Kent

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 Season 10, Shorne Woods Country Park, Kent

Randall Manor, SE corner of platform, eastern annex building

Randall Manor, SE corner of platform, eastern annex building

Randall Manor Team photo 2015

Randall Manor Team photo 2015

I wasn’t sure last year, when writing a post for Day of Archaeology 2014, that there would be a Randall Manor season 10. We had come to the end of our Lottery funded project work and had support from Kent County Council to complete the ninth season (which finally wrapped up in November 2014, after many happy extra volunteer week day hours)…At the start of this year, conversations amongst the incredible archaeology volunteer team I work with inevitably turned to enquiries about a Season 10. As we lacked funds, we decided to keep it short and sweet and limited to an 8-day season (with likely post dig volunteer days to follow 🙂 ). A plan was devised (and debated!) to keep to two excavation areas, with clear aims:

A.) An old area to the south of our aisled hall building (dated to the second half of the thirteenth century), was to be revisited and a possible second garderobe structure investigated (we have previously investigated a very nice chalk lined garderobe pit in the service wing of our main building complex, complete with sloped flint cobble floor and stone lined opening/access). We also wanted to test a theory that at the back of the aisled hall there may be clay ramps, revetted with stone, acting as access to the building complex during its demolition.

B.) The second area of investigation in 2015 was the SE corner of the Manor platform, where we wanted to investigate both the north wall and eastern annex to a building first uncovered last year…

Season 10

The Day of Archaeology sees us on Day 6 of this short tenth season. Despite the deluge today, we are on course to meet the objectives of our dig this year. We now think that the possible garderobe structure was supported by two large wooden posts. As we seem to be below any surviving ‘use’ levels, we cannot be categorical about our interpretation and it is possible that the surviving structure could also be the base of a stairwell, accessing the back of the aisled hall. We do have a well defined north-south running drainage gully running along the west side of the aisled hall, kept in use until the buildings are demolished, perhaps 300 years later…In our second area we have found and exposed the north wall of the building and the eastern annex, which appears to be stone and chalk built, with its own entrance passage…

As the rain continues to pour outside, it only remains for me to pay tribute to the continuing enthusiasm, passion and sense of fun of the archaeology volunteers I work with. They make even the most mundane tasks such as grid setting out a pleasure. On a day like today, we still had 12 people turn up, desperate to take part and once driven in by the rain, everyone mucked in with getting kit stowed away, finds processed and paperwork completed.

Even if there is no season 11 (and who knows there might be!!), whatever project we move on to next, I know that the volunteers will make it just as engaging and fulfilling as the Manor has been.

Andrew.

More info as ever at: www.facebook.com/archaeologyinkent

Steve White (MOLA): archaeology in Kent

Week 9 of our project in Kent continues apace, with many features revealed, and many more yet to dig. We have some interesting alignments of postholes and ditches, revealing a potential settlement with a substantial structure at its heart.

Not pictured: fantastic weather

Not pictured: fantastic weather

The site comprises several kilometres of stripping for a new road and a housing development, which creates logistical issues that don’t normally occur on the sites we run in central London. Every day is a challenge, but one that is made easier by an amazing team, and up until today, fantastic weather!

Day of Archaeology – LAARC Lottery Part 4 (Metal Finds)

Now onto our Metal store – this entire store holds a host of treasures, and more coffin nails than you’d care to imagine!

Our first lucky object from shelf 496 comes from site ABO92 – Abbott’s Lane, excavated in 1992 by the then Museum of London Archaeology Service (MOLAS). Being a waterfront site this excavation produced a wealth of metal objects – all surviving due to the aerobic conditions of burial.

Our object is a medieval pilgrim badge that depicts the mitred head of Thomas Becket dating to c.1530 – 1570. An additional badge of better condition was also excavated from the site. The cult of Thomas Becket was one of the most popular in London during the medieval period – not surprising as he was also considered the city’s unofficial patron saint. These badges would have been collected at the site of pilgrimage – this one may have therefore travelled all the way from Canterbury in Kent, before being lost or perhaps purposefully discarded. The badge is a miniature imitation of the reliquary of a life-sized mitred bust of Becket that was held in Canterbury Cathedral.

 

Lead pilgrim badge

Lead pilgrim badge, depicting the mitred head of Thomas Becket dating to c.1530 – 1570, and from shelf 496 of our metal store

 

Publication photograph of a similar pilgrim badge to the one found on our shelf

Publication photograph of a similar pilgrim badge to the one found on our shelf (MOLAS Monograph 19)

Our second object, stored on shelf 593, is from the more recent excavation SAT00. Found in the upper stratigraphy this is a beautifully preserved pocket sundial.

Copper sundial

Copper pocket sundial, from shelf 593

 

A great source for comparison with these metal artefacts is the Portable Antiquities Scheme which holds the records of thousands of objects discovered, mainly through metal detecting, from across the country. Our sundial, excavated from the site of St. Paul’s Cathedral Crypt (SAT00), has a direct parallel with one found in Surrey.

Quoting from PAS object entry SUR-7790B4:

“These sundials are known as simple ring dials or poke dials (‘poke’ being an archaic word for pocket). The sliding collar would be set into position for the month of the year and, when the dial was suspended vertically, the sun would shine through the hole in the lozenge-shaped piece, through the slot, and onto the interior of the ring. The hour could then be read by looking at the closest gradation mark to the spot of light on the interior of the ring.”

http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/492755

Next it’s our Textile artefacts. Again, segregated and stored in a controlled environment, this store is humidified to preserve these important materials. Tweet using #dayofarch or #LAARC, or message us below, a number between 784 and 910 to discover, completely at random, what that shelf holds…

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!

 

Shorne Woods Archaeology Project Update 2012

Greetings from Kent County Council’s Community Archaeologist!

Since last year’s #dayofarch we have secured funding from HLF for a new project at Shorne Woods in Kent!  Called Shorne HubCAP it aims to involve local people in the archaeology of their area and provide training opportunities for volunteers and local archaeology groups.

We are working on a number of sites, from the mesolithic to the medieval. This week we have been finishing a series of test pits on a mesolithic site where we may have an in-situ flint scatter with refitting flakes!

We are now pouring all our energies into preparing for a month of archaeology at Shorne Woods Country Park, working on our medieval manor site. We will have re-enactors on site on the 7th and 8th of July, with our community dig running from the 9th to the 29th of July. Do come visit!

We will be hosting local schools for the first week and a half, with the opportunity for the children to get involved and help us dig the site.

The whole project is indebted to the enthusiasm, knowledge and interest of the many volunteers who take part on a weekly basis. Last year we had 140 different people involved with the summer dig and over 1,000 visitors…

Lots of information and pictures on our facebook page www.facebook.com/archaeologyinkent

Do get in touch to learn more and to get involved!

 

Reconnecting people with their heritage

This summer a hardy band of volunteers and one or two paid professionals began a second season of excavation at a 50 room villa and extended Iron Age/Roman site, which stretches across and beyond the East Cliff at Folkestone, Kent, writes Dr Lesley Hardy, Project Director for A Town Unearthed: Folkestone before 1500 and Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Rescue archaeology on a cliff-edge

Folkestone sits in a liminal position on a bed of greensand rock which juts out between the chalk Down-land and the clay weald. It is the closest crossing point to France and so also, depending on your perspective, marks a boundary or a route-way between Britain and the continent probably used for millennia.

The site overlooks the English Channel and is in a stunning though precarious location on the edge of the chalk cliffs there. Its direct sight line is Boulogne and on a clear day other Roman bases at Dover and Lympne can be seen, as can the North-Downs Way which ends abruptly interrupted by cataclysm at the cliff edge above Folkestone.

Erosion makes this rescue archaeology and has justified excavation which would not have been allowed on a less compromised scheduled site.

A Town Unearthed

The dig is a part of a three-year Lottery-funded community archaeology project based in Folkestone called ‘ A Town Unearthed’. It’s a title of double meaning, intended to reflect multiple meanings attached to community archaeology in general and in particular to this project’s aim.

It aims not only to deliver community archaeology in the sense of fieldwork but also to ‘dig’ in the more critical sense of understanding how the community of Folkestone sees and understands itself in relation to its past: an archaeology of itself.

If we want to understand the processes by which communities identify with certain archaeological and historical places, this is an important site.

Folkestone

Folkestone is a town which has come to be defined by a relatively recent history. The town was developed at a rapid pace in the 1860s and 70s as a health resort.

If you visit today you would see a somewhat modernised but largely Victorian/Edwardian resort. The decline slowly eroded the prosperity of the resort from the 1940s also continues to leave its mark.

Reconnecting townsfolk and their heritage

We hope that by re-awakening interest in the larger time-span and the rich ancient landscape that surrounds the town to contribute towards challenging this narrative of decline and to reconnect people with the significant and rich ancient heritage that surrounds them.

These include the Bayle – the site of a C7th Royal Minster; Castle Hill- a large Norman earthwork (one of Pitt-Rivers’ first excavations) and also the large amount of unpublished reports, artefactual collections and other material which trace a history dating from earliest times.