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Dartford & District Archaeological Group (DDAG)   -    Rediscovering Dartford - Page 26

The Group began excavation on the site in the early part of 1980. At that time the surgery was still in regular use and accordingly work was limited to a small area at the front and back of the building. When the surgery was finally closed and vacated in 1981 our work became more intensive. According to the only illustration that has come to light, Horsman’s Place comprised two major buildings, the mansion house and a separate gatehouse, both of which are said to have faced west. It seems that the building which until recently lay below the doctors’ surgery is that of the gatehouse. The house proper, shown in the illustration to the right of the gatehouse and set back some distance from it, has not been located, and probably lies under Lowfield Street. The foundations of the gatehouse which were uncovered revealed several periods of building work and confirmed documentary evidence and the findings of local historians.
   The earliest structure built of chalk blocks appeared here and there but was badly damaged by later work. These walls could have belonged to the building once owned by the dc Shardelow family. Over this section was built a long rectangular building running east/west. Like the earlier structure, chalk was used in the walls along with flint and some stone. These could have supported a timber-framed house. Inside this house were several hearths, both rectangular and circular, constructed of roofing tiles set in the ground on edge similar to those found on our other Medieval and Tudor Sites. It seems likely that this building relates to the structure erected by Thomas Horsman. The layout of the hearths and the number found suggest that some were built at a later date when the use of the building changed.

The foundations of the building were uncovered and found to run westwards through the front wall of the doctors’ surgery linking up with the cellar wall. This formed a ‘T’ shaped building, which some historians have compared with the design of the ‘Priory House’. The crosspiece of the ‘T’ is the work of John Beer and is largely of brick and stonework with neatly squared chalk blocks forming some of the internal walls. Along the west front wall traces were found of two stone framed windows which had probably been blocked up when James Storey rebuilt the house c.1800. Further along the wall to the south we found the carved timber uprights of a doorway. These were at first thought to he in situ but it now seems likely that they were removed from elsewhere in the building and reused. It is known that when Storey demolished the old mansion, some materials were taken away, including an oak beam with a carved inscription which is mentioned in an 1827 edition of the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ and which when translated reads: ‘To God Alone (be the) Honour and Glory in the Year of our Lord 1538 Ane Bere, John Here’. Needless to say, if this historic beam still exists, the Group would very much like to know about it.
   Several other areas of Storey’s work have been uncovered including a massive foundation for a chimneystack situated on the south side of the building. This was found to contain sections of a stone fireplace surround used as hardcore during rebuilding. This was one of the most complicated excavations that the Group has ever been called upon to undertake. Nevertheless it proved to he a task of enthralling interest and underlined how archaeology can support and confirm, or even question the written record.

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