Kent Archaeological Society.2016.Book Reviews.Archaeologia Cantiana.137:307-321.
Cliffs End Farm, Isle of Thanet: a Mortuary and Ritual site of the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon period with evidence for long-distance maritime mobility. By Jacqueline I. McKinley et al. xvii and 318 pp. 110 b/w and colour figures, 49 colour plates, 64 tables. Wessex Archaeology Publications, 2014. Paperback £35 from Oxbow Books. ISBN 9781874350705.
This attractive and beautifully illustrated volume reports on a remarkable (if not unique) set of discoveries dating to the later prehistoric period, along with a small Anglo-Saxon cemetery and settlement on the southern coast of the Isle of Thanet overlooking Pegwell Bay.
The earliest features recorded were six Beaker period or early Bronze Age ‘ring ditches’. They were all slightly different to each other: three had a single ditch, three had more than one, four had central features probably representing graves, and none had any sign of a central mound or external bank. The dates of these features could not be determined with any great confidence, nor their relative chronology. The excavator expresses some frustration that more could not be said, though this diverse group of ring ditches fits in very well with our current understanding of the heterogeneity of cultural expression in the later Neolithic and early Bronze Age.
There was a hiatus during the middle Bronze Age, but by around the 11th-9th century cal bc the site was once more a focus of activity, with a number of enclosures and other features being established on the site of the earlier ring ditches. The precise function of these enclosures is uncertain, but they did seem to be associated with an unusual ‘mortuary feature’, a broad cut feature of complex history around 29m wide and at least 52m long. This feature was the focus for the deposition of 13 articulated human bodies along with redeposited partially articulated re-mains, dispersed semi-articulated remains, and disarticulated human bones and bone fragments. An intensive radiocarbon dating programme identified three distinct phases of mortuary activity in the later Bronze Age and Iron Age. Stable isotope analyses of teeth from 26 human individuals suggested that the people buried here originated from three distinct groups: one of local origin, one from northern (Scandinavian?) climes and one from the south (western Mediterranean/Iberian?). As with the earlier ring ditches, this new and important data gives us a more nuanced appreciation of the heterogeneity of Bronze Age and Iron Age social practices. Some of the implications of this new data are explored in extensive and authoritative discussions in this volume, and it is clear that the hard science presented here will be of great importance for years to come. In this respect it is no exaggeration that this volume is of national and international importance, and an essential addition to the library of anyone studying this period.
However, the volume is not reader-friendly. Excavation methodology dictates the numbering of features without clear explanation, such as the excavation of the ring ditches as a series of ‘slots’ or ‘sections’ which have different numbers to that given to the ring ditch. Six-figure context numbers appear without apparent logic (what is 284205 on Figure 2.24?), whilst other features are given ‘group’ numbers (e.g. ‘group’ 215, context 2888, page 13); the fills in Midden Pit 2028 are re-numbered in Figure 2.7, but we are also told the original numbers, which do not appear in the site description. Why is the reader told these numbers? There is no detailed archive report supplied on cd-rom nor a web address for on-line support information. Internal cross-referencing is often by chapter, which narrows the reference down to around 60 pages. Why not cite the relevant page? There seems to be a phase of editing that was not carried out and this lack of consistency mars what is otherwise a splendid and internationally important account.
Flavian and later buildings at Snodland Roman villa: Excavations at Cantium Way, Snodland, Kent. By Giles Dawkes. 152 pp, 81 figs, 43 tables. Archaeology South-East (UCL) and Surrey County Archaeological Unit (Surrey County Council), SpoilHeap Monograph Series No. 9, 2015. Paperback, £20. ISBN: 978-0-9576509-3-0.
Commissioned by CgMs Consulting on behalf of Smurfitt Kappa in response to a proposed residential development, this volume describes the results of an open area excavation by Archaeology South-East on land adjacent to the scheduled monument of Snodland Roman Villa, following the recovery by archaeologists from KCC in 2006 of a large fourth-century ad Roman coin hoard during geo-technical ground investigations in the same area. Providing a tantalising account of the circumstances of its discovery, the hoard, deposited with the British Mus-eum is to be published separately and disappointingly does not form part of this volume.
The introduction provides an outline of previous antiquarian and later rescue excavations conducted on the villa site, with the various interventions usefully collated on a plan, together with a critique of the current limitations in our under-standing of the villa. The proposed development, some 80m west of the scheduled monument, gave Archaeology South-East the opportunity to transcend the almost exclusive focus of previous investigations on exposing the main masonry buildings of the villa, to investigate the periphery of the estate, its outbuildings and fields. The results provide a refreshing alternative perspective which begins to place the villa within the setting of its wider environs.
On the west bank of the River Medway and close to a probable prehistoric ford-ing point for a North Downs land route the villa is one of several sites clustered along the Medway between Rochester and Maidstone. While elements of the not insignificant pre-Roman landscape are reported on, the main part of the volume concentrates on Roman occupation associated with the villa. The excavation breaks new ground providing not only the first tentative evidence for a pre-Flavian (pre-ad 69) foundation at Snodland, but also the first in situ evidence for Flavian occupation. The pre-Flavian foundation comprises a proportionately large assemb-lage of residual ceramic building materials, comparable in fabric and form to the earliest phase bath house at nearby Eccles, and the Flavian evidence includes a concentric masonry building and a well-organised system of land use, defined by enclosed fields, a trackway and an open yard.
The evolution of the villa estate through the second to early fourth centuries ad is clearly observed, including structural modification of the Flavian period building in the early second century followed by its eventual replacement by a new, larger concentric masonry building in the third century, and the construction of two potential timber outbuildings to its north and south. Throughout the occupation, frequent modifications in the organisation of the surrounding land use are also evident, reflecting the subtleties of a changing agrarian and economic regime as well as the broader social and political influences. Considerable import is rightly placed on the influence of London and Rochester to Roman occupation along the Medway valley. While no specialisation could be attributed to the Snodland villa economy, the estate operated a typical domestic mixed agrarian regime, given the excellent communication links afforded by Snodland’s location. The author makes a compelling argument that the concentric masonry buildings might have functioned as a mansio, providing accommodation and food for paying guests and travellers.
In contrast to previous findings at Snodland, and a more general pattern of settlement contraction seen across much of rural Kent, the investigation indicated strongly that the villa estate continued to prosper through the late third and into the early fourth century, a longevity that is comparable with other sites along the Medway. During the early fourth century a small enclosed inhumation cemetery established between the main villa complex to the east and the later concentric masonry building to the west, indicated a significant change in activity at the site, and from the mid-fourth century, the wider decline evident across late Roman Kent had inevitably had an impact on the Snodland villa. By the time the large coin hoard had been placed in a pottery vessel and buried in a pit, it was evident that all the buildings had been abandoned or destroyed and former activity ceased.
Structurally, this volume follows a standard format for site investigations, with the main sections comprising a chronological narrative of the excavated deposits and features, integrated with artefactual and environmental data where appropriate, and followed by more detailed specialist analyses. The text is clear and readable, and the volume is appropriately illustrated and labelled throughout with a range of phased plans, artefact drawings and colour photos. Though full integration of the results from this investigation has been hampered somewhat by previous excavation of the main villa still awaiting full publication, the final section of the volume provides a well-thought out discussion of the available data, successfully placing the evidence from the present investigation into wider local, regional and national research themes. There are a few minor quibbles. A table summarising the main chronological periods and phases with date ranges would have been helpful in the introduction, and there are small issues of editorial consistency, for example, the ceramic building materials report suggests that two tiles are potentially dateable from the imprints of hobnailed footwear (p. 62), while the registered finds report (p. 70) clearly states that they are not, but none of these issues detract from what is an excellent and usable volume, one which this reviewer will certainly want to refer to again.
Towns in the Dark? Urban Transformations from Late Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England. Gavin Speed. Ix plus 196pp. Illustrated throughout in black and white, maps and graphs. Archaeopress Archaeology, 2014. £٣٤.٠٠. Softback. ISBN 978 1 78491 004 4.
Towards the end of his study based on a combination of detailed archaeological evidence and theory, Gavin Speed quotes the eighth-century poem ‘The Ruin’, with its haunting description of post-Roman urban decay. The sparseness of any documentation for Britain from the fourth to the sixth century means that the few tantalizing references in, most importantly, Gildas, implying wholesale collapse have tended to dominate understanding of this era, and been difficult even for historians wholly to escape.
Fortunately, archaeological investigations at most of the main urban centres of Roman and Saxon Britain in recent years have supplied more tangible evidence. This has started to erode the simple narrative of decline and breakdown that has prevailed. Instead, as this study shows, the archaeological evidence of the dark ages shows a period of complexity and diversity, not straightforward dramatic collapse. Urban life did, to a degree, continue from the early fifth century after the Roman rule ended, with cities ranging from relative continuity, reuse of some Roman structures, or eventual complete collapse.
To illustrate these differences, Speed places Canterbury in the eastern part of the island, in an area exposed to continental influences and, as far as the historic written record shows, the place where Anglo Saxon groups were first present, next to Wroxeter in the western domain. Both had been important Roman cities, fulfilling the fiscal and administrative functions that were a central aspect of imperial rule. Both witnessed ambitious construction over the second and third centuries, with baths, forums and large civic buildings. In the fourth century, each also saw the renovation and strengthening of prominent defence structures, from ditches to major perimeter walls. But from the late fourth century, their paths started to diverge. Wroxeter continued as a centre in which a number of imposing new buildings were put up, seeming to operate with little interruption until its sudden and complete abandonment in the sixth century.
For Canterbury, Speed shows a more complex path. Areas of important Roman buildings like the forum have been largely bereft of signs of Anglo-Saxon material. Most of this has been located in places nearby, but separate. The Roman routes through the city were, on the whole disregarded. Timber buildings in the sunken post hole style started to appear. Graveyards, pottery and other evidence show a different pattern of settlement that he calls `urban-rural’. This is best captured by the illustrations he uses which show a city with areas of ruination by the large, decaying Roman structures, but also of inhabitation by `new’ people, living in less permanent structures but participating in a form of urban life, even if it was less organized and sophisticated. By the end of the period, the seventh century, the rejuvenated Church now present in all the British kingdoms, through the choice by Pope Gregory of Canterbury as its headquarters, had ensured the city had a new, sustainable and highly organized future. It did not share Wroxeter’s demise.
Looking at other centres as diverse as London, Lincoln, Silchester, Winchester and Colchester, Speed is able to build up a picture of a society undergoing cultural, political and economic transition through the fourth to the sixth century, and one where the immense ‘Roman/Anglo Saxon’ divide is nuanced. He argues that while we cannot discount some aspects of violent invasion and annexation by Jutes, Saxons and Angles in the way documented by Bede in the eighth century, the material residue of this era implies something more organic and varied. Dark earth deposits at places like Canterbury are a case in point. While they might suggest total stagnation or even annihilation, in fact they are just as likely to indicate something less sinister, that cities had large enough populations to produce large amounts of waste. The decaying Roman structures were the best place for disposing of this waste and were not objects of nostalgic adoration.
In Speed’s conclusion, he looks at the bigger picture. The relative survival of cities, albeit reduced in scale and in a new form, implies that the dramatic description in Gildas of a form of ethnic genocide and mass slaughter is far less likely in the fifth century than something more approaching ‘elite’ usurpation. Just as with the Romans centuries before, new, culturally more robust and politically hard-nosed `overlords’ came in, to whom some form of urban life was useful. There were probably different waves of these elites. In that sense, the ‘dark ages’ was not so different to what happened during the Norman Conquest. Relatively small population shifts were involved. What was more profound was the ways in which existing populations embraced and adopted new lifestyles and modes of behaviour.
This is a period of British history notoriously sparse in reference material, and perennially caught between two worlds, the Roman and the Anglo Saxon, where it seems to lie adrift in the somewhat prosaic description of ‘dark ages.’ Speed does great service in his highly analytic, and evidence based approach, in shedding light on this era. His larger argument is that the division between the two eras now needs to be questioned, so that they shade into each other, and become better connected, and better known.
Textus Roffensis: Law, Language, and Libraries in Early Medieval England. Edited by Bruce O’Brien and Barbara Bombi. xiv + 415 pp. 10 b/w illustrations, 1 map, 16 tables, 17 bibliographies, and an index. Brepols, Turnhout. Studies in the Early Middle Ages (University of York) volume 30. 2015. Hardback, 100 Euros. ISBN 978-2-503-54233-1. Individual articles available online from the publisher.
This scholarly volume is the fruit of a 2010 conference held at University of Kent which presents new research on the importance of the Textus Roffensis, a collection of law and charters which Bishop Ernulf (1115-1124), had drawn up for Rochester Priory in the early twelfth century. The Textus spans five hundred years; from Æthelberht’s law codes of c.600 to Henry I’s coronation charter of 1100. Bruce O’Brien’s introduction describes the book and highlights the medieval prioritisation of the originally separate cartulary over the law codes.
The first of three sections presents a wealth of new ideas concerning the Textus and its context. Mary P. Richards in ‘The Textus Roffensis: Keystone of the Medieval Library at Rochester’ emphasises its importance to the monastic community of Rochester. Textus was drawn up by their abbot and bishop Ernulf, previously a monk at Bec, prior of Canterbury Christ Church, and abbot of Peterborough Abbey with strong connections to Lanfranc and Anselm. Richards highlights the library list in the Textus, the earliest extant Norman book catalogue in England, as an innovative addition to the cartulary. Nicholas Karn in ‘Textus Roffensis and its Uses’ argues the book’s significant symbolic and practical public use led to the ‘survival of a distinctive set of Kentish customs’. Thomas Gobbitt discusses ‘The Other Book: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 383 in Relation to the Textus Roffensis’, presenting a codicological examination of CCCC 383 and discussing the various scribal emendations of the predominantly Old English works. Stefan Jurasinski’s article on ‘Scribal Malpractice and the Study of Anglo-Saxon Law in the Twelfth Century’ points out a major difference between Textus Roffensis and CCCC 383 lay in the latter’s poor Old English, which resulted in copious later twelfth-century emendations. Jurasinski argues that these and other post-Conquest (mis)understandings of Anglo-Saxon law have also shaped modern interpretations.
The next section on law and language challenges current perceptions, particularly the late Nicholas Brooks’ article on ‘The Laws of King Æthelberht of Kent: Preservation, Content, and Composition’, where he suggested that Æthelberht’s codes may have been shaped by the work of ‘pagan rune masters . . . far more than scholars have hitherto dared to imagine’. His viewpoint will surely provoke responses. [And see article in Archaeologia Cantiana 136, 177-192. Ed.] Carole Hough, in ‘The Earliest English Texts? The Language of the Kentish Laws Reconsidered’ uses her phonological research to confirm that ‘these are our earliest English laws’. Daniela Fruscione’s ‘Drihtinbeag and the Question of the Beginnings of Punishment’ (pp. 157-174) analyses ‘drihtinbeag’ (defined as the fine due to the king for killing a freeman) found in Æthelberht’s law code. Its meaning reveals the process of change from warrior kingship to greater regal legislative purpose. Andrew Rabin re-evaluates ‘Archbishop Wulfstan’s ‘Compilation on Status’ in the Textus Roffensis’ as an important witness to Wulfstan’s early thoughts concerning the legal framework for his ‘growing vision of a Holy Society’. In ‘Episcopal Power and Performance: The Fugitive-Thief Rite in Textus Roffensis (also known as the Cattle-Theft Charm)’ Tracey-Anne Cooper argues that this was a liturgical/legal rite performed by a bishop, rather than merely a charm. Julie Mumby also presents new thinking on kindred and compensation in ‘Fathers or Uncles? A Problem in the Old English Tract Known as Wergeld’. The late Lisi Oliver’s article on ‘Who Wrote Alfred’s Laws?’ concludes that various members of Alfred’s court used their particular knowledge to write individual parts and incorporated ‘common traditions of Anglo-Frisian legal culture’.
In contrast to the section on laws, there are only two papers on the cartulary in the Textus Roffensis. Both articles engage very differently on the major debates on the origins and nature of its charters. In ‘Who Introduced Charters into England? The Case for Theodore and Hadrian’ Ben Snook argues that Archbishop Theodore introduced charters as part of his reforms of the English Church and that this would also explain the lack of charters from before Theodore’s time but of course the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. David Pelteret in ‘The Religious Elements in the Textus Roffensis Charters’ concurs with Susan Kelly that Anglo-Saxon land charters were ecclesiastical documents, but stresses instead the sacred and performative nature of the legal act that such charters witnessed.
The papers by Simon Keynes and Richard Sharpe in the final section use the Textus cartulary to discuss social, cultural, and particularly tense complex political negotiations and struggles between ecclesiastical authority and royal governance at Rochester. In ‘King Æthelred the Unready and the Church of Rochester’ Keynes examines the differing success with which Bishop Aelfstan and Bishop Godwine coped with royal demands by investigating among other sources, the vernacular charters of Rochester. In ‘Doing Business with William Rufus: The Haddenham Narrative’ Sharpe explores the account (and various forgeries) preserved in the Textus Roffensis of how Lanfranc secured the king’s favour for converting his lifetime interest in the valuable Haddenham estate into a gift to the Rochester monks in perpetuity. Sharpe’s careful analysis uncovers historical value in a text previously thought to be largely fictive. Finally, in ‘Gundulf of Rochester and the Influence of the School of Bec at Rochester’ Sally Vaughn reads the Textus as a work on monastic governance in conjunction with the Vita Gundulfi as an episcopal exemplar. She reasons that Gundulf embodied Bec monastic reform and was the ‘architect in concept if not in deed’ of the Textus, which resonates with Richards’ argument.
Michael Woods’ public lecture on the legacy of Textus Roffensis is not included, and a general afterword might also have been a useful addition. Free access to excellent facsimiles of manuscripts seems to have led to few illustrations, only in black and white. For a book which retails at c.£77, a colour section might be welcome. Nevertheless, this book’s contribution to understanding this important, ancient Textus is outstanding. Textus Roffensis, gemstone of early English liberties, has been placed squarely at the forefront of regional and national history.
Destined to Serve: Use of the outer grounds of St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, before, during and after the time of the monks. Canterbury Christ Church University Excavations 1983-2007. Alison Hicks et al., 378 pp., 127 figures, 69 plates. CAT Occas. Paper No. 11, 2015. Paperback £35 (FCAT £25). ISBN 978-1-870545-32-7.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site embracing Christ Church priory (Canterbury cathedral), St Augustine’s abbey and St Martin’s church was designated in 1988 and recognises Canterbury’s place in the development of the Christian church in Britain since the sixth century ad. Canterbury Christ Church University sits to the north of the main buildings of St Augustine’s abbey, in its outer court. In the early 1980s part of the campus was included within an extended scheduled ancient monument boundary for the abbey and the campus as a whole became part of the Canterbury area of archaeological importance. There has been fairly continuous building work since the 1960s but up to 1983 there was no archaeological input and during the 1980s the archaeological response was sometimes less than we would now consider appropriate; all investigations needed to be accommodated within the constraints of piecemeal development rather than being driven by a research programme that such a site really demands. Nonetheless a remarkable amount of valuable information has been gleaned and the results have been brought together in this latest offering from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.
The archaeological sequence extends from early prehistoric to post-medieval times. In addition to scatters of palaeolithic to neolithic material there are a few Bronze Age features. Roman occupation is attested by cremation burials and an interesting section of an aqueduct in the form of a mortared tile underground conduit, bringing water to the city. Between the middle of the eighth and the middle of the ninth century craft production on an industrial scale is witnessed by a large collection of metal-working debris associated with pits and other features. Following a period of apparent abandonment the site seems to have been reoccupied in the middle of the eleventh century, again for industrial purposes, represented by a casting pit, a lime kiln and two probable tile kilns. From the middle of the thirteenth century the site would have lain within the newly constituted outer court of the abbey. Major structures investigated were the cellarer’s range and that of the brewhouse and bakehouse, the west gable wall of which still remains standing. When the abbey was dissolved in 1538, although parts of it were converted into a royal palace for Henry VIII, the outer court seems to have been largely abandoned.
After an introduction the report describes the site’s stratigraphy, arranged by period, weaving the evidence from the various elements of fieldwork into a coherent whole. Following an extensive discussion section there are then separate chapters on the documentary history of the outer court, metalworking, ceramics, other finds and finally environmental evidence.
Bringing together the results of over twenty years of work presents a major challenge, exacerbated by the disparate, piecemeal nature of the work. While it is possible to extrapolate fairly complete plans for the medieval stone buildings, analysis of their internal arrangements is more problematical, and with the industrial remains of the eighth and ninth centuries one would love to know what was happening between the excavated areas in order to understand more fully the spatial dimension of the activity. Nonetheless the authors rise to the challenge in teasing out the story, although the reader is sometimes challenged by the presentation. The report is well illustrated and for the Excavated Evidence there is a good series of colour plans but on some plans (e.g. Figs 40-42) surviving walls are so faint in comparison to the vivid colouring of alterations and additions that it may not be immediately appreciated that they continued as elements of a modified building. This reviewer would also have liked to have seen the vertical sequence illustrated by at least the occasional continuous section. Again on occasion a surfeit of detail in the text detracts from the argument.
More positively the pottery report is clearly focused and of particular interest is the late seventh- to ninth-century assemblage, the most significant of this period to date for Canterbury. The environmental evidence is also important although some information might have been more appropriate to archive and some greater clarification of chronological subdivisions within the Anglo-Saxon period would have been helpful. The extensive discussion section of over fifty pages provides a most valuable overview of the evidence both in relation to the site and to its wider context. One can note the survey of the Roman cremation burials, the analysis of the evolution of the site as part of the abbey and the review of medieval brewing and baking in relation to the brewhouse-bakehouse range, but what was the function of the enigmatic circular structure with a stepped cutaway interior, associated with three rectangular lined pits, and lying just to the north of this range? Of considerable interest are the discussion of the mid eighth- to mid ninth-century industrial complex and the critical re-examination of the hypothesis that there was a wic extending along the Stour from the abbey all the way to Fordwich.
Notwithstanding the various comments on presentation Destined to Serve is a major achievement, more so given the difficult task of pulling together disparate work of over twenty years, and it will stand proudly alongside CAT’s other publications in telling the story of Canterbury’s rich history.
Bryan Faussett: Antiquary Extraordinary. By David Wright. xii + 324 pp. 43 b/w and colour figs. Archaeopress, 2015. Available both in printed and e-versions. Printed, £28, ISBN 9781784910846. Epublication, £19, ISBN 9781784910853.
In November 1853 Edward Hawkins, vice-president of the Society of Antiquaries, said of Bryan Faussett (1720-76) whose collection was the subject of negotiations for its acquisition by the British Museum:
[Faussett] opened about eight hundred Anglo-Saxon graves in about eight or nine parishes in Kent. The contents of each grave were minutely recorded; every object capable of preservation was carefully secured, and drawings made … Perhaps so instructive a collection was never formed. It does not consist of rare, valuable or beautiful objects, picked up or purchased from dealers at various times and in various places, with little or no record, or perhaps false records of the discovery; but it consists of all the objects found in all the graves of a particular district … (p. 229).
Despite this recommendation the British Museum rejected Faussett’s collection which was acquired by the ‘assiduous collector’, Joseph Mayer, and taken to Liverpool. It was therefore in Lancashire that the first public displays and discussion of his work took place rather than in London or his home county of Kent. David Wright’s book, published with the support of the Allen Grove Local History Fund, brings Faussett back to Kent and raises his profile as one of the most influential antiquarians for the nascent archaeological discipline of the nineteenth century.
This study is much more than a biography, but the biography of Fausset runs through the whole volume, and there is detailed family history to be found in the opening and closing chapters, as well as fairly frequent references to his somewhat burdensome relatives throughout. For the keen local, family historian this provides a fascinating insight into mid to late eighteenth-century Kentish gentry life with domestic finances, building works and family matters carefully researched and reproduced. These sections are augmented by the vicissitudes of Faussett’s career as a Church of England priest, moving from his first post in Shropshire back to Kent to become curate in various parishes south of Canterbury, finally becoming rector at Monk’s Horton while remaining perpetual curate at Nackington.
One of the attractions of this book is that the content of the chapters allows them to be read as a separate articles; for example Chapter 11 deals with Faussett’s house at Heppington in Nackington, the first recorded occupation of which was in 1183, but rebuilds took place over the centuries and when Faussett’s father acquired the property, through marriage, in 1710 he also rebuilt it. His ten year old son, Bryan, recorded the old house in drawings which foretold his eye for, and interest in, detail and recording. The house, in its latest guise, was finally demolished in 1969. Chapter 2 is another good essay. ‘A World of Antiquariansm’, in which Wright produces an exemplary argument on the nature of antiquarianism and history, which should be recommended to all students of local and regional history. And Chapter 13 deals with ‘Three Pioneers’, James Douglas, William Cunnington and Richard Colt Hoare, all of whom, working after Faussett, further developed archaeological method. Along the way we meet other important contributors to eighteenth/nineteenth-century antiquarian/archaeological research: William Stukeley, General Pitt-Rivers, and perhaps most importantly for the Faussett story, Charles Roach Smith. Wright has put each of these and many more such as Edward Jacob and Edward Hasted into the full context of Fausset’s life, work and legacy.
However, the core of this closely researched and detailed study is the chapters devoted to Faussett’s work as an antiquarian; the term ‘archaeologist’ was not used in the eighteenth century. Faussett’s first experience of an excavation was when he was only ten, watching Cromwell Mortimer dig treasures at Chartham Down and his enthusiasm never waned thereafter. His first two ‘campaigns’, were excavations at Tremworth Down, Crundale, and Guilton Town, Ash, recorded in Chapter 5, when Faussett developed his characteristic collection and recording of every find, stimulating his thoughts on the origin, nature and rationale of burials. ‘The Summit of a Career’, Chapter 8, is the very heart of this study and details the rich excavation of several hundred graves at Kingston Down between 1767 and 1773. The most notable find was the Kingston Brooch (ad 610-20) which is now held by the National Museums, Liverpool, and the clear reproduction of Faussett’s sketch and description (p. 122) makes evident the value, to later archaeologists, of his work as a collector and recorder of finds, many of which would have gone the way of so much else under the plough. But Wright, like Faussett gives due recognition to all the collection.
David Wright has produced an impressive and comprehensive study of the complex life and work of an eighteenth-century antiquary. And, although at times there are odd and unexplained jumps between topics, and the addition of some maps would have been useful, this is a beautifully written and presented book and the quality and appropriateness of the illustrations to the text is excellent.
Unconquered – the story of Kent and its Lieutenancy. By David McDine. viii + 249 pages +19 pages including lists of office-holders and index. The Allan Willett Foundation, 2014. Hardback, £35. ISBN 978-0-9928348-0-7.
Allan Willett (d.2015) was a successful businessman who was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Kent in 2002. David McDine, the author, is a retired Deputy Lieutenant and, although it would be easy to describe Unconquered as a vanity publication and/or a coffee-table book, those descriptors carry a negative connotation that would be wholly unfair in this case.
Unconquered is a large volume, beautifully produced on high quality paper and richly illustrated. It is the ideal coffee-table book for those with only a limited knowledge of Kent’s history, but who would like to know more. They can dip in and out, read the panels, look at the pictures, get perspective from the timelines, and be encouraged to read the text. The period from the Tudors to the present day is covered in eighteen accessible chapters.
Historically, the guardianship of the county was the Lord Lieutenant’s primary concern. Kent is a ‘frontline’ county but has remained undefeated for the last thousand years. We are told that ‘Duke William is known to the Men of Kent and Kentish Men not as the Conqueror, but as William the Norman because he did not conquer their county’. Echoed in the county’s motto ‘Invicta’ (unconquered). Kent’s Lords Lieutenant have tended to be military men and would get a lot of mileage from this perspective on history.
McDine is to be congratulated on the way he narrates the county’s history from the perspective of kings and queens and their representatives, the Lords Lieutenant. Not intended as an academic publication, all the sources are secondary, but in order to sample the accuracy of the text, this reviewer checked the index for thirteen page references to Faversham and none could be quarrelled with. It can thus be inferred that McDine must have put much effort into the production of this book. And it shows.
How does this book compares with other county histories based upon their lords lieutenancies? Surprisingly there appears to be only one: The Lord Lieutenants & High Sheriffs of Yorkshire, 1066-2000, ed. Mark Ormrod, which comprises short biographical entries and is therefore not in the least comparable with Unconquered. Wider research into published material on lords lieutenant show that this is indeed a very arcane area. Sir John Sainty compiled a list of lords lieutenants, by county, 1660-1974, published in 1979 by the List and Index Society and in 2007 as a book Miles Jebb, The Lord Lieutenants and their Deputies, a scholarly volume, the result of much original historical research. But it is not county based.
It follows, therefore, that Unconquered is also unmatched. It may encourage other counties to follow suit, because the lord lieutenant is such a glamorous hook upon which to hang a good story. And the office, although no longer grand in the way it used to be, continues to be important and politically independent. Reliable evidence says that the royals would find it much harder, in practice, to fulfil their function up and down the country without the Lord Lieutenant and his deputies.
Tonbridge through Ten Centuries. Ed. Anthony Wilson. 240 pp. 300 illustrations. Tonbridge Historical Society, 2015. Paperback, £10. ISBN 978-0-9523563-3-2.
Although a number of books have looked at specific periods or aspects of the history of Tonbridge, this is only the second book to look at the town from its earliest beginnings to modern times and is the only one in print. Tonbridge through Ten Centuries is aimed at a general rather than an academic readership with the stated aim to help ‘open the eyes of twenty-first-century Tonbridge people to the history and heritage that still surrounds us in our town’.
The authors have used a chronological approach with each chapter dealing with a specific period in the town’s development. For example, the first chapter covers the early history of Tonbridge before 1066 and the last the years between 1945 and 2000, when demographic and governmental factors brought about significant changes to the post-war town. However, within each chapter a thematic approach is followed. The Society believes that this topic based treatment is particularly suitable for a multi-authored work since it makes more effective use of the individual interests and specialisms of the contributors. It is certainly a technique that has contributed to a very readable book.
Although the book covers ten centuries, lack of written evidence means that greater emphasis is placed on the more recent history of the town. The first half of the period is covered in the first twenty-nine pages and the second, from 1521 to 2000, in one hundred and eighty-three pages. The book does contain some interesting material on the early history of the town but it is stronger on the post medieval period during which Tonbridge evolved from a small market centre and later an inland port for the Western Weald on the Medway, into the railway town of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A wide range of topics is covered, some well-known, such as the coming of the railway and hop-picking, but also some more obscure ones like the sensational murder of Jane Good in 1842. Biographical information about notable Tonbridge residents ranging from Margery Polley, the Marian martyr who was burnt in the High Street in 1555, to Colin Cowdrey the cricketer is included.
The book is well written and manages to incorporate a great deal of material in its pages. It is also beautifully illustrated with many of the pictures coming from the extensive pictorial and archive collection held by the Tonbridge Historical Society. Some pictures feature buildings which still exist and the narrative places them in their historic context. The book contains a number of excellent maps some of which also link the past with the present. For example, the outbreak of war in 1939 resulted in the erection of a number of pillboxes to hinder a possible German attack. A map is included to show their location and describe where to find the ones that survive.
It is an excellent book and although aimed at people who know Tonbridge it could be read and enjoyed by anyone who is interested in the evolution and inhabitants of a small market town.
Ightham at the Crossroads. By Jean Stirk and David Williams. 402 pp. Numerous colour and b/w illustrations and maps. Red Court Publishing, Seal, 2014. Paperback. £16. ISBN 978-0-9930828-0-1.
Surprisingly this is the first full history of the west Kent parish of Ightham. Not that the village has been ignored by local historians; that would have been unlikely given the historical significance of Oldbury and the splendour of Ightham Mote, but also the dominant figure of Benjamin Harrison, ‘grocer and draper’, geologist, botanist and archaeologist. However, Stirk and Williams, both experienced in the local history of the area, have produced a weighty tome describing in separate sections the setting, the fabric, the people, and what they term the ‘future’ of the parish which deals with the twentieth century to the present. It is a substantial history, well supported by a large number of splendid illustrations and photographs, and no doubt will be a source of considerable interest to many people who live within the parish. Those who do not, even if they know the area, will probably require a large-scale OS map to follow all that is presented and argued.
The parish may be a convenient unit for the local historian but ancient ecclesiastical boundaries are not always the best limits within which to be confined; the ‘tyranny of the discrete’, as J.D. Marshall called it, can limit enquiry. The bounds of Ightham parish changed most recently in 1934 when the St Clere estate was passed to neighbouring Kemsing. And Basted Mill just outside the eastern boundary of the parish, a major employer of Ightham labour, is briefly dealt with, but perhaps not given the attention that it really deserves. Dividing the book into sections on ‘the ‘fabric’ of the village and ‘its people’, seemed to this reviewer a poor division for a history. At one level it privileged a top down view, at another it trod very close to being a guide book. For example, the chapter on ‘Church and chapels’ rarely rises above an account of stones and windows, pews and hatchments, and the occasional cleric. How did the Reformation(s) come to Ightham, what did people actually believe, how did that influence their lives and behaviour, and how were religious tensions worked out? The dynamics of village politics also seem to have eluded the authors.
There are some very good chapters: on ‘agriculture’ (by Peter Mountfield) which is a thorough piece of research that places the locality firmly in the context of the regional and national picture, indeed a chapter that could be read with profit by someone who had never heard of Ightham. This reviewer also found useful the chapters on communications, daily living, and the poor. The stress on the old idea of ‘invasion’ theories by the Belgae and the Jutes raises the question of the authors’ familiarity with recent scholarship on the early history of the County; and the use of terms such as ‘Kaffir’ revealed a shallow knowledge of a wider history. The book would have benefited from more careful proof reading.
The Disinherited. A story of Family, Love and Betrayal. By Robert Sackville-West. 308 pp. Bloomsbury, London, 2014. Hardback £20. ISBN 978 1 4088 2482 5.
Robert Sackville-West has a great story to tell, and he tells it extremely well. It is a fascinating, detailed and illuminating account of his recent family history to complement his earlier acclaimed volume Inheritance (2010). He has mined family papers, and perceptively pursued sources in France, Spain, Germany, and the United States greatly to extend what Vita Sackville-West wrote in her well-known account of her grandmother Pepita, published in 1922. The result would not disgrace a novel. It is not a very edifying story, but in its finality one as rich in twists and turns as the case of the Tichborne claimant which so captured popular attention in the 1870s.
Briefly the plot. Lionel Sackville-West, a minor diplomat, had an adulterous relationship for nearly twenty years with the married but separated Spanish dancer Pepita Oliva. He provided her with a house in south-west France where their several children were brought up. As far as possible the French ‘West’ family was kept apart – disinherited – from the English Sackvilles. Pepita died in 1871. Ten years later Lionel became head of the British legation in Washington, taking with him as ‘hostess’ his eldest daughter Victoria. Lionel was an unlikely heir to the Sackville title, along with the great house of Knole, but nevertheless he inherited the title and estate in 1888 on the death of his brother. Shortly thereafter, Victoria, his favoured illegitimate child, married her cousin another Lionel Sackville who, by luck of the dynastic draw, in turn inherited the Sackville title and also Knole in 1908.
While Lady Victoria Sackville-Wiest enjoyed the rewards of Knole, her ‘disinherited’ and aggrieved sisters and her aggressive brother Henry, who claimed that he was the legitimate male heir to title and estate, looked on enviously. Not that the Knole estate generated much income to support such a large house. And Lionel was notoriously financially feckless, as was his daughter Victoria as chatelaine of Knole. Henry’s petition in the High Court to gain title and estate failed, and Lionel and Victoria returned to Knole, the family’s lineage now duly washed in public and held up for all to see. There are few really likeable or happy people in this tale of a dysfunctional family, whose members were often self-pitying and deeply discontented. Few of those mentioned appear to have had any real purpose in their lives other than to gain money or possessions to which they thought they were entitled. It is to the great credit of Sackville-West that he has written an account which is so fresh and honest. His writing is sharp and well-drawn, capturing the reader and securing if not their sympathy at least a measure of grudging pity for his forbears.
Canterbury before the Normans. By David Birmingham. 96 pp. Coloured illust-rations and b/w maps. Palatine Books 2015. Paperback. £8.99. ISBN 978-1-910837-01-6.
This is an immensely readable short book, giving a clear and concise introduction to the evolution of Canterbury from the Stone Age to the Norman ‘invasion’. David Birmingham has scoured all the available archaeological written and archive sources for evidence as well as the historical sources. Original written sources are scarce for these 10,000 years apart from the Roman period and the re-emergence of a literate society in the seventh century ad, but a fascinating and coherent picture of the gradually changing societies is drawn by a skilled pen. The description of the various stages of Roman incursion and control is a tour de force in a very few pages. The brevity of the book enables the reader to get a sense of the way transition from one culture to another, particularly the Iron Age to Roman period and Celtic to Roman Christianity, took place within normal continuity and gradual change, challenging the simple historical period classifications. On the downside, however, the constraints of a short book give rise to many questions which, on the positive side, may lead the reader to follow up the allusions to various archaeological sites and secondary sources. The logistics of sea transport are made clear from the Bronze Age Boat to the Vikings, but a little less is said about the influence of trade and traders. And, how, after an apparently non-literate ‘dark age’ did the Jutish and Saxon influences on the language become embedded when the Church reintroduced a written culture? Birmingham’s sources are rather sparsely referenced in the Further Reading section, and the newly published online Gazetteer of all the Canterbury Archaeological Trust’s sites (www.canterburytrust.co.uk/) might be a useful addition to that section together with Gavin Speed, Towns in the Dark? Urban Transformations from Late Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England (reviewed above p. 312). For those who know Canterbury well this small book will bring many refreshing, acute observations and for those who want to learn about the early city and its place in Kent it will be an accessible and informative read.
Wye Parish Church: A Window on the Church of England. By C. Paul Burnham. iv + 244 pp. b/w illustrations and maps throughout. Wye Historical Society 2016. Paper-back. £8 (available from the author: 24 Chequers Park, Wye, Ashford, Kent TN25 5BB, 01233 812784, email@example.com). ISBN 978-0-9546499-6-8.
In this more traditional local history Paul Burnham has produced a full history of Wye church, within the context of nationwide trends and crises in Church history, as well as in the county of Kent and its own village. He has not let any detail pass him by if it is at all relevant to his story. Primarily the narrative deals with the church buildings and the importance of people in their history, from the pope, Gregory ‘The Great’ (590-604), who despatched Augustine and other missionaries to Britain, to the most recent incumbents of the parish including the much valued contribution of the longest serving vicar, David Marriott (1967-95). A lightning strike and a falling steeple, financial management and bequests, the Reformation and growth of dissent are all dealt with enthusiastically and in detail. This book is a labour of love from a member of the church who manages to weave a careful and fair line between all the struggles of the early catholic Church and the later Anglican establishment.
The Hoo Peninsular Landscape. By Sarah Newsome, Edward Carpenter and Peter Kendall. vii and 88 pp. Coloured and b/w illustrations and maps throughout. Historic England 2015. Paperback. £14.99. ISBN 978-1-84802-225-6.
Regrettably to many the Hoo Peninsula is an unvisited piece of land beyond the Medway towns known only for the dominating Isle of Grain refineries of the second half of the twentieth century or the dramatic locations in Dickens’ Great Expectations. There is so much more to it. The basic premise for this thorough, multi-discipline, approach to the evolution of the somewhat remote Kentish land-scape ‘is to raise awareness and highlight the importance of the built heritage of localities undergoing rapid change or facing radical regeneration’. This is achieved in this study of the peninsula, but what the reader is left with is an impression, not of a built landscape, but a natural one still holding its own against the man-made agricultural, industrial and domestic incursions and influences. The story of a small peninsula of a peninsular county is inevitably largely determined by the sea and each of the sections from the detailed introduction to the area and its character, through ‘Industry and innovation’, ‘Defending the realm’, and ‘Farming and fishing’ to the informed, speculative final section looking to the future, pays due recognition to the role of the sea and the Thames and Medway estuaries. This fascinating short study should encourage more interest in, and visits to, the Hoo Peninsula.