spoken for some time." After the solid repast with which the members
had just fortified themselves it seems likely that some part of the
audience must have found the attractions of antiquarianism and of sleep
nicely balanced during the reading of the papers. Perhaps this was why, at
Rochester in 1887, the procedure was varied: "an amateur band
discoursed sweet music; and at intervals papers were read."
To give an account, of all the Annual General Meetings would
be tedious; they are faithfully recorded in the volumes of Archaeologia
Cantiana, and the records often make surprisingly interesting reading.
If it would be tedious to give any detailed account of the Society’s
early proceedings, it would certainly be misleading to suggest that they
were always trivial, or intended to tickle the ears of the groundlings. Autres
temps, autres moesurs; there is much that, to us, seems quaint and
amusing in the behaviour of our members of a hundred years ago; let us
hope that our conduct will seem no worse to our successors in the middle
of the next century.
For the Society, at the end of its first decade, could look
back upon a solid and serious achievement. It was essentially an amateur
achievement, in both senses, in that it was a labour of love, and that
it was non-professional. Few of the 1,100 members which the Society
numbered by 1868 (when it could claim to be the largest of the County
Societies in the south-east; how egregiously wrong Bish Webb
had proved!) made any pretension to a profound knowledge of archaeology, but
their enthusiasm showed no abatement. It was thanks to the support of the
many lay members that the erudite few who became prominent in the affairs of
the Society were able to do so much to advance archaeological and historical
learning in the county.
Excavations, for example, were undertaken at a number of
important sites, including Richborough, Horton Kirby and Sarre. The
discoveries were reported in Archaeologia (Cantiana, and many of the
objects found a permanent home in the Society’s collections at Maid-stone,
including the magnificent finds from the Saxon cemetery at Bifrons, where,
in 1867, Godfrey-Faussett, on behalf of the Society and with the permission
of Lord Conyngham, opened more than one hundred Saxon graves, and Lord
Conyngham’s gamekeeper opened as many more. "The whole charm of archaeology
is in making discoveries—at least with most of our archaeologists,"
wrote Larking in a letter to Canon Robertson. This indeed was manifested in
the nature of the Society’s activities, and modern scientific
investigators may shudder at the muscular optimism of the Council’s
exhortation, in 1872, that nothing was required "but an energetic
member . . . to superintend the work of laying bare such treasures."
For Larking "discovery" meant the discovery of archaeologica1 and
historical truth, but for many of his contemporaries it meant, simply, the
finding of objects of