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Kent Archaeological Review extract

North Ash Villa.
by R M Walsh.
(Fawkham Archaeological Group.)

As soon as it was learned that outline town planning had been granted for the establishment of the new village, to be known as New Ash Green, it was realised that the site of a recorded Roman Villa was threatened. This had previously been dug by the Dartford Antiquarian Society in 1914. A rough plan of the Villa, together with a small box of finds, was in existence at Dartford Museum and these have been kindly lent by Mr Ritson to facilitate our researches. Unfortunately, no excavation notes or other documentary evidence, apart from a single paragraph in VCH, could be traced. Within the terms of our accepted policy, it was agreed that this site should be treated as an emergency and work commenced even though our existing excavation programme made it imperative that this dig was implemented concurrently with another project. With the kind permission of Mr L Bilsby, Director of Span Developments Ltd, it was decided to carry out a season's excavation to ascertain the position and limits of the Roman Villa sited at NGR 5608 1650.

As no surface indications of the site were apparent, a small trial hole was initially excavated and this revealed the flint and clay foundations of a wall. General excavations commenced in April, by trial trenching across the site. A filled-in ditch containing Belgic sherds was discovered, together with traces of the corner of a building which aligned with the wall in the initial test hole some 30 feet beyond the ditch. Trial trenching on two parallel lines, roughly on a northsouth basis, revealed robber trenches, which subsequently proved to be the remains of the villa walls. A trackway (?) has also been uncovered, formed of a layer of pebbles approximately 2 inches thick and 10 feet wide with flints scattered along what appear to be ruts in the surface.

It is now clear that after the 1914 excavations the foundations were completely removed, probably in order to cultivate the ground.

The excavations have so far revealed that the dimensions of the earlier plan, whilst giving a good indication, are by no means accurate, either in outline or dimensionally. At this stage we can say the villa was oriented approximately east-west and measured 100 feet by 50 feet almost exactly. Other features which have also been uncovered in near proximity to the villa include what could be a pond or ditch on the south side in close proximity to the supposed position of the Bath Wing. Several depressions in the woods at a distance not exceeding 50 feet from the villa, one of which is still referred to as a pond, were quite possibly in use in Roman times and further researches on these features are called for.

Finds include many fragments of roofing tile, oyster shells, pottery sherds, including two small pieces of Samian, a coin of Galienus and a bronze ring which was possibly used in conjunction with some sort of harness. The centre of the villa had not previously been completely excavated and just below plough soil the remains of a storage jar were discovered in conjunction with a quantity of iron slag. More finds can be expected in this area in the future and we are also hopeful of finding refuse pits with their associated occupational debris.

In view of the apparently complete destruction of the site, it would appear that this would lend itself to a mechanical trial trenching in the future to answer a lot of the outstanding queries.

Ash Romano-British Villa: an Interim Report (issue 20, Summer 1970).

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