A Town Unearthed: Folkestone Before 1500 – Community & Archaeology.

Hello and welcome to my post!  My name is Annie and I one of the lucky few who are undertaking a Community Archaeology Training Placement being offered by the Council for British Archaeology and I’m doing it with Canterbury Archaeological Trust.  Here’s a link to the CBA web-site where there is more information on the placements, the project is set to continue for a few more years so do keep an eye out if you are interested in signing up!

Anyway, down to business and I’ll start with a quick run down of the project.  A Town Unearthed: Folkestone before 1500 is a 3 year community project centred around uncovering Folkestone’s rich and varied history through a variety of activities including archaeological excavation, lectures, school visits, events, talks, forums, and exhibitions (to name but a few!) with volunteers taking a lead in organising, stewarding, and generally making things happen.  The project is in it’s final year and I have been tasked with being in charge of the archaeology side of things which is where our Day of Archaeology day comes in….

…Last year the archaeology side of the project centred around a Roman Villa which is tragically falling off the edge of a cliff (estimates are predicting the whole site will be gone in 50 years).  The Villa was uncovered and open to the public from the 1920s-1950s when post-war austerity forced it’s closure and it was re-buried until the 1980s when some archaeologists went in to see how much was being lost; since then more has gone over and it was decided to open it up to have another look.  Around 200 people from Folkestone had a go at excavating the site over 3 months, with plenty more dropping in to have a look, and the results were surprising. Only a portion of the Villa was re-excavated and produced some fantastic finds of the period, but more exciting perhaps was the discovery of a large Iron Age settlement beneath the floors of the Villa.  This settlement appeared to be industrial in nature, as a large number of quern stones, made from the local Green Stone found on the beach below, were discovered, and have been found in the gardens of the houses surrounding the area (many of them now making up attractive fireplaces and rockeries!); some were even incorporated into the fabric of the Roman Villa.  This year we are not returning to the Villa site but are instead test pitting in the gardens of the houses near to the site in the hope of picking up some Roman or Iron Age features to establish the extent of the site.  On our Day of Archeology day we were mid-excavation in our first ‘pit’ and I’m going to give you a insight into how I like to involve my volunteers on community projects.

So our day starts and we immediately pick up where we left off on the previous day with everyone getting stuck in with the trowels…

We find an interesting green patch of clay, which turned out to be a very unexciting modern dumping episode…

..we persevere…

…giving the trench a quick scan with the metal detector…

…and come up with a bullet! We also had two coins (possibly Roman) and a few buttons which may have been from military uniforms. Folkestone played a large part in both the First and Second World wars and to find evidence for this is very exciting for me…

..and finally starting the recording. I’m a big believer in volunteers getting involved in all aspects of archaeology, including the paperwork, so if you ever end up on one of my sites I will torture you with it..

…and there we have it, a day of community archaeology with a fantastic bunch of people who I’d like to thank for their hard work and dedication to the project. Although this particular test pit did not produce any Roman or Iron Age features we had a lot of pottery from the period so I’m satisfied. We’ll be test pitting all through the summer. I am blogging about my placement so if you’d like to have a look at what I’ve been up to, or want to keep up to date on this project then here’s the link.

Thanks for reading!



One thought on “A Town Unearthed: Folkestone Before 1500 – Community & Archaeology.

  1. Colleen says:

    I am pleased to see that a number of the volunteers were from our recently formed group – the Folkestone Research and Archaeology Group – who are dedicated to ensuring that archaeology in Folkestone is not forgotten and is a very important aspect of our heritage.

    This area has been seriously neglected as far as heritage and archaeological importance is concerned. It appears that, although there have been some important finds in the area, we are bypassed by larger existing communities such as Canterbury and Dover. We believe that there is so much more to find in our area and hope to explore more of our heritage in the very near future.

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