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Fawkham and Ash Archaeological Group (FAAG)

The Discovery and excavation of a Late Iron-Age and Early Roman Farmstead at Viewpoint, Wellfield, Hartley, Kent 1975/76 and 1984 TQ6084/6842

Excavation Overview
Mechanical stripping of the topsoil in November / December 1975 with a J.C.B. over an area of approximately 140 square metres revealed a curving ditch C, and initially another ditch A, which on excavation was found to be a recut of an earlier ditch B. A tiled hearth was discovered overlying Ditch A. During the total excavation of Ditches A and B, an earlier Pit F was discovered. During the building of Block 9 to the north, Ditches G and J, and Pit H were also discovered.
   Further excavations in 1984 following the demolition of the house View Point, led to the discovery of further lengths of Ditches A and B and Pit K.

The kerbs of the south-western end of the road formed a right-angle. The east to west kerb was taken as a base line for a grid layout from which measurements were taken.

Ditches A and B, the tiled heath and Pit F
   The face of the terrace cut by the construction of the road was cleaned up, and a cut 1m wide in Ditch A was excavated producing pottery and animal bones. The line of the ditch seemed to head towards the house View Point. A trench was dug with a J.C.B. adjacent to the house across the suspected line of Ditch A and instead located Ditch B, approximately 22m south-west from the road kerb, along the expected line of Ditch A.

The outline of the proposed house block (now nos. 35/37 Caxton Close) was laid out on the ground in orange tape to show the area that was going be destroyed by the excavation of the footings.

   The topsoil was removed from the area by J.C.B., from the terrace edge south towards the house View Point.

   Ditch A was measured from the road edge south-west along its length and marked out in 1m portions for excavation, leaving m baulks in between to be excavated later.
   During the trowelling of the remaining topsoil overlying the ditch, a mass of burnt clay with flints and a piece of quernstone were discovered, situated over the line of Ditch A. Cleaning up and excavation of the clay revealed what had been two complete Roman tegula roof tiles laid upside down to form the base of a hearth or oven. The intense heat from many fires had shattered them both into many pieces.

  

   Also found by Charlie Capes whilst cleaning back the topsoil just to the north of the hearth was a bronze coin, a sestertius of Marcus Aurelius, AD 162-163 (TR P XVII). The reverse shows Salus standing left, feeding snake entwined round an altar. The catalogue reference is RIC 843 (Roman Imperial Coinage). Rome mint.
                      Obv : IMP CAES M AVREL ANTONINVS AVG P M
                      Rev : SALVTI AVGVSTOR TR P XVII COS III S C

Excavation of Ditch A at various points along its length revealed that a Ditch B, with a V shaped profile, had been dug first and stretched for 22m from the road edge up to the edge of our excavation near the house View Point. Over time this had been allowed to fill up.
   At a later time Ditch A had been dug, with a shallow U shaped profile slightly to the south-east of Ditch B, but only ran some 16m from the road edge and terminated leaving Ditch B to carry on.

   Pit F was also discovered during excavation of Ditches A and B. The edge of it had already been cut through by Ditch B.

Ditch C
  
With further stripping of topsoil, some 19 metres of Ditch C was revealed. The ditch was divided into 2m portions, measured from the southern edge of the area cleared of topsoil, running north towards the road. Initially 1m cuts were excavated leaving m baulks to be excavated later. Except for a modern pit 2m wide, the rest of the ditch some m deep into the chalk, produced pottery, ranging in date from the late 1st century to the late 2nd century, animal bone and oyster shell.
   The ditch does not seem to have remained open for much natural weathering to take place and was possibly backfilled and levelled all in one operation.

   Over the next ten weekends the majority of the contents of 7 metres of Ditches A & B, and Pit F were fully excavated. Ditch C was also completely excavated except for 2m of the modern pit.

   By the 25th January 1976 the excavation of Ditches A, B & C, and Pit F was complete and the work of construction on the block (now nos. 17 to 37 Caxton Close) was started.

Ditches G & J, and Pit H
  
During the week of 19th January the footing trenches for Block 9 (now nos.39/41 Caxton Close) had been dug. Ditch G could be seen entering the footing trench from the west and exiting through the north-eastern edge. Ditch J could be seen entering the footing trench from the east side of Block 9 and curving round to leave on the south side.

   A trench for services dug just to the east of Block 9 revealed Pit H. It was narrower at the top, widening out at the bottom, the shape of a classic bee-hive shaped Iron Age grain storage pit, later used as a rubbish pit. The date was confirmed by the late Iron Age pottery excavated.

   With the excavation of Pit H, work was completed on the site and we left the builders to get on with the work of building the houses.

   Later in 1976 the footing trenches for garages to the south of Block 10 (now nos. 17 to 37 Caxton Close) revealed Ditch C carrying on southwards.

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   In July 1984 the old house, View Point was demolished to make way for new housing (now nos. 28/30 + 40/42). On Sunday 22nd July 1984 in glorious sunshine, as opposed to the freezing conditions in 1975/76, members of the Fawkham & Ash Archaeological Group returned for one day to record the features encountered during the construction of the foundations for the new houses.

   Excavation this time was carried out in five boxes. On excavation Box D revealed that both Ditches A & B had continued. It is probable that Ditch A had been interrupted by a causeway entrance. Certainly the presence of so much domestic rubbish indicated that the main living area was not far away.

   Box C 4m further west again revealed that both Ditches A & B continued.

   But Box A another 6m further west right up against the fence of house no. 26 Pitfield, found just one shallow ditch cut into the chalk, possibly Ditch A.

   On the south-west side Box E, Pit K had been cut through by the house foundations. Pottery dating to the 1st and 2nd century A.D. and animal bone were found.

   At the end of the day work was completed on the site and we left the builders to get on with the work of building the houses.

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