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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Roman Villa -- Snodland Gas Works.
by M A Ocock.

The existence of a Romano-British building in Church Field, Snodland, has been known for a considerable time. A "bath" was discovered about 1800 and was covered up without damage being done. George Payne and Roach-Smith both visited the area and a floor and walls were seen exposed in the river bank some 8-10 feet below ground level. The site is on one side of a spur of comparatively high ground which runs down to the River Medway and the buildings so far located are about 200 feet from the present river's edge. The Holborough stream at one time entered the river close by, and marshes occupy most of the surrounding area. A gas work was built there about fifty years ago but no discoveries were reported. However in 1928 extensions to the works resulted in a large number of "finds" and a man was later posted to rescue and record anything found. Much had been destroyed prior to his arrival and only a brief report could be published. Nothing further was done but it is now known that several walls and floors covering a wide area were met with when a new factory was erected on adjacent land in 1935. In the autumn of last year it was learned that further building was expected to take place and it was decided to investigate the remaining land. The excavations were continued until Christmas and resumed for three further months during 1965.

The excavations were confined to a narrow strip of land between the Gas Works and the factory of the Lead Wool Co. Ltd, and revealed a bath building and a group of rooms which may have been part of the living quarters of a Villa. The bath building had been almost entirely destroyed by site clearance operations and only part of a hypocaust and apse feature remained. A rectangular feature with walls of bonding tile, plastered internally, may have been a cold plunge-bath but this too had suffered from the bulldozer. The area around had been excavated to subsoil depth and it was not possible to ascertain the relationship of these features to each other or to other rooms discovered some 50 feet away. This part of the building which may have been the "living quarters" was fairly well preserved under a 9 inch layer of modern concrete and hardcore. We were fortunate to obtain the use of pneumatic road-drills and were able to excavate the area but elsewhere work was severely restricted by the existence of modern features. The remains uncovered consisted of a longroom with a tessalated floor and smaller room at the east end leading to a narrow corridor. A child burial in a small tile cist was in one corner of the larger room and a thickening to the external wall concealed a cavity containing a cooking pot which may originally have contained votive offerings. These rooms overlaid an earlier wall which appeared contemporary with a range of smaller rooms at the west end of the budding. Most of this wing had chalk floors but a rather crude hypocaust was found which unlike the previous one had a hard-packed clay floor and piloe, some of which were constructed of broken roof tiles bonded with clay. The room, like others in the wing, had been partially destroyed by an air-raid shelter. A courtyard of chalk paving lay immediately outside the walls of this end of the villa and a length of flat-bottomed boundary ditch was uncovered.So far it appears that the latest phase, consisting of at least two rooms with tessalated floors, can be dated to AD 200-250. This phase involved some rebuilding and an extension of some of the earlier rooms which continued to be used.

Building operations by the South Eastern Gas Board have now revealed the existence of large simple building about 300 feet from the villa on the edge of a small silted-up creek. The site will continue to be watched as it is thought that some traces of a quay may be found. The villa itself is some way from good agricultural land and it seems likely to have had connections with the river. Further isolated discoveries have been made during building work. These are being carefully recorded as they fill some important gaps in the information so far obtained. The two landowners, The Lead Wool Co. Ltd and South Eastern Gas Board, have been extremely co-operative and helpful in every way and with their help it is hoped that further interesting discoveries will be made.

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