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Lees Court News

A partnership project between the Society, the Lees Court Estate and the School of Classical and Archaeological Studies at the University of Kent to investigate the history, buildings, place names and archaeology of the Lees Court Estate.
  • Wood's Court Field Week 1

    This is an update on the first few days on site and the preparation for the next few weeks excavation.

    During August all our equipment, containers, marquees, offices and toilets have been moved to Wood’s Court Field.  They have all had a good clean and are now ready for you.

    Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have very much been taken up by getting the three trenches (T 2, T 3 and T 4) ready for excavation.

    A drone view of the trenches

     

    Trench 2 is on the right of the image, Trench 3 on the left hand side with Trench 4 joining the T 2 and T 3 together.

    T 2 is the un-excavated quadrant from the 10m x15m trench that we dug last year which includes the significant portion of the pit like feature that was discovered at the end of last year’s dig.

    T 4 is a 10m x 10m trench located over Hoard Site 1. 

    Finally, T 3 is a 154m x 1.5m trench running between T 2 and T 4. Just to clarify that number the trench is 154 meters long – possible the longest archaeological trench opened up in Kent this year – unless you have other information that might indicate otherwise.

    All my own work: Keith Parfitt Site Director

    The trenches were opened up by JCB with the usual watching brief in tow. Surface finds include struck and calcined flint pot/post holes.

    Whilst the excavation trenches were having the topsoil removed, the team conducted some field walking.  You cannot walk anywhere in this field without treading on worked or calcined flint.

    Fieldwalking Finds

    One feature in Trench 4 that attracted attention was a particularly large pit filled with pot boilers.  Due to the size of this pit an extension was cut into Trench 4 becoming Trench 4a.  The pit has a circumference of 6m.

    6m pit filled with pot boilers

     

    Once the topsoil had been removed hand excavating started. A lot of features were exposed and are in the process of being excavated.

     

     

      

  • Stringmans Field Excavation - Days 4 & 5

    Days 4 & 5 were spent finishing off the initial excavations at Stringmans Field while investigating potential areas for further excavation next year.  Once again, volunteers from several archaeological groups worked tirelessly, excavating, cleaning, photographing and planning aspects of the Prehistoric monument.

     

    Stringmans Monument - End of Day 5
    Looking northwest end of Day 5

     

    On Day 4, John Townsend carried out a resistivity survey on an area of meadow south of the present excavations.  These results proved positive, confirming our initial thoughts that the monument has north and south entrances, bounded by ditches (dark surrounds) but perhaps the most revealing is the possibility of a chamber at the centre (dark circle).  We now estimate that the monument is approximately 30 metres in diameter and further excavations to the south have been provisionally agreed with LCE.

     

    Resistivity results and current trench plan
    Resistivity results alongside current trench plan, confirming presence of a large, oval monument with possible chamber at the centre (image courtesy of J Townsend)

     

    On Day 5, members of the SHAL group returned to LCE for further training/guidance on excavation and recording techniques. Again, Later Prehistoric lithics and pottery emerged, adding to the already impressive artefact collection.  We now have a better understanding of how the Prehistoric people built and maintained this monument and how they adapted the natural geology to their advantage.  Our task is now to draft an interim report and prepare our objectives for excavations of the southern aspect next year.

     

    Busy trench both excavating & training
    Excavation, training, guidance, planning, etc.

     

    My sincere thanks to all those volunteers who took part and contributed to such a fascinating and revealing excavation.  There are many more days of work ahead, so, for now, bask in the following images demonstrating the glory of your labours.

     

    Ditch terminus looking south
    Longitudinal slot of ditch terminus looking south

     

    Looking northwest at ditch cutting through solution hollow - note the ditch has a flint base
    Looking northwest at ditch cutting through solution hollow - note the ditch has a flint base

     

    Chalk surface
    Chalk surface - excavations demonstrated that this outer portion (2 to 3 metres) of chalk bedrock was probably never exposed during the life of the monument as sections revealed the chalk covered by untouched geological sandy clay. 

     

    Medieval field drain
    Not Prehistoric, but a small medieval field drain/gulley respectfully skirting the north of the monument.

     

    Ditch terminus & solution hollow
    Busy image - looking east into ditch terminus in foreground, with solution hollow (grey sand) in the background (top left) that has been cut by the medieval gulley (dark material above grey sand).

     

    Until next year...
    Until next year....

     

  • Stringmans Excavation Episode 3 - Revenge of the Monument

     

    Stringmans Field Excavation - Background

     

    Following on from Fred Birkbeck's fantastic work at Badlesmere Bottom (top work Fred), attention has now turned to Woodcourt Field (with Keith Parfitt) and Stringmans Field (with Richard Taylor).  Keith will blog separately about the wonders of Woodcourt Field, so for now, here is an update regarding the current goings-on at Stringmans Field.

    The Prehistoric monument at Stringmans Field was first identified by a magnetometry survey carried out in April 2018.  This suggested a possible ring ditch anomaly toward the southeast of Stringmans Field.  Excavations led by Dr David Walsh and students of University of Kent in September 2018 excavated a small area over the ring ditch anomaly and confirmed a segment of a ring ditch cut into the natural chalk bedrock.

    Stringmans Field Excavation - Sept 2018
    Looking west at slot excavated through ring ditch - Sept 2018

    A group of volunteers led by Richard Taylor returned to Stringmans Field in July 2019 to investigate this possible Prehistoric monument further.  What they found was unexpected – a probable causewayed monument.  Further excavations confirmed the presence of a ring ditch cut into the chalk, a terminus to the ring ditch and a likely causewayed area to the north.  Evidence that the monument had been maintained was visible in the ring ditch stratigraphy, demonstrating at least two re-cuts.  Pottery from secure contexts suggests the monument is of Neolithic origin and in use for at least a millennia judging by the presence of Beaker pottery higher up the stratigraphic sequence.

    North facing section of ring ditch - notice the complex layers of fill
    North facing section of ring ditch - excavated by Pauline throughout July 2019

    With all this in mind, KAS members and volunteers from Shorne and Faversham archaeological groups have, for the last three days (from 2nd September), worked hard to investigate two components of the Prehistoric monument at Stringmans Field: firstly, an examination of the north causewayed area to the west of the terminus discovered in July 2019; secondly, to explore the chalk interior to the south.

    Much of the north causewayed area to the north, we have since discovered, has been removed by a significant re-cut that occurred during the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, which seems to have adapted the monument from its original causewayed form, to one that is surrounded by a continuous ring ditch, with a significant flint base.

    Re-cut forming continuous ring ditch
    East facing section of the re-cut that forms a new, continuous ring ditch and excavated by Phil 2 on 4 Sept 2019.  

       This re-cut is interesting as the base of it is lined with flint, from which we are obtaining lithic material and Prehistoric pottery.

    Flint base of re-cut ditch
    Looking south at the flint base of the re-cut, this time excavated by Phil 1 on 4 Sept 2019.

    Finally, the painstaking work of removing various sub-soils and hillwash has enabled us to get a better view and understanding of the interior of the monument and how its was composed or may have looked.  Unfortunately for the original builders, they situated the monument, not only on the chalk bedrock, but also a number of (supposedly unknown) chalk solution hollows, which must have made building difficult.  Nevertheless, the Neolithic people seem to have adapted well and utilised this geology to their advantage, as demonstrated in the image below, which shows a chalk face of one such solution hollow used as an inner face of the monument.

    Inner chalk face of monument
    Looking south at inner face of the monument and excavated by Tina - 2 Sept 2019

    A huge thank you to all the volunteers that have taken part so far...it really is a complex site and your hard work, commitment and enthusiasm has been amazing.

    Work continues at Stringmans Field this week until Friday...it is a fascinating and enigmatic site - one which will require many years of investigation and research by the KAS to uncover its many secrets.  If you are interested in helping out now, or in future, please get in touch at richard.taylor@kentarchaeology.org and I will keep you up to date with proposed excavation dates over the next twelve months.  Meantime, do keep an eye out for Day 4 and 5 updates.

    All the best,

    Richard 

     

     

  • Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 12 FINAL DAY

    Firstly, thank you to everyone who has been following the posts on here, it is the first time the Society website has been used for these kind of updates. We would welcome any feedback, good or bad, just go to the contact section of the website and send a web form https://kentarchaeology.org.uk/about-us/contact-us. Remember to put the title 'Badlesmere Bottom' to be sure it will go to the correct person. Your feedback will be anonymised once it has been received and before it is sent on. Apologies for not having updated day 12 until now, there have been some technical issues.

    Well, to all the diggers, supervisors, administrators and Estate staff, in particular Lady Sondes, our side project of a community dig for the affiliated groups and KAS members has been thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who participated. There has been some laughs along the way, only one casualty (a cut finger, those darn flints), only one morning of rain (apart from when the trenches were being stripped on day 1), young and old (I'm saying nothing) have come together to learn and discover.

    We have to qualify the project as a success in the information it has confirmed from the geophysics, our feature which seems to run around the church (the 'castle' feature) contains patches of archaeology in the trial trenches in the form of metalled, hard standing surfaces which is what you would expect from a defended boundary of the purported date. We also had positive results from the trenches dug over the ring ditch which lies to the east of the boundary, can you spot both those anomalies in the results below? If you can, you're becoming a geophysics believer!

    Rectilinear and ring ditch
    The rectilinear and ring ditch anomalies in the geophysics results both resulted in positive 'ground truthing' through evaluation trenches

    These images show the ditches that make up the western and eastern limits of the ring ditch. was 

     

    Western slot in ring ditch
    Slot into the western edge of the ring ditch, better photos in better light do exist, on another camera for now.

     

    Easter slot in ring ditch
    Slot into the eastern edge of the ring ditch which has a similar profile but is much wider

     

    Both ditches contained bags of struck flint, prehistoric folk may well have been sitting on the edge of the ditch with their friends knapping flint safely into the boundary ditch to protect little feet and paws from the sharp debitage.

    The archaeology on the cusp of the slope looking towards Woods Court was ephemeral, interesting and complex and, unfortunately, completely devoid of any finds! Great fun was had digging it and great ahem … discussions were had musing over the nature of the features there. As seen on the Day 11 blog, there was quite a lot going on.

    Anyone who is visiting Lees Court for the main excavation project is welcome to speak to Richard at Stringman's Field or the organisers of the Woods Court dig about visiting the trenches. I will be at Stringman's on Saturday and will be glad to take people around

    So what's next? The evaluations have only ground-truthed a small portion of the geophysics targets others of which include 2 potential long barrows, a WWII building, a saucepan/banjo enclosure, more circular enclosures and more general settlement evidence in important strategic places. Appraising the evaluation from this year may lead to further full scale excavations of the rectilinear boundary or ring ditch. Whatever happens, Richard and I will hopefully be back to give more training and facilitate more fun in the fields. Keep checking your emails and the KAS and Lees Court websites for announcements and opportunities.

    We want to say a massive thank you to the Lees Court estate for facilitating this project, KAS for providing the resources, and all the participants from Maidstone, Faversham, Folkestone, Shorne, Thanet and a few members of the general public for turning up in the sweltering temperatures to join in. You are what makes it worthwhile.

    The final report on this evaluation will be available in due course from KAS

    Finally, here are pictures of Richard and I doing some actual work, just to prove we were there!

    Richard working
    Richard in full swing
    Fred working
    Fred reaches rock bottom

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 11

    Penultimate day of the Badlesmere Bottom dig and all features are getting tidied, drawn and recorded. Some sterling work on the sections in trench 3 have revealed some interesting stratigraphy and some phasing of activity.

    Three large ditches are present, one containing a large deposit of chalk, the middle one containing two recuts, two ditches and a large post-hole and the third a one-cut-one-fill ditch almost 2 meters wide which may be part of a circular ditch. The remarkable thing about these series of ditches is the rarity of finds with only one notable flake in the bottom of the post hole. Highly remarkable in a series of ditches of this scale.

    Trench 3 part 1 ed
    Annotation showing two recuts into the large central ditch in trench 3

     

    Chalk deposit in trench 3
    Chalk deposit in trench 3
    trench continuation of section
    Continuation of the section of the central ditch with the diagonally inclined post hole half sectioned at the bottom and containing one of our rare finds, a flint flake.

     

    Trench 2 has perhaps been the biggest success in terms of ground truthing our geophysical survey from February, the below image shows the two large ditches that have been revealed which are exactly on the edges of the ring ditch from the geophysics results. By surveying in the features with the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) survey equipment we can see how the features around the old church relate to each other.

    Trench 125
    Trenches 1, 2 nd 5 superimposed on the geophysics results. Note the ring ditch truncated by the long trench 2 with the evaluation slots cut into it. Trench 1 to the west contains a hard-standing area that coincides with the rectilinear anomaly north of the right angled linear
    Trench3 surveyed
    Trench 3 superimposed on the geophysics results. Note dark patches over specific deposits such as the chalk in the south west end and at the north east end

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The ditches in trench 2 are producing large amounts of struck flint, fire cracked flint and some pre-historic pot in contrast to trench 3. The western edge ditch is finished and recorded, the ditch at the east end is much larger and we have one more day to reach the bottom and record it.

     

    ditch 2004
    Trench 2 - slot into the western edge of the ring ditch. 

    A few site visits planned for Saturday, our last day, All our welcome to see what we have achieved before backfilling next week and all the fun moves to Woods Court Field and Keith's research dig.

    So come on down to Badlesemere tomorrow and I'll give you the tour, unless I'm buried under piles of context sheets.

    Fred