Cobham Hall

Cobham Landscape Detectives and a Cottage Dig in Kent

To my great amusement both my wife, Sophie Adams and I have been working in cellars today…I have been digging a Georgian cellar out, while Sophie had been researching in Maidstone Museum’s cellar…do read her dayofarch post!

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For the last week the Shorne Woods Archaeology Group and the North Downs YACs have been assisting me in the excavation of an old cottage in Cobham Woods, Kent.

This work is taking place as part of a new 3 year Lottery funded project, Cobham Landscape Detectives. Beginning this Spring, the project will aim to tell the story of the varied and fascinating landscape, centred on Cobham Parish, Kent.

We have already spent many hours walking through Cobham Woods, with LiDAR printout in one hand and GPS receiver in the other! The LiDAR results have guided us to old trackways through the woods and many a mysterious lump and bump…not to mention the most amazing trees!

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Medieval trackway running through Cobham Woods

We have participated in the annual Park open day at Shorne Woods to spread awareness of the project…

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Our work in Cobham Woods led us to one site that seemed very suitable for the first community excavation of the new project…a demolished cottage that once stood in the SE corner of the old Cobham Hall estate…

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Volunteer with window frame from the Cottage

With permissions in place from Natural England and support from the National Trust who own and manage the land, we set aside 2 weeks to examine the layout of the cottage site and recover dating evidence….

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First day on site with the amazing North Downs YACs

I am writing this at the end of week one, after seven brilliant days on site, with the hardest working and most dedicated volunteers I have ever met (and in some cases now worked with for over 10 years!)…

We have identified the layout of 2 buildings on the site, the first is a Georgian building dating to the 1780’s:

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The second is an additional building added in the later 19th century:

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This second building survives much better than the first, with intact internal and external surfaces, full of finds!

The first building has suffered from the full force of the demolition crew that tore apart both buildings in the 1950’s, leaving a gaping hole in the north wall.

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Newspaper article showing the cottage pre-war

Amongst the many interesting finds from the site is one rather special mug fragment:

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It appears to depict a kangaroo holding a cricket bat! This is an incredible link to the wider Cobham Hall estate, as one of the owners captained the first Ashes winning cricket team in the 1880’s…could this be a piece of memorabilia depicting this event…celebrated on the estate by the estate workers?

We have another week to further puzzle out the mysteries of the cottage. Does the Georgian building’s cellar have an intact floor? What will other finds tell us about the owners of the cottage and the wider estate? What is the function of the enigmatic brick structure in building 2?

In a finale fitting to the day of archaeology, a spot of further research on-site today produced a lovely drawing of the cottage, presumed to show it in the first half of the 20th century….

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Image from the Cobham and Ashenbank Management Scheme Report

To keep up to date with the dig and the Cobham Landscape Detectives Project, follow @ArchaeologyKent on Twitter and ArchaeologyinKent on facebook, as well as our dedicated, volunteer-run website!

I always end my day of archaeology posts by thanking the volunteers, both local and further afield, who make every project we put together possible through their dedication and hardwork…thank you 🙂

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Volunteers hard at work on the Cottage Dig

Randall Manor Calling! An update from our Community Archaeology Excavation in Kent, 2013

Randall Manor, Kent, 2013

Randall Manor, Kent, 2013

Not so much a day of archaeology, as a short review of a month of community archaeology at Shorne Woods Country Park, Kent! This was our eighth year of excavations on the site, making it the longest running community excavation of one site in the County! I planned things carefully this year so that we would dig through a heatwave! In total we worked for 27 days on the site, with over 20 people on site on most days, rising to over 40 on our busiest days! I’m very much a believer in Pat Reid’s description of community archaeology as being done by the people, for the people. Everyone on site is a volunteer, apart from me and my post is part funded by the National Lottery and partly by Kent County Council. All site supervision is undertaken by volunteers, as are responsibilities for finds, records, plans and sections…I just keep the juggernaut that is the Randall Manor dig rolling!

This year we wanted to answer some final questions about certain key areas of the site, before we backfill and also try to gain more evidence for the early use of the site, pre the buildings’ construction. We had four areas open, one at the south end of the site, one across the junction between our putative aisled hall and cross wing, one across the kitchen and we opened up a big new trench to the east of the kitchen.

Randall Manor, Kent

Randall Manor, Kent

Historically, our research suggests that there is a principal building on the site by the second half of the thirteenth century, with high status use of the site for around 100 years. After this the buildings are left to tenants before all occupation dramatically ends in the late sixteenth century, when the site is comprehensively demolished, perhaps as a source of stone for the construction of Cobham Hall.

Excavations this year have added to our growing understanding of the site. In the southern trench, it is now apparent that there was substantial attempt to expand the building platform to the south, burying a soil horizon in the process. Conversations with David and Barbara Martin (medieval building experts) also point to this end of the site forming the high end to the first high status building on site, complete with chimney and private garderobe?  All built over an early gully in which we have some good pottery evidence (to be analysed). There also seems to have been an attempt to create a revetted occupation area, outside the building.

In the trench over the aisled hall/cross wing join, we sunk a series of test pits that came up trumps with a ditch running under the buildings. This ditch had early thirteenth century pottery in its lowest fills…

The kitchen continues to provide fascinating evidence for the remodelling and phasing of the site. We now have a hearth and possible bread oven that lie under the later kitchen walls. This is in addition to a sequence of two tiled hearths and a stone hearth, all replacing each other and a series of patched and replaced kitchen floor surfaces….it will all take further teasing out!

Finally our new trench for this year! We suspected we might have another building, but have actually encountered a series of levelling layers, a trackway and occupation surfaces. Bags and bags of pottery from these and 3 lovely whetstones…

Just to add to the mix we also had a very nice Roman coin from one of the tile demolition layers and a pendant that needs conservation and cleaning work.

A really successful season with all credit going to the incredible amount of hard work put into the project by the many volunteers involved, both existing and new for this year.  5 schools dug with us, 2 on repeat visits through the dig; we also had a local Scout troop and 3 YAC groups digging on site. We organised and ran a weekend for visually impaired volunteers, in conjunction with the Kent Association for the Blind. Over 1,000 visitors had a guided tour of the site.

And….over our last weekend we had medieval re-enactors in the Park!

Lots of pictures at http://www.facebook.com/archaeologyinkent. Contact andrew.mayfield@kent.gov.uk for further info!

Possible Bread Oven

Possible Bread Oven

Knighting at Shorne Woods with the Woodvilles

Knighting at Shorne Woods with the Woodvilles 


LiDAR survey of the Medway Valley

In 2011, the Valley of Visions Landscape Partnership Project in conjunction with Lottery funding from the Shorne Woods Archaeology Project, commissioned a high-res LiDAR survey of the Medway Valley in Kent.

LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging and is a process where an aerial laser survey produces a highly accurate topographic map of the target area.

The results have been spectacular and are now being used to better understand the archaeology of the Valley.

In 2012, as Kent County Council’s Community Archaeologist, I have been working with local people and groups to investigate some of the LiDAR results.

This work is ongoing and will continue into 2013.  The results have been particularly impressive around Shorne Woods Country Park, Cobham Hall and the Ranscombe Reserve, run by Plantlife.

Findings range from medieval field systems and trackways to world war two military camps, all lost in the woods!

See www.facebook.com/archaeologyinkent for further images and information and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-18448005

Do get in touch for more information!