Kent Archaeological Review extract

Reports from the Groups.
by T C Woodman.


The Group undertook the major restoration of Fort Amherst at Chatham and kept a watching brief on all the fortifications in the Medway area. They were successful in persuading the Borstal authorities to refrain from continuing to fill in the Borstal moat and instead to instigate a restoration programme. Another success was in obtaining the close co-operation of the Army who helped by lending tools, equipment and buildings to the Group.

The Army also supported the publication of a guide to Fort Amherst. The Group is in the process of photographing and recording all the military sites in the area from the Dutch period onwards. A large display was mounted for the Royal Engineers open day last July and there will be another this year. An exhibition will be on display at Strood Library from 1st to 20th August this year showing the work of the Group.


Excavations by OADS continue at St Mary Cray, reference TQ 4699 6734 as reported in KAR Number 47. Recent stratified finds in the vicinity include a damaged bronze finger ring-key, and within the past fortnight on the vacant site at 23, Lower Road, Orpington, two coins have been recovered at a depth of 1½ metres. The first is a 33mm diameter bronze sestertius of Trajan in good condition. The second is a damaged 15 milimetre bronze coin, type AE4 of Helena, mother of Constantine 1, minted 337-340 at Treve. The finds will shortly be deposited in the Bromley Museum at Orpington.


The 1976 Training School was held at Lower Warbank, Keston in the first two weeks of July. Twenty-four students attended the course which consisted of excavation techniques, talks on pottery and practical digging. The highlight so far as the students were concerned was the finding of a pair of romano-british tweezers and a bronze brooch of the same date. The 1977 course is due to start very shortly.


The Group concentrated on field work in Wilmington and Keston where they were considerably assisted by the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit and in return joined in the KARU excavations at Dartford and on the M20 motorway. The site at Wilmington, discovered during gravelling consisted of an early Neolithic peat-filled lake with substantial amounts of flint artifacts of both Neolithic and Mesolithic date and some pottery of early Neolithic date (KAR 43 Spring 1976). Iron Age structures were also found including one of ten post-holes and large storage pits containing Iron Age pottery were uncovered. Work continues as gravelling advances.

Lower Warbank, Keston again proved to be a prolific site of Iron Age and Romano-British date and the most spectacular find was a corn-drying oven (see report in this issue).

Rescue work was undertaken in a field at West Wickham where treasure hunters with metal detectors had been looting a Romano-British site (KAR 48 Summer 1977).

Work continues in the evenings on the preparation of West Kent Report number 2. The public lectures given in the winter months again proved very popular. A successful open weekend was held last September when some 2000 people visited the site at Lower Warbank.


Work was completed on the Tudor blockhouse, Gravesend and the report has now been finished. Unfortunately it has not been possible to get this published so far, but copies have been placed in both the County and Gravesend libraries. The Group then went on to give assistance at the Rochester dig directed by Mr Harrison and have since started excavations at the Roman Villa at Northfleet. The TAG will mount a display in Gravesend library during July. Mr Suckling, a group member has been asked by the Gravesend Historical Society of New York to conduct an excavation for them on the forts built as protection against the Indians.


During the past year the Unit has been busy dealing with both long-term and short-term projects. A major preservation scheme, patrol work, ground and air surveys, training schools and publication. Rescue operations took place at a Medieval Priory and Tudor Palace at Dartford and at the Franks Roman Villa at Farningham. This was on the line of the M20 where gravelling operations threatened to destroy part of the villa and did in fact destroy the surrounding area.

Excavations continued on the three major sites at Dover; perhaps the most interesting find was a Saxon GRUBENHAUS some 25 feet in length. Recently a large flint platform of Roman date has been uncovered extending into the ditch of the Saxon Shore Fort and it may prove to be the bridge abutment for the west gate of the fort.

Work has been done in conjunction with our Thanet patrol on two development sites in Margate -- Milmead Road, where four Bronze Age barrows and an Iron Age enclosure were excavated; and at Foreness Point, Margate where Romano-British pits and ditches were discovered.

The preservation scheme for the Painted House at Dover was completed by the Unit with help from the CKA and many of its constituent groups' members and it is now open to the public.


During the year excavation activity has been limited to a survey of the threatened Church Field, Milton Regis. The first phase, the sinking of small trenches at intervals across the field, has been completed and a report appears in this issue of the KAR. Further work is planned when agricultural operations allow. Other digging has been on occasional basis, to help at Dover and at Bearstead (moated house).

Archaeological surveillance of the Sittingbourne area has been maintained, with special reference to the road-widening scheme along the A249 between Iwade and Key Street, and agricultural building at Radfield. No obvious structures have been detected. Detailed building surveys are being carried out on Bobbing Place and Tonge water mill, by kind permission of the owners, and a photographic record of buildings of historical interest in the area is being compiled.

Court Hall continues to be operated as a museum of local history. Several displays have been refurbished, fresh articles have been loaned, and a special display, featuring Bowater's paper making activity during the last hundred years, has been mounted. Nearly a thousand people have visited the museum during the twice-monthly summer open days. Several expeditions and public lectures have been organised and CKA and KAS functions have been supported.


The Group continued working on the 1st and 2nd century sites north of Upchurch. Small post holes have come to light on the 1st century site and these may be the first indication of seasonal use of the area as they indicate structures or fences too flimsy to be permanent. Reports that tree planting was to take place on or near the Hartlip villa reached the Group and an investigation was made. It proved to be a false alarm however, as the planting was well to the north of the site. We intend to walk the fields in that area later in the year when crops permit. At the moment the Group's transport, that is our boat, is undergoing repairs but we hope it will be operational by mid-July.


The survey of water-powered sites has now been completed by the Group and we are at present conducting a detailed survey of bloomery sites. During the past year we have assisted in field and research work at Scarlets furnace at Cowden/Harfield on the Kent-Sussex border and at Maynards Gate 16th century blast furnace site in advance of housing development. Very little of the masonry remained but the wheel-pit was found. Other sites have been found at Bodiam -- a Roman bloomery and a new site at Brede where 13th and 14th century pottery has come to light. It is hoped to explore this further when the crops have been harvested.

We also worked at Pippingford Park where a wood-lined cannon casting pit remains preserved below water level. In a different area of the park an important 1st century bloomery site is being excavated which has a new type of furnace. Iron Age pottery has been found in association and three furnaces have come to light so far.

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