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Kent Archaeological Review extract

New Research Centre for Fawkham and Ash Archaeological Group.
by Roger Walsh.

For several years the Fawkham and Ash Archaeological Group had searched for suitable premises in which to establish a research centre, but without success and so in the autumn of 1970 I took the bull by the horns and purchased a dismantled prefabricated house, and decided to erect it in my garden at Fawkham Manor.

PHOTO: Part of the main hall, FAAG Research Centre.

Photo Caption: Part of the main hall, FAAG Research Centre.

A lorry load of double-skinned asbestos panels arrived, some of them the worse from the recent demolition, with various patterns of wallpaper still sadly bearing testimony to a destroyed home. The panels were carefully stacked and protruding nails and screws were removed. The site presented something of a problem, as, although at first sight reasonably flat, when levels were taken an average rise of 9 inches was revealed.

On weekends from November to February valiant members of the group applied pick and shovel first to the topsoil and then into sticky, unyielding clay and flint. Altogether over 13 cubic yards of soil had to be moved a distance of 25 yards, and then be spread and graded. During this period the prefab was redesigned on the drawing board to provide an open span hall, approximately 22 feet square, with two separate rooms for pottery processing and storage. The cill and floor panels were set in position and at the end of February, aided by press-ganged volunteers from the West Kent Border Group, the wall panels, posts and windows were rapidly erected and the heavy roof slabs hauled into position.

Now the centre resembled a building, but much time-consuming work had yet to be done. Damaged panels had to be repaired, cover fillets made and fitted, walls stripped and cleaned inside and out, wiring for power and lighting installed, windows de-rusted, heating installed, benches and shelves to be constructed and fixed and, finally, the interminable decorations.

At last, after a frantic last minute scramble to complete outstanding items, we were able to hold a thank-you party for all our members and friends who had generously contributed materials and labour to achieve the completion of what is probably the best equipped research centre in Kent.

We were delighted that our old friend Norman Cook was able to come along; he opened the proceedings in his usual genial manner, pointing out how valuable were the services of part-time archaeologists, whose standards, he considered were comparable with their professional colleagues. He then ceremoniously unveiled a drawing board, on which was mounted a poster reminding the group that it had now no excuse for not completing reports for publication. Our Treasurer, lan Clucas, was Master of Ceremonies, and thanked all those present for the magnificent support they had given. Then, after an illustrated talk on the group's past activities, came the real business of the evening, namely bevel-ages, buns and general archaeological chit-chat, whilst members and friends examined the exhibition of drawings, photographs and finds.

Now, for the first time, our members have the opportunity of processing and recording finds, carrying out conservation techniques, preparing plans and sections, constructing mobile displays, planning future research and, all the time, learning more about all the aspects of archaeology.

It was hard work building our centre, but really worthwhile, and I thoroughly recommend that every group should try to, acquire a centre, even if it is only a humble attic room, as the benefits are enormous.

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