1963.17). See NHER 6777 for further details.
Previously recorded as NHER 6774.

Early 1928. Stray Find.
In 1929 Reid Moir described and illustrated an "Acheulian" flint handaxe that had been found by J. E. Sainty's son Maurice on the beach at Sidestrand (S19). There was some evidence that it was derived from cliff-top deposits. As noted by (S10) and (S11), this handaxe is one of those now held by the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1959.44). It is described by Wymer (S11) as a rolled handaxe of unusual type, being pointed but with twisted edges. It is probably one of the three Sidestrand handaxes listed in (S12). Also noted on (S22) and in (S13), (S14) and (S15), although no additional information is given.
Previously recorded as NHER 6775.

Pre 1929. Stray Find.
In (S20) Reid Moir described and illustrated a "side scraper" found by J. E. Sainty "…in the Upper Freshwater Bed at Sidestrand". This appears to be the same object as the "trimmed flake" described and illustrated by Reid Moir in (S21) that had been found "in situ in the Lower Till, of glacial origin, at Sidestrand...apparently derived from the Upper Freshwater Bed". It is noted that this object had been recovered near to the handaxe found in 1922-1923 and had been found with another "implement". These are probably the "second cruder example and a well-shaped flake…later obtained from the same exposure" noted in (S7). The second 'implement' is mostly likely the handaxe found by Sainty " the talus of the Lower Till..." that is also described in (S20). Although the provenance is given as Overstrand, it is noted that it had been found by Sainty "…in close proximity to the spot where he found a Late Chellean hand-axe in situ in this deposit". This possible handaxe is recorded under NHER 6461.

The flake may be an object marked "Lower Till, Sidestrand" that is held by the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1963.18; transferred from Ipswich Museum). This flake is however described in (S11) simply as a rolled and stained flake. This flake is probably the unretouched flake listed in (S12). Also noted in (S13) and (S14), although no additional information is given.
Previously recorded as NHER 6772.

7 November 1937.
Found by F. H. Barclay on beach at Sidestrand:
1 ?Palaeolithic flint flake. Donated to the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1935.57). A label on this flake records that it was found "…just washed out from sandy Forest Bed series below Boulder Clay". Recorded by the NCM as ?Palaeolithic.
P. Watkins (HES), 5 September 2014.

Unknown date. Stray Find.
An additional note on (S10) (in a different hand to the earlier entries) records an "Acheulian hand axe" that had been found by J. E. Sainty in cliff talus from "glacial gravels over CFB [Cromer Forest Bed]". The source of this information is unclear and few other details are given (apart from a note that it was within either grid square TG 2640 or TF 2739). This object was in Sainty's collection at the time the record was made.
No other sources make direct reference to such an object.
Previously recorded as NHER 6776.

Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 24 June 2014.


Roe's gazetteer (S12) lists a total of four unprovenanced Palaeolithic objects from Sidestrand; 3 handaxes and 1 unretouched flake. These are recorded as being held by the Norwich Castle Museum, the Ipswich Museum and the British Museum. It is likely that these objects are the four worked flints now held by the Norwich Castle Museum that are described above. Three were transferred from the Ipswich Museum in 1963 and were most likely still in Ipswich when Roe compiled his list. It is therefore unclear why the British Museum was recorded as holding finds from Sidestrand. The only object in its collection that is recorded as being from Sidestrand is a "retouched piece" that was found by S. H. Warren "near the old church". This is listed as Upper Palaeolithic/Mesolithic. See NHER 60089.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 1000000 BC to 40001 BC)

Associated Finds

  • CLEAVER? (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC? to 40001 BC?)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC? to 40001 BC?)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TG 23 NE 1.
---Correspondence: Forsyth, C.S.. 1964. Guinness Superlatives Correspondence re Sidestrand implement.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Article in Serial: Moir, J. Reid. 1923. An Early Palaeolith from the Glacial Till at Sidestrand, Norfolk. Antiquaries Journal. Vol III, pp 234-7.
<S2>Publication: Moir, J. Reid. 1927. The Antiquity of Man in East Anglia.
<S3>Article in Serial: Warren, S. H. 1928. Review of J. Reid Moir 'The Antiquity of Man in East Anglia'. Antiquity. Vol 2 pp 251-252.
<S4>Article in Serial: Sainty, J. E. and Warren, S. H. 1928. East Anglian Flints: an exchange of letters on the subject of Sidestrand hand-axe found by Mr Sainty. Antiquity. Vol 2 No 7 pp 344-345.
<S5>Article in Serial: Boswell, P. G. H. 1931. The stratigraphy of the glacial deposits of East Anglia in relation to Early Man. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. Vol 42 Pt 2 pp 87-111. p 101.
<S6>Publication: Kendrick, T. D. and Hawkes, C. F. C. 1932. Archaeology in England and Wales, 1914-1931. p 25. 15, Fig.7, 16.
<S7>Article in Monograph: Sainty, J. E. 1935. Norfolk Prehistory. Report of the Annual Meeting, 1935. Norwich, September 4-11. British Association for the Advancement of Science. Appendix pp 60-71. p 62.
<S8>Article in Serial: Boswell, P. G. H. 1936. Problems of the Borderland of Archaeology and Geology in Britain. Presidential Address for 1936. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. Vol II Pt 2 pp 149-160. p 156.
<S9>Publication: Wright, W. B. 1939. Tools and the Man. pp 7, 64, 134; Fig 23.
<S10>Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Palaeolithic.
<S11>Publication: Wymer, J. J. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia. pp 29-30.
<S12>Monograph: Roe, D. A. 1968. A Gazetteer of British Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Sites. CBA Research Report. No 8. p 238.
<S13>Unpublished Contractor Report: 1997. The English Rivers Palaeolithic Project. Regions 8 (East Anglian Rivers) and 11 (Trent Drainage). Wessex Archaeology. CR-2, No.16.
<S14>Website: TERPS online database. Site 22511.
<S15>Article in Serial: Robins, P., Wymer, J. J. and Parfitt, S. 2008. Handaxe Finds on the Norfolk Beaches. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLV Pt III pp 412-415. p 414.
<S16>Archive: R. Jacobi. -. Jacobi Archive. 10350.
<S17>Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card. NHERs 6772-6773 and 6775-6776.
<S18>Article in Serial: Moir, J. Reid. 1927. A Palaeolith from Sidestrand, Norfolk. Antiquaries Journal. Vol VII No 4 pp 515-516.
<S19>Article in Serial: Moir, J. Reid. 1929. Some hitherto unpublished Implements. Antiquaries Journal. Vol IX pp 8-12.
<S20>Article in Serial: Moir, J. Reid. 1928. Further Researches in the Forest Bed of Cromer, Norfolk. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. Vol V Pt III (for 1927) pp 273-282.
<S21>Article in Serial: Moir, J. Reid. 1929. A Chellean Hand-axe from the Cromer Forest Bed. Antiquaries Journal. Vol IX No 2 pp 101-104. p 104.
<S22>Record Card: Wymer, J. J. Wymer Index Card - Palaeolithic. Sidestrand.

Related records - none

Find out more...

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2023 Norfolk Historic Environment Service