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Kent Archaeological Review extract

A Romano-British Site near Halfway House, Barham, Kent.
by Brian and Edna Philp.

This site (NGR TR 236 475) lies at the extreme east end of the parish of Barham about two miles south-east of the parish church (Figure 1, Site 1). It occupies farmland on high, level ground about 1500 yards south-east of Halfway House Hotel close to the Dover milestone (8 miles to Canterbury). The subsoil is a yellow-orange clay and the elevation about 425 feet OD.

DRAWING: Figure 1: Map showing location of Romano-British site at Barham Down.

Figure 1: Map showing location of Romano-British site at Barham Down.
Location map: The Big Picture (72k).

The site was discovered by the writers on Tuesday, 3rd August, 1971 during a rapid survey whilst returning from the major Dover excavation. Strips of ground about 70 feet wide had been graded of topsoil on each side of the existing A2 road. Examination of these areas located two small ditches, part of a small ring-ditch, a hearth and about 400 sherds of Romano-British pottery of 1st century date. Permission to carry out a small rescue-excavation whilst the grading was still in process was readily granted on 5th August by the contractors Tilbury Construction Ltd. and the work was completed on 6th August by members of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit (CIB). The help of Mr R Cook is acknowledged and the hard work of Phillip Bethel, Peter Couldrey and Tony Ijenderhoorn. Miss Alison Borthwick has kindly drawn the location map and described the pottery which has been drawn by Gerald Clewley.

Ditch 1.

The south-west end of this ditch was located south-west of the A2 and just 248 feet north-west of the centre of Pickleden Lane and 88 feet from the centre of the existing A2 carriageway. It was traced for a distance of 70 feet running in a straight line towards the A2 at an angle of about 100 degrees, that is slightly east of north-east. Neither end was found. It was U-shaped in section, 4 foot wide and just 3 feet deep. It contained a filling of light-brown loam, with carbon specks, small pieces of daub and pottery. The pottery was found scattered throughout the upper filling of the ditch and clearly represents discarded domestic rubbish. The pottery (Numbers 1 to 7) includes parts of two fine flagons, a large storage jar and at least four coarse native cooking-pots. All this pottery appears to date from about AD 50-80.

Ditch 2.

The outline of a second ditch was observed starting about 12 feet to the south-east of Ditch 1. This ran for at least 60 feet roughly east, not being parallel to Ditch 1. It was about 3 feet deep, 3 feet 6 inches wide and had a broad, flat base. Only the lowest 4 inches of its brown loam filling survived and it was totally devoid of finds. Its filling, form and alignment were quite different from Ditch 1 and it seems likely that this ditch was a field boundary of considerably post-Roman date.


The outline of part of a small ring-ditch was found projecting from the side of the graded field. It was not possible to excavate this before it was destroyed, but it appeared to be about 1 foot 3 inches wide and to enclose an area about 18 feet in diameter. Its centre lay only about 9 feet north-west of the plotted end of Ditch 1 and it is likely that the rest of what was probably a complete circle remains under the adjacent field It is possible that this represents the outline of a small circular hut, or even the ditch around a very small barrow. No associated find was recovered.


This was found about 500 feet east of the plotted end of Ditch 1, actually on the north side of the existing A2. It was 320 feet south-east of the centre of West Court Road and 42 feet north of the A2 carriageway. It consisted of a bowl-shaped pit, 3 feet wide and only 11 inches deep. Its side was scorched orange by intense heat and in filling of light brown loam contained traces of carbon. It is clear that the pit had been used as a hearth and that considerable heat had been generated. No finds were recovered from the hearth or the adjacent area.


From the evidence of the ditch containing the pottery it is clear that this was a Romano-British occupation-site during at least part of the second half of the first century AD. The absence of evidence of masonry suggests that any related structure would have been built principally of wood. In the absence of evidence to the contrary the probability is that the site was that of a simple farmstead such as occur in large numbers in West Kent of this date. The ditch probably formed part of an enclosure or a field-system and the ring-ditch could perhaps have belonged to a related hut. The main arterial Roman road from Canterbury to Dover is only about 650 feet to the north-east and its close proximity may have had an important bearing on the positioning of this site. Further work might produce additional evidence of this previously unknown site and related burials may await discovery nearby.

The Pottery from the Barham Down Site.

A total of 404 potsherds was recovered from the ditch on this site. These can be classified into three main types of pottery and a minimum of eleven vessels identified, of which only seven are adequate for illustration. All the pottery appears to date from about AD 50-80. Type A. By far the largest group is of a soft mottled grey-black ware with grey, brown or black surfaces. A total of 370 sherds represent a minimum of seven vessels. These comprise either large storage jars (Number 1) or cooking- pots (Numbers 2-6). The pottery is clearly of native manufacture and broadly similar to the so-called Patch Grove pottery found in West Kent. See Footnote [1]. In East Kent it occurs at Canterbury See Footnote [2] and Faversham See Footnote [3] in deposits dated to either side of the Conquest. Type B. Only 22 sherds of a harder, sandy ware with a grey or black surfaces represent a minimum of two vessels (Number 7). This ware is thoroughly 'Romanised' See Footnote [4] and a post-Conquest date is almost certain. The bead-rims tend to exclude a later second century date. Type C. Only twelve sherds of a fine, smooth white or pinkish ware (not illustrated) represent a minimum of two vessels, both flagons. The rims are lacking, but vessels of this type were being manufactured both before and after the Conquest.


Footnote 1.

Philp, B J Excavations in West Kent, 1960-1970, (1973), page 60. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 2.

Frere, S S Arch.Cant., LXVIII (1954), page 101. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 3.

Philp, B J Excavations at Faversham, 1965 (1968), page 76. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 4.

Hawkes, C F C and Hull, M P Camulodunum (1947), p.206. Return to the paragraph.


DRAWING: Figure 2: Pottery from Barham Downs.

Figure 2: Pottery from Barham Downs.
The Big Picture (38k).

  • Number 1. Large storage jar of soft ware with everted rim. Mottled grey paste and orange-black surface. Diagonal incised finger-tip decoration on neck and combing on shoulder.
  • Number 2. Cooking-pot of soft ware with bead rim. Mottled grey paste and grey-brown surface and vertical combing under faint cordon. Two holes drilled through shoulder.
  • Number 3. Cooking-pot of soft ware with bead rim. Mottled grey paste and orange- black surface.
  • Number 4. Cooking-pot of soft ware with angular rim. Mottled grey paste and grey- black surface. Faint cordon and groove below rim.
  • Number 5. Cooking-pot of soft ware with angular rim. Grey paste and yellow-brown surface. Corrugated shoulder.
  • Number 6. Wide-mouthed vessel of soft ware with everted rim. Mottled brown paste and black-brown surface.
  • Number 7. Wide-mouthed vessel with bead rim of sandy ware. Brown-black paste and black surface.
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