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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Digging up the Past.
by Harold Gough.

What must be the earliest established archaeological group in Kent were the Batemans of Westerham. Squatters on the manorial waste at Hosey Common, in "do-it-yourself" cottages, several inter-related families supported themselves by digging gravel for what has been fairly described as "uncounted generations."

In this century, their services as gravel-diggers were at the disposal of the local Council, and we can picture the scene one summer's morning back in 1927, when three of the Batemans were working together removing a new patch of peaty top soil over the gravel.

One of the family struck a round flint with his pick. Somewhat to his surprise it was not the usual sort of worked flint which sometimes turned up, so he tossed it away, like a ball.

At lunchtime, the diggers were sitting round with their mugs of tea, and one of them spotted the flint "ball." Idly picking it up, he prodded with a stick at lump of earth in a hole in the surface. Out fell the mud . . . followed by a gold coin!

Shaking the flint, which he now realised must be hollow, Bateman heard some thing rattle inside, but nothing further emerged. No true archaeologist is at a loss; for improvisation and this one was no exception. After a moment's thought (and doubtless a quick peer into the teapot to be on the safe side) he tipped the contents of his mug into the hole in the stone. Another shake and before his family's goggling eyes, the tea ran out again, followed by thirteen more coins in a clattering stream!

The glittering coins were dutifully handed to the Council, and in due course an Inquest was held, when they were declared to be Treasure Trove. The owner of the property, Mr J O'Brien Warde, of Squerries, arranged for the British Museun to retain the coins and the flint "money-box" in which they had been hidden two thousand years before. They were of the general type of gold stater, based on the original Macedonian Philippus, so widely copied all over Iron Age Europe. These particular coins are known as the Westerham type, a local issue of gold stater confined mainly to Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex.

This flint money box was not by any means unique, even in Kent, another having been found at Higham, near Rochester, while Chute in Wiltshire is another place to produce one.

It might be felt that the lesson to be learned from this story is that the amateur archaeologist is at his most efficient during tea-breaks. There is another point worth making, though; the significance of the stray find in an unlikely place and the vital need to have such a find reported along the right channels. The existence of the modern co-ordinated Groups, known and accepted by the lay public, will ensure prompt action when necessary to secure important material and information for preservation.

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