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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Medieval Kiln (Part 2).
by Gerald Cramp.
(University of Kent.)

The excavation of a medieval kiln adjacent to the fourth college of the University has continued throughout the winter. A preliminary account of the excavation appeared in the spring edition of the Review. Then the excavations had only reached the rebuilt furnace floor of the kiln. Prior to the removal of the floor, magnetic samples were taken so that an independent date for it can be obtained. Under the floor extensive traces of the internal structure still remained. These related to the first period of the kiln, whereas the rebuilt furnace floor relates to the second period.

As can be seen in the accompanying photographs, the two internal spine walls and the side walls of the kiln supported three series of arches. These arches which formed the floor of the upper baking-chamber had largely fallen intact into the flues below. On the spine and side walls the settings from which the arches sprang can be seen.

The kiln, which was built of tiles, was heated by a fire situated just in front of the spine walls. The hot air would pass along the flues then rise through gaps between the arches into the baking chamber above. Excavations below the original furnace floor revealed the existence of a drain through gaps between the arches into the baking chamber above. This can be seen leading into the front of the kiln from the right and is one of the unusual features of this kiln. The drain was constructed of complete ridge-tiles placed end to end in a narrow trench, with the joints sealed by large fragments of roof tiles. This drain has yielded complete examples of all major types of roof tile. In the place of one ridge tile was a complete chimney-pot. Like the rest of the kiln this dates to around AD 1300, and thus it is possibly one of the earliest examples known. It stands 15 inches high and 7½ inches diameter at base tapering to 5 inches at the top, with fourteen irregular and non-vertical columns of thumbing. Fragments of chimney pots of this date are only known from Kent and Sussex.

Just prior to the contractors filling in the kiln, the University Archaeological Society found a second kiln of similar date, only 80 feet from the first. Further rescue-research excavations are being undertaken on this kiln. The results, so far, show that this kiln is very similar to the first. The evidence of reconstruction and of a drain in the second kiln indicates that the two belong to the same complex of kilns. The chief differences between them is that whilst the stoke-hole of the first faces north, the stokehole of the second faces south.

PHOTO: The Medieval kiln 1, Darwin College looking south.

The Medieval kiln 1, Darwin College looking south.

Recently a selection of finds from the University was exhibited in the University Library. The fourth college has now been named Darwin College.

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