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Kent Archaeological Review extract

The Newington-Hartlip Sewage Scheme.
by Jim Williams.
(Upchurch Archaeological Research Group.)

The laying of this sewerage system took place between October, 1971 and March, 1973 with the trenching operations kept under daily observation by members of the Upchurch Archaeological Research Group. It was not possible to examine every metre of the trenches because many of the shorter branches or leads were completed in between visits. Most of the seven miles of trench were, however, kept under close scrutiny.

The results of this exercise showed, mainly, how much more of the area had been worked for brickearth, stone and gravel than is visible from surface features and that where the ground was not disturbed by these operations, the area was, as it is now, mainly agricultural. Also, the value of being on the site when the workmen were there, of speaking to them and gaining their confidence and respect was appreciated when they produced their finds, few as they were.

The plan shows only the main trenches and, for the sake of clarity, the roads are not marked apart from the A2 trunk road known at this point as Hartlip Hill and Newington Street at the east end. The two points marked X on the eastern side of the plan show the location of the Romano-Celtic temple (KAR Number 18) and the Roman villa at Boxted farm which is the most easterly of the two points (Arch. Cant. XV, 1883).


  1. NGR TQ 8521 6694. Starting from the existing sewer the trench cut through an old brickfield, West field, now cultivated.
  2. A section in the site of a branch trench to Breach House showed an area of burnt clay and modern brick rubble in the centre of which was a narrow gully 0.75 metres deep with its sides also burnt. At the suggestion of a nearby farmer this is thought to be the site where homemade bricks were burnt in clamps, he told of a paved barn floor on his farm using these bricks.
  3. The site of a former hop garden showed as parallel lines of square post holes at regular intervals.
  4. A section through a shallow roadside 'ditch' showing as a thin line of white and grey silt. Almost all the ground through which this length of the trench had been cut up to the A2 had been worked for brickearth or stone and gravel. Much of the east branch towards Newington had also been worked for brickearth.
  5. A section face at right angles to the A2 and 4m from the south side of the road showed stratified layers of soil sloping gently towards the road.
    DRAWING: Thumbnail -- Plan of the Newington-Hartlip Scheme.

    Plan of the Newington-Hartlip Scheme. Drawn by Jim Williams.
    Plan of the Newington-Hartlip Scheme: The Big Picture (68k).

  6. Similar section but seen up to the road edge. The layers were seen to go under the foundations of the road. Although the crossing here was an open trench, only the stone bed of the existing road was seen. The three other crossings were tunnelled.
  7. The length of the trench from point 5 up to this point seemed to be a back-filled brickearth working.
  8. Similar sections both sides of the A2 as at point 5. These gently sloping layers seem to suggest weathered upcast rather than the sides of roadside ditches. There were no finds from the strata in these sections.
  9. At Pond farm, NGR TQ 8540 6490, the trench cut through and mostly destroyed the foundation of a building, probably a barn. It consisted of local, flat sarsen boulders laid in a trench, with clay peg tiles used to bridge the gaps and hollows to make a level surface for a course of rough, stock type bricks which were laid on edge dry, with three courses of dry brickwork on top of this. The building appeared to have had an earth floor and tiled roof with a yard or hard standing of packed chalk lumps fronting onto the A2. Most of the trench travelling south through lower Hartlip was cut through ground that had been worked for stone used in road building.
  10. A hard standing in an open field made up of chalk, flint and a small amount of red brick, in all 0.20 metres thick immediately under the plough soil.
  11. In Hartlip Street a simple brick drain was cut through at 1.20 metres below road level. Its construction was composed of a single roof tile laid flat upon which sides had been built of red brick, two courses high, with a 0.05 metre wide channel in the centre sealed at the top by a third course of bricks laid lengthways, the whole construction being built dry.
  12. At this point the trench cut into the lawn of Hartlip village school, hard by its southern boundary and in doing so the corner of a mortared, flint lined tank was revealed. This measured 1.80 metres inside, was not more than 2 metres long and 1.70 metres deep, the bottom was natural sand. The tank itself had been filled with modern brick rubble. In the rose border of the house next door, NGR TQ 8394 6421, a branch trench cut squarely across two, possibly three, wall foundations of loose flint. Circumstances on the site did not allow for accurate recording and it was estimated that the exterior walls, which were 0.50 metres wide, were 3-4 metres apart with a possible interior wall. The fill between the walls was black, stoney soil with fragments of 18th-19th century white china and brown glazed earthenware. This could possibly be the foundations of a timber framed building, several of which still exist in the village.
  13. A section through a yard or forecourt to a loading bay at Mill House, Mill Lane, now lm below the present garden level.


The finds were mostly fragments of clay pipe stems and china cups and plates of 19th and 20th century date, but the following items were found by the workmen on the site and are worth a note:

  • Point 3 -- a hop token.
  • Point 5 -- A clay pipe bowl circa 1640-80 (KAR Number 26, page 133, Number 5.
  • Point 14 -- A fragment of a Bellarmine bottle with a medallion motif parallel with one from St. Mary's Hospital, Strood, Kent. (Arch. Cant. LXXXIV 1969, page 155) which was dated mid-17th century.
  • Point 15 -- A worn and damaged silver sixpence of William III, 1694-1702.

Thanks are due both to the site engineer and the gangers and men of Maidstone Contractors for their help and interest in this project. For ourselves, by our conduct, we hope that we have done something to destroy the illusion that archaeological observers are simply searching for buried treasure.

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