Kent Archaeological Review extract

A New Neolithic Site at Cheriton, Folkestone.
by Dr Isobel Smith and Brian Philp.
(Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit.)

This site (NGR TR 1946 3689) lies on the south edge of Cheriton High Street about 700 metres north-east of the parish church of St Martin's, Cheriton. It occupied the grass verge (0S parcel 3693) between the paved footpath and the road kerb on a gentle north facing slope about one kilometre south of the foot of the North Downs scarp. It stands on a subsoil of Thanet Sand at an elevation of about 190 feet 0D. The precise find-spot was about 11 metres east of the projected centre of the eastern arm of Samian Crescent and about half a metre south of the kerb of the A20.

The site was located in March, 1972 when a water-main trench was being dug by mechanical means by contractors close to the kerb. One of the workmen, who is otherwise anonymous, noted parts of a large pottery vessel apparently lying on its side in the side of the trench. He removed these noting their depth as about one metre and remarking that they were in a sandy brown loam fill quite distinct from the otherwise undisturbed natural sand. The pipe was then laid and the trench backfilled before the discovery was reported to the Unit at Dover Castle. A close examination of the area showed that at least a metre of soil had been removed from the area in the form of a terrace, perhaps during the construction of the A20 road. In 1948 Belgic and Romano-British burials had been hit by contractors about 190 metres to the west and a report on that material also records "a large hand-made vessel ... the lip is completely plain and unmoulded ... similar to Iron Age A pottery" being found nearer the present site. See Footnote [1]


The Unit is greatly indebted first and foremost to the workman who recovered the pottery and reported the site and to Gerald Clewley who recorded the evidence at the time. Considerable thanks are also due to Dr Isobel Smith for her detailed report on the pottery and for providing outline drawings which have been kindly finished by Mr A E Beningfield.


The evidence consists of very large fragments of two substantially complete vessels of late Neolithic type (see below). From the workman's description these appear to have been lying in a small pit or ditch, the fill of which was quite distinct from the normal subsoil. Allowing for terracing it seems that these vessels originally lay at a depth of about two metres though more than this cannot be said. It is possible that the pottery represents domestic rubbish casually discarded, but the unusually large sherds (some with fresh breaks) tend to suggest that the vessels were buried complete in which case a burial deposit may be indicated. Either way the pottery is evidence of late Neolithic settlement in the adjacent area and the plain vessel reported in 1948 may have related to this in some way. The Unit has since carried out surveys in the general area and it is hoped that further evidence may emerge as this continues.

DRAWING: Late Neolithic pottery.

Late Neolithic pottery found at Cheriton.
Drawn by Dr I Smith and Mr A E Beningfield.

Description of Pottery.

Number 1. Slightly weathered sherd from the rim and shoulder of a bowl in the Ebbsfleet style. The exterior is brown with darker patches, the interior blackish with some paler areas. The hard, compact fabric contains sparse and generally fine flint; the well smoothed surfaces are slightly gritty.

The rim, lower part of the neck and body are ornamented with bold whipped cord impressions. The exceptionally clear indentations have been made by a fine twisted thread wrapped at rather wide intervals round a flexible core. Small circular impressions on the inner and outer sides of the neck seem to have been made in pairs, perhaps by two quills lashed together or a similar device.

Number 2. Sherds in generally fresh condition, representing about half of the rim and parts of the neck and body of a bowl in Ebbsfleet/Mortlake style. The colour, predominantly red to reddish brown, shades into black in the lower part of the interior. The fabric is markedly laminated in section and contains abundant particles of calcined flint up to 5 millimetres in size. Both surfaces have been smoothed, but flints still protrude; the inner surface exhibits faint vertical striations, as if from wiping with a fibrous material.

The rim, both surfaces of the neck and the body are ornamented with coarse twisted cord impressions which seem to represent a knot or loop and two twists. Here again fine details are preserved and it is possible to detect within each indentation the separate twists of the fibres constituting the cord. The pits in the neck have been made with a flat-ended implement; there are shallow bevels at the tops of the pits and corresponding internal bosses.

The Ebbsfleet bowl (Number 1) finds close parallels in sherds with similar whipped cord decoration from the ditches of the causewayed enclosure at Whitehawk, Sussex. Comparison may also be made with pottery found under peat in the bed of the Ebbsfleet, where whipped cord impressions occur on one rim and several bowls carry small circular dots which appear to have been made with quills or the like. A radiocarbon date of 2710 BC 150 (BM-113) has been obtained from wood at the base of the peat near the spot where the pottery was found. The fabric of the sherd from Folkestone also compares well with that of the pottery from Ebbsfleet and from Whitehawk. A date around the middle of the third millenium BC would seem appropriate for this bowl. See Footnote [2] See Footnote [3] See Footnote [4]

The more complete bowl (Number 2) probably represents a somewhat later period of settlement, in the vicinity of 2000 BC. The bowl combines a light, unexpanded rim similar to that of bowl No. 1 with a pronounced, trough-like shoulder and the short, thick twisted cord impressions seen on fully developed Mortlake bowls from the Thames at Hedsor and at Mortlake. The coarse, flaky fabric of this bowl is also characteristic of the Mortlake style.See Footnote [5]

These new finds constitute a notable addition to the previously recorded evidence for neolithic settlement around Folkestone -- earlier neolithic pottery from Creteway Down and a couple of rim sherds, possibly in the Mortlake style, from Caesar's Camp. See Footnote [6] See Footnote [7]


Footnote 1.

P J Tester and H F Bing. Arch.Cant., LXII (1949), page 21. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 2.

E C Curwen, Excavations in Whitehawk Neolithic Camp, Brighton, 1932-3, Antiq. Joum., XIV (1934), 99-133, figures, 15,16,18. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 3.

E C Curwen, Excavations in Whitehawk Camp, Brighton, Third Season, 1935, Sussex Archaeol. Collect., LXXVII (1936), 60-92, figures 20,22. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 4.

J P T Burchell and S Piggott, Decorated Prehistoric Pottery from the Bed of the Ebbsfleet, Northfleet, Kent, Antiq. Joum.,XIX( 1939), 405-20, figures 7:5, 4(a) and 5. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 5.

S Piggott, Neolithic Cultures of the British Isles (1954), plate X: 4&5. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 6.

G C Dunning, Neolithic Occupation Sites in East Kent, Antiq. Journ., XLVI (1966), 11-12 and figure 6. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 7.

A. Pitt-Rivers, Excavations at Caesar's Camp near Folkestone ..., Archaeologia, XL VII (1882), 429-65, plate XX: 45 and 46. Return to the paragraph.
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