Kent Archaeological Review extract
 

The Camera Regis at Ospringe.
by G H Smith.

Prior to housing development, excavation took place during the summer of 1977 on the site of the thirteenth century Hospital of the Blessed Mary of Ospringe. The work was carried out by the Central Excavation Unit of the Department of the Environment with assistance from members of the Kent Archaeological Society and the Sittingbourne and Swale Archaeological Research Group.

Various buildings were uncovered including part of the main hall of the hospital with its reredorter and kitchens, staff quarters and dovecote. One other building is of especial interest and that is discussed here.

This building lay close to yet detached from the main hall of the hospital. The remains found consisted of the undercroft of a first storey hall some seventeen metres by eight and a half metres over all. Adjoining this and contemporary with it was a small stone two-storey northern wing which itself had an adjoining small reredorter over a culvert. The walls were substantial and, with large buttresses, must have been of a considerable height. The undercroft was isolated from the upper storey which was originally probably reached by an external timber staircase on the south side. Later a stone turret stair-case was added on the north side. The floor of the upper hall had been supported on three posts. Its walls, unlike those of the undercroft, had been painted with 'false ashlar' together with motifs including trefoils. The upper chamber of the northern wing had been similarly decorated.

There are various reasons for thinking that this building was the camera Regis known to have been built into the hospital complex for Henry III as occasional accommodation. Firstly, it is closely similar in design to others denoted as 'camerae' e.g. Moor Hall, Harefield, Middlesex (Rigold 1966, 86-132). At Harefield the upper hall was divided by a light partition to provide an inner chamber and a larger ante- chamber. At Ospringe the small upper room of the northern wing would have served as the inner private chamber while the first floor hall itself would have served as the larger antechamber. Secondly, the building was detached from the main hall of the hospital and having its own reredorter was somewhat an independent unit. Lastly, on stratigraphic evidence, it was built some time after the main hall of the hospital. This accords with the theory that the hospital was already in existence when it gained royal patronage (Rigold 1964, 32).

References.

  • Rigold, S E, 'Two Kentish hospitals re-examined: S. Mary, Ospringe, and SS. Stephen and Thomas, New Romney', Arch.Cant. 79 1964, pages 31-69.
  • Rigold, S E, 'Two Camerae of the Military Orders: Strood Temple, Kent, and Harefield, Middlesex', Arch. J. 122 1966, pages 86-132.
 
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