Digging at the Gateway. The Archaeology of the East Kent Access (Phase II). By Phil Andrews, Paul Booth, A.P. Fitzpatrick and Ken Walsh. Oxford Wessex Archaeology Monograph No. 8, 2015: Volume 1: The Sites. 532 pp., b/w and colour illustrations, maps and figures throughout. Hardback £30. ISBN 978-0-9574672-4-8; Volume 2: The Finds, Environmental and Dating Reports. 618 pp., b/w and colour illustrations, maps and figures throughout. Hardback, £30. ISBN 978-0-9574672-2-4.
Two hard-bound volumes report investigations by a joint venture of two archaeological units, Oxford and Wessex, prior to the construction of the East Kent Access road on the Isle of Thanet, 2009 to 2011. The 4 mile (6.5km) road was routed, west to east, south of Manston airfield, then a southerly descent with an easterly spur towards Ramsgate along the Ebbsfleet Peninsula which until relatively recently was flanked by the former Wantsum Channel as well as Pegwell Bay. Considerable archaeological potential was already recognised in a landscape associated with events such as Caesar’s incursions 55-54 bc, Claudius’ landing of 43 ad, the tradition of Hengist and Horsa’s arrival in 449, and 597, disembarkation of Augustine’s mission of conversion.
Each volume commences with essentially identical sections providing context including: topography, geology and landscape characterisation; preliminary surveys and fieldwork; the ‘strip, map and sample’ excavation methodology em-ployed, informed by research designs; the zonation of the excavations along the route; the C14 strategy; and community engagement. Volume 1 provides the narrative detailing and assessing the excavation results in chronological order, integrating a synthesis of data from the extended specialist contributions in Volume 2 which contains twenty-one chapters detailing a range of post-excavation analyses. The impracticality of total excavation was managed by continuous GIS-based assessment of the features revealed by comprehensive stripping adjusting sampling and excavation priorities in the context of the research design.
There was minimal evidence prior to the early Neolithic which was represented by clusters of pits indicating transient settlement within a landscape containing monumental interrupted ditch enclosures. Emmer wheat, possibly spelt, and flax grains, are present, dating around or slightly before the mid-fourth millennium bc. Later Neolithic activity is limited to a burial and flint work suggesting a Bronze Age ring ditch had earlier antecedents.
Ten Early Bronze Age ring ditches date between c.2000 and 1500 bc. Evidence for associated cremations and inhumations survived at many, with the enclosed area of five rings containing graves likely to be contemporary with initial use. Grave goods from two burials indicated distant, including cross-Channel contact. Little evidence was found for contemporary settlement. Limited evidence in the Mid Bronze Age for the creation of an ordered agricultural landscape defined by field system ditches and drove-ways becomes more extensive in the Late Bronze Age with indications of settlements and structures. One ring ditch enclosing an inhumation grave dates to the Middle Bronze Age with other inhumations and cremations of Late Bonze age date clustering in cemeteries. Two hoards of Late Bronze Age metalwork, one comprising two gold penannular bracelets, the other fragments of copper alloy implements and ingots were found on the Ebbsfleet Peninsula adding to the concertation of hoards already known and supporting the view that the Isle was an important landfall for metalworking exchange networks.
Succeeding Iron Age centuries saw intensification of agricultural management and settlement. There were a number of noteworthy discoveries. At one settlement circular buildings were excavated, remarkably apparently the first such structures of Iron Age date recorded in Thanet. Within a ditched trapezoidal enclosure there was a square sunken building leading to speculation on the basis of analysis of material culture and faunal remains that at some point a high status settlement might have acquired characteristics of a sanctuary. Treatment of the dead demonstrates a predictable range of cultural practices – formal inhumation, disarticulation and some cremation. Oxygen-isotope analysis of teeth from four Middle Iron Age adult burials indicates migration to Thanet in childhood from northern continental latitudes, complementing similar results from Cliffs End Farm, Thanet. Finally, a multi-faceted analysis of segments of a substantial ditch on the former western shore of the Ebbsfleet peninsula, putatively defining a defensive enclosure in excess of 20ha, and of late Iron Age, arguably of mid first-century bc origin, inexorably leads to a tentative suggestion of an association with Julius Caesar’s landing. The other possibility is an oppidum-like site. Research into the discovery continues.
Roughly sub-rectangular sunken structures become the norm for low status settlement from the later 1st century ad, construction spanning the Roman centuries but with fewer late examples. The alignment of field enclosures and tracks is broadly maintained from the late Iron Age. The economy was agriculturally based with evidence for craft activities and salt production. The evidence is worked hard to demonstrate some early military influence from the Richborough bridgehead: for example, perhaps a Claudian re-use of the possible mid-first century ad defensive work on the Ebbsfleet peninsular; a reduction in the proportion of cattle bones recovered equating with demand from occupying forces and then an urban population; and a modest total of metal objects with potential military associations although often not closely dateable. Ceramics relied heavily on local and regional production although, as in the later Iron Age, the area’s geographical location resulted in the significant presence of imported wares. A range of mortuary practices was recorded representative of those generally known for the Romano-British period. The human remains provide some data with regard to demographics and pathology.
Four Anglo-Saxon sunken buildings used in the later sixth to seventh century were identified; a grouping of three may represent a single short-lived settlement or successive phases of building. Around 1km away was a broadly contemporary clustering of graves with 54 inhumations, 40 of the graves containing grave goods. A second settlement dating to the eighth century was defined by two groups of pits and post holes possibly indicating built structures. The pits were remarkable for large deposits of marine shell fish with hearths in the vicinity suggesting processing for redistribution rather than immediate local consumption. A cemetery of 24 graves was close-by only one of which contained grave goods. Little late Anglo-Saxon activity was noted.
The principal medieval activity relates to two farmsteads on the Ebbsfleet peninsula defined by ditches, gullies, and fence lines, in use between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries. The latest structures were Word War II trenches.
Overall the results tend to confirm or refine existing knowledge rather than introducing significant information resulting in novel perspectives. There are, of course, exceptions in terms of various discoveries noted above for the middle Iron Age; the possible identification of features associated with Julius Caesar’s landing, and a Mid Anglo-Saxon site focused on processing shellfish. The project certainly provides a major expansion in the range of quality data and assemblages and its true value will be seen over time through comparison with other recent major excavations on Thanet, for example at Monkton and Thanet Earth. Full publication of the latter will surely provide scope for a considered re-evaluation of most aspects of Thanet’s archaeology.
Set against its commendably prompt appearance, the narrative of the archaeology in Volume 1 is not exactly a straightforward read. Admittedly reporting on a large project of complexity is never likely to produce an easy read! However, a little editorial forethought could have been helpful in a number of respects. For example, while an overall summary is provided, a consistently formatted summary of the results for each of Chapters 2-6, Volume 1 would have been helpful, as would clarity as to where aspects of the Late/Later Iron Age are dealt with. For example, would consideration of the import of the Ebbsfleet defensive enclosure have been better placed in Chapter 5, rather than 4? Given that the route provides an overview across landscapes from sea-level to the chalk ridge, there is no summative consideration of any differential patterns of activity. The inclusion of page numbers within cross-referencing between chapters also would have been helpful. And the length of some discursive sections is probably not warranted when in effect the excavation results do not hugely modify previously commonly rehearsed positions. Having noted this, modest perseverance with Volume 1 yields a satisfactory level of detail on the results supported by pertinent maps, clear plans and coloured photos well-articulated with text, and of course specialist reports in Volume 2 when necessary.
Sea Eagles of Empire: The Classis Britannica and the Battles for Britain. By Simon Elliott. 223 pp., b/w plates and maps. History Press 2016. Hardback. £25. ISBN 978-0-7509-6602-3.
Tangible evidence for the Classis Britannica in Britain in the forms of epigraphy, archaeologically incontrovertible Fleet bases, or ancient literary sources is tantalisingly limited; Boulogne as the fleet HQ is better evidenced. Consequently, scholars tend to divide into two camps: minimalists, who take a cautious approach and see no convincing evidence for the concerted involvement of the Classis Britannica in Britain beyond activities in and around the English Channel and assistance in the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, when the scale of the task required all hands so to speak, and maximalists who see the Fleet as a major player in the initial conquest and, subsequently, the expansion and maintenance of imperial power in Britannia.
Simon Elliott, with academic credentials in both archaeology and military history, is definitely one of the latter. He retells the story of the creation of Britannia from the viewpoint of a naval historian, bringing his knowledge of military strategy to bear as he examines the potential roles of the Classis Britannica in that process.
An introductory chapter briefly outlines the historical background as well as sources and principles for understanding naval operations around Britain in the Roman period. Next, he discusses the development of Roman naval power and of the regional fleets, Roman maritime technology, and the command structure, manpower and infrastructure of the fleets. The history of the Classis Britannica itself is then placed in the wider context of the Roman military presence in Britain, before two chapters which discuss the military and civilian roles that can be deduced for the British Fleet. These, alongside more specifically military functions, included communications, information gathering, transport and supply duties and involvement in engineering projects (e.g. roads) and mineral resource procurement. As far as Kent is concerned, Elliott argues that ragstone quarrying in the Medway Valley was run by the Fleet on behalf of the state.
The following three chapters describe the roles played by the Classis Britannica, including the invasion force which arguably became that fleet, both in the initial conquest of Britain and in the subsequent maintenance of military control of the province. In the absence of direct historical sources for most post-conquest movements of the Fleet itself, as opposed to the land campaigns it is argued to have supported, much of this is deduced from his knowledge of military strategy and the distribution of coastal installations and potential harbour sites. The last substantive chapter outlines the turbulent political, economic and social circumstances of the third century ad during which the Classis Britannica disappears from the historical and archaeological record.
Its merits to one side, the volume has gone to print without sufficient attention being paid to checking and editing; there are many typographical errors, particularly in respect to bibliographic details and Latin terminology. Some secondary sources could perhaps have borne more scrutiny and in his undoubted enthusiasm for his subject, Elliott sometimes fails to flag sufficiently what is deduction, albeit often reasonable deduction, given acceptance of the initial thesis, from that for which there is archaeological proof or historical source.
Medieval Town and Augustinian Friary: Settlement c.1325-1700. Canterbury Whitefriars Excavations 1999-2004. By Alison Hicks et al. xvi + 382 pp, 199 figures, 105 plates. The Archaeology of Canterbury New Series Vol. VII, 2015. Paperback £40. ISBN 978-1-870545-30-3.
This substantial volume is one of four to emerge from the very extensive urban excavations at the Canterbury Whitefriars sites. It will be joined by a further two detailing the periods from 0 to 750, and 750 to 1325 ad, and a companion volume looking in detail at the full range of finds from all three volumes.
The sheer extent of the 18 excavations involved (an overall area of some 200 x 100m) ensures that this will be a very significant contribution to our understanding of Canterbury’s medieval development. Its particular strength lies in the fact that the archaeology of more than fifty per cent of an entire religious precinct can be balanced with a secular zone of tenements, allowing the incremental evolution of the friary to be seen clearly in its wider context of existing and new urban development.
As ever in urban contexts, the story is fragmented and complex, not aided by the loss, unrecorded, of some key areas of the friary to really quite recent (1971) developments. However, Hicks and her team successfully draw the lines of evidence together and present the narrative in a logical manner. After an introduction (Part 1), the excavated evidence (Part 2) is presented in three sections: the friary, the adjacent tenement zones, and the post 1538 urban development. Each coherent element is considered separately and its evolution charted over time. This is followed by an overall discussion (Part 3) which pulls the key aspects of the excavations together, a synthesis of the complementary documentary evidence (Part 4), and a series of summaries of finds and environmental evidence (Parts 5-9).
There are numerous, and generally clear, plans and photographs to help navigation, including some judicious use of colour, and a number of very helpful synthetic plans and land-use diagrams to tie the complex evolution together.
What emerges is an important story at both a national and a local level. Taking the friary first, there is a potential confusion to be cleared up straight away. Although the site and the friary are referred to throughout as the Whitefriars, this is an Augustinian friary. The true White Friars, the Carmelites, never settled in Canterbury. The archaeology therefore adds substantially to the few excavated Augustinian houses such as Leicester, London and a handful of others. Among the elements studied are the church, cloisters, east range, south range, dormitories, warming room, infirmary hall and cloister, kitchen, and outer court yards and buildings. Of particular note to this reviewer are: the evidence for an early, modest church pre-dating the more conventional plan of nave, walking place and chancel; the infirmary/warming room complex, well-preserved on account of its semi-sunken construction; the excellent sequences of kitchens running from the 1320s to the dissolution of the house in 1538; and the evidence for the use of the outer court for waste disposal, some horticulture and drainage. Accompanying the structural sequence are some important artefact groups including window glass evidencing two(?) fourteenth-century glazing programmes, large pottery assemblages, and some glass vessels including urinals found with ceramic jugs possibly used for the same purpose. A wide range of ecofactual material was recovered, providing an excellent window into both environmental and dietary conditions in the friary. Finally, the process of demolition following the Dissolution can be tracked clearly across most of the site.
Adjacent to the friary, and indeed at times indivisible from it physically, is a zone of ten tenement plots and two lanes, fronting on the north on to St George’s Street and thus presumably in key locations for trade. The extent to which these tenements were under the direct management of the friary is unclear, but it certainly owned a number of them, the lay cemetery encroached upon them, and one is scant metres from the church wall. They saw repeated redevelopment, especially from the early fifteenth century, such that the archaeologists could identify dozens of individual significant or entire rebuildings. Internal floors, hearths and subdivisions accompany clear evidence of yards and pits, combining to present a very useful and well-preserved window into the piecemeal evolution of a Canterbury street frontage.
The post-Dissolution story is broadly one of two halves: open ground, possibly gardens, over most of the former friary; and unbroken redevelopment of the tenements adjacent, showing how the urban fabric was affected by the ‘shadow’ of the former religious house.
There are inevitably some niggles. Some of the colour doesn’t work too well (e.g. Fig. 45); relevant documentary research could have been brought more effectively into the period discussions or summaries instead of following the main synthesis; and the environmental material could perhaps have been made to work harder in the discussions. However, this is a significant body of results and should be drawn by others into wider academic studies of Canterbury’s history, English urban development and the study of religious houses. It is a testament to development-led archaeology, to its sponsors and to the team who have delivered it.
Early Medieval Kent. Ed. Sheila Sweetinburgh. Kent History Project Volume 10. 347 pp., 11 colour, 2 b/w, 11 line illustrations. Boydell Press, 2016. Hardback, £50. ISBN 9780851155838.
This book is the tenth, and final, publication in the Kent History Project and is a companion to Later Medieval Kent, which was published in 2010. Both volumes provide much needed syntheses of current historical and archaeological research into Kent’s rich and fascinating history. Early Medieval Kent is particularly welcome for finally opening up the complex and more inaccessible history of the county before the Norman Conquest, which still forms a natural watershed in historical writing. In this, it is highly successful, drawing out the numerous social, religious and material continuities which are often lost in narratives of the impact of the invasion from Normandy in 1066.
The volume opens with a helpful introductory essay by the editor, Sheila Sweetinburgh, providing an overview of changes in lordship, rural and urban settlement patterns, and the development of the church in Kent, all themes which underpin much of the detailed research in the following eleven chapters. The book closes with an extremely thorough and invaluable bibliography of medieval Kent history, which will be welcomed by scholars and more general readers alike.
Chapters One to Four offer a valuable and coherent picture of the pattern of development in Kent, starting with Andrew Richardson’s first-class synthesis of research into the county’s development before ad 800. His use of a range of evidence, especially archaeological finds, early charters and surviving place-names, is accompanied by a sensitive interpretation of current ideas, which replaces the former ‘Jutish’ foundation myth of Kent with a more nuanced and carefully argued series of possibilities that reflect the available evidence. This is followed by two detailed essays by Gill Draper on early colonisation and the development of towns, which draw on an impressive range of evidence, including the Domesday Book and the Textus Roffensis, to demonstrate how the county’s landscape influenced its subsequent settlement. Her examination of urban development reinforces this analysis, providing fascinating detail on the development of trade and industry in individual towns, including some smaller settlements in north and central Kent and Romney Marsh.
Stuart Brookes focuses on the two phases of ‘Viking age’ Kent, examining both the impact of the raids themselves and the responses of the population to these events. Openly acknowledging that much of the county’s development in the ninth to eleventh centuries was not necessarily directly linked to Viking incursions, he nevertheless provides a compelling account of the military responses of local and regional leaders to the Norse raids, drawing on evidence from charters, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, the Burghal Hidage, place names and coinage, and outlining the gradual absorption of the county into the kingdoms of Mercia and then Wessex.
Viking Kent is followed by an elegant essay by Hilary Powell, which reinterprets evidence from early hagiography to illuminate the relationship between saints’ cults and the early religious foundations from which they originated. Charting their relationship with the landscapes of Kent, she then demonstrates how these early localised saints were either abandoned with the arrival of the Normans or were increasing assimilated by the monastic houses, their miracles re-apportioned from the experience of the laity to that of the religious, until their recognition as monastic assets was superseded again by the major cult of St Thomas Becket.
In Chapter Six the late Nicholas Brooks, provides a fascinating examination of five early charters of Canterbury cathedral, one from each of the seventh to eleventh centuries. Nicely illustrated, this short examination demonstrates how much can be gleaned from the subject, form and meaning of these manuscripts to illuminate early medieval life in Kent and beyond. Of particular interest are the conclusions that these charters show some of the complexity of Kent’s relationships with its overlords beyond the county’s boundaries and the astonishingly variable quality of scribal literacy during this early period.
Diane Heath and Mary Berg then consider aspects of the church, covering monastic culture and the influence of Anglo-Norman patronage on churches in Kent. Berg suggests that Norman architecture was initially intended to reinforce their political dominance, and charts the close links maintained by those who held lands in both Normandy and England, which promoted the spread of Norman influences in English ecclesiastical architecture.
Berg then collaborates with Paul Bennett to consider the history of Canterbury in the eleventh century, moving from the Viking siege of 1011 to the Norman Conquest of 1066, and providing a detailed analysis of the physical state of the city before and after these events. This is followed by Jake Weekes’ synthesis of detailed archaeological evidence with William Urry’s well-known reconstruction of the topography of Canterbury in the twelfth century. This essay considers in particular the methodological problems of the task, highlighting the difficulty of drawing robust conclusions from the fragmentary archaeological data which often results from piecemeal urban development, and provides a useful reminder that collating disparate evidence is a complex and problematic process.
The problems of interpreting patchy evidence are also acknowledged in a short but clear essay by John Cotter on Kentish pottery, which summarises the current state of knowledge on this often ephemeral material, noting three broad categories of ceramics and their relative distribution across the county. The final chapter considers an entirely different body of evidence, that of Kentish place names. Compiled by Sheila Sweetinburgh from research by Paul Cullen, this provides a fascinating list of components of place names, with their etymology and modern examples of their use with which many readers will be familiar, besides one or two detailed analyses of individual river names, including the Beult and the Stour.
Early Medieval Kent is a very valuable and timely contribution to Kentish history. Inevitably there is some cross-over and repetition of events between some essays, which is most apparent when reading the volume as a single work. Most readers are unlikely to treat this volume in this way, however, and there is such richness in the contents that this drawback is worth overlooking in what is otherwise a compelling and fascinating collection.
The Royal Heads Bells of England and Wales. By Michael Baron, Ph.D. 2015. Copies available £10 (including p+p) from Dr J.M. Baron, 1 The Old School House, Church Street, Eastry, Sandwich, Kent, CT13 0GJ. Tel 01304-614032.
Michael Baron and his family moved to Eastry in 1988, to a house which had been formed from part of the redundant old village school building. At the time he was working in the Financial Services industry. He studied with the Open University and later as a postgraduate student at the University of Kent, culminating in the award of ph.d. in 1996. After retiring he lectured in Space Sciences at the University until ill health intervened.
Needing an interest he decided to research the history of the old school at Eastry. During this work he came across the school bell which had been removed many years before from its position high on a gable end, to the village church and was being used in the bell tower as a ‘table-top’ demonstration bell by the bellringers. The bell is 14.5in, (37cm) in diameter and carries an inscription AVE MARIA GRACIA. It appears to be much older than the school’s foundation. Although undated, the inscription suggests it had been cast in the fourteenth or fifteenth century as a Sanctus bell. Baron was intrigued by part of the decoration on the bell – two small cast images of crowned heads.
Bell inscriptions are made by the use of metal stamps being pressed into the mould of the bell before casting. Often these stamps have been passed down and used by a succession of founders. Baron looked for information on the decorative motif of a ‘Royal Head’ but found no published literature to help. Thus his desire to find out more about the Eastry school bell led him to undertake a study himself of a very particular decoration on bells.
The nineteenth and earlier twentieth century saw the publication by antiquarians of studies of bells in a number of counties. These invariably include a list of bells, details of their inscriptions and founders. Using these and more recent online resources, plus many enquiries, Baron has been able to put together a list of all the surviving ‘Royal Heads’ bells in England and Wales. He has found 142 in 30 of the 52 counties.
He has identified three types of ‘Royal Heads’ images and has suggested who they may represent, and thus the dates of the bells. A greater incidence of the bells in some areas of the country has also led him to suggest where the foundries were located.
Baron decided on a novel way of publishing his research. It is in the form of a folded map, the size of the familiar OS maps, with illustrations and an inventory of the bells he located. There are instructions on the use of the map and suggestions for further research. Baron feels that the story of the ‘Royal Heads’ bells is not yet fully discovered. His original quest to find out why such a bell, the only example in Kent, should be in Eastry remains unfulfilled.
He is in a long tradition of people who have realized the importance and richness of elements of history ‘hidden in plain sight’ and is to be commended for his tenacity, during nine years’ research, as well as for all aspects of his innovative publication.
Malting and Malthouses in Kent. By James M. Preston. Amberley, 2015. 92 pp., 100 drawings and photographs. Paperback, £14.00. ISBN 978 1 4456 5306 8 (print); ISBN 978 1 4456 5307 5 (ebook)
Jim Preston is best known for his Industrial Medway, privately published in 1977. This reviewer doubts he would disagree that it was altogether more substantial in scale and scope than this new book.
Malt is made from barley. Beer is made from malt, hops and water. Thus the history of malt and malthouses is inextricably mixed with that of brewing, whether in terms of ownership, or co-location of buildings, changes in taste and demand, management skills, and daily operations. But what may have been autonomous enterprises in the eighteenth century tended either to merge with associated businesses or to go out of business, as the brewing industry consolidated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This process took place across the country. Preston’s book makes it abundantly clear that Kent was no different.
Kent is reckoned to have supplied roughly half of London’s imports of malt in the early seventeenth century. Thereafter, in terms of barley production, it lost ground to East Anglia. By the twentieth century, Kent’s brewers imported malt from overseas, just as they imported hops. Preston tells us that Thanet, where some of the finest barley grew, now finds it more profitable to grow cauliflowers. He might have mentioned that cauliflowers are fast giving way to shopping malls and housing estates.
The book is something of a gazetteer of malt in Kent. It gives the all important map references to the county’s malthouses where they still exist, and uses old town maps to show the location of those that did not survive. Preston has no doubt found most of them. The book makes good use of drawings and photographs that fill the equivalent of fifty-one of the ninety-two pages. The images show that early malthouses in the county seem not to have had any external distinguishing features and that they now make smart country homes. Some of the later ones, on the other hand, were built on an industrial scale. Most notable among these is Rigden’s kiln, malt store and malthouse in Faversham, c.1880 which now houses Tesco’s. (Reviewer’s note: Rigden’s brewery was taken over by Fremlin’s of Maidstone, itself taken over by Whitbread. Whitbread has since exited brewing and now owns and operates Premier Inns and the Costa coffee chain, a wondrous example of the evolution within what was once one of the country’s most important industries. Sic transit gloria mundi.)
A most surprising absentee from the bibliography is Christine Clark’s British Malting Industry since 1830 (1998), the best and most complete national history of the industry. Perhaps Preston discovered that it contains nothing about malting in Kent, and saw the gap in the market.
Capability Brown in Kent. Kent Gardens Trust, 2016. 116 pp., b/w and colour maps, prints and photographs. Paperback £9.50. ISBN 978-0-9934044-0-5.
This attractive publication, supported by the KAS, is one of many around the country published in 2016 to mark the tercentenary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s birth. The Kent Gardens Trust, chaired by Elizabeth Cairns, has done a very thorough investigative study into the estates with which Brown was involved in Kent. They actually had meagre pickings to look at, since he did not work extensively in Kent and the only significant garden still visible as he intended is the Chilham Castle Estate. The other four gardens whose development he contributed to were Ingress, Leeds Abbey, Valence and North Cray Place. Brown’s role in Kent was often to work with other architects and designers or to continue the work of earlier developers of the landscape garden.
‘Ingress: The Contribution of Capability Brown and William Chambers’ highlights the work Brown did with Chambers and, in trying to distil the separate work of each, Liz Logan and Hugh Vaux have studied the history of the estate, house and grounds from the mid-seventeenth century. The property was acquired by John Calcraft, ‘an army agent, a political fixer and an opportunist’, in 1772 and he set about major works with Brown and Chambers. But he also acquired land in the wider area of Northfleet and at Leeds Abbey.
In ‘Leeds Abbey: A Hidden Brown Landscape’, we learn that little remains of Brown’s work, but as Hugh Vaux says, ‘visit in winter when the stinging nettles and brambles have died back and suddenly the ghost of the landscape is there just as it was depicted in the Ordnance Survey drawings of 1797’. Historical maps, among other documentary and visual sources, have been used to great effect throughout this volume.
The Ancient seat of Valence near Westerham (‘Valence: A Landscape Improved’) was extensively changed by Brown and the architect Henry Holland, making use of the abundant water features already established in the grounds. Much earth moving was required, including to build a new island in one of the lakes. Beverley and Paul Howarth argue that Valence and Brown’s improvements benefited greatly from the earlier enclosures and the agricultural revolution. Much of Valence has had to give way to housing estates and golf course, but the natural and improved water courses, together with the resourcefulness of the authors have ensured that the essence of much of Brown’s work is still identifiable in the landscape.
Elizabeth Cairns and Cilla Freud say in ‘Chilham Castle: A Fine Landscape Improved’ that unlike at Valence, ‘Brown demonstrated his genius at Chilham largely through what he did not do’. He believed there was little needed to enhance an already ‘well-composed landscape’, the result of enclosure by Sir Dudley Digges in the early seventeenth century. Brown restricted his work to removing the more functional parts of the estate to clear the longer view.
The last of the estates studied, ‘North Cray Place and Brown’s Influence on Nearby Estates’ is also still visible in its relationship to the River Cray, and Brown’s Five Arch Bridge, where the estate has remained a public open space, contracted by the spread of outer London development and the destruction of the houses at North Cray Place and Foot’s Cray Place. Geraldine Moon’s and Mike O’Brien’s study has shown that Brown’s work at these two closely linked estates influenced the work of later developers at the nearby gardens of Danson and Vale Mascal.
For the gardener or those interested in garden history, there may be a little disappointment at the content of this volume, but the insight into Brown’s career and of the work of his contemporaries give a depth and breadth to our understanding of the landscape garden, and for the local and social historian there is much of interest. Each of the chapters is prefaced with maps and the contextual history and landscape of the estates set the scene for a discussion of Brown’s role and his professional and personal business dealings with the owners. His work in Kent was not on the scale of his major signature landscapes at Croome or Stowe, but then Kent had never been the natural environment for many large aristocratic estates. Nevertheless, this handful of smaller Kentish landed estates benefited from Brown’s experience and reputation.
Zeal Unabated: The Life of Thomas Fletcher Waghorn (1800-1850). By Andrew Ashbee. 316 pp., b/w and colour illustrations. Privately published, 2016. Paperback, £15. ISBN 978 0 9507207 8 4.
Waghorn was the founder of the ‘Overland Route’ to India in the 1830s, before when most, but not all, people sailed around the Cape. In 1819, the East India Company (EIC), which controlled all the routes between India and Africa, established a service by ship from Bombay to Cosseir, on the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea. From Cosseir travellers proceeded west across the desert to Ghenna by camel and then down the Nile to Alexandria. The journey was characterised by the risk of prolonged delay in the Red Sea due to the monsoon, by political instability, by quarantine restrictions in case of an outbreak of plague, and much discomfort. Waghorn’s route, on the other hand, offered steam boats, better able to battle the monsoons, security due to his friendship with Mehemit Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, and less time in the saddle. This was because his route bypassed Cosseir on the way to Suez at the northern end of the gulf, and thence to Cairo, in armchairs strapped to the backs of donkeys.
At Port Tewfik, at the southern end of the Suez Canal, was ‘a colossal bust with a bronze bas-relief of Waghorn surveying the desert on a camel, attended by a train of Orientals’. But this was destroyed in 1956. De Lesseps, the French builder of the canal, said that ‘it was to Waghorn alone that he was indebted for the original idea of forming the Suez Canal’. There is also a fine statue in Chatham (1888). Ashbee believes that Waghorn deserves to be better known; he has evidently spent years researching his subject.
Waghorn joined the Navy and passed the navigation exams at sixteen, ‘the youngest midshipman who did not study at the Naval College however passed as Lieutenant for Navigation’. But he was forty-two before he was given the rank. At nineteen, he volunteered for the EIC, and was assigned to the Bengal Pilot Service, and saw action in the Bengal War 1824-26. The arrival in Indian waters of the first English paddle steamer Enterprise caught his imagination: he ‘had his attention first turned to the question of steam navigation on board the Enterprise, as pilot, in 1826’.
In 1830, still in the pay of the EIC, Waghorn experienced a particularly long journey from England to Bombay via Cosseir. It took 145 days, 90 of which due to delays. He argued that the introduction of a steam-boat to Suez would be quicker and more reliable, but the EIC continued to recommend the Cosseir route for travellers. Waghorn resigned in 1831. Astell, an EIC director, recorded the reason being ‘that he may be better enabled to promote the object of steam navigation’ between England and India. Recalling the event some time later, Waghorn was less diplomatic: ‘I tell you, Astell, that I shall stuff the overland route down your throat before you are two years older’.
At thirty-two, Waghorn rejoined the Navy as midshipman and passed for Lieutenant of Seamanship. It seems that his berth with the Navy was an accom-modation, primarily for reasons of public relations. In April 1834, he met with the Pasha’s minister, who told him ‘that the Pasha was ready to throw open Egypt so that British merchants might trade through it’. Waghorn went on to cultivate an important relationship with the Pasha.
As a result of his ‘impetuous and impatient attempts to set up an infrastructure for the Overland Route’, Waghorn brought India closer to the mother country, down from about three months to Bombay to about 35 days. His stated aim was to carry goods, money etc. and the forwarding of passengers by the best means, in the most economical manner. In this, ‘Waghorn & Co.’ benefited from the lethargy of officialdom from government, the Post Office and the Peninsula Steam Navigation Co..
Ashbee’s book is enhanced by the amount of space he gives to first hand travel reports by employees and customers: Samuel Bevan, an employee, recorded that Waghorn maintained an abundant supply of good water kept cool underground in iron tanks at the seven stations between Cairo and Suez. The traveller might also slake his thirst with the best of ale or beer at a shilling a bottle, or with a bottle from the ‘carte des vins’ in the dining room. Expectations were so high that one young officer on his way out to India was extremely annoyed that his champagne was un-iced The book is also enhanced by the inclusion of contemporary public assessments of the man, and extracts from Waghorn’s own pamphlets such as Egypt as it is in 1837, that promoted the attractions of travel and trade in Egypt.
Like many energetic, tenacious and entrepreneurial types, Waghorn could be ‘difficult’. He didn’t play the game. He was neither deferential nor polite to important people in government, in the East India Company, or in the India Office. The press was on his side. The only really adverse opinion of him came from an American who was his business partner for a few months in 1839. He cited Waghorn’s ‘impostures, his deceptions, his vile propensities, his utter disregard to principle…’, but perhaps we might disregard this rant. Waghorn was certainly financially insecure. From 1840, P&O set up its own agency in direct competition with Waghorn, but not to the extent of putting him out of business. He was able to write to Lord Aberdeen in 1842 that ‘the whole of the Egyptian route is under my control’. Waghorn was convinced that he had the Pasha in his pocket and that he could open the door for British interests, politically, militarily and commercially. It seems that the offer was not taken up. The Pasha effectively nationalised the Egyptian assets of both Waghorn and the P&O in 1844.
The book is published privately by the author. Another publisher might have chosen to put the image of Waghorn’s statue in Chatham on the front cover: it shows a young man of action and drive, with his maps under one arm and the other stretching out as if to some far away future. This would be much more eye-catching than Hayter’s studio portrait (c.1844) and might help boost sales. Why is the title not ‘Waghorn and the Overland Route to India’? ‘Zeal Unabated’ is meaningless. And where are the maps? The one that purports to show the desert stations cannot be read with the aid of a powerful magnifying glass; the other two maps are entirely peripheral to the story. The narrative is confusing and the book would certainly have benefited from a good editor and an index. Despite these criticisms, the authenticity of the story carries the reader along.
References to Charles Roach Smith f.s.a. will interest Kent’s local historians. Roach Smith felt that Mehemet Ali had acted nobly in keeping the Overland Route open in 1840 despite England being one of the powers fighting against him in successfully restoring Syria to Turkey. Roach Smith decided to commission a medal for the Pasha and was advised to consult Waghorn about it. They became friends. He later gave dramatic readings in honour of Waghorn at Snodland, where he is buried, and where Ashbee chairs the local history society.
Drinking in Deal: Beer, Pubs and Temperance in an East Kent Town 1830-1914. By Andrew Sargent. 288 pp. Over 80 b/w illustrations. BooksEast, 2016. Hardback £25.00, paperback £20.00 (+£3.00 p+p) from 33, Coborn Street, London E3 2AB. Tel: 020 8981 3980. ISBN 978 1 908304 22 3 and 978 1 908304 20 9.
This is a long and detailed study of what the title says it is. Whilst reading it, the question kept coming to mind: ‘do you have to put it all in?’. All historians face it. The answer, of course, is that to know about something, yet leave it out, shows discrimination and self-control. But to leave it out because you don’t know about it, does not. In this case, Andrew Sargent clearly knows all about it, and could have left a lot out. It is easy to lose track of the main lines of argument midst all the ‘supporting’ evidence.
The clues to the book’s length lie in the introduction. The author rightly eschews the ‘illustrated compendium of public houses past and present’ model, and follows instead the example of those who have written about Bradford, Norwich and Portsmouth in offering a ‘whole story account of the consumption of beer and the development and functioning of public houses in a specific location’. His chapter headings are instructive: The Business of Brewing; Pubs and Publicans; the Users and Uses of Public Houses; Disorder, Regulation and Bad Behaviour (by far the longest); and Controversies and Closures.
Sargent relies heavily on the content of two local newspapers: the Liberal-leaning Deal, Walmer and Sandwich Telegram (1858-1888) and the Conservative supporting Deal, Walmer and Sandwich Mercury (1865 to the present day, but now called the Messenger). The extent of such reliance is reflected in the number of endnotes to each of the five chapters the vast majority relating to items found in the pages of the Telegram or Mercury. It is clear that the author’s method was to scour the newspapers for pieces that fit his chosen structure. Possibly he did not think enough about his target reader.
Sargent is very good at putting the East Kent story into its national context. Especially admirable is his chapter on the impact of the temperance movement, showing how changes in social behaviour were reflected by the lawmakers and the consequent tensions between brewers and licensing magistrates in the local courts after about 1870. His bibliography of brewing history contains important recent work at the national and local level, as well as the standard volumes. His acknowledgment of the support he has enjoyed from public and private libraries, museums and archive offices up and down the country reinforce the view that he has made good use of primary sources in addition to newspapers.
Sargent spent a good many years researching and writing this book. It is most unlikely that there will ever be a more complete history of drinking in Deal and East Kent in the ‘long’ nineteenth century. He is to be congratulated. Cheers!
The 1830 Farm Labourers’ Riots in Kent. By T.L. Richardson. Vi + 106 pp. 14 illustrations. Sandwich Local History Society, 2016. Paperback. ISBN 0-9542424-6-7.
In this well written but brief study Dr Tom Richardson, formerly of the University of Kent, describes the likely causes and course of the most serious outbreak of rural unrest, the so-called ‘Swing’ riots of 1830, in Kent. The agrarian protests which began in west Kent, and then spread across the County (a good part of this book concentrates on east Kent) subsequently engulfed areas of southern, eastern, and midland England. In four chapters Richardson surveys rural Kent in the eighteenth century. Were relations between rural workers and their employers as ‘harmonious’ as he suggests? He then he examines field labour, followed by a discussion of ‘the standard of living’, a debate in economic and social history to which in the past he has made a valuable contribution. He concludes with a chapter on the actual riots and the retribution that followed. Local audiences in Sandwich, for whom the book is primarily written, will welcome Richardson’s skilful analysis of a mass of statistical data to give a strong impression of the wretched lives that so many agricultural labourers endured and which caused many to resort of violence in 1830.
His conclusion is that the riots in Kent were an ‘economic movement … in which the labourers’ primary concern was to secure a living wage and bring about an end to rural unemployment’ (p. 89). This might have been modified if more recent literature had been consulted, particularly the articles in the special issue of Southern History (2010), and Carl J. Griffin’s The Rural War (2012). The result is that the book has a rather old look about it, as if it was written some time ago and merely dusted down for publication. Given the lengthy background devoted to the riots, the final chapter ends rather abruptly. The reader is told little about the consequences of the riots, of their impact on parliamentary reform, the introduction of the New Poor Law, attempts at agrarian unionism in the mid-1830s, the attitude of farmers to further mechanisation, and the question of rural policing. In short did ‘Swing’, however uncoordinated, gain any results for rural labourers? Another question, one rarely if ever addressed in the weighty literature on ‘Swing’, is what of the impact of the violence on its victims?
The contemporary illustrations add to the book’s usefulness, but the inclusion of photographs of agricultural labourers in the latter part of the nineteenth century seems somewhat out of keeping with events before the development of photography. An index to the book would have been helpful.
Of the North Kent Marshes. Eds Ian Jackson and Keith Robinson. Privately published, 2016. xviii + 205 pp., b/w and colour maps, illustrations and photographs throughout. Paperback, £20 (£25 inc. p+p) from The Faversham Society, The Fleur de Lis, 10-13 Preston Street, Faversham ME13 8NS. ISBN 978-1-908067-14-2.
Bird-watching meets archaeology and environmentalism meets history in this very unusual and fascinating study of the North Kent Marshes. Underlying all, naturally, is the topography which has been studied in great detail by the authors and editors and not least the artist Billy Childish whose water colours add a further dimension. Ian Jackson’s hand drawn, coloured maps convey not only the detail, but also the atmosphere of the Marshes and support the text throughout. From the carefully researched, but concise introductory chapter, ‘Prehistory to the Norman Conquest’, to the gazetteer of birds and literary and poetry extracts, this study is made by those who observe and absorb with all their senses.
Reclamation throughout the last millennium and sea defences have made the land a focus for innovative engineering works as well as the hard graft of living and farming on the edge and making a livelihood from the sea. The coastline and the Medway estuary were also the focus of military defences for centuries as well as the notorious prison hulks.
The book is divided into four sections: ‘The Exploitation of the Marshes’, covering the history of the landscape; ‘People of the Marshes’, a study of the importance of an eclectic range of characters to the life and heritage of the Marshes; ‘The Road to Egypt Bay’, a study of the small communities, their dwellings and Marsh life; and ‘On Beach, Marsh and Seawall’, an appreciation of the environment, flora and fauna of the Marsh and coastline. Each, in different ways is a potpourri of the informed, special interests of the authors, personal memoirs, extracts and illustrations. Ian Jackson’s chapter in the second section on ‘The Medway Embankment in particular Mr Webb’s enclosures’ exemplifies the style of the volume with an account and analysis of the damaging high tide at the turn of 1904-5 and the effects on the people of Greenborough Marsh, followed by the ultimate failure of the embankment of Mr Webb’s re-inclosure from 1875 to 1883. Jackson brings together archaeology, topographical development, local reports and Mr Webb’s own ‘Inclosures Manuscript’, written in order that ‘it may in future years be referred to with some interest, as well as be of practical use in other contemplated inclosures’.
This volume is well-produced and has a useful bibliography and index, but would have benefited from a more professional proof-reading.
The Wife of Cobham. By Susan Curran. Lasse Press, 2016. vii + 217 pp., b/w and colour illustrations throughout. Paperback £18.99. ISBN 978-0-9933069-1-4.
It is very difficult to learn about the lives of individual women in the medieval period, and Susan Curran, who has also written about Margery Paston, admits this in her imaginative biography of Joan, de la Pole, 4th Baroness Cobham (1370-1432). Joan’s relatively long life and, more particularly, her numerous husbands have provided a wide social, political and geographical sphere within which to examine the life of a well-to-do woman. The first marriage at age 10 lasted for 11 years and Curran suggests that thereafter she may have exercised her own choice of her further four husbands. For most readers, and particularly those with an interest in Kent, it is her family links to the Cobham and Cooling estates and her fourth marriage to the notorious Sir John Oldcastle that will be of greatest interest. Curran tell a good story backed by sound research, but for the character and life of Joan herself there is little more than supposition.
Dover’s Forgotten Commando Raid, Operation Abercrombie: The Raid on Hardelot. By Philip Eyden. The Dover Western Heights Preservation Society, 2016. 96 pp., b/w illustrations throughout. Paperback, from Dover Museum, Market Square, Dover CT16 1PO. ISBN 978-0-9935562-0-3.
In this detailed account of the Commando ‘Abercrombie’ assault on Hardelot in April 1942 which set out from the Western Heights, Eyden’s aim is to elaborate on the brief official reports which he believes conceal a military and human story which should be told. The result is a very detailed narrative, setting the scene clearly from the original plan in March to the first, abortive, attempt on 19 April and the ‘successful’ attempt on 21/22 April and the ‘grim’ journey back to Dover. The No. 4 Commando was supported by the first Canadian division to be attached to such an operation, but they receive relatively short shrift from Eyden. This short volume highlights the difficulty of maintaining strategic planning once action starts and the human cost of such focused military undertakings, but a more general introduction and conclusion setting the raid in the overall strategy of 1942 would have added strength to Eyden’s original aim. It is good to see a clear map used to clarify the geography for the reader.
An Oral History of Horsmonden. Ed. Richard Stubbings. Horsmonden Historical Society, 2016. 312 pp., colour and b/w illustrations throughout. Paperback. ISBN 978-1-5272-6671-1.
The sub-title of this ambitious local history society project, supported by the Allen Grove Local History Fund, is ‘a series of personal recollections in their own words by villagers born in the early to mid 20th century’. That is exactly what it is with editorial intervention only for the sake of clarity, and credit must go to Thelma Skinner and her team of interviewers. Although this approach brings an immediacy to the contributions of the thirty-five interviewees collected over six years, in his introduction, Richard Stubbings does admit to its limitations, and recognises that this is not a ‘local history’, but a fascinating insight into the changes and continuities of Horsmonden village community. As a consequence it will be an invaluable resource for those wishing to examine local social trends. The book has been arranged very sensibly in sections starting with ‘Early Memories’ and covering all aspects of a village life through school, work and the local economy, leisure and seasonal entertainment, to houses (from which much can be inferred about social status), transport, politics, war and welfare. This makes it a good book to dip into and will give pleasure and a sound resource to many in Horsmonden and beyond, but it does also raise the issue of whether local history societies might usefully consider collecting memories from younger members of communities as well.