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Kent Archaeological Review extract

News from the Groups.
by Various Contributors.



> By a unanimous decision the CIB committee has now formally adopted the name Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit having used it informally for many years. This is to avoid further confusion about the scope and functions of the group whose activities include survey, excavation, training, conservation, processing, publication and open-days throughout the whole County. This is done with our large team of enthusiastic full-time and part-time members drawn from Kent and beyond and with the support and backing of many responsible local groups and individuals. The first six months of 1974 have again been particularly busy with many projects and excavations, many of these on behalf of the Department of the Environment and with the assistance of the Kent County Council. In June four teams were excavating simultaneously on different sites the length of Kent demonstrating the effectiveness of the programme and flexibility and mobility of the team. Only three major projects are listed below:


The team dealing with urban-archaeology completed two major sites from January to May, mostly in shocking weather conditions, west of the Market Square. These revealed considerable details of the Saxon Shore fort defences including another substantially complete bastion and the internal arrangements. The east wall of the underlying Classis Britannica fort was also located and the front part of a monumental gatehouse revealed. In June the team opened up two more major sites, one in the Roman harbour area east of Bench Street and the other north of Taveners Lane, where work continues.

Otford Palace.

At the end of March, 1974 the Unit was specifically invited by the DOE to carry out a sudden major rescue-excavation on the site of Otford Palace. Preliminary work by the Otford Group at weekends during February and early March had shown that substantial walls existed in the area, but on 11th March the area was taken over for building purposes and drastic site-levelling and foundation work began. Half of the Dover team was quickly switched to Otford with the mobile recording units and in six weeks of fulltime work the project was completed. Large areas of the south and east ranges of the Tudor Palace, together with the moat, an intricate system of latrines and sewers and a massive south-east tower were recorded and totally excavated. Two days before the builders dead-line a special 'Open Day' attracted 2,456 visitors in 7 hours for free guided tours, an operation which required 59 stewards, marshals, guides and excavators. The response was almost total and the enthusiasm and concern of so many Kentish people was then loudly expressed. Within three days the Sevenoaks District Council had agreed to purchase the site from the builder and the DOE readily agreed to make a substantial grant to- wards the cost of purchase. The Unit was then able to backfill, level and seed the site and a detailed report is in preparation. The team wishes to acknowledge the help of 98 volunteers and so many local groups who helped make this dramatic rescue-situation such a huge success. Particular thanks must be offered to the Dover, Reculver, Sittingbourne, Springhead, West Kent and Otford groups for their help. We also wish to acknowledge the enlightened attitude of the Sevenoaks District Council and the DOE for their prompt action over the purchase of the site.

Kent Motorway Programme.

The initial survey and trial-excavation on the Dartford-Swanley Link road were completed in April by the motorway team. No sites at all were previously known on this route, but this work has since produced evidence for 9 probable sites. Two of these have been given priority because of their importance and since substantially excavated. Several others will be examined both before and during the road-construction process and a careful patrol maintained. Back to Top.


Activity at Springhead has been concentrated recently on the examination of three specific features. The first is the junction of the recently proved temenos road and the major road through this part of the settlement which is yielding information on the chronology of the various surfaces. A large pit underneath the temenos road is also being examined "in depth" -- 16 feet to be precise. The other area concerns the wide ditch which we hope may have some military connotations. Some complicating factors have arisen which suggest the possibility of an entrance at this point. This makes it necessary to extend the digging area. This in a way is unfortunate since we had hoped to clear up the situation by the end of June, when arrangements have been made for the Group to shift their main activity to another site for three months. Subject to final approval now awaited from the Authority concerned, we shall be investigating, prior to building development, a hypocaust building at Chalk to the east of Gravesend. It was first noted in 1959 but only preliminary work was carried out at the time, sufficient to indicate the presence of a fairly substantial structure. Work will be carried out mainly at week-ends between the 30th June and the end of September but there will be a continuous period of digging between the 4th and 18th August inclusive. This means that usual Open Days at Springhead will not take place this year. It is possible, however, that developments at Chalk may enable us to put on a show there. This remains to be seen, so please watch out for an announcement. Finally, I would be pleased to hear from any experienced diggers who would like to participate. My address is 19 Come Road, Gravesend, Kent. Back to Top.


The proposed major excavation for 1974 on the important Iron Age, Romano-British and Saxon complex at Keston, was postponed so the Group could assist the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit with urgent projects in the West Kent area. Firstly, during April and May, the Group along with other local groups, gave considerable assistance with the large-scale excavations at Otford Palace. The discoveries and the outcome were well worth all the hard work involved. It was also possible to transfer the Bromley Training School to Otford at short notice where both the first and second year students were able to make an important contribution. Secondly, the Group helped the Unit with the motorway project, in particular on the Dartford-Swanley link. Three previously unknown sites were excavated and recorded ahead of the road building and with the full co-operation of the engineers. This work is still in progress. Because of these major operations the work at Keston will be resumed on a much reduced scale. However, the Group will be holding its annual 'Open Day' at Holwood, Keston, through the kind permission of Seismograph Ltd., on 15th September, 1974 (11am to 5pm). Back to Top.
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