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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Roman Cremation Group from East Farleigh.
by Joy Saynor.

The story begins in Christmas Week, 1970, with the entry in an auction sale catalogue: "Lot number 541, a small collection of old pottery attributed to Roman times, found at Gallants Farm, East Farleigh." This was viewed and then purchased for a few shillings in a sale at Shoreham, near Sevenoaks. The "small collection" proved to be portions of three vessels; which were, some weeks later, shown to Mr John Parsons who is making a special study of the archaeology of the Upper Medway valley. His report is as follows :

"The Roman cremation group consists of three vessels, each of which has the topmost half missing, possibly due to deep ploughing, which removed the rim and major portion in each case. They all display traces of light-brown soil, which in one case, pot A, has eroded the surface. From an examination of the bases and other parts of the pots (the rims being missing), the group can probably be assigned to the mid or late 2nd century AD; detailed evidence which would give more precise dating having been destroyed.

Pot A.
Flagon of fine sandy ware with pink-red paste and pink-red surface. Probably second century. Poor surface, probably due to soil erosion (see above).
Pot B.
Flagon of fine sandy ware with pink paste and cream coloured surface. Probably second century. The finger prints of the potter are plainly impressed upon the internal surface of the base.
Pot C.
Cinerary-urn of Patch Grove ware (see KAR Number 6, "Patch Grove Pottery"). Grey-brown paste and orange-brown surface. The fairly upright profile suggests that this vessel is late in the Patch Grove series and dates to the middle or late-second century".

Until recently, the only written information on this pottery group was contained in Volume 2 of the Journal of the British Archaeological Association, page 73, which was summarised in the section on "Romano-British Kent," in Volume 3 of the Victoria County History of Kent (page 153). This states that in December, 1845, 350 yards south of Gallants Farm, on the east side of Gallants Lane, overlooking the Medway, and south-west of East Farleigh, a Roman cemetery was discovered which yielded a "black globular urn," containing ashes, an "ornamental white bronzed castor vessel (sic), 3 inches high, together with fragments of 3 or 4 other vessels placed in a stone cyst. It was these "3 or 4 other vessels" which reappeared at the Shoreham auction, and from information only recently received from their former owner (whose late husband was well-known as a hop farmer at Gallants Manor for some 28 years), their lost history has been revealed. She writes:

"I am sorry that I am unable to tell you the exact spot on which these sherds were found, but it was definitely in our hop-garden in the parish of East Farleigh , they were given to us by Miss Ley, of St Helens, East Farleigh, on the death of her parents, who had been given them by Mr Lewis. We received them on Sunday, November 14th, 1943, with a covering letter written to whom it does not say, just --

My dear Sir,
Mr Lewis of East Farleigh on whose land the antiques were found, an account of which will come in the proceedings in the evening (sic) number of the journal, will be at the charge of having the lithographic plate engraved the same size as the original of his ornamented drinking cup to illustrate the account in the journal, if it can be done at a reasonable cost (also two woodcuts made of the other objects, which with two coins will go twice across the page) ..

I beg to remain Dear Sir
Beale Post.

Bydews Place,
Near Maidstone,
April 8th, 1946

... I still retain in my possession two pieces of the pottery which Miss Ley told me had at some time been in the Maidstone Museum."

She concludes by stating that the "other objects" and coins mentioned by Beale Post had never been in her family's possession, but that she has retained the better of the pottery given to her family in 1943. Possibly these pieces are the "black globular urn" and the Castor vessel, and if this is so, the whereabouts of all the finds recorded in the JBAA in 1846 are once again known. It is to be hoped that at some future date both groups of pottery might be deposited at Maidstone Museum as evidence of an early Victorian excavation.

DRAWING: The Roman cremation group vessels.

The Roman cremation group vessels.
Drawn by Allison Borthwick.

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