This article appeared in the Summer 1972 (Issue #28) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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A Romano-British Building at Hoath.
Reports by a farmer, Mr S Harbour of Shelvingford, Hoath, of a substantial stone structure below ground in Miles's Field, which was hindering deep ploughing, together with pieces of Roman pottery and tile, led to investigation by the writer, assisted by Paul Harthoorn and John Harbour. The site (NGR TR 2167 6493) is in a large open arable area remote from modern buildings. The slope of the field faces south east, falling gently to the farm and parish boundary.
Two main structures were located during the early summer; a small furnace building, possibly a grain-drier, and, about 36 feet east of it, a chalk feature, 72 feet long and nearly 3 feet wide, with a return limb 9 feet long. The two structures which have similar orientation may be associated with a larger complex as yet undefined.
This was built of a mixture of flint, sandstone and septaria, with a few roughly squared chalk blocks, as well as many pieces of Roman roof and flue tiles and some opus signinum. These materials suggest re-use of parts of an earlier building. Many pieces retained traces of mortar, which was not otherwise used in the building -- the stones, etc., were laid into the side of an excavation in the natural brickearth subsoil and were packed with some of this same brick-earth.
The walls, about 4-5 courses high and 12-14 inches thick, defined a 'room' 45 inches by 45 inches internally and not quite square in plan, with a 'corridor' clasping two adjacent sides. For convenience these are called west and south, although the bearing of the building is approximately 175 degrees Magnetic. The south 'corridor' 28 inches wide, was open to the south side of the 'room' for about 14 inches and there was evidence of a vertical flue in the outer wall immediately opposite this point. The west arm of the 'corridor' projected 3 feet beyond the north wall of the 'room' and was open. The overall length of the west wall was 12 feet 5 inches. There was a small squared opening through the wall from the 'corridor' to the north-west corner of the 'room.' The entire structure was covered by 10 inches of thoroughly disturbed plough-soil, without stratification.
The 'room' and the western 'corridor' were filled mainly with a rubble of wall-materials collapsed onto the primary filling of burnt material and well-baked daub with a few Roman sherds. The southern 'corridor' contained less rubble, but more ash and silt. The filling at the open end of the 'corridor' included more burnt daub, and a layer of this formed a semi-circle on the natural surface outside, with a diameter corresponding with the span of the walls, and suggested that a wattle-and-daub arch over a stoke-hole had collapsed outwards as well as down.
This building suggests a small Roman furnace, although there was no indication of its purpose. There was no direct evidence of a supported floor in the inner chamber which would be needed for a grain-drier, etc. If it was of wood it may have been at a higher level than that which has survived. On the other hand, the layer of baked daub on the natural floor might imply a wattle-and-daub platform above. The site of the fire was clearly at the open end of the 'corridor,' with heat passing around the inner chamber, some being short-circuited through the small horizontal flue. A draught would be created by the presence of a chimney near the south-east corner.
The Chalk Feature.
This was located by a chalk scatter on the surface east of the building, and was found to be consistently 10 inches below the ground, having presumably been planed down by ploughing, as its thickness varied from 2 inches to 10 inches between one end and the other. The two limbs of this feature were at right-angles to each other, the longer one was parallel to the longer side of the building, and the other almost exactly in line with the south wall. The width of the chalk, generally 2 foot 4 inches, and its right-angle layout, suggests a foundation, but probing and test-holes produced nothing to extend or complete a plan, apart from two chalk-packed post-holes about 12 feet apart between the long arm and the building. Pits containing bones (sheep and cow, with some deer-antler), pottery (including samian) and lava quern material and nails were found along the edge of the long arm.
After complete excavation of the building, the upper courses of stone were removed to lower the structure beyond the plough while leaving the foundations and the site was restored mechanically.
It may be of significance that the Hoath/Chislet parish boundary as shown on large-scale plans, has an undefined dog-leg bend which comes to within 200 feet of the building, suggesting the presence of an obstacle on the line when the parishes were formed. Investigation of this area will be necessary when the site is again available.
Thanks are due to Mr Sam Harbour for drawing attention to the site and for allowing it to be examined, and to his brother John for his active assistance with the excavation.