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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Excavations at Orpington.
by P J Tester.

At the invitation of the London Borough of Bromley, and with the support of Orpington Museum and some members of the Orpington Historical Society, excavations have been undertaken on a site between Poverest Road and Bellefield Road, Orpington (NGR TQ 4678 6758) since July this year. The main purpose was to establish the position and extent of a Roman building reported to have been revealed in a service trench in Bellefield Road over twenty years ago. Actual footings have so far not been uncovered in the recent excavations though a widespread area of Roman building debris intermingled with pottery of the first to fourth centuries has been found at a depth of about 2½ feet.

The latest and most interesting development has been the finding of four closely associated early Anglo-Saxon burials. One was a cremation in the remains of a typical round-bottomed Anglo-Saxon pot, and close by were three inhumations. Among these was a skeleton accompanied by an iron spearhead, shield-boss, knife and buckle. The boss had been attached to the shield by disk-headed bronze rivets, and against the hand-grip was a trace of woven material, evidently part of the garment in which the dead man was buried. These discoveries are of particular interest as they constitute the only well authenticated pagan Anglo-Saxon burials along the course of the river Cray. In contrast to the neighbouring Darent valley, the Cray area has hitherto yielded little or no archaeological evidence of sixth century settlement.

Geographically, the Orpington cemetery must be considered as one of a distinctive group ranged along the south bank of the Thames at Cliffe, Higham and Northfleet, extending into the Darent valley at Horton Kirby and, across the Surrey border, to Mitcham and Croydon.

It is hoped that continued excavation will produce further graves. All the finds from this site are being deposited in Orpington Museum.

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