Kent Archaeological Review extract

A Medieval Kiln Site, at Tyler Hill, Canterbury.
by Brian PhiIp.

This site (NGR TR 143 605) lies in an open field in the parish of Tyler Hill Kent about half a mile south-east of the village centre. It occupies a strip of ground about 40 feet wide across the west end of a field flanking the east side of Canterbury Hill. The site is thus bounded by a small stream on the north side and the hedgerow on the south side, the two being about 240 feet apart (Figure 3). It is situated on north facing slope on London Clay at an elevation of about 150 feet OD. The kiln lay at the edge of this area being lift. from the centre of the south hedge and 81 feet from the centre of Canterbury Hill to the west.

The presence of extensive medieval waster material here was first noted by the writer in 1965 after deep-ploughing had thrown up potsherds, roof tile and fragments of floor tiles. A sample of this material was then collected and the site kept under observation. A gaspipe had in fact been laid right through the site in about 1964. but the material then recovered by local collectors remains unpublished. In August 1967 the farmer opened up a narrow drainage-trench on the downhill side of the south hedge and in the process cut through an incomplete medieval tile-kiln. A limited rescue-excavation was then carried out by members of the Reculver (CIB) Excavation Group and part of the plan recovered. At the same time more material was recovered from the surface of the field. Of all this unstratified material only the floor tiles are published here and the pottery has been retained so that it can form part of a more comprehensive study. It is important to repeat that the floor tiles published here were not found in the kiln examined!

The writer wishes to thank Mr F Stevens for his ready permission to carry out the excavation and members of the Reculver Group who undertook the work. Members of the West Kent Group kindly prepared the drawings of the tiles and Misses A. Borthwick and W. Dolphin kindly completed the plans. Mrs C Batchellor undertook some research into the floor tile patterns and Mrs E M Philp has kindly typed the text.


The limited rescue-excavation revealed that the kiln lay on a broadly north-south axis and that the drainage trench had removed the southern end (Figure 4). The north end had been robbed leaving only about four feet of the centre of the kiln intact. The kiln was of the double chambered type, a pattern familiar over much of the country on medieval sites. In Kent alone kilns of this type occur at Hartley, See Footnote [1] Addington, See Footnote [2] Keston See Footnote [3] and again at Tyler Hill See Footnote [4]. It seems probable that this new kiln was stoked from the north side having been cut about two feet below ground level in medieval times.

In detail the east chamber was three feet four inches wide; the central spine wall about eight inches wide; the west chamber two feet eight inches wide, with the side walls being about fourteen-sixteen inches thick. The total internal width was thus six feet eight inches and the overall width nine feet two inches. The original length could not be determined, but this should be greater than the width and was probably ten to fourteen feet overall. The length at Hartley was fourteen feet and at Keston about twenty-one feet. The side and spine walls were constructed of broken roof tile fragments set in clay and survived to a maximum height of only twelve inches. The chamber floors were of clay baked to a cindery texture and apparently not relaid. On the flanks of the east chamber were traces of two vertical piers built of small purpose-made bricks. Twenty of these were found lying across the chamber, each measuring about six by five and a half inches by one and a half inches thick. It seems that these piers probably supported low arches similar to those on many of the other Kentish kilns. These arches normally formed the floor of the kiln itself on which the products were stacked to be fired.

The kiln chambers were filled with fragments of tile and burnt clay from the collapsed walls. Nothing was found inside the structure to suggest what was fired in it, though quantities of waster roof tiles, pottery and floor tiles were found in the general vicinity.


A total of 45 fragments of glazed floor tiles was recovered from the field surface north of the kiln. Several seem to be certain wasters and as they were all found in association with large quantities of pottery wasters and on a kiln site it is highly probable that they were made here too, though not necessarily in the excavated kiln. Of these nearly all have traces of a printed pattern, but only 18 are illustrated. The tiles are mostly 0.7 inches thick and the three with sides intact are all 4.3 inches in width. In all probability these represent small square tiles many with slightly chamfered edges. The infilled slip is generally white clay with strong yellow and green tints. The fabric is hard with little grit or sand, the core often grey and the surface orange-red. If all these are wasters, as the evidence strongly suggests they are, then the following types may fairly be said to have been manufactured on this site.

DRAWING: Medieval glazed floor tiles.

Figure 1: Medieval glazed floor tiles.
Floor tiles: The Big Picture (139k).

DRAWING: Medieval glazed floor tiles.

Figure 2: Medieval glazed floor tiles.
Floor tiles: The Big Picture (122k).

TYLER HILL TYPES (Figures 1 & 2).

Type 1 Two fragments with chamfered sides and design of large lis with trefoiled fronds. (Faversham Type 90).

Type 2 Two fragments with chamfered sides and design of large lis without fronds, but with spatulate central petal and border. (Faversham Type 91).

Type 3 Fragment with chamfered side and design of double headed imperial eagle in border. (Faversham Type 93).

Type 4 Fragment with chamfered side and design of sixfoil in double medallion and probably with a central annulet and trefoils in corner. (Faversham Type 97 and at Whitefriars, Sandwich).

Type 5 Fragment with chamfered side and lobed quadrant design with intertwined oak leaves and branches. (Faversham Type 94 and at Baynard's Castle).

Type 6 Fragment with chamfered side and design of dentate leaf cross in four arcs enclosing angle rosettes. (Faversham Type 95 and Greyfriars, Canterbury).

Type 7 Five fragments with chamfered sides and design of an ogee quartrefoil in angles (Faversham Type 96 and St Augustine's, Canterbury).

Type 8 Fragment with chamfered side and quadrant design with pattern of quatrefoil and circles containing Hs and grotesque animals. (Faversham Type 100).

Type 9 Fragments with chamfered side and quadrant design with birds of foliage. (Faversham Type 98).

Type 10 Fragment with straight side and stylised foliage and saltires on arc. (Faversham Type 99, St Mary's, Sandwich and Christ Church, Canterbury).

Type 11 Fragment with chamfered side and design of lis in double arc. Quadrant design. Perhaps the same design as Type 8 above.

Type 12 Fragment with chamfered side with a geometrical design of a square within a double lozenge. (Faversham Type 102).

Type 13 Fragment with vertical side and series of sixfoils probably within an arc. Similar to an unillustrated tile from Faversham Abbey.

Type 14 Fragment with chamfered side and series of roundels, perhaps with interlocking arcs.

Type 15 Fragment with interlocking oak leaf design. Perhaps the same design as Type 5 above.

Type 16 Fragment with chamfered side and possible cruciform design.

Type 17 Fragment probably with quatrefoils in arcs.

Type 18 Fragment with chamfered sides and heraldic design consisting of linked chevrons and perhaps grotesque animal.

DRAWING: Site of Medieval Tile-Kiln.

Figure 3. Plan to show site of Medieval Tile-Kiln.
Site plan: The Big Picture (72k)


The numerous wasters of pottery and roof tile, the fragments of floor tile and the presence of at least one kiln prove that this site was that of a manufacturing industry in medieval times. The site is thus one of several located in the Tyler Hill area in the last 30 years, but of which very little has been published. The initial discovery was made in 1941 See Footnote [5] when a German bomb exploded near Tyler Hill and revealed pottery wasters. Further kilns have since been reported in the area and a very fine example was excavated by Gerald Cramp on the University campus in 1969 See Footnote [6]. Another of exceptional quality was excavated by Duncan Harrington in 1971 See Footnote [7] a few hundred yards south of the site under discussion. Both of these kilns were probably for the manufacture of roof tiles though in each case some pottery was recovered. As regards dating the industry appears to have been flourishing in the 13th and 14th centuries when its products were reaching more than a dozen East Kent sites See Footnote [8]. Its origins and decline have not yet been studied in detail. In the absence of such a detailed study it is perhaps prudent to suggest that the kiln and the floor tiles here considered probably date to somewhere between AD 1250-1350. The floor tile patterns are known from a number of East Kent sites and particularly at Faversham. There the major rescue excavations in 1965 See Footnote [9] on the site of the great royal abbey, founded in 1147 and surrendered in 1538, produced eleven of the Tyler Hill patterns. These consisted of both single and multiple patterns and the corresponding types were generally 4 inches square.
DRAWING: Plan of the Kiln.

Figure 4. Plan of the kiln showing two chambers divided by a central spine wall. Northern and southern ends of the kiln had either been robbed or destroyed.


Footnote 1.

Philp, B J Excavations in West Kent 1960-1970 (1973), page 44. Return to the start of the paragraph.

Footnote 2.

Philp, B J KAR, Number 24 (1971), page 113. Return to the start of the paragraph.

Footnote 3.

Philp, B J KAR, Number 33 (1973), page 79. Return to the start of the paragraph.

Footnote 4.

Swale, J KAR, Number 10 (1967), page 15. Return to the start of the paragraph.

Footnote 5.

-- Arch. Cant., LV (1942), page 57. Return to the start of the paragraph.

Footnote 6.

Cramp, G KAR, Number 21 (1970), page 11. Return to the start of the paragraph.

Footnote 7.

Harrington, D KAR, Number 25 (1971), page 149. Return to start of the the paragraph.

Footnote 8.

Dunning, G Arch. Cant., LXIX (1955), page 145. Return to the start of the paragraph.

Footnote 9.

Philp, B J Excavations at Faversham, 1965 (1968), page 54. Return to the start of the paragraph.
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