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Kent Archaeological Review extract

The Romano-British Settlement of DUROLEVUM.
by Brian Philp.

The site of the Romano-British town or settlement of Durolevum has for long been a subject of discussion and conjecture. Discoveries and excavations carried out in 1965, however, throw new light on this highly interesting problem.

The name Durolevum is mentioned in the second Iter. of the Antonine Itinerary as being 16 miles from Rochester and 12 miles from Canterbury (Roman miles). Almost certainly it must have been on the arterial road, later known as Watling Street, which the exact mileage places near Norton Ash. However, the apparent lack of recorded finds at this point argues against this, whereas the abundant archaeological evidence in the Faversham-Ospringe area suggests that Durolevum was there and that the stated mileage of the list was wrong (as elsewhere). The discovery in 1920-23 of a Romano-British cemetery containing well over 200 burials, which must surely have related to a fairly substantial settlement, just west of Ospringe added considerable weight to this suggestion. Topographically Ospringe village seemed the most probable site.

Early in 1965 the Reculver Excavation Group undertook large-scale excavations on the site of Faversham Abbey. At the same time the SEGB began laying a gas-main on the north side of Watling Street and additional efforts were made to watch the trench. Very little was revealed immediately west of Ospringe in the vicinity of the cemetery or even on the top of Judd's Hill. However, as the trench descended into Syndale Bottom archaeological material was encountered. Stratified layers of soil, containing Romano-British pottery, rubbish and fragments of quern-stones of second and third century date, were recorded for a distance of about 700 feet and a flint and mortar wall cut through on the east side.

Trial excavations were immediately undertaken in the field to the north of the site and the stratified layers were found to extend for over 100 feet in that direction. Probably similar evidence remains to be found on the south side of Watling Street which would, allowing for the width of the road, give a settlement of at least four acres.

This evidence establishes the existence of a fixed settlement at this particular place during the second and third centuries AD. This constitutes the best evidence so far recorded for the site of Durolevum and the distance from Canterbury is just over ten (Roman) miles. The large cemetery found to the west could have served a settlement at this point and other finds in the area could relate. In addition to this the ruined church of Stone-next-Faversham stands within 200 yards of the site and contains large quantities of material taken from a Roman building or buildings.

A detailed report is being prepared, but in the meantime it will be interesting to see whether others working in the same general area will be able to confirm this identification or otherwise.

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