Indoor Meetings : Reports : 2012-13
18 May Kent's Historic Agricultural Buildings - David Carder, MAAG
David's traditional annual lecture looked at some iconic Kentish buildings: large timber-framed barns, oast-houses, watermills and windmills. David described their history and development, with dendro-chronology now improving our understanding. The talk was illustrated with detailed photographs and illustrations from medieval illuminated manuscripts.
15 June The Via Consolare Project in Pompeii - Daniel Jackson, Wessex Archaeology
Daniel described his work with a multinational team researching Pompeii. The team has been working there since 2005, recording and analysing two important, and often overlooked, central areas of the city, some of which was bombed in WW2.
Using geophysical survey, historic building recording and targeted excavation, the team have produced important new information on the development and evolution of this key area of the city, including its final phase before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79.
Daniel's talk, although short, was enthusiastically presented and well illustrated.
21 Sep Old Maidstone Firms - Andrew Clarke
Andrew gave another beautifully illustrated talk based on his extensive postcard collection. Sharpe's, founded in 1876 and later taken over by Trebor, was famous for its slab toffee. Brewing was a major industry, with Whitbread, Style and Winch, Leneys, E Mason & Sons, and Isherwood, Stacey and Foster. Whitbread's grey horses pulling the brewery drays were a well-known sight in the town.
Finally Andrew described his own former business, Clarke's Furnishers, which was opened by his grandfather in 1929 on the corner of King Street and Church Street. In 1995 the shop was completely destroyed by fire, but within days the company started trading again from their warehouse in Tovil, and in 1997 they moved into a new store on Sandling Road.
19 Oct Elizabethan Maidstone - Paul Oldham, MAAG
Paul gave a well-researched talk, drawing on original minute books and financial records. The first borough charter of 1549 was withdrawn by Queen Mary but another was granted in 1559 by Elizabeth. After this, Maidstone grew wealthy, trading in iron and timber from the Weald, and becoming the largest town in the south-east supplying London.
The town was compact, bounded by the Medway, Earl Street and the Archbishop's Palace - King Street was a cul-de-sac !
Paul described the local government arrangements in detail - amazingly some of the Tudor charter provisions remained in force until 1974 !
16 Nov Members’ Evening
Four members gave talks:
Trevor Bent told us how research into an old, dilapidated building in Gravesend led him to unravel the history of Training Ship "Cornwall", formerly HMS Wellesley, a 19th century warship which saw active service in the Far East.
Carole Frost gave an illustrated talk on the civilian city of Carnuntum, Austria. Now an open-air museum, many of the buildings have been restored or reconstructed, providing a vivid experience of Roman town life.
Albert Daniels described three curses: two Roman, found on lead tablets at Eccles and East Farleigh; and one personal, when Albert, who was performing a seismic survey in Nigeria, disturbed some sacred ground and had to negotiate compensation with the local tribe !
Finally Richard Weeks bought us right up to date with the (largely negative) results of metal-detection and resistivity surveys at Lower Grange Farm, Sandling, in advance of the development of the site by Kent Scouts, who are building a "climbing barn" there. (Richard: please amend).
14 Dec Christmas Social
18 Jan Recent Work by Wessex Archaeology - Mark Williams, Wessex Archaeology
Postponed due to snow - will now be given in September
15 Feb Underground Kent - Mike Clinch, Kent Underground Research Group
Mike's talk mostly concentrated on underground workings for the extraction of lignite, sand, ragstone and particularly chalk - in Baldwin's Park, Sidcup, built in the 1930s, virtually every house has a dene-hole in its garden ! Other intriguing underground sites included tunnels at Short's Reach, Rochester, a dry passage around Danson House, Bexleyheath, to keep out the damp, and a complete WW2 hospital at Capel-le-Ferne !
15 Mar A Can of Worms: Charles Darwin's Contribution to Archaeology : by Richard Weeks, MAAG
Richard, a Darwin enthusiast, gave an unusual talk about Darwin's experiments with earthworms, the subject of his last book published in 1881, the year before his death. The main relevance to archaeology is the gradual burial of objects due to the action of earthworms, as demonstrated by Darwin's "Wormstone", which he set up at Down House to attempt to measure the rate of burial. Richard gave a lot of background information about Darwin, and perhaps too much about earthworms, but the talk was fascinating and very well received.
17 May Roads and Tracks: from 10,000 years ago until 2003 : by David Carder, MAAG
Prehistoric trackways probably started as animal migration routes, from the end of the last glaciation about 10,000 years ago. They were often broad “communication corridors”, converging at pinch-points such as rivers, valleys, gorges and mountain passes.
It is difficult to determine the age of many ancient trackways, but the Icknield Way, from the Wash to Salisbury Plain, seems to have been an early trade route, as Neolithic tools from other parts of Britain are distributed along it. Neolithic timber trackways do survive, one of the best known being the Sweet Track, of 3807-6 BC, on the Somerset Levels.
There are about 8,000 miles of Roman main roads in Britain, but there would have been many more miles of minor roads and tracks. They were mostly built in the 1st century, at an average rate of about 2 miles per week! The first were for military use, the Fosse Way running from Exeter to Lincoln to define a frontier. Once the country was more settled, the roads were also used for long-distance commercial transport of raw materials, finished goods and food.
Roman roads are sometimes straight for long lengths, but more often comprise shorter straight sections to avoid natural obstacles. Good sections still exist at Blackstone Edge, Lancashire, and Wheeldale in the North York Moors. There are buried sections in Sussex, in the Ashdown Forest and, on the South Downs, part of Stane Street.
Some of the major Roman roads in Britain are listed in the second century Antonine Itineraries, including three in Kent, from London to Dover, Richborough and Lympne.
Few new routes were constructed in the Anglo-Saxon period, as existing Roman and prehistoric routes were mostly used. Roads are mentioned in charters, the most important highways, used for vehicles and often former Roman roads, being called "streets".
Some Anglo-Saxon road networks underlie the current pattern, an example being by the River Cam south of Cambridge with many disused fords. In Kent there is a pattern of N-S drove roads from the northern manors to the Wealden dens. All of these may, however, pre-date the Anglo-Saxon period.
In the medieval period long-distance routes were largely based on Roman roads and prehistoric and Saxon tracks; the routes used by monarchs, including John, Edward I and Edward II, can be traced from court records. There was little new building except where there were new bridges or settlements, such as at St Ives, Huntingdonshire, and Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. There were many more tracks than in the modern landscape, as many were lost during the later enclosures.
The poor condition of many medieval roads is evidenced by court cases, with cases of latrines discharging into them. David showed that some zig-zag roads follow old routes through open fields, with a good example at Grantchester, Cambridgeshire.
In 1555 the responsibility for highway maintenance was transferred from manors to parishes, with labour being provided by each able-bodied householder or tenant. However the advent of large heavy waggons in the 17th and 18th centuries meant that main roads often became impassable, with parishes unable or unwilling to maintain them. This led to the introduction of turnpikes, with tolls collected for their upkeep, the first being in 1663 on the Great North Road. Tollhouses and gates became a common sight, with 37 tollhouses still surviving in Kent.
Enclosure roads became common in parts of England (though not Kent) in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and David showed some examples from Cumberland and Cambridgeshire. They are often dead straight, so should not be confused with Roman roads. David also mentioned the long-distance routes used by Scottish and Welsh cattle drovers - in 1750, 20,000 Scots cattle passed through Wisbech for the fair at Horsham St Faith, Norfolk, and "Drove" still appears in local place names.
During the 19th century, roads gradually became the responsibility of the new local authorities; with parish labour and turnpikes being abolished.
In the 20th century central government increasingly took responsibility. Grants were given towards certain "classified" main roads, and this led to the familiar "A" and "B" roads being shown on maps from 1923. Central government took responsibility for 4,459 miles of "trunk" roads in 1936, and in 1958 the first motorway, restricted to certain classes of vehicle, opened: the M6 Preston by-pass.
Finally in 2003 the first new toll road opened - the Birmingham Northern Relief Road (M6 Toll), 27 miles long - a new form of "turnpike".
21 June Last Survivals in the Woods : by Roger Cockett
Roger's fascinating talk demonstrated that ancient woodland (i.e. woodland that has existed since at least 1600) could preserve the remains of medieval buildings and other man-made features, including wood-banks, sawpits, and charcoal burners' camps.
Abandoned buildings within woodland clearings can be protected by the encroaching woodland, provided that the trees are kept small and have shallow roots. This is usually the case with coppicing, a common practice in Kent, but much ancient woodland has been cleared and ploughed, so that the remains of any buildings have been lost, although geo-physical survey can sometimes reveal their locations.
Roger described six woodland sites in Kent where medieval buildings have been found.
1. Joyden's Wood, Bexley
Some of the area's Saxon boundaries, described in ancient documents, were traced in the 1940s and 50s. Remains of a medieval building were found in the 1950s, dated to c.1300 by pottery.
2. Bredhurst Hurst
Coles Finch reports that in 1921 a farmer was digging up the walls to clear the land. There is a record of a manor there in c.1272, but it seems to have gone out of use in the 1420s.
The field adjoining the wood was once part of the wood, and a resistivity survey has shown a large building and possibly outbuildings. The level in the wood is about 1 metre above that of the field, and excavation in the last few years has revealed some low flint walls, possibly of a barn or outbuilding.
3. Church Wood, West Kingsdown
The wood contains the church of St Edmund, which is claimed to contain some Saxon fabric. Once owned by the parish council, the wood was given to the Forestry Commission on the assumption that they would protect it, but they planted conifers and wanted to sell it for development, so it was brought back by the parish.
John Caiger found the foundations of a medieval house, with a heath of tiles on edge. (This is not mentioned in the account published in Arch. Cant. - DC).
4. Chapel Wood, New Ash Green
The wood was T-shaped, but is now L-shaped due to clearance. A deed of c.1232 refers to the manor of Scotgrove. One end of a building, possibly the lost chapel, survived until 1847 when it was demolished.
A plan of the earthworks was produced (? by John Caiger) in the 1960s, and the site was dug in the 1970s by Roger Walsh. This revealed the foundations of a house with hall and cross-wing, apparently with an undercroft as the hall was reached by steps. There were two outbuildings: one possibly a detached kitchen with hearth, and the other possibly a chapel.
5. Shorne Woods
Randall (or Rundale) Manor is mentioned in documents, but its exact site within Shorne Woods, is uncertain. There are three candidates:
(a) Randall Bottom - the site of a modern house, but an earlier house existed there in 1614.
(b) Randal Hall - the site is known, but there have been no significant medieval finds there.
(c) Un-named site - the subject of a current excavation project.
There was a limited excavation at site (c) in the 1960s by a local school teacher and Peter Tester. The site was re-excavated in 2008 as a community archaeology project, and excavation continues today.
The main feature is a house with a cross-wing, extension and detached kitchen, though there are some problems with interpreting the building sequence. The extension is less substantial than the main house, and may have been a guest wing. The hall was probably timber-framed on dwarf walls, but the cross-wing, of mortared flint, was probably stone throughout.
The kitchen had several heaths, of different periods, the most prominent being tiled. One feature, a block of masonry with chalk-lined circular recess, is of unknown purpose, although it also contained a bread-oven. There was also a semi-circular building, possibly a brewery, bake-house or smoke-house.
6. Cozendon Wood, Northfleet
The earthworks were plotted by John Caiger, who intended to dig the site, but sadly he died before doing so, so the site remains unexcavated.
Roger's talk was well illustrated with site photographs, aerial photographs (from Google Earth), and Ordnance Survey field drawings, a little known resource available on-line (ref. 7).
References and Further Information (added by David Carder)
Arch. Cant. 72 (1958), p.18 (P Tester & J Caiger)
Arch. Cant. 54 (1941), p.10 (A Hogg)
Arch. Cant. 61 (1948), p.133 (H Colvin)
W Coles Finch: In Kentish Pilgrim Land (1925), p.44.
Arch. Cant. 87 (1972), p.212 (J Caiger)
Arch. Cant. 85 (1970), p.204 (J Caiger)