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Dartford & District Archaeological Group (DDAG)   -    Rediscovering Dartford - Page 34

15. The Bull and George
   This famous inn was demolished in January 1981 to make way for a new Boots store. In its heyday the Bull and George served as a coaching inn on the London-Dover road, accommodating travellers on their journeys to and from the coast. Probably the most famous person known to have stayed there was the noted novelist Jane Austen. She stayed there on several occasions and mentioned the Bull and George in letters to her family.
   The Group obtained permission to keep a watch on the demolition of the building and the subsequent redevelopment. Evidence obtained during this work showed that the inn underwent some drastic changes during the first half of the 19th century. The western part of the building appears to have been sold off and is now the Halifax Building Society. The remaining frontage was demolished and rebuilt, and the entranceway into the courtyard at the back was also probably repositioned during this period of reconstruction. The date of this work may well have been c.1834, as evidenced by a chance discovery made by a workman whilst removing a portion of the footings at the front of the building. His pickaxe struck a glass jar, which on close examination contained a number of interesting objects. In the jar were five coins dated between 1826-34 which were enclosed in stamp office tickets issued during the reign of William IV (1830-7) and a trade card issued by Charles Messenger, the landlord at the time. The contents were then wrapped in a parchment document dated 1834 and built into the foundation. As the contents were waterlogged it has not been possible to read very much of the document other than the odd word, 

but it has been conserved by Kent the County Museums Service, and the County Archives Archives Office, and is now with the older finds in Dartford Borough Museum.    Once the demolition was completed, access was allowed to investigate the underlying levels. Two finely built soakaways, constructed from neatly squared chalk blocks, were discovered. The first was located underneath a wall situated on the west side of the wing at the back. Evidence of a wooden plank was found, which had been laid across the disused soakaway to take the weight of the wall above. No datable material was found in this soakaway other than part of a cartwheel. This was lying at the base of the fill and was probably used as a template or or guide to assist the builder in constructing the soakaway in circular form. The second soakaway was located just outside the north wall of the back wing. The fill was more interesting as a small amount of datable pottery, plus a piece of ‘Frobisher’s Stone’ (see page20) was found. At the bottom, an early type of pewter spoon, used in late Medieval times was found. Along the eastern side adjacent to Freeman Hardy Willis, we located foundations formed of chalk and flint, and part of a finely constructed cellar. 
   These foundations were followed up to the shop’s flank wall and were seen to pass through it in one place. They formed part of an adjoining property to the later Manor House of Charles (see below) which was demolished in the early part of the 19th century. 
   It was hoped that our excavations would have shown evidence of the course of the Roman road through Dartford. That unfortunately was not to be, although a number of Roman pottery sherds were found

The Manor House of Charles, High St, Dartford.
The Bull and George can be seen on the extreme left.

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