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Dartford & District Archaeological Group (DDAG)   -    Rediscovering Dartford - Page 18

7. Pond Field, Littlebrook
The archaeological potential of this area was first noted by F. C. J. Spurrell, F.S.A., an archaeologist and antiquarian. In 1883, he reported the discovery of some Anglo-Saxon graves at Littlebrook. The discoveries were made during quarrying operations on the hillside overlooking Littlebrook Farm and Stone Marshes. In 1885, Spurrell produced a plan of a network of earth embankments which he believed may have formed part of a Saxon hythe or port. These embankments are now almost totally buried under Littlebrook D’ Power Station.
   More than fifty years later the site of a Medieval settlement was discovered to the south east of these embankments in an area known as Pond Field. This discovery was made by Harold Mair, a former Chairman of the Dartford Historical and Antiquarian Society. Accompanied by his son Gordon, he was able to carry out a small excavation from which a plan of the site was produced in his book 'The XVth Mile Stage’.
   Pond Field had originally been one large field but was later split in half by an earth embankment which carried a road and rail link out to the first Littlebrook Power Station. This embankment cut across the site, most of which lies on the western side.
   In 1972, the Group relocated Mair’s Medieval site. This was to be the Group’s first major excavation and formed a perfect opportunity to try out our newly acquired skills.
   Our excavation revealed a rectangular building measuring 8.5m. (27ft 11ins) x 8m (26ft 3ins). The walls were formed of several courses of mortared chalk and flint. The main structure of this building was probably of timber with lath and plaster infill panels resting on these sleeper walls, which in turn acted as a damp course. The building was roofed with clay peg tiles. In the middle of the floor was found a hearth. 2m 6ft 7ins) square. This was constructed of roofing tiles set on edge into the floor. These would have been spare and damaged tiles left over from the roofing work. When the building was in use a fire was built on the 

 hearth and smoke would rise up and escape through openings in the roof. Harold Mair mentions this building and suggests it was used as a communal kitchen. This proved to be the only tiled building we were able to locate on the site. The other buildings found were of less substantial construction. They comprised a rammed chalk floor of roughly circular shape. in the centre of the floor was a hole into which a post was fitted. ‘this supported a roof presumably made of wood and reeds. These circular tentlike structures possibly served as sleeping accommodation for the site occupiers.
   In his book, Mair mentions that these habitations were possibly occupied by workmen employed in the construction and maintenance of the Thames embankments during the early Medieval period (13th 14th centuries).
   Our excavation failed to reveal any of the rubbish pits related to the site. It would appear that perhaps the residents may have used the nearby river as their dustbin. The pottery fragments that were found were from dishes and cooking pots as well as fragments of more finely made green glazed pottery probably from drink containers.
   From the animal bones and shells found it would appear that pork and oysters were the main food of the settlement occupants. In terms of artifacts only two were found; one was a small pair of bronze tweezers and the other a whetstone or sharpening stone.
   From all the evidence obtained from the site we have been able to visualise what it may have looked like in Medieval times. The buildings were located on an area of gravel, slightly raised, adjacent to a reed lined river and pond. Both were linked to the River Thames and were tidal. The name 'Pond Field’ is derived from this fact and although both pond and river were filled in during the middle of this century they were still evident as a peat filled depression.
   The site at Littlebrook has now been partially destroyed, although an area of it still survives buried under the recently widened embankment which carries the road traffic out to the Power Station.

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