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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Belgic and Roman Discoveries at Lanthorne Road, Broadstairs.
by Howard Biggs.

An Interim Report.

In 1907 Mr. Howard Hurd, the Surveyor and Engineer to the Broadstairs Council recorded certain discoveries towards the eastern end of Lanthorne Road, and in particular a pit some 1.22 metres in width, 3.66 metres in length and 3.66 metres in depth. This pit had an in-fill of blackish-coloured earth and fine ash, together with fragments of late Belgic pottery. These discoveries were published by the Broadstairs and St Peter's Archaeological Society.

As the Ordnance Survey map showed the site of this pit as close to the playing fields of Stone House School, a group was formed some years ago to carry out excavations in the area of the school grounds when they were available. In the course of a number of season's work at the far side of the fields, approximately 175 metres North-North-West of Hurd's original pit, several discoveries were made. In the first place there was a band of clay, some 13 metres wide, apparently passing diagonally across the field. At one point, set in this clay was a "floor" of knapped flints approximately 10 metres by 4.6 metres, at a depth of 0.53 metres from ground level. The flints were set closely together but they were without any trace of cement, and formed only a single layer. Neolithic scrapers were found in this layer, but there were no traces of post-holes. However, well below at 0.85 metres was found a hand-axe (St Acheul II) and a polished Neolithic axe head was discovered elsewhere in the grounds. Above the "floor" but in no regular stratification were discovered sherds of Bronze Age and late Iron Age pottery. A fragment of mottled Roman wall-plaster, some furrowed ware (4th century), miscellaneous sherds of colour-coated ware and one small sherd with white slip decoration were found over a wide area in the neighbourhood of the "floor" and were accompanied by pieces of roof tile, both tegula and imbrex. No sign of any burials were observed, nor did the use of the grounds at the time of excavation make it possible to pursue any wider exploration.

Enough however had been found to ensure action as soon as the school land became available for development this year (1971). As soon as trenching for drains was started it became obvious that the late Belgic-early Roman occupation of the site must have been extensive, as numerous pits (some containing bones of domestic animals and sherds of pottery) were revealed all across the field. Interest naturally centred in the neighbourhood of the "floor" but nothing further was revealed there. However 63 metres East-South-East of the "floor" some footings prepared for a bungalow revealed a rubbish pit 1.06 metres in depth, 1.68 metres in diameter but fanning out at the base to 1.80 metres. In this were found assorted bones of cow and sheep, and also fragments of late Belgic pottery.

Meanwhile along the frontage on to Lanthorne Road close to the pit discovered by Hurd, footings for houses revealed more pits similar to that found by him in 1907.

The first of these to appear was 25 metres from the Eastern boundary wall of the field. Its extreme length was 12 metres with an infill of lightish coloured earth and an ashy layer coming in at 1.74 metres, deepening to 2.20 metres at the 12 metre point. Contained in this fill were numerous sherds of late Belgic and early Roman pottery, together with the bones of sheep. Stratification was difficult owing to the trenching by bulldozer; but Samian and colour-coated sherds were located at 1.36 metres.

As footings were dug further West along Lanthorne Road further deep pits were discovered, the most noteworthy being about 62 metres from the Eastern corner of the field. This was 6.32 metres at its greatest depth, having a length of 6.96 metres East-West and 5.91 metres North-South. Again the fill was of a light earth but in this case the pit fell away much more sharply, and there was light ash and limpet shells -- in a closely packed layer -- at 6.09 metres, this being somewhat similar to the fill reported by Howard Hurd in his much smaller pit. From this pit were also recovered many sherds of late Belgic, colour-coated and Samian ware. In the next report it should be possible to specify more exactly the type of vessels and their origin.

Some 33 metres North-East of the first-mentioned footings, work was begun on another house and here again was a considerable depth of earth-fill, 3 metres at least. It seemed possible that this might link up with the first pit mentioned, forming some kind of fosse or ditch, but an intermediate boring half way along ruled out this possibility. So here again we have another large rubbish pit, revealing the usual scatter of animal bones and late Belgic sherds.

Elsewhere on the site, the pits mentioned above revealed imbrex and tegula, also pieces of several different types of mortaria. So the complexity of the site may be readily appreciated.

In October 1971 when work was undertaken on the opposite side of Lanthorne Road in the grounds of Lanthorne Hospital where mobile classrooms were to be erected, similar pits were discovered. As reported by Nigel Macpherson Grant, they were obviously part of the same settlement area, containing pottery sherds of late Belgic through to 40 AD -- and perhaps later date. A butt beaker of white fabric with rouletting, parts of two spindle-whorls and much bone in fragmentary state were also found.

May I thank all who have visited, helped or shown interest in this site, and in particular Mr Norman Cook for his identification of the Acheulian hand axe. I am sure that further work will revealed a most extensive settlement both in area and chronology.

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