The Canterbury Archaeological Trust was formed in 1976 and, at the time, was one of several such organisations established throughout Britain under the auspices of the Department of the Environment. Collectively, their brief was to undertake archaeological excavations in advance of redevelopment projects. Today, the Canterbury Archaeological Trust’s principal role remains unchanged: ensuring that sites and buildings under threat from construction projects are adequately investigated and recorded before work takes place. Our activities are largely dictated by urban and rural development plans which may involve anything from constructing a shopping centre to adding an extension to a private house. Between 1976 and 1986 our activities were concentrated wholly within the city and district of Canterbury, which in the 1980s experienced redevelopment on a scale not seen since the early post-war years. From the mid 1980s we began to work further afield in Dover, Cheriton and Ashford, partly as a consequence of the Channel Tunnel project. In 1992 we established an office in Dover.
As we entered the twenty-first century, construction of Canterbury’s Whitefriars shopping centre required a programme of urban archaeological excavation on an unprecedented scale. This brought our work to the nation’s attention through a series of television documentaries and since then we have gone on to expand our geographical horizons into London and the South-East. Although archaeological excavation might be perceived as our primary concern our activities go beyond buried archaeology. For instance, we have an active historic building recording department. Desk-based assessments and landscape studies are also undertaken.Our research interests are wide and not restricted to the UK and our expertise is sought on a professional consultation basis by developers and local authority planners.
In pursuit of our principal constitutional object, namely ‘to promote the advancement of public education in the field of archaeology’, we have, since 1990, employed an Education Officer whose role is to work closely with schools and centres of higher learning in the development of education initiatives related to archaeology. Alongside the Education Service members of staff regularly lecture to University students, local clubs and societies. Staff also provide papers for day schools and conferences. Subjects covered range from current excavations to areas of special expertise, such as the study of human bones or special finds.
The Trust’s base of operations is at 92A Broad Street, Canterbury. This is where our administrative offices are located and the finds department and post-excavation offices. The library, which includes the collection of the Canterbury Archaeological Society, is open by appointment to students and members of the public.