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Lees Court News

A partnership project between the Society, the Lees Court Estate and the School of Classical and Archaeological Studies at the University of Kent to investigate the history, buildings, place names and archaeology of the Lees Court Estate.
Wood's Court Field Week 1

This is an update on the first few days on site and the preparation for the next few weeks excavation.

During August all our equipment, containers, marquees, offices and toilets have been moved to Wood’s Court Field.  They have all had a good clean and are now ready for you.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have very much been taken up by getting the three trenches (T 2, T 3 and T 4) ready for excavation.

 

Trench 2 is on the right of the image, Trench 3 on the left hand side with Trench 4 joining the T 2 and T 3 together.

T 2 is the un-excavated quadrant from the 10m x15m trench that we dug last year which includes the significant portion of the pit like feature that was discovered at the end of last year’s dig.

T 4 is a 10m x 10m trench located over Hoard Site 1. 

Finally, T 3 is a 154m x 1.5m trench running between T 2 and T 4. Just to clarify that number the trench is 154 meters long – possible the longest archaeological trench opened up in Kent this year – unless you have other information that might indicate otherwise.

The trenches were opened up by JCB with the usual watching brief in tow. Surface finds include struck and calcined flint pot/post holes.

Whilst the excavation trenches were having the topsoil removed, the team conducted some field walking.  You cannot walk anywhere in this field without treading on worked or calcined flint.

One feature in Trench 4 that attracted attention was a particularly large pit filled with pot boilers.  Due to the size of this pit an extension was cut into Trench 4 becoming Trench 4a.  The pit has a circumference of 6m.

 

Once the topsoil had been removed hand excavating started. A lot of features were exposed and are in the process of being excavated.

 

 

  

Stringmans Field Excavation - Days 4 & 5

Days 4 & 5 were spent finishing off the initial excavations at Stringmans Field while investigating potential areas for further excavation next year.  Once again, volunteers from several archaeological groups worked tirelessly, excavating, cleaning, photographing and planning aspects of the Prehistoric monument.

 

 

On Day 4, John Townsend carried out a resistivity survey on an area of meadow south of the present excavations.  These results proved positive, confirming our initial thoughts that the monument has north and south entrances, bounded by ditches (dark surrounds) but perhaps the most revealing is the possibility of a chamber at the centre (dark circle).  We now estimate that the monument is approximately 30 metres in diameter and further excavations to the south have been provisionally agreed with LCE.

 

 

On Day 5, members of the SHAL group returned to LCE for further training/guidance on excavation and recording techniques. Again, Later Prehistoric lithics and pottery emerged, adding to the already impressive artefact collection.  We now have a better understanding of how the Prehistoric people built and maintained this monument and how they adapted the natural geology to their advantage.  Our task is now to draft an interim report and prepare our objectives for excavations of the southern aspect next year.

 

 

My sincere thanks to all those volunteers who took part and contributed to such a fascinating and revealing excavation.  There are many more days of work ahead, so, for now, bask in the following images demonstrating the glory of your labours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stringmans Excavation Episode 3 - Revenge of the Monument

 

Stringmans Field Excavation - Background

 

Following on from Fred Birkbeck's fantastic work at Badlesmere Bottom (top work Fred), attention has now turned to Woodcourt Field (with Keith Parfitt) and Stringmans Field (with Richard Taylor).  Keith will blog separately about the wonders of Woodcourt Field, so for now, here is an update regarding the current goings-on at Stringmans Field.

The Prehistoric monument at Stringmans Field was first identified by a magnetometry survey carried out in April 2018.  This suggested a possible ring ditch anomaly toward the southeast of Stringmans Field.  Excavations led by Dr David Walsh and students of University of Kent in September 2018 excavated a small area over the ring ditch anomaly and confirmed a segment of a ring ditch cut into the natural chalk bedrock.

A group of volunteers led by Richard Taylor returned to Stringmans Field in July 2019 to investigate this possible Prehistoric monument further.  What they found was unexpected – a probable causewayed monument.  Further excavations confirmed the presence of a ring ditch cut into the chalk, a terminus to the ring ditch and a likely causewayed area to the north.  Evidence that the monument had been maintained was visible in the ring ditch stratigraphy, demonstrating at least two re-cuts.  Pottery from secure contexts suggests the monument is of Neolithic origin and in use for at least a millennia judging by the presence of Beaker pottery higher up the stratigraphic sequence.

With all this in mind, KAS members and volunteers from Shorne and Faversham archaeological groups have, for the last three days (from 2nd September), worked hard to investigate two components of the Prehistoric monument at Stringmans Field: firstly, an examination of the north causewayed area to the west of the terminus discovered in July 2019; secondly, to explore the chalk interior to the south.

Much of the north causewayed area to the north, we have since discovered, has been removed by a significant re-cut that occurred during the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, which seems to have adapted the monument from its original causewayed form, to one that is surrounded by a continuous ring ditch, with a significant flint base.

   This re-cut is interesting as the base of it is lined with flint, from which we are obtaining lithic material and Prehistoric pottery.

Finally, the painstaking work of removing various sub-soils and hillwash has enabled us to get a better view and understanding of the interior of the monument and how its was composed or may have looked.  Unfortunately for the original builders, they situated the monument, not only on the chalk bedrock, but also a number of (supposedly unknown) chalk solution hollows, which must have made building difficult.  Nevertheless, the Neolithic people seem to have adapted well and utilised this geology to their advantage, as demonstrated in the image below, which shows a chalk face of one such solution hollow used as an inner face of the monument.

A huge thank you to all the volunteers that have taken part so far...it really is a complex site and your hard work, commitment and enthusiasm has been amazing.

Work continues at Stringmans Field this week until Friday...it is a fascinating and enigmatic site - one which will require many years of investigation and research by the KAS to uncover its many secrets.  If you are interested in helping out now, or in future, please get in touch at richard.taylor@kentarchaeology.org and I will keep you up to date with proposed excavation dates over the next twelve months.  Meantime, do keep an eye out for Day 4 and 5 updates.

All the best,

Richard 

 

 

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 12 FINAL DAY

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has been following the posts on here, it is the first time the Society website has been used for these kind of updates. We would welcome any feedback, good or bad, just go to the contact section of the website and send a web form https://kentarchaeology.org.uk/about-us/contact-us. Remember to put the title 'Badlesmere Bottom' to be sure it will go to the correct person. Your feedback will be anonymised once it has been received and before it is sent on. Apologies for not having updated day 12 until now, there have been some technical issues.

Well, to all the diggers, supervisors, administrators and Estate staff, in particular Lady Sondes, our side project of a community dig for the affiliated groups and KAS members has been thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who participated. There has been some laughs along the way, only one casualty (a cut finger, those darn flints), only one morning of rain (apart from when the trenches were being stripped on day 1), young and old (I'm saying nothing) have come together to learn and discover.

We have to qualify the project as a success in the information it has confirmed from the geophysics, our feature which seems to run around the church (the 'castle' feature) contains patches of archaeology in the trial trenches in the form of metalled, hard standing surfaces which is what you would expect from a defended boundary of the purported date. We also had positive results from the trenches dug over the ring ditch which lies to the east of the boundary, can you spot both those anomalies in the results below? If you can, you're becoming a geophysics believer!

These images show the ditches that make up the western and eastern limits of the ring ditch. was 

 

 

 

Both ditches contained bags of struck flint, prehistoric folk may well have been sitting on the edge of the ditch with their friends knapping flint safely into the boundary ditch to protect little feet and paws from the sharp debitage.

The archaeology on the cusp of the slope looking towards Woods Court was ephemeral, interesting and complex and, unfortunately, completely devoid of any finds! Great fun was had digging it and great ahem … discussions were had musing over the nature of the features there. As seen on the Day 11 blog, there was quite a lot going on.

Anyone who is visiting Lees Court for the main excavation project is welcome to speak to Richard at Stringman's Field or the organisers of the Woods Court dig about visiting the trenches. I will be at Stringman's on Saturday and will be glad to take people around

So what's next? The evaluations have only ground-truthed a small portion of the geophysics targets others of which include 2 potential long barrows, a WWII building, a saucepan/banjo enclosure, more circular enclosures and more general settlement evidence in important strategic places. Appraising the evaluation from this year may lead to further full scale excavations of the rectilinear boundary or ring ditch. Whatever happens, Richard and I will hopefully be back to give more training and facilitate more fun in the fields. Keep checking your emails and the KAS and Lees Court websites for announcements and opportunities.

We want to say a massive thank you to the Lees Court estate for facilitating this project, KAS for providing the resources, and all the participants from Maidstone, Faversham, Folkestone, Shorne, Thanet and a few members of the general public for turning up in the sweltering temperatures to join in. You are what makes it worthwhile.

The final report on this evaluation will be available in due course from KAS

Finally, here are pictures of Richard and I doing some actual work, just to prove we were there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 11

Penultimate day of the Badlesmere Bottom dig and all features are getting tidied, drawn and recorded. Some sterling work on the sections in trench 3 have revealed some interesting stratigraphy and some phasing of activity.

Three large ditches are present, one containing a large deposit of chalk, the middle one containing two recuts, two ditches and a large post-hole and the third a one-cut-one-fill ditch almost 2 meters wide which may be part of a circular ditch. The remarkable thing about these series of ditches is the rarity of finds with only one notable flake in the bottom of the post hole. Highly remarkable in a series of ditches of this scale.

 

 

Trench 2 has perhaps been the biggest success in terms of ground truthing our geophysical survey from February, the below image shows the two large ditches that have been revealed which are exactly on the edges of the ring ditch from the geophysics results. By surveying in the features with the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) survey equipment we can see how the features around the old church relate to each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ditches in trench 2 are producing large amounts of struck flint, fire cracked flint and some pre-historic pot in contrast to trench 3. The western edge ditch is finished and recorded, the ditch at the east end is much larger and we have one more day to reach the bottom and record it.

 

A few site visits planned for Saturday, our last day, All our welcome to see what we have achieved before backfilling next week and all the fun moves to Woods Court Field and Keith's research dig.

So come on down to Badlesemere tomorrow and I'll give you the tour, unless I'm buried under piles of context sheets.

Fred

 

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 10

Today saw volunteers saying a fond(ish!) farewell to trench 3. The trench is best described as "complex" (first rule of archaeology - "messy" is not an adjective one uses to describe someone else's trench! One volunteer did and I think they just about got away with it!). We have large deposits of chalk, ditches lined with flint, pits cut into them, several re-cuts of the same ditch and flint ditch boundaries. How it comes together, as always, will be clearer when it is recorded, which is tomorrow's task.

 

In trench 2, one of the slots into the ring ditch has been finished and one more is just about there. [2004] is ready to be recorded and 2008] is close to the bottom. The edges are proving quite elusive and those pre-historic pot and flint flakes just keep on slowing us down! More recording in this trench tomorrow when everything is complete.

So, Friday is the penultimate day and the big recording day with plenty more training on filling out context sheets, drawing and photographing for anyone who wants to come along. 

Hope it doesn't dry out too much overnight!

 

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 9

What a difference  day makes - 24 little hours later and we start the day with rain showers. Plenty of volunteers today for training day on the Lees Court Estate. We had volunteers and members from 5 different groups today including Maidstone and Lympne as well as Folkestone, Faversham and Shorne.

Work continued on the mysterious prehistoric features in trench 3, there was some progress on the middle ditch which turns out to be much wider than we originally thought and we finished excavating and photographed a large chalk deposit for the record. We will close this trench down tomorrow and record it on Friday but we will have to return to this feature and plot other trenches around it at some point in the future to really understand the significance.

We have made progress into the two ditches in trench 2 which form either side of our ring ditch. Still getting lots of worked flint out another piece of pot and will be able to finish excavating and record those on Thursday and Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Training today was mostly centred around understanding the way features dictate our excavation strategy such as their shape, whether they are truncated and there is a need to find the relationship and how to excavate them faithfully. We also spent time with the volunteers talking about contexts, what they are and why they're important. We filled out some cut and fill record sheets and went through terminology that is used as well as how to fill them in with the post-ex in mind. There was also time to have an introduction to recording and surveying explaining the importance of the whole site plan.

We are pretty sure it was helpful but, as usual, we had a good time anyway.

Final push over the next three days should see us answering a few questions about the ditches surrounding the church area. We should be able to match up the ditches in newly opened trench 5 with those in trench 2.

More info tomorrow

Badlesmere Bottom - Day 8

We were back on site today after our bank holiday break, replenished and ready to go.

Work continued on trench 2 with continuing excavation of both sides of the circular feature by slots through both. They continue to produce a fair amount of worked flint, although less in the lower fill, but no more dating as yet. We will be aiming to bottom out those slots and get some idea of the scale of the ring ditch (I think we can call it that now).

We opened another slot further up the linear that runs alongside the ring ditch, tomorrow's job will be to investigate and record whatever we find there.

We were joined today by Gerald Cramp, the Society President and also by a couple of young enthusiasts who were instrumental in finding the points for the new trench.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The team made some interesting new discoveries in trench 3, a large deposit of chalk that may have been quarried from a mysterious depression in the adjacent field. That also needs some investigation which has rather prevented us from opening up any more trenches for this year. There are still four days to go so watch this space or better still, get down to Lees Court Estate and join in the investigation. 

A dedicated training day is planned for tomorrow when we will be recording the evaluation trenches and the excavations within them. Don't miss it if you want to learn some professional fieldwork skills.

See you on site

 

 

 

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Days 6 and 7

Phew, what a scorcher!

The last two days have certainly taken their toll on us at Badlesmere Bottom, the daily update machine has needed extra ventilation and is now back in operation with a double update.

We were joined by members of FSARG fresh from post-ex on their pub garden dig We have moved onto trench 2 to open up slots into the potential ditches running through them. We have been slightly depleted in numbers but not in work rate or enthusiasm, hence why I haven't had time to take any working shots other than the one of the gang having lunch!

One of the slots has been written off as geological, with a band of slightly different coloured 'natural' running through at a weird angle. Two of the other three have produced a promising amount of flaked and worked flint, some fire-cracked flint and even some Iron Age pot (good spot Caroline) in the linear! The other ditch at the south end of the trench, over what we think is the circular feature, has provided a large amount of flint working debitage as well as a pot boiler so we are on course there.

Hopefully we will have Ken and his trusty digger back on Tuesday to open more slots on the circular feature (dare I say ring ditch yet?) and the triple linear anomalies in the east field. We simply need more bodies, the more diggers we have, the more slots we can open and the more we can evaluate what we have.

We're having a well earned rest on Bank Holiday Monday (apart from writing this blog and countless emails) but will be back on site on Tuesday until Saturday.

Come and join in, if it's different to the archaeology you usually participate in (Roman, urban) you can see how we interpret the more ephemeral clues to our past.

 

 

 

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 5

Work continues on day 5 of our dig and what a fantastic amount of work KAS members are getting through. Lady Sondes was impressed and fascinated when she visited the site late in the afternoon.

Another blisteringly hot day on site with the crew uncovering more of the ring ditch running through trench 3. We have established both edges of the trench with an additional cut on what would be the inside. We managed to find the bottom of the main ditch which was cut into the underlying chalk. The feature itself was surprisingly shallow so maybe a ditch for a small family enclosure?

There are still three more features in this trench to examine but tomorrow we will be moving back to trench 1 to finish recording the two ditch slots and to do some teaching for those who would like to learn drawing and recording, 

 

Members will also be examining the three features present in trench 2 which relate to the rectilinear anomaly around the medieval church site and a circular anomaly that they run alongside.

So, plenty to be done and due to the progress made to today, we are bang on target!

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 4

Members aplenty at the Badlesmere Bottom dig today, the word has escaped that we have some interesting archaeology to be investigated.

The increase in numbers meant that we could devote our attentions to trench 3 and leave trenches 1 and 2 for now. This trench was positioned along a group of three linear anomalies and the northern edge of a circular anomaly based on the results of the geophysical survey (see the annotated results below)

The working hypothesis was three linear ditches truncating an earlier circular feature such as a settlement boundary ditch or enclosure. Plenty of volunteers were keen to get cracking and finding edges to features from which to work.

 

No dating material was found but there were a few oddly spherical flints discovered In close proximity to each other which led the diggers to contemplate whether that was significant.

There is a suggestion that the three linears might be part of a trackway but why would it take such an abrupt right angled turn in the adjacent field?

Much more to do in trench 3 tomorrow with some hard work already completed. Let's hope some of the mysteries will be solved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 3

Day 3 on site and time to start digging in earnest (in very compact clay in actual fact!), The first 'slot' of the season was opened on a very innocuous looking linear in trench 1. The first couple of spades produced some Iron Age potter which puts a whole different perspective on the trench. Any thoughts of a quick clean-up, record and shut-down were quickly put to one side.

Apart from the linear feature, there was what looked suspiciously like a metalled surface in another part of the trench which needed a good clean-up to see what we had to deal with.

Our reward for the considerable effort was that we got to record the features by the end of the day.

The volunteers all got some guidance on recording.

 

 

Day 4 will see us taking up the metalling and seeing whether it's hiding anything underneath, we're also putting another slot through the linear and seeing if there's a relationship between the two contexts. That should see us complete trench 1 but, as we saw today, anything could happen in the next 24 hours. We'll update you tomorrow!

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 2

Much progress made by the KAS Project Team at Lees Court today.

The containers and office arrived on the Woods Court site newly stocked and refurbished (with some heavy duty security after last year's break-in). Members and council members alike were involved with the setting up of the marquee, organisation of the stock container and preparation of the administrative material, all ready for members to pop down and get cracking straight away.

 

Three trenches have been stripped back revealing mixed archaeological results but with many possibilities matching anomalies from the geophysical survey results. All members are welcome to come down, join in or just learn more.

Particularly interesting were the results of trench 3 which show some exciting potentially prehistoric features

 

The digging will start in earnest on day 3. Watch this space for further news.

 

 

 

 

Badlesmere Bottom 2019 - Day 1

Logistics day at Lees Court Estate for the first day of the Badlesmere Bottom excavations.

Members of the Folkstone Research and Archaeology Group, the Shorne Woods Archaeological Group and the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group were out today helping Richard and I to set up for the two week 'warm up' dig in advance of Keith's hoard dig.

The weather was mixed to say the least but after a tour of the Stringman's Field excavation (last year's university of Kent dig) which has been transformed due to some hard work in the spring, we went about setting out the containers and office and staking out the trenches over our geophysics targets. Two out of the three initial trenches have now been stripped of their top and sub soils and are revealing some quite promising features.

Early stages but things are looking good for plenty of work over the next two weeks. More volunteers needed!

Fred

 

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