This article appeared in the Spring 1970 (Issue #19) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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The University Archaeological Society has continued its investigations of a number of sites on the campus where medieval pottery has been found. Recently attention was drawn towards the fourth College where further excavations by contractors had revealed more kiln debris of medieval date. With the permission of the contractors and the University Authorities archaeological excavations were continued with the result that a kiln complete in plan was found just thirty feet from the new buildings. Before a detailed account of the kiln is given, a summary of the medieval finds around the University, will be outlined.
The site of the University forms part of an area known as the Forest of Blean which lies to the North of Canterbury and which extends almost to Herne Bay and Whitstable. The Forest's clay subsoil and the high heat producing nature of the wood provide the two main raw materials for the production of tile and pottery. The wares of this industry are named after the village of Tyler Hill which lies about half a mile to the North of the University. During the past 25 years Messers Spillet, Chappell and Swale have shown there is quite a concentration of such industrial activity around the village. Like similar medieval pottery and tile industries, the wares of the Tyler Hill industry are only found within about twenty miles of the place of manufacture. Whilst undoubtedly, Canterbury was the main market examples of tiles or pottery have been found in Dover, Sandwich, Reculver and Faversham. Because of the presence of similar potteries near Ashford the area of marketing did not expand further West than Faversham.
Although the extent of the industrial working area around Tyler Hill has been studied, very little work on the actual structure of the kilns has been attempted. The University Society aims to partially fill this gap with the total excavation of the kiln by the fourth college.
It is now known that the kiln lies at the centre of a region of much industrial activity. Under the East wing of the fourth college a number of features were observed during the contractors excavations. These include pits and ditches many filled with roof tiles and kiln debris. One pit contained a complete flagon, except for a hole in the bottom entirely due to the flagon not being properly fired. Earlier this year the Society partially excavated a series of pits and ditches at the South East corner of the East wing. The finds consisted of a fine collection of pottery fragments, some more kiln debris, charcoal fragments, root tiles and four fragments of decorated floor tiles. These are very similar to those found at the Royal Abbey at Faversham and the first two have been reconstructed with the aid of the Report of the excavation at Faversham in 1965 (Philp. 1968).
The kiln, which lies between the fourth college and St Stephens Hill, is basically rectangular in shape tapering towards its stoke hole. It is fourteen feet long by eleven feet six inches wide externally, with walls one foot two inches wide made of roof tiles. In the back wall of the kiln one tile has been found intact measuring six inches by nine inches with two round peg holes situated near one of its ends. The baked furnace floor has been found almost all over the kiln. This floor rises about a foot from the stoke hole to the back of the kiln. In the back half of the kiln, wearing away of the floor can be seen and this divides the chamber into three equal parts. Between two of the chambers the impression of a wall eight inches wide can be seen. The position of the other similar wall is under the section. This internal arrangement only survives at the back of the kiln since the floor near the stoke hole has been worn away. It is now quite clear that the level in the stoke hole was deeper than the furnace floor in the last period of use. The whole of the remaining structure was situated below contemporary ground level.
A little pottery has been found associated with the kiln, but since dating of medieval pottery is very difficult, it is only possible to give an approximate date of 1300 for the operation of the kiln. It is hoped to get a magnetic date for the kiln. The problem of dating any part of the Tyler Hill industry is only one of many concerned with this industry. It is known from documentary sources that pottery and tiles were being produced around Tyler Hill between 1350 and 1850.