Kent Archaeological Review extract

A Romano-British Site at Wrotham Road, Meopham.
by Brian Philp.
(A joint project by the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit and the Meopham Historical Society.)

This site (NGR TQ 6435 6590) lies on the west side of Wrotham Road, Meopham, Kent about 300 metres south-south-west of the parish church. It occupies an area covered by two bungalows, their gardens and the main road. The site is on a gentle north facing slope on Woolwich and Blackheath pebble beds at an elevation of about 430 feet and well up in the North Downs. It lies about three miles south-west of the Roman arterial road, later known as Watling Street and about 4 miles east of the well-known first century farmstead at Eastwood, Fawkham. See Footnote [1] In the area immediately to the north-west, at Glebe Meadow, 'pot holes' containing 'burnt matter and potsherds' were recorded in 1897.See Footnote [2]

The site was discovered in July, 1974 by Mr T Cranmer whilst digging a foundation trench on the west side of an extension to his bungalow, Avery Roff, Wrotham Road, Meopham.

A small group of pottery then found was, through the helpful interest of Mr T O'Brien later handed to Mr B Knight-Sweeney, Secretary of the Meopham Historical Society. He subsequently telephoned the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit and an immediate site inspection resulted in crisp rescue-excavations by the Unit and some members of the Meopham Historical Society on the 16th and the 24th August. This work was deliberately restricted to those areas threatened by the various schemes and no attempt was made to excavate beyond. The work also took in new roadworks at the front of the bungalow. In all three ditches and a localised area of burning were noted and a collection of 182 potsherds of Romano-British date recovered.

Thanks are due first and foremost to Mr and Mrs Cranmer for their initiative in reporting the discovery and for their helpful interest and ready permission for excavation and recording. Next to Mr Knight-Sweeney for his prompt and responsible action in reporting the find to the Unit and for his help with the excavation. Also to Peter Kemp and Mrs M Palfreyman for helping with the excavation on 24th August. Thanks are also due to Messrs Peter Grant, Maurice Godfrey, Richard Garnet and Miss Audrey Button of the West Kent Archaeological Group; and Trevor Dennis, Derek Garrod, Keith Nicol, Tim Allen and Edna Philp of the Unit for their help with the excavation and recording. Mrs Wendy Williams has kindly drawn the pottery, site-plan and sections and Miss Jean Taylor has kindly classified most of the pottery.


PLAN: The site at Wrotham Road, where ditches were found containing Romano-British pottery.

Plan of the site at Wrotham Road, where ditches were found containing Romano-British pottery.

DITCH 1 (Figure 2).

The original pottery (Numbers 1-3) recovered by Mr Cranmer came from the centre of the west side of his extension. A trial-hole dug near the south-west corner revealed the presence of a wide U-shaped ditch, running roughly north-east to south-west, right under the bungalow. Pottery recovered from this (Numbers 4-12) clearly matches that found by Mr. Cranmer and it seems certain that most of his finds came from the filling of this ditch a few feet to the north-east. The ditch was U-shaped in section, about 2.20 metres wide and about 1.20 metres deep from the present ground-level and its centre was 80 centimetres west of the south-west corner. Its primary silting of brown loam was devoid of finds, but scaling it was a thick layer of black-brown mud-silt containing carbon, 62 potsherds and bones. The upper filling of the ditch contained another 69 potsherds. This material appears to be domestic rubbish thrown into the ditch, then disused, in the late-first and early-second centuries.

DITCH 2 (Figure 2).

This was detected at the south-east corner of the extension but its oblique angle and the difficult access prevented detailed examination. It appeared to run north-east to south-west, roughly parallel to Ditch 1, towards the position of Ditch 3. It was roughly V-shaped in section, 50 centimetres deep, only one metre wide and its centre lay 90 centimetres east of the south-east corner. Its filling of dark brown clay - loam contained eleven Romano-British potsherds (Number 13) similar to those from Ditch 1.

DITCH 3 (Figure 2).

This was found in the vertical face left by the road-widening operations about 16.80 metres east of the front of the bungalow and almost in line with the north-east corner. It was U-shaped in section, 1.60 metres wide and 60 centimetres deep. It also appeared to run north-west/south-east and it seems to head for Ditch 2. Its filling of light-brown loam was, however, considerably different from that of Ditch 2 and it seems that they are, in fact, different ditches. Two worn potsherds (not illustrated) from its lower filling are probably of late-Iron Age date.


This was also found in the roadworks area directly in front of the bungalow and about 5.30 metres south of the centre of Ditch 3. The undisturbed natural clay had been burnt horizontally for a distance of about 2 metres at a depth of 39 centimetres from the present surface. There were no associated finds and the disturbed nature of the site here made it very difficult to determine the exact circumstances and almost any date is possible.

DRAWING: Section drawings of ditches  found at Wrotham Road, Meopham.

Section drawings of ditches found at Wrotham Road, Meopham.


DRAWING: Pottery.


A total of 182 sherds of pottery was recovered from the various deposits on this site. This represents a minimum of 24 vessels of which 13 are illustrated. These sherds have been classified into six main groups which are shown in table A and discussed below.

  Samian Ware Fine Wares Grit-Laded Wares Patch Grove Wares Corky Wares Sandy wares Total Sherds Total Vessals
Ditch 1, Upper 1(1) 16(3) 2(1) 15(3) 19(3) 16(2) 69 (13)
Ditch 1, Lower -- 4(2) 1(1) 28 3 26(3) 62 (6)
Ditch 2 -- -- -- 2(1) -- 9 11 (1)
Ditch 3 -- -- 2(1) -- -- -- 2 (1)
Unstratified -- 3 4 20(1) 2(1) 9(1) 38 (3)
Total vessels (1) (5) (3) (5) (4) (6) 24 (24)
Total Sherds 1 23 9 65 24 60 182 --

The Finer wares (Numbers 8-10).

These consist of samian and the finer quality products, some perhaps imports of Romano-Gaulish kilns. A single, worn sherd of samian from the upper fill of Ditch 1, probably dates from the late-first century or early-second century. Three more vessels represent beakers of about the middle decades of the 1st century and the flagons are first-century in character. All came from Ditch 1.

Romanised Wares (Numbers 2, 7, 12).

Six vessels have a hard sandy texture and may usefully be described as "Romanised" products in that they represent the developing R B pottery tradition. All appear to be jars or cooking pots and the types represented date from the second half of the first century and the early-second century One came from an unstratified context and all the rest from Ditch 1.

Native Wares (Numbers 1, 3-6, 11, 13).

The main types represented are: the hand-made grit-loaded pottery, probably of Late-Iron Age date; the 'Corky' ware vessels and the Patch Grove ware. Of the three grit-loaded vessels two came from the fill of Ditch 1 and the other from Ditch 3. All these sherds are too small for illustration and all probably represent cooking pots of Late-Iron Age date. Their surfaces are black, brown and buff and the thicknesses vary from 4 to 11 millimetres.

Of the four 'Corky' wares three came from the fill of Ditch 1 and the other was found unstratified nearby. All have developed 'bead' rims, two recessed for lids, representing cooking pots. The paste is soft to the touch and the surfaces are pitted, probably where shell or straw tempering has burnt out.

Finally, five vessels are of the soft soapy Patch Grove ware, named after a site at Ightham in West Kent where it was first identified. One came from Ditch 2, four came from Ditch 1 and the other was found by the builder and almost certainly came from Ditch 1 as well. The paste is normally a mottled blue-grey and the surfaces arc brown, orange and black. Three jars and two cooking pots are represented.


Although the collection is small it is at once typical of early Romano-British sites in West Kent, the products of which now have been studied in detail . See Footnote [5]. Including the possible late-Iron Age vessels the native wares (Patch Grove and 'Corky') constitute 44% of the total vessels, but the finer and sandy wares represents 56%. This sort of balance is frequent elsewhere on early rural Romano-British sites and the date range is almost entirely between AD 40-120.


Unstratified from Ditch 1.

1. Storage jar of Patch Grove ware. Mottled grey-black paste and orange surface. Lightly burnished zone on cordoned neck and stabbed chevron pattern on shoulder. Three perforations below shoulder deliberately pierced from outside, perhaps a repair. 2. Cooking-pot with flattened bead rim of sandy ware. Grey paste and black surface. 3. Cooking-pot with recessed bead rim of 'corky' ware. Grey paste and orange-grey surface.

From the filling of Ditch 1.

4. Storage jar base of Patch Grove ware. Mottled grey-black paste and buff-brown surface. Burnished zone at base. 5. Cooking-pot with outcurved rim of Patch Grove ware. Mottled grey paste and dark grey surface, burnished externally. 6. Storage jar of Patch Grove ware. Mottled grey-black paste and black-brown surface. Burnished zone at base. Three oval perforations drilled through centre of base from underneath after firing. 7. Jar or bowl with thickened upright rim of coarse sandy ware. Grey-black paste and grey-buff surface. 8. Corrugated beaker with outcurved rim of fine sandy ware. Light grey paste and grey-brown surface. 9. Wall-sherd of corrugated beaker of fine sandy ware. Grey-buff paste and brown surface. 10. Flagon base of fine sandy ware. Light grey paste, pink-brown surface and white slip on exterior surface. Pronounced footring. 11. Cooking-pot with bead rim of 'corky' ware. Mottled black-brown paste and surface and rim recessed for lid. 12. Cooking-pot with slightly out-turned rim of sandy ware. Buff-grey paste and grey-brown surface.

From the filling of Ditch 2.

13. Jar with outcurved rim of Patch Grove ware. Orange-buff paste and surface.


The new finds on the bungalow and roadworks sites suggest a settlement extending over more than half an acre. It seems probable that the inadequately recorded 'finds' of 1897 to the north-west probably relate and thus the area may extend for about two acres. The reliable evidence is confined to 182 potsherds and three ditches. One of the ditches, Ditch 3, with the late Iron Age potsherds, may well relate to a late Iron Age farmstead established at Meopham in the 1st or 2nd century BC. The limited evidence makes further conclusions very uncertain but elsewhere, as at North View, Sutton-at-Hone such ditches served to delimit enclosures. See Footnote [3]. More than this cannot be said.

That the site was occupied in the second half of the first century AD and perhaps early second century is now certain though the evidence for this Romano-British settlement is limited to two ditches and 180 potsherds. The two ditches, of varying size and perhaps parallel probably served to delimit enclosures or fields as at Eastwood and Faversham. See Footnote [1]. See Footnote [4]. The pottery and bone is clearly domestic rubbish discarded into the ditches after the formation of the primary silt. The total absence of building materials suggests that any related structures had been of wood and clay. The pottery dates from about AD 60-120 and suggests a limited occupation, though this may not be a representative selection of material. A detailed study of first century Romano-British farmsteads in West Kent, however, suggests many failed to survive more than two or three generations. The limited evidence at Meopham hints at late-Iron Age origins and perhaps continuity into the early Romano-British period and in this case a simple farmstead community is probably represented. See Footnote [5]


Footnote 1.

Reference 1. PHILP, B J Arch. Cant., (1963) Volume 78 page 55. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 1.

PHILP, B J Arch. Cant., (1963) Volume 78 page 55. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 2.

Reference 2. PAYNE, G Arch. Cant., (1897) Volume 22 page li. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 3.

Reference 3. MYNOTT, EDNA KAR, (1974) Number 38 page 226. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 4.

Reference 4. PHILP, B J Excavations at Faversham, 1965, (1968) page 72. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 5.

Reference 5. PHILP, B J Arch. Cant., (1963) Volume 78 page 74. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 5.

Reference 5. PHILP, B J Arch. Cant., (1963) Volume 78 page 74. Return to the paragraph.
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