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Kent Archaeological Review extract

News from the Groups.
by Various Contributors.


Ashford & AREA ARCHAEOLOGICAL GROUP Reported by J Bradshaw.

The Ashford Archaeological Group, has spent the Spring and early summer surveying and mapping a complex area of sunken roads and quarries, with related banks and ditches, in the Kings Wood area of Bilting, near Wye.

Attention was drawn to the spot after the discovery of second-century Roman potter, from a cremation-burial in the side of a sunken road, only ten yards from a pool of water connected with a local legend. The pool is also the termination point of two parallel earthen banks, running in an east-west direction for several hundred yards, crossing an old trackway to Godmersham Mount and the supposed Pilgrim's Way near Soakham Downs.

Members also assisted to excavate a contracted inhumation-burial at Godmersham, which is as yet undateable, but the evidence suggests it to be older than the remains of one Bronze Age inverted urn burial at the site and traces of a second urn.

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Since our last report in the May edition of the Newsletter, the total membership of our group has greatly increased. Consequently we have been able to carry out more interesting research projects. The group assisted Mr Alec Miles on a Romano-British site at Iwade for two weeks during April and May. It also continued with excavations at Tonge Manor on a weekend basis in order to determine the size, extent and occupation of the building complex. Mr David Ford, our Director, hopes to publish a full report on the excavations at Tonge in Archaeologia Cantiana.

We have also recently cleared the chapel at Stone, near Faversham, after obtaining Ministry of Works clearance and the landowners permission. This has allowed Sir Eric Fletcher, President of the British Archaeological Association from 1960 to 1963, together with Mr D Jackson, FSA, to study the structure of the chapel which had been previously covered by a mass of nettles.

Our officer for Industrial Archaeology, Mr Roger Thomsett, has instigated a survey on buildings of historical interest within the area covered by our group, whilst he has carried out a survey of many buildings in the village of Bapchild, together with a detailed survey of the Tonge watermills. Many of the plans, photographs and index cards will be photostated for the Council for British Archaeology. Several other excavations and research projects are planned for the near future.

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In March and April members of the Reculver Excavation Group carried out the largest single rescue excavation inside the Roman "Saxon Shore" fort. Of the original eight acres covered by the fort almost half has been destroyed by sea erosion since about 1700. Heavy aprons and sea walls now shield much of what survives, but a section 180 feet in length remains substantially unprotected and still suffers damage from high tides and gales. It was on this section of cliff that the Group undertook its very first rescue excavation inside the fort in 1957 (see Archaeologia Cantiana Volume LXXIII (1959), page 96).

The Ministry of Public Building and Works has at last agreed to promote a scheme whereby a new sea-wall will be built to protect this section of the fort and this will entail cutting back the cliff at several points. The rescue excavation was carried out ahead of this scheme. The excavation exposed some 12 feet of the inside face of the fort wall, revealing some 10 courses of stonework and the bottom offset. The tapered rampart-bank, some 45 feet in length and with a maximum height of five feet, was again encountered backing the fort wall . Buried beneath this bank was a thin band of mortar marking the surface on which the fort builders mixed their mortar for the defensive wall (circa AD 210). Contained within the rampart were two domestic ovens each originally provided with a tiled floor. The bank itself was composed of thick layers of clay and loam containing a large quantity of domestic rubbish. This included some 9,000 potsherds forming the largest group of early-third century pottery so far recovered from the site and certainly of great importance. Several carved bone pins, fragments of fine glass vessels and the skeleton of a large dog were also recovered.

At the tail of the rampart-bank was the perimeter Inter-vallum road, about 16 feet wide, built of shingle and small gravel from the beach. Inside this was the corner of a substantial building the greater part of which has been destroyed by sea erosion in recent years. The footings, which were of sandstone blocks set in clay, must have supported a massive timber-framed superstructure typical of those built elsewhere inside the fort during the third century. Traces of a clay floor were found, but no indication of internal decoration. This building may have been a barrack-block as the majority of these must have stood in this (the front) division of the fort.

Another major road, running east-west, divided this building from a substantial masonry structure also largely destroyed by sea erosion. This building, containing a hypocaust and a large apsidal room, appears to have been a bathhouse larger than that uncovered nearby in August, 1965.

The coins recovered from this cliff section included worn sestertii of the second century and bronzes of the third and fourth centuries. A total of nearly 400 coins has now been recovered from the site since excavations began in 1952.

Large-scale excavations will recommence on 20th August, 1966, when extra volunteer diggers (with at least some experience) and visitors will be welcomed.

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