Alec George Down, M.I.F.A., J.P.

Alec Down was born in Gosport in 1914 and grew up in the village of Saltwood, Kent, where he went to school. In 1933 he joined the Grenadier Guards and was invalided out in 1942 with the rank of sergeant. He then studied engineering in London and shortly afterwards moved to Itchenor in West Sussex, a county he came to love and never left. Until the early 1970s he continued to work as an engineer and became a Justice of the Peace, serving on the bench for over thirty years, several times as chairman. Down's interest in archaeology began around 1957 following a family visit to Bignor Roman villa. In 1958 he volunteered to join an excavation at the Iron Age hill fort at Torberry, near Harting, where he met Barry Cunliffe, P.S.A., and Margaret Rule, F.S.A. and in the following year he acted as supervisor of the David Greig site in East Street, Chichester, under the directorship of John Holmes, F.S.A., with whom he worked on a number of projects until 1965. In 1963 Down began work at Chilgrove, the site which was closest to his heart. What began as a routine rescue excavation of a plough-damaged site developed into the Chilgrove Valley Landscape Project which occupied him for fourteen seasons and included the villa sites at Pitlands Farm, Up Marden, and Chilgrove Villa 2 which produced the splendid fourth-century polychrome mosaic pavement which is now in the Fishbourne museum. In 1974 Down was appointed full-time Director of Excavations by the newly formed Chichester District Council. As befitted an ex-Grenadier, he ran his excavations like military campaigns and, more notably, applied this disciplined, methodical approach to the rapid publication of his findings. Until his retirement in 1986 Down directed an almost continuous programme of excavation in and around Chichester: the Roman baths site in Tower Street (1974-5); the Roman legionary barracks site in Chapel Street (1976); the Cattlemarket (1978-82) and Fishbourne Glebe (1983 and 1985-6). Volume 1 of Chichester Excavations appeared jointly with Margaret Rule in 1971 and the subsequent 6 volumes under Down's authorship between 1974-89. By 1981 the Chilgrove Valley Landscape Project had evolved into the Origin of Villages Study centred on the Chilgrove-Marden area in an attempt to establish a link between settlement at the end of the Roman period and the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon period on that site. During the course of this fieldwork the Apple Down cemetery was located near Compton; work there began in 1982 and was completed in 1987. The results appeared in Chichester Excavations 7 (1991) by Alec Down and Martin Welch, F.S.A. Volume 8 (1993) was co-authored with Down's successor at Chichester, John Magilton, F.S.A., but regrettably, Down did not live to see the publication of volume 9, a report on his final excavations to the east of the palace at Fishbourne. Down served on Fishbourne's executive committee until its disbandment in 1982, was a member of the council of the Sussex Archaeological Society in 1982/3 and, after retirement, continued to direct the Origin of Villages Study Group. He died on 25 December 1995.