Lesley Hardy

Swords, sandals and early Heritage sites

Local media

Our local media – print, broadcast and online – are still excellent ways to reach people involved with the community project and attract new visitors. Not everyone’s online yet. You are though: do take a look at our Facebook page.

One of our volunteers has built up a terrific relationship with them and gains lots of publicity for the different activities and events that ATU runs.  Here’s a piece published today about a screening of The  Eagle of the Ninth, based on Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic tale which visited our villa site.

There’ll also be a talk by Andy Brockman, who specialises in community archaeology and the Archaeology of Modern Conflict.

All Because of Tutankhamun?

Here’s another contribution with thoughts about promotion from Dr Lesley Hardy:

‘I’m writing this in a brief break from a longer writing task. Two weeks of study leave is hopefully going to allow me to make some further headway looking at the culture which took place in the 1920s.

In part, the appetite for all things archaeological was linked to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 but I argue its roots go back much further into the C19th and are also explained by the shifts that take place in culture and society post-WW1.

In order to trace these changes and their significance for how we look at archaeology today, I’m following the excavation of the Roman villa site at Folkestone. These were excavated by S.E. Winbolt in 1924 and in many ways epitomise the turn towards the promotion and integration of archaeology (especially, I think, Romano-British archaeology) through a wide range of media – newspapers, books, radio even.

The Earliest Heritage Site?

In other words, Folkestone is one of the first ‘Heritage sites’ in the country.

Must get back to the job in hand – production of this article: ‘The Romans in Folkestone: S.E. Winbolt and the evolution of Public Archaeology in the 1920s.”

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 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.