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Kent Archaeological Review extract
 

Regional Archaeological Surveys in Action.
by Mike Ocock.

When a completely new archaeological group is founded, one of the very first active steps must be the setting up of a regional survey scheme. After all, if a local group does not know what is happening in its own "patch" then it will not be doing a very worthwhile job.

That is why the Maidstone Area Archaeological Group, now just over one year old, set about getting a regional survey "off the ground" immediately after its foundation. The basic outlines for a typical scheme were published in Kent Archaeological Reviews Numbers 17 and KAR number 18. That these outlines were not impractical "paper talk" is shown by the fact that the MAAG has followed the outlined procedures very closely -- and with great success.

The Maidstone group was founded as a result of a spontaneous "movement" at a CKA conference in Maidstone. After a public meeting, the new group was put on a conditional footing and its "area" established after consultation with other groups.

Among the documents examined were: the 1840 Tithe Apportionment, an 18th century estate map and an early map of the parsonage lands. A copy of the tithe map has been presented to the group by the Rev Cannon B J Wigan. Another interesting source was a history of the parish written by the Rev Mark Noble at the end of the 18th century. This fin water-colour illustrated manuscript, records a number of archaeological discoveries, as well as gossip about the goings-on in the various local families!

Some 90% of the documentary work for Barming having been completed, the field survey could start. The plan is to carry out initial surveys as and when circumstances permit. An early priority was Court Lodge Farm, Barming, where an early opportunity arose to survey this compact farm, now exclusively under orchard but previously used for growing hops and other crops.

A one-day survey was held in March and twenty group members assisted. With the aid of the CKA proton magnetometer, several areas were investigated closely and the whole of the farm surveyed. Various sources in the past referred to the discovery of two Romano-British cemetries and an R-B building. The site of the building was apparently slap in the middle of a small quarry! Interesting proton magnotometer readings were obtained at one point nearby and have been noted for possible future investigation. The suspected sites of the two cemeteries were examined but will have to await further work before any definite statement can be made. The whole area of the farm, comprising 67 acres, was surveyed and these other interesting results obtained: the location of the old field boundaries which existed prior to 1840; short east-west terraces, which could perhaps have been the gardens of the cottages along the east side of South Street at some earlier time when gardens were larger than they are today; another very distinct raised platform, running parallel with Glebe Lane under the present houses; several old hopper huts; finally, and surprisingly, a possible lime kiln.

Just to bring the results right up to the present, two last-war pillboxes were found near the river. The study of the construction and siting of pillboxes is a subject which is bound to eventually attract attention. Further work on Court Lodge Farm, is envisaged, subject to permission being granted again and it is hoped that reports will eventually appear in Arch. Cant. and future issues of the Kent Archaeological Review.

Of course, this type of large area survey is only one part of a full regional survey scheme. Much depends on the activity of individual members in going out themselves to cover and record certain areas. Forms have been printed so that members doing their own field work can record all the necessary points about a site or feature.

No survey is complete unless all aspects of an area have been covered, and that means inspection and recording, (where necessary) of old buildings, as well as keeping an eye on them regularly; and industrial archaeology. The MAAG has two strong sections dealing with these aspects of regional survey and initial reports are passed to them to follow up by the field groups.

Anyone interested in helping the MAAG in its work should write to the secretary, Paul Oldham, 15 Hermitage Lane, Barming, Kent.

 
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