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     Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 110  1992    page 71

Anglo-Saxon settlement in the Darent valley and environs. By Susan Tyler, B.A.

Excavated sites and casual finds point to the existence of a series of Anglo-Saxon settlements, dating from the mid-fifth to mid-seventh century, along the Darent river valley, in the Cray valley and surrounding coastlands. They form part of a larger pattern of Anglo-Saxon settlement within the valleys of the tributaries of the river Thames and on the Thames coastlands. In the Darent valley, in what is now west Kent, the Saxon settlement pattern can be directly related to the pre-existing Roman system of villa estates.
   The river Darent rises in the Vale of Holmesdale, cuts through the hard Upper Chalk of the North Downs and flows across the London Basin to join the river Thames. For most of its length the valley is approximately two miles wide, opening out as it merges into the Thames coastlands. The Roman Watling Street and the ancient trackway known as the Pilgrimsí Way provide easy access to the valley from north and south, respectively. Saxon settlers may have travelled up along the Thames estuary by ship into the 

Darent valley, where they would have found a favourable place to settle for a people practising an agricultural/stock-rearing/fishing economy. The chalk bed-rock of the North Downs is capped with clay-with-flints and is heavily wooded, but along the Darent valley much of this woodland would have been cleared by pre-Roman settlers, at latest by the estate workers of the Romano-British villas which are particularly numerous here. The wet but fertile soil is shallow on the valley slopes but deeper in the valley bottom. The Darent valley, therefore, was an appealing area for the incoming Saxons to settle from the middle of the fifth century onwards.
   A total of eighteen cemeteries, five settlements and five casual finds belonging to the period from the mid-fifth through to the mid-seventh century are known from the Darent and Cray valleys and surrounding coastlands and are listed in table 1 (Fig. 1). Three

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