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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Operation Gas-Pipe.
by Miss E Warman.

Since the end of June, when work first began on Bromley Common, daily visits have been paid to the 24-inch gas main, which the South-Eastern Gas Board are laying from East Greenwich to Ewell, Surrey, in a trench 5 feet deep and 4 feet wide. The West Kent Border Archaeological Group are watching 19 miles of this main from East Greenwich to Hooley, Surrey, where another Group takes over, and the work on the pipeline is expected to continue until December 1965.

Every day at least one member of the Group has visited the site and inspected the trench and the spoilheap. Sometimes, whilst the machine 'topsoils', it has been possible to walk behind it watching the soil as it is dug out, and for another person to walk in the trench checking for pits, ditches, etc. In this way, more than one site has been found.

When a site is found, its position is plotted on the 25-inch map, kindly provided by the Gas Board with the position of the trench marked; then the position of the site is marked in the field. As soon as it is possible to get in the trench, the extent of the site is determined; it is then recorded, a section is drawn and, finally, as much dating evidence as possible is salvaged, both from the spoil-heap and the section. Action must be taken immediately as the trench is usually back-filled within 24 hours. Every yard of the trench has so far been surveyed in detail.

In the first 40 yards of the trench, a pit containing a large quantity of carbon was found, but unfortunately no dateable material; two days later, some Iron Age pottery in the topsoil, then later digging revealed a ditch filled with Roman pottery. Another three days and a U-shaped ditch, over 5 feet deep was found, this time full of pot-boilers and prehistoric pottery. The trench passes close to the late Bronze Age farmstead on Hayes Common which the Group are excavating, and it is hoped that the trench will pick up the return of a ditch surrounding the site. On the other side of the Common, there is another undateable pit, and a second Roman ditch, and the machine is about to dig through a field from which Roman burials were reported in 1856.

There have been thus 5 new sites found in a length of trench less than 3 miles long, and the remainder of the trench is expected to cross farm-land where sites have previously been recorded.

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