This article appeared in the Autumn 1969 (Issue #17) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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Since its first number in 1824 the Gentleman's Magazine was well-known for its articles and correspondence of antiquarian interest and it was an outstanding repository of news and information. In later years several Kentish people including Charles Roach Smith were among its contributors, and the Magazine still makes for many of us most interesting reading. The only complete set which I ever came across in Kent was in Rochester Museum where in the draughty hall and under the benevolent eye of the then Curator one could sit and read to heart's content. The classified archaeological contents between 1731-1868 were published under the Editorship of the famous G L Gomme in the years around 1886 and these books, too, make for interesting reading. The two volumes on Romano-British Remains are now re-issued in facsimile by the Singing Tree Press, Detroit, Michigan, at the seemingly high price of $24.00. No doubt they will sell well but they can still be bought here at a reasonable second-hand price.
One of the most amusing pieces was written in the July, 1789, issue by James Douglas under his penname of Tumboracus:
Some few years back, on the opening of a barrow, I was hurried from my repast, in the company of some friends, by three Irish soldiers, who came running out of breath to me with assurance that they had discovered a perfect skeleton, the enormous size of which they pronounced, before I reached the spot, to have been the carcase of a prodigious giant. Eager to transport myself to the spot, I arrived panting for breath, when to my great mortification, and check to a curious avidity, I found the bones not exceeding the ordinary human stature. Vexed from my own disappointment, and the exaggerated account of the Hibernians, I seized a thigh-bone from the grave and, after having made one fellow stand erect, to measure it by his own, I belaboured the fellows with it for their natural promptness to magnify these casual discoveries into the marvellous. It cured my spleen, and I returned in better humour, though somewhat disappointed, to my friends.
The incident happened in fact in 1779 when Douglas, then a Captain in the Royal Engineers, was using military labour to excavate the Saxon barrows on Chatham Lines.